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Kingston music scene helped prep Huddleston for music journalism career

Kingston’s Jess Huddleston on set at The Intro, which kicked off its second season last week. Photo via CBC.

The second season of CBC’s The Intro has already begun with gusto, with Kingston’s music journalism powerhouse, Jess Huddleston, once again bringing viewers a cornucopia of talented up-and-comers of the Canadian music scene. On Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, the show premiered its second season with Huddleston, the show’s senior producer and new host, interviewing R&B artist and songwriter Mighloe (Mariah Wheeler) from Pickering, who’s sultry stage presence and almost harp-like vocal style pair phenomenally well with her heart-wrenching lyrics –figuratively setting the stage lights bright for the rest of Season 2.

A former student at Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute (KCVI), Huddleston reminisced that, as a teen, writing had always been one of her strengths and passions, which gave her an edge when it came to her career in journalism. Huddleston expressed that what inspired her love of music journalism in general is multifaceted, but offered that it was largely influenced by being ‘absolutely glued’ to MuchMusic, as well as her Discman.

“My childhood and where everything came from, MuchMusic was a huge part of that. I don’t know if I ever really took it in – watching my favourite VJs interview artists and that kind of thing – but I do think that a part of me, even in what I’m doing now, remembers being absolutely glued to MuchMusic,” said Huddleston. “Really, [MuchMusic VJs] just seemed like they were as excited as the fans were, and just there to have a good time and talk about music. Yeah, MuchMusic was absolutely pivotal in my upbringing and fostering a love for this stuff.”

Her two passions collided with fruitful results one day as a student, when she attended an Ottawa Rolling Stones concert in 2005. Upon returning home to Kingston, she was inspired to write her first music byline published in local print media at only 16 years old. Huddleston also expressed her thoughts colouring Kingston as a very ‘artsy’ town to be raised in, and went on to say that her love of music was galvanized by festivals, musicians, and other artists that she encountered in her day-to-day life as a Kingstonian.

“There’s a lot of art happening there on a really interesting grassroots level every day – it’s just kind of everywhere you turn, and you can tell that there are people who make very special and meaningful art in the community, yet they still find time to devote their energy to their fellow Kingstonians,” she said. “It’s just a very artistic community, and I think it’s kind of hard not to have your love of music fostered if you’re spending a lot of time there.”

After graduating high school, Huddleston decided to take the path less travelled by opting out of her initial plans for studying English in university, and instead attending journalism school at Carleton University in Ottawa. It was there that she refined her skills as a music journalist, learning to blend her passion for writing and music in the seamless organic way that has come to be her journalistic calling card.

It’s truly like anything else — if you’re passionate enough about it, you make it part of your regular life, it won’t really feel like work. Opportunities will come about for those people who are authentically obsessed with music, I think.”

— Jess Huddleston, Host, The intro on CBC

After graduating from Carleton, Huddleston moved to Toronto, where she encountered the biggest hurdle on her career path, she said: juggling her means of income in corporate communications with moving forward to loftier goals as a music journalist.

“I had a music blog on the side, but my day-to-day was in a completely unrelated field, and I did that for a handful of years. Even though I was so privileged to have a job and a paycheque, it was difficult because I really felt like I could add value in music and music journalism, but I wasn’t in that role yet,” she recounted.

“I freelanced for VICE, Complex, Fashion Magazine, Sharp Magazine, Clash, blogTO… I really had to side-hustle to get my name out there and make connections.”

Huddleston’s relentless work ethic paid off when, in 2014, she landed a job at the streaming platform Rithm, providing plenty of opportunity to meet face-to-face with major and up-and-coming artists in both Canada and the US. From there, her career took off in full force, giving rise to several other music journalism gigs, including a much sought-after role at her childhood dream and career muse – MuchMusic. It wasn’t long afterwards that an opportunity opened up for a position at CBC Music as a senior producer of editorial. She got that job as well, and remains there to this day, coupled with her other power-packed role as on-camera host of The Intro.  

When asked if she had any advice for Kingstonians with similar drives, passions and ambitions, Huddleston has this to offer anyone thinking about taking such a career path:

“Just get out there and get involved. Go see shows, meet other people who are at shows. Before you know it, you’ll become quite woven into the scene and the landscape. It’s truly like anything else – if you’re passionate enough about it, you make it part of your regular life, it won’t really feel like work. Opportunities will come about for those people who are authentically obsessed with music, I think.”

Jess Huddleston’s biweekly show The Intro can be watched every second Wednesday at cbc.ca/music/watch/theintro, as well as on CBC Music YouTube, and the free streaming platform, CBC Gem.

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