Jessica Davies from Smoke Fairies

The fragment from the Union Jack believed to have flown on board HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Credit: Sotheby's

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Imagine chatting to your office temp and discovering she's a musician who has recorded with Jack White.

That's what happens to the gobsmacked London office workers who come across Jessica Davies helping out at their workplace.

It's common for emerging artists to keep up a day job to pay the bills. As Jessica explains: 'It's hard to make a living out of music and, if you're living in London, you need to subsidise your earnings from your music.'

But it's had to believe that an artist who has been invited to Nashville to record with The White Stripes frontman is still working as a personal assistant.

'In times in between tour we work. We do all sorts,' Jessica tells me as she takes a break from her desk and finds a sheltered spot in rainy Covent Garden to chat to me over the phone.

But she won't have to endure a nine to five much longer as she heads out on the road this week for her the first tour of 2011 with her band Smoke Fairies.

The other half of Smoke Fairies is Jessica's best mate, Katherine Blamire.

Together, they make bluesy folk-rock, specialising in interlocking harmonies and guitar parts.

But it wasn't a match made in heaven when the pair met, aged 11, on their first day at Bishop Luffa School in Chichester.

'At first we really hated each other. I thought she was really stupid and she thought I was pompous,' explains Jessica, who grew-up near Havant. 'But that's changed now, obviously,' she quickly adds.

'We discovered we had a lot in common, messing around in the science lab setting fire to things instead of doing the experiments we were supposed to be doing.'

The pair joined the Junior Choir at school, but were never chosen to perform solos.

'We were the misfits,' Jessica laughs. 'No-one thought we were that musical.'

But she says the experience set the duo on good ground for their future musical career.

The inseparable twosome moved to New Orleans when they were 18 to study.

Jessica, who's mother is from New Jersey, explains: 'Growing-up, we listened to a lot of American music. We had romaticised images of the States from stuff we heard on records and it seemed so different from Chichester.'

They returned home for a year after this, but they longed for more adventure, so they set out for Vancouver in Canada.

Jessica remembers: 'We went to Vancouver after we saw a picture of the purple mountains and all the skyscrapers in a travel magazine.'

While there, Jessica worked in a coffee shop and Katherine was a dog walker. 'We didn't really have a purpose to go there, but it was a good time for writing songs,' Jessica explains.

She says leaving Canada and returning home to Chichester was inspirational for Smoke Fairies' song writing too.

'It's quite emotional, establishing a life and then picking-up and going back home. These things are themes for songwriting,' she continues.

The pair, who have history degrees from Royal Holloway, moved to London five years ago.

'We always come back to Chichester to visit our parents,' says Jessica. 'We like it there and it's where we grew up so we feel a connection to the place.

'We've just been there for Christmas, actually. We did a lot of walking. We went to the Trundle. It was freezing. It's horrible at this time of year. I wouldn't recommend going when it's snowing.'

Shivering up the Trundle in Chichester a few weeks ago, Jessica could hardly have been further from the studio in Tennessee, jamming with 21st century Yankee icon Jack White, a year earlier.

Having supported his latest band The Dead Weather at their first London show, Jessica and Katherine were surprised when they got a call from Jack, asking them to come to Nashville to record a single with him.

Jessica recalls: 'It was one of our dreams, but we never expected it to happen. So when he called, it really was a dream come true.

The single he produced, Gastown/River Song, became Smoke Fairies fourth 7", released in December 2009. In typical White fashion, the recording session lasted just 36 hours, during which he drummed and played 'a mad guitar solo' on River Song, with Raconteurs and Dead Weather bandmate Jack Lawrence on bass.

The same year that the girls recorded in the US with Jack, they also toured the UK with Mercury and BRIT nominee Richard Hawley.

'We played in some really amazing theatres. It was great, especially up North, because we'd not played many gigs up there,' says Jessica.

Then, in May last year, Smoke Fairies toured America with Laura Marling.

'That was really good because we'd never done a tour of the States and hopefully we made fans out there,' says Jessica.

'We were in the smallest minibus ever, travelling for 10 hours a day across places like Kansas, where the landscape never changes. We didn't expect it to be so hard. But we got to see a lot of scenery, even if it was for 10 hours a day,' she adds.

But the highlight so far for Jessica has not been touring or recording with big name stars, but releasing their debut album, Through Low Light And Trees, in September.

'We'd released a lot of singles and EPs on our own label, so making and releasing the album was quite an achievement.'

The album was recorded at the Sawmills studio in Cornwall with PJ Harvey's producer, Head.

'We tried to record in London, but when you leave the studio there's so much noise and so many people. We wanted to get away from the stresses,' explains Jessica. 'At Sawmills, there's no-one, because you can only get there using a boat (which was a lot of fun but also meant no-one could visit).

'For 10 days, we just immersed ourselves.'

Their next single, Strange Moon Rising, is out on January 24 and it's all about their Sawmills journey, both literally and metaphorically.

Jessica remembers: 'We travelled down to Sawmills on a dark, rainy night and walked down a quarry railway track, over a bridge and through the woods, to get to the studio. The tides were really high (the studio is right by an estuary) and we were looking at the biggest moon you've ever seen, rising over the horizon.'

Smoke Fairies will be performing Strange Moon Rising and other tracks from the new album at venues around the UK from Sunday.

'I think it's going to be really good,' she says. 'In November, we went on a European tour and we're looking forward to getting back in the van with the band again.'

They will be coming home on Tuesday for a gig at Southsea's Wedgewood Rooms.

'We've played at the Wedgewood Rooms before on acoustic nights when we lived in Chichester,' recalls Jessica. 'It will be our homecoming gig because our parents and all our family are coming.

'It should be good. We'll be performing louder stuff with the band – a drummer, bass player and viola player. Then we'll do the more intimate stuff stripped back to just the two of us,' she continues.

The tour will take the girls into February. After that, they plan to get back to Europe and play at as many of the big festivals as possible this summer.

They've also started writing a new album and hope to record it before the year is out.

'We'd like to release an album in the States too,' says Jessica of her hopes for 2011. 'But, with us, things tend to just pop-up out of the blue, so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens this year.'