A break-out star in every sense of the term, Jessie J has undeniably shone as one of this year’s brightest talents.
With her unparalleled vocals and unapologetic image, the British singer has managed to make the world at large sit up and listen – garnering chart-topping success in the process.
In this candid interview, the 23 year old talks to That Grape Juice about her rise to stardom, her ‘Who You Are’ album, career set-backs, her admiration for Beyonce, her sophomore LP, backlash because of her colour, and much more. A great read, if we must say so ourselves. Enjoy!
Jessie J Shouts Out That Grape Juice
Sam: Hey Jessie!
How are you?
Jessie J: I’m alright. I just got off a plane as always. I just landed in New York from Chicago – and it’s not raining. So it’s a good day (laughs).
Let me first congratulate you on all of your success!
Why do you think the Jessie J phenomenon has caught on?
I honestly don’t know. I think my fans have really seen me work behind the scenes for so long. They’ve been anticipating what I was going to start with.
But I also think it’s the fact that people can really relate to my music. I think that’s the main factor. That, and the fact that I’m one of those people who is honest and real. I don’t know, it’s one of them questions where you’re go “I don’t know”. I’m just going to carry on doing me and hopefully people still like it!
A lot of us UK’ers are familiar with your story. But, for those who don’t know, tell us a little about your journey to date?
It hasn’t been easy. I think back to the early days. Days of wanting to be signed, then getting signed with a girl band, writing 150 songs in 2 years only for the label to go bankrupt. Days of being left with no deal, then being signed in the UK and then having to sign in the US. I got signed to Sony as a songwriter doing support stuff in any place I could around the world for free. All the while, I was just living in a car. (Doing) all of that stuff that felt so crazy at the time. Yet, these are the things you have to go through to be the kind of artist you want to be. The type of artist who survives in this industry. Thinking back, I used to be like “this is tough…”
I’m glad I went through that struggle, though. Because it’s made me the person I am now and the person I need to be in order to have longevity.
We are loving the new LP, ‘Who You Are’. How would you describe it in 3 words?
Honest, eclectic and…erm… controversial. That’s a crap word but I’ll use it anyway (laughs).
Our favourite track from the LP is the title track. We’re hearing some murmuring about it being the next single. Can you shed any light on that?
No ,that’s not true yet. I just got the call this morning asking “will it be a single?’ But I don’t think that’s going to be the next one. Simply because I want ‘Who You Are’ to come out nearer Christmas time. It’s the perfect song to come out when things are (this is going to sound really crazy)…winter-y. I kind of want to bring it out when I know people are going to need it the most. The year is not out for me, and I think that we can release another song from the album before that.
Your debut was 7 years in the making. Are we going to have to wait another 7 for your sophomore set?
Oh I doubt it (laughs!) I’m already been writing the second album.
The process started purely because I don’t base my career on albums, but on the journey, Music is something that can never be switched off,;and when you’re a songwriter, it’s one of them things that you will just continue to do whether you’re on the road, touring or promo. It’s one of them things where if you get an idea, you have to write it down and recording them.
So I’ve got an idea; I think the next album will be all about maturity and how I have grown a lot. My whole life has changed and obviously I know that there’s a lot of people that can’t relate to the life I live. However there are a lot of people who can relate to the challenges I have been set and the craziness that you see. I think that’s what I will of write about. But, of course, not the whole album. That’d be boring (laughs!)
You’re praised for your big Soulful voice. Yet, for all the acclaim, as a Caucasian act, have you ever experienced any negativity because of it?
No, not at all actually. It’s been quite the opposite. It’s been nice how every single culture, walk of life, race and country, have really accepted that I grew up on a lot of different music (much of which was Soul). I think that stereotypical thing of “oh she’s a White girl, singing soul music has gone now. I think that everyone’s matured and music isn’t ignorant anymore. I mean I am definitely someone who is influenced by Black music; someone who has been influenced by music full stop. So, no, I don’t think that has ever been a negative thing for me personally, no.
The industry is renowned for closing itself off to acts who don’t fit the mould. Unless, of course, they are ‘out-there’ like a Lady GaGa for instance. Do you think it’s true that acts on the come-up have to embrace the image-driven nature of the industry to succeed?
No, not at all. It’s funny because, even though people do see me as this whacky, crazy outfit girl, I’ve never ever thought about it like. I’ve never purposely gone out of my way to be like “this is outfit will definitely get put in the paper”. I’m not like that. I just put on whatever I feel comfortable in. But I do think that the expectation from the public is a lot higher now. They expect you to look great all the time and be perfect, but that’s not realistic. I think that its one of them ‘phases’ things – it will come and go. I mean look at someone like Adele; she is purely about the talent. I’m so so proud of her. I’m actually going to see her show tonight in New York. I’m so excited that I can go as a fan and just sing along like a loser in the back (laughs). I think true success in this industry stems from what you sing about and what you stand for.
With Cheryl Cole’s place on the X Factor USA confirmed, the debate over how vocally talented she is has sprung back up. As an artist praised for your vocals, do you feel that Cheryl’s role as a judge undermines the premise of finding the next big voice?
I think Cheryl is cool man. I think she’s going to do really well out there. I think for me, I’ve always been really honest about X Factor. It’s a path that people can take. I mean it wasn’t one that I chose; yet I sure hope that I am performing on it this year (laughs). It’s really important for programmes like that to support other artists who haven’t taken that road (which I think it does). I think that everybody is (and can be) a judge. Look at the world, look at the media, look at Twitter. I think everybody thinks they can have a say; whether they are a technical singer or not or they know about vocal cords or how people should breath. I know that if I went on there, I would really drill how people should breathe to sing, and use their bodies and their posture. I say this because I study it. But to each their own.
Ok, so rounding off now. Picture this scenario:
You’re in studio. The following walk in: Beyonce, Lady GaGa, and Rihanna. Who do you ask to a) collaborate with b) hang out with and c) wave at?
Wave to? As in a cheeky wave or a wave goodbye?
A bit of both…
(laughs!) Ok. I would ask to collaborate with Beyonce – she is incredible. I would hang out with Rihanna. And I’d wave at GaGa!
(Finish the sentence) In 10 years time I will be…
…making music which will, hopefully, be around the globe. But I also want to have started up charities, opening schools, hospitals and homeless shelters! That’s all for now. Oh…and in 10 years I will be happy!
Jessie J, thanks for your time!
Thanks Sam. I loved your questions! Good interview.
Jessie J’s debut album ‘Who You Are’ is available in-store and on iTunes now!