With an infectious laugh, 6-inch heels and a perfectly styled bob, she walks into the room and goes straight to the piano. Possessing a good sense of humour, a raw British accent and an un-doubtable eye for fashion, Jessie J has arrived. “I can’t play…man, I wish I could. I just like to pretend I can,” she smiles.
Jessie J is not just a great Pop artist, or a great R&B artist or even a great hip-hop artist. The British-born, Essex-bred vocalist is malleable enough to encompass several genres and sing her heart out, while displaying vocals reminiscent of Motown-era greats. Although she may not be able to play the piano, Jessie is armed with the chops to blow people away, and the song-writing skills to pen a worldwide hit.
After one listen, it’s clear the extraordinary Jessie J stands alone. For Jessie, her Lava/Universal Republic debut album, WHO YOU ARE, showcases the skills of a gifted lyricist while highlighting an unforgettable journey.
While Jessie’s road to success hasn’t always been easy, she’s quick to emphasize the normalcy of her childhood. Growing up the youngest of three children, Jessie’s mother was a nursery school teacher and her father a social worker. “My family is very creative, but no one in my family sings… I was the only one who put my life to a melody…”
For Jessie, melody has been the driving force behind her successful career as a singer/songwriter. At 17, Jessie wrote her first song “Big White Room.” The song was inspired by real life events—specifically the time she was hospitalized at 11-years-old while sharing a room with a younger boy who sadly lost his life.
“I knew I wanted to write a song about that experience,” she divulges. The song has followed Jessie J throughout her career, and it remains a YouTube and crowd favorite when she performs it live. Her YouTube rendition has been viewed nearly 300,000 times and has garnered over 50 covers organically without radio airplay. “‘Big White Room’ is my comfort blanket, and I’m so happy that people can personalize the meaning of the song…” states Jessie.
Around the same time, Jessie J was signed to a short-lived independent label deal. She toured with various high-profile artists including Macy Gray, Sugarbabes, Girls Aloud, Chris Brown, Jools Holland, Cyndi Lauper and Taio Cruz. While showcasing her diva-infused voice and infectious songs, she had the freedom to explore her sound and a chance to teach herself how to adapt to diverse audiences. “I never had a band. It was me, my CD, my heels and a huge stage to fill. I loved that I had no one and nothing to hide behind…” The label eventually went bankrupt and closed its doors.
Still armed with a SONY ATV publishing deal, Jessie continued to hone her writing skills. It wasn’t long before Jessie had opportunities thrown at her by the dozen. One of her songs, “Sexy Silk,” was selected by NIVEA for a worldwide campaign. “I remember seeing the ad at the cinema and wanting to tell everyone, ‘That’s me! That’s me!” Commercials were just the beginning…
In the last few years, Jessie has penned songs for the likes of Chris Brown and Lisa Lois the Holland X Factor winner. Her life also inspired the melody of a major hit record; “Party in the USA” sung and performed by Miley Cyrus. “When Dr. Luke texted me saying my song was #1 on iTunes, I thought it was a joke!” she laughs.
Now, Jessie’s signed worldwide to Universal Music Group. In the US, she inked a deal with Lava/Universal Republic Records and Island Records in the UK. “I feel like my album is an example of what exists in the world of music right now. It’s like my album is an iPod… it’s like when you go clubbing these days, you don’t have a pop room and a separate R&B room, they’re all together. People just appreciate great music…”
The title track and 1st single, “Who You Are” is about a point in Jessie’s career where the singer’s aspirations were hanging on a thread. “The most important thing in life is to be happy, but everything had become too ‘business’ and sterile. I really thought I was going to quit—not music, but the music industry…it wasn’t easy,” Jessie states. “I was really down, but when I’m down, I write a song about it.”
Not all of Jessie J’s songs are built around hardship. Much like Jessie herself, a lot of songs on WHO YOU ARE, are of the fun, upbeat variety she displayed in previous songs such as, “Party in the USA.” Other songs that have had immense reactions on YouTube include “Rainbow,” “Stand Up” and “Whose Laughing Now”—all written about personal times in her life.
Mix a bit of Rihanna with Gwen Stefani, add the charisma of Pink, and you will start to get an idea of what kind of girl Jessie J is. As much as she can be a voice for the hard times, those soulful, Aretha Franklin-esque vocals can also soundtrack the best of times too. Take the Dr. Luke (Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus) produced song “Price Tag”—an upbeat, energetic dance number that highlights Jessie’s booming voice and can still stand out amidst glossy production.
There’s also the live staple, “Mamma Knows Best,” which showcases her hair-raising range and is an extremely funky ode to her loving parents. “My mom and dad always know best. I hate to admit that sometimes, but the song says it all. I base my confidence on purity and I want to be a role model… I want people to know that I am an unedited version of myself. I plan to expose the good and the bad to show that life is about being WHO YOU ARE…”