Jess Glynne: An Artist Very Much In Control Of Her Destiny
By: Terry Doe
Photographer: Juan Algarin
Stylists: Mike Stallings and Katherine Agyei
Make-up Artist: Faye Lauren
Hairstylist: Michael Johnson at Factory Downtown
Photo Shoot Coordinators: Jordan Frazes and Gabrielle Reese of Atlantic Records
In setting out to compose commentary about an artist whom many already revere for her vocal dexterity and compositional craftsmanship, one can tend to find oneself experiencing what can only be described as something rather like an emotional rollercoaster. Never mind the fact that the artist might be one of those female vocal acrobats and writing geniuses that come along only once in a lifetime and grab hold of your consciousness, never quite letting you forget that the message she brings is one you must take heed to, albeit in the most charming and alluring manner. Sure, the artist in question, Jess Glynne – a leading and standout musician amongst Britain’s illustrious crop of new future legendary female singer/songwriters (which also includes Adele, Jessie J., and the folk goddess that is Laura Marling) – is already a household name in her home country and around Europe. In fact, I was lucky enough to find myself in the UK during the time of her rise to prominence as a singer on Route 94’s “My Love” and Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be”, both reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart, with “Rather Be” becoming the third fastest-selling as well as the most streamed song of 2014.
And sure, her debut solo single “Right Here,” and the subsequent first studio album, I Cry When I Laugh (2015), cemented her status as an artist not merely passing through when it debuted at number one on the UK Album Charts. Yet, there is something even more palpably urgent in the quality of the voice and the poignancy of her lyrics that place Glynne in the category of a virtuosic talent that is ultimately unparalleled. So absolute and consummate is her artistry that every lyric, every note in her music envelops the listener’s core, the spirit. Don’t believe me? Study her particularly poignant musical collaboration with Rudimental featuring Macklemore and Dan Caplen on – perhaps one of my personal favorite tracks of the last few years – “These Days”, and you will find yourself dreaming of times when you were so wrapped in a love that knew no boundaries and made you feel like anything you did was pure magic. Or take a journey back home with her soul-infused, laid-bare track “Take Me Home”, and you shall find yourself yearning – practically in tears, as she so skillfully demonstrates through that sublimely fragile quality in her voice – for someone to take your broken soul and bring it back to its rightful place.
“I think from a young age, I’d say, Whitney, Mariah, and Aretha were my three big, powerhouse vocals.”
Jess Glynne is of the kind of soul and power only ever found in artists not of today, but of yesteryear’s great storytellers. So critical were those artist’s voices and the messages they carried that they still live on in pure, unbridled bliss today, and will continue to do so for the rest of eternity. Thoughtful, poised, commanding, yet refreshing nimble, Glynne belongs to this realm of artists. It is no small wonder that when asked who her musical inspirations are, she emphatically exclaims, “I think from a young age, I’d say, Whitney, Mariah, and Aretha were my three big, powerhouse vocals.” That needn’t be questioned, considering Glynne herself carries a voice that is equally as strong yet emotional, grounded yet fragile, and subtle yet sharp enough to cut through glass seemingly. Hers is a voice that one can easily imagine belting out the very tunes that inspired her to become a musician: “Say A Little Prayer and Hero, and… And I… I will Always Love you… Those three songs were like my childhood songs.” It is also no surprise that she also holds the record for the most chart-toppers for a British female in the United Kingdom; 7 to be exact.
Over the past few months, Jess Glynne has been busily preparing for the release of her highly–anticipated sophomore album, due sometime this year. With the title song, a country-infused soul/pop track “I’ll Be There” already having attained number one status on the UK charts, Glynne is no doubt setting the path to global super-stardom.
We caught up with the gifted artist just before an impromptu invite-only gig at New York City’s exclusive Soho House in the meatpacking district:
Terry Doe: Moving from your first album to this upcoming second album, what did you realize was different when you started working on this album. What kind of growth do you think you went through?
Jess Glynne: I think when you do your first album, you don’t know where it is you’re going, and you’re finding your way for a while; and then all of a sudden it comes together, and it becomes, a journey of your whole life up until then.
With the second album, it becomes a bit clearer and you kind of … Well, its written in a shorter period of time. Its collaborated in a different way, and I think that it’s a little bit easier to reflect because it’s over a short period. Less has happened. You kind of know who you are as an artist and what it is you want to achieve musically. So I think that was the massive difference.
TD: When did you start working on this second album?
JG: 2 years ago, Yeah!
TD: And what was the impetus for it? When did you realize it was time for you to go back?
JG: I was just excited, and I felt inspired. I’d been through a lot. I’d had a break, and I was like, ok… Well, no! Actually, I started two years ago when I hadn’t had a break; and I took a step back because I wasn’t ready.
TD: Why weren’t you ready?
JG: it was all a bit too much, and I was a bit premature. Then a year and a half ago I started again. I was, like, right ok! I’ve had a break; I want to do this. And I went back in. I just felt like I’d had a moment, and I’d been able to reflect. I could start to create again.
TD: I hear you went to LA. during this period.
JG: I went to LA for about two months, and to be honest it was amazing. But again, I came back, and it didn’t feel right. It felt a little bit lost because I was working with so many different people, and there wasn’t much structure to what I was doing. I also took some time and went to the English countryside, and I was writing a lot, but that was also quite tiring. I still didn’t feel like there was a direction to what I was writing.
TD: How did you change that, or shake yourself from that experience?
JG: I took some time out to be me. I had been through a lot after touring, and emotionally I needed the time, so I could let it out through writing and making music. That’s when it started to come together, and it was what I needed.
TD: How was that experience different or useful to you?
JG: I realized I wanted to do it my way. Music was a bit different now, and I didn’t want to put out what I’d done before. I went out in the middle of nowhere, without the pressure of a studio for about a week. It was a freeing experience. I took some people with me, and we made it an organic space. I feel most of my album came together then. That when I wrote I”ll Be There”; on the last day.
TD: In a recent interview, you mentioned the new album is inspired by soul, pop. Have you found from your travels, any sounds or influences in music that you may have infused, in say, “I’ll Be There,” which seems to have some undertones of country music?
JG: That’s funny because I don’t know where that came from. I had a phase where I listened to Keith Urban. But, I don’t know. It’s interesting.
TD: What would you say is the inspiration behind the new album?
JG: The inspiration behind the album is not feeling alone and not letting yourself be alone when you’re going through something difficult and heart-straining, and always remember that there is someone there to hold your hand when you need them.
TD: A lot of your music is empowering and uplifting, almost anthem-like. Is there one thing you want listeners to come away with after hearing to this album?
JG: That you don’t have to be or feel alone. Yeah!