“We did this session, and I wrote this song called ‘Home’, and that was the first song that I wrote and recorded and listened back to that I felt like, okay, I feel like I know where I’m going now.” -Jess Glynne
British breakout star Jess Glynne found her home inside a studio. Since then, Jess has collaborated with Iggy Azalea, Rita Ora and Rudimental and has gone on to lend her vocals to Route 94’s “My Love,” and Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be,” which won her and the group a Grammy for “Best Dance Recording” and became a mainstay on radio stations worldwide. Her debut album I Cry When I Laugh came out this August. “I literally cry when I laugh…And when I wrote this record, I didn’t want to make it about heartbreak or anything like that, so I made it about hope.” One of its lead singles, “Hold My Hand,” encapsulates the sentiment. “It’s about when you’re going through a lot of stress and anxiety, and you’re feeling insecure, and you’ve still got that somebody to give you a hug or hold your hand to make you realize that everything’s okay, and you’re cool. So they give you that bit of confidence.”
Her music career wasn’t always a straight path. Her mother and aunt convinced her to audition for The X-Factor, but she says, “I felt like I had too much creativity in my music to be a part of that kind of thing.” She then worked in retail and as an alcohol brand promoter. “I basically promoted drink brands…mainly with Jägermeister which was really, really fun – but it definitely put me off drinking – and it wasn’t what I wanted to have a career in.” With her big voice, she’s inspired by the classic divas. “I listened to a lot of Aretha…Etta James, and Eva Cassidy, and Sheryl Crowe. I listened to loads of diva voices growing up. I became obsessed with Whitney and Mariah when I really started singing at a young age, and they all inspired me massively.” Jess credits Amy Winehouse as one of her biggest inspirations. “When you’re growing up, and you don’t hear things that sound like what you want, you don’t really know where you’re going, or if it’s even possible and when I heard Amy Winehouse, she was the first person that made me realize, oh my god, it can be done.”
Read the full interview with Jess Glynne and editor-in-chief Indira Cesarine for The #GirlPower Issue below.
Indira Cesarine: I understand you auditioned for X-Factor, and were working for a drinks company, and doing a variety of different things before you got into music? I know your mother worked in the music industry as well, right? How did everything sort of transition from your early forays into music to connecting with Clean Bandit?
Jess Glynne: I’ve worked a lot of jobs and done a load of different things. The X-Factor was when I was really young and it wasn’t something that I really wanted to pursue. I kind of walked out of there because, in my eyes, they didn’t have a clue about what they were doing. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I felt like I had too much creativity in my music to be in one of those kind of things. That was when I was 15 or 16, and my mum and auntie were like, ‘Come on, let’s give this a try,’ and I thought, ‘You know what, I’ve got nothing to lose.’ But yeah, I’ve always worked, and had loads of jobs. The last job I had basically before things started to go mad was at an alcohol distribution company. I basically promoted drink brands and did all this brand experience work, mainly with Jaegermeister, which was really really fun, but it definitely put me off drinking. It wasn’t what I wanted to have a career in. So meanwhile doing that, I was also working retail and also doing this course. And at this course, which was like an artist development course, I met a girl called Jin Jin—she was basically doing a speech there. And after she’d done it, I kind of went and spoke to her. and sent her some music. We got talking and we had a session together. That was kind of when it all became really clear for me musically. We did this session, and I wrote this song called, ‘Home,’ and that was the first song that I wrote, recorded, and listened back to, that I felt like, ‘Okay, I feel like I know where I’m going now.’ I had been writing for two years with so many different writers, producers, workers, managers, schedule managers, and that was like a moment where I was like, ‘You know what, I don’t need a manager yet, I don’t need anything. I’ve now found a song that I love and people that I really love writing with.’ It was then that it started to move for me. We wrote some amazing songs and that’s when publishers started to get kind of interested, because I did a small SoundCloud and just put it out there. I had to meet a lawyer, because people became interested, and stuff like that. So all of that kind of happened first. When I was in the middle of doing this publishing deal, I found amazing management, then met Atlantic through my management, and they heard some stuff that they loved. I was trying more publishing, I found more record deals, kind of trying to work and heading towards an album. Then I recorded a song called “My Love,” with a guy called Route 94. Clean Bandit heard that, and basically, we’re signed to the same label – they spoke to A&R and were like, we want Jess Glynne on this record. And that’s how I met Clean Bandit.
IC: Amazing! Pretty incredible A to B. I know that you guys won a Grammy for “Rather Be,” which must have been really exciting. Did you expect things to blow up to that extent?
JG: I had no expectations. I always enter things with an open mind, and just pray and hope that people love it as much as I do, and with “Rather Be,” it was the most insane experience.
IC: How would you describe your sound in your own words? I feel like it has quite a mix and resonates with a lot of different influences. I would love to get your own description of what inspires you.
JG: I’ve been inspired by Soul records and amazing voices, and that’s kind of what I listened to growing up. I listened to a lot of Aretha, Etta James, and Eva Cassidy, and Sheryl Crowe. I listened to loads of diva voices growing up. I became obsessed with Whitney and Mariah. When I really started singing, at a young age, they all inspired me massively. I love the soul in music. I love real music. That’s kind of where that came from. Then I also became obsessed with hip hop at a young age. I used to be obsessed with Eminem and Jay-Z, and later on, Kanye, and so I had this kind of mix of stuff I loved. I loved the soul element, I loved the live element, I loved the beat element. When it came to making my record, I took all of what inspired me, and put it into the record. Amy Winehouse for me was that person that I listened to—when you’re growing up, and you don’t hear things that sound like what you want, you don’t really know where you’re going, or if it can even be possible—when I heard Amy Winehouse, she was the first person that made me realize, ‘Oh my god, it can be done.’ She was probably one of the biggest inspirations that got me to where I am right now.
IC: I understand Lauryn Hill also really inspired you, right?
JG: Yeah, a hundred percent. About Amy—when I listen to the lyrics and examine the stories, it wasn’t always about love and it wasn’t always about someone. For example, Lauryn Hill, she just did one of my favorite songs ever and purely because it’s about a subject that’s so important and so special, and meant something to her. It just taught me how to write in different ways, and look at life more, and that’s what I’ve done with my album. I’ve really looked at circumstances in my life, and my journey, and taken that kind of view on it.
IC: I Cry When I Laugh, that’s brilliant. Tell me about the title of your album and the inspiration behind that?
JG: So the title is I Cry When I Laugh purely because I cry when I laugh. I literally cry the minute I laugh. It’s a weird thing, my dad has it as well; I’m guessing I get it from him. I also wanted to title the album with facts about me and I thought that was a perfect fact because the album’s a journey of what I’ve been through over the past two, three years. I came into this industry, and I was massively heartbroken, going through a really bad time. But I didn’t have a chance to be heartbroken or to be sad about it and I always saw the positive in everything. When I wrote this record I didn’t want to make it about heartbreak or anything like that, so I made it about hope. Every song on there has got its own individual story—where I wrote about a friend, or about being given a chance, or about a moment that I had that was really awful, and I was sad, and I was heartbroken. It’s just a summary of all those journeys and I think that’s what’s so perfect about the title, because I Cry When I Laugh is a fact about me, and the album is a story of me.
IC: I like how you have a very personal take on it. Can you tell me about your debut singles, “Right Here,” and “Hold My Hand”?
JG: “Right Here” is a weird one, because it’s got a very different sound to the whole of the record. I put it out last year at a time that I felt I really wanted to express that I was also an artist in my own right, outside of the features. I love the message of the song, and it fit at the time. It’s the last record on the album and it makes complete sense in the lyrics, because the first line is, “Finally, I’m where I want to be,” and you go on a journey in the album, and you’re finally where you want to be, which I love. “Right Here” was about a moment and “Hold My Hand,” my new single, is a song that I wrote with Jennae, “Jin Jin,” and it’s the last song I wrote for the album. It’s about when you’re going through a lot of stress and anxiety and you’re feeling insecure, and you’ve still got that somebody to give you a hug or hold your hand to make you realize that everything’s okay. You’re cool and you’re ready to do anything. They give you that bit of confidence. That’s what “Hold My Hand” was about. I thought it was the perfect way to start the album campaign.
IC: And you collaborated with a ton of artists along the way as well, I know you worked with Iggy Azalea, Rita Ora and Rudimental. What can we look forward to as far as collaborations with the new album?
JG: Well, I’ve got an amazing collaboration with Emeli Sandé, which I absolutely love. It’s a really special song. She’s got an amazing voice and she’s an amazing talent, and a great writer, and has an amazing personality. We had an amazing session last year and we wrote this song and it was the first time we had properly met. We went for food and we chatted a lot about our lives and what we’ve been through, shared a lot of memories with each other, and went back into the studio and just started jamming and playing around, and wrote this song. It was so personal to both of us and our own stories. It’s got a weird name, called, “Saddest Vanilla.” But it’s exactly what it is. It’s about a person sitting in the corner of the room with a quart of vanilla ice cream, crying.
IC: How was your performance at Coachella?
JG: Yeah, it was amazing, it stood out the most. It was one of the most beautiful festivals that I’ve ever been to, it was so pretty; and what a fun reception! Jumping up on stage, the reception was amazing.
IC: This is our Girl Power Issue… do you consider yourself to be a feminist?
JG: I’m all for women in power and I think women have fought for a lot over the past hundreds of years. I think it’s important to feel strong as a woman and just feel confident in what we do. We do get a lot of flak and get judged, I think, a lot more than guys. I don’t know if I’d say I’m a hundred percent a feminist or a hundred percent not, but I’m definitely all for women being in power. I think it’s important that women do have an equal role in society, because who’s to say men are any better than women? And I totally agree with that. I don’t think there should be a pay difference. Men and women who are doing the same job, and they are able to do the same job—why should a man get paid more? I feel strongly about that, definitely.
IC: At the end of the day, you are living this incredible life at the moment of one success after another, but I’m sure there are also moments where you have to empower yourself with great words, you need to have something that will help get through the amount of pressure that sometimes can accumulate doing the job that you do. Any particular words of wisdom that you can say?
JG: Yeah, I live by “You get out of life what you put in.” My dad has always drilled that into me, so that’s how I live life every day. I try to be as positive as I can in any given situation, and always be nice to everybody. When I’m sick and tired of being stressed, I will run myself a bath, I will light a candle, and I will relax.
Interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine’s #GirlPower Issue
Jess Glynne photographed by Charlotte Rutherford
Stylist: Jordan Grossman
Hair by Robert Steinken
Make-up by Elie Maalouf
This article originally appeared in The #GirlPower Issue of The Untitled Magazine (2015), pick up a copy of the issue in our online store.