It was once said of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire that a woman can do anything a man can do, except backwards and in high heels.
Grammy nominated singer Jes Brieden, better known as JES, or the singer of Motorcycle’s hauntingly beautiful song, “As the Rush Comes,” is inclined to agree.
Ms. Brieden, for all her dainty, feminine beauty, is a beast when she’s on the turn tables.
“DJ-ing has always been kind of an all male thing for a while now, but I think it’s getting better. I don’t come across too much sexism, but I definitely have to fight hard to be heard,” she said. “Women are so outnumbered, even though there are a lot of female DJs that are pushing right now. It can be frustrating, but I have to be fierce about it. I want to pave the way for other women. In five years from now, I’m hoping to see a lot more women DJs, because women, we aren’t going away.”
Her pixie-like presence is a fixture in the EDM scene, where she’s one of the few women who have risen to mainstream success–not just as a singer, but as a composer and DJ as well.
She’s playing in the big leagues, with the big boys; Tiesto, who actually signed her, being one of them.
“Tiesto started another company, Musical Freedom, but I still work with the first label that was his. He helped me a lot. When Motorcycle broke up, I had to go from being ‘that Motorcycle girl’ to being JES. It took a really long time to get people to know my name,” she laughed, remembering the struggles she first experienced as a solo artist.
“You have to be a tough girl. You’ll hear ‘no’ more than you’ll hear ‘yes’ but that goes with the territory. It’s a hard lifestyle and it takes a lot of energy. I loved being a group and having that support, but I was always trying to be me; be Jes. Even though I have this great success as a solo artist and DJ, I would still love to be in a group. I’d do both if I could,” she said, longingly.
“I loved being in Motorcycle. Splitting up was a painful thing. We were struggling musicians and then all of a sudden, we became successful. Josh [Gabriel] and Dave [Dresden] were really trying to be DJs and we became this entity. They didn’t know how to process it and commit to that. It was basically kind of like it was them two, and then me. We have special chemistry together, but I had to move on. You can’t hold on to anything too much. Ego gets in the way, totally. We still talk, and I would love to work with them again in the future,” she added.
The time spent with Gabriel and Dresden as Motorcycle was a huge learning curve–and highly influential–for the young singer. “When I first became part of a group as a teenager, I had to learn everything because the lead producer guy decided to go out on his own. He taught me pretty much everything, but when it came to the mixdown he was doing it all. I had to learn to do it myself at 16, 17 years old. That was my wake up call. It was a good thing. It’s empowering as a woman to know this stuff. Plus, I’m a little bit of a control freak, and I like to learn. There’s something new to learn every day.”
Becoming more than just a pretty voice was important to Jes, and learning to use the tools of the trade was a necessary skill. Deejays are important in any genre of music, but especially in electronic music genres, where DJs are doing more than playing a supporting role to an artist; in many cases, they are the artist.
Naturally, it wasn’t long before JES started rocking the parties in the DJ booth, as the DJ. Today, she has her own radio show, Unleash the Beat, that’s on more than 70 stations. “It’s a lot of work but it’s really fun. I do mixes of some songs I have out, different mashups, and there’s even a dropbox on there so young artists can send me some of their material. There’s actually an art to making really good mashups!” she revealed.
“The biggest DJs, the most important DJs….they’re making the music they’re spinning. They have a brand and a sound. That’s important to being a good DJ. When I have young DJs ask me questions, I always ask them—are you remixing, writing, doing mashups? It’s very important to work with all of those elements,” she divulged.
“My sound as a DJ is a bit more progressive than my sound as a singer. I do a lot of mashups; there’s a little trance. I’m singing more than half my set. I like to mix it up. It’s really a mood thing…it depends on what mood I’m in. No matter what, I just try not to do the same show every single time. I really just try to allow myself to be vulnerable. You can try really hard to make your work the best, and strive for perfection, but I notice I do my best work when I’m just being myself, having fun, and don’t try to do anything specific. Not clinging to an idea allows the inspiration to freely flow through me. All the best songs are made that way, you know, when you’re not trying to make it into something. That’s how ‘As the Rush Comes’ was written, matter of fact.”
Although she loves electronic music, JES is currently recording an acoustic album.
“It’s great to push yourself forward and do new things,” she mused. “That’s one of the most important things I’ve learned. Along with a lot of other really important things. Like believing in yourself. You have to believe in yourself. And get a clear picture of what you want, who you are, and what you’re trying to say. This industry is very hard and you can’t listen to what everyone says, so build yourself a good team of people. Learn the business. It’s very hard and you can’t listen to what everyone says. You have to do one thing every day towards your goal to get where you want to go, from point A to point B. It’s a constant. You have to push yourself forward, constantly. And again–really, never give up. That’s the most important thing. That’s like rules number 1, 2, 3, 4, and 10. The business side isn’t always fun, but you have to learn it. You have to be a leader. Believe in yourself, make the music you want to make; music that you’re proud of, don’t be too serious, and never give up. Every day be devoted to your goals,” she advised.
Listen to (and download!) a mix of JES’ new single with BT, “Letting Go,” below.
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Hit the flip to listen to some new teasers from her Unleash the Beat Platinum album and singles from ATB’s album, Contact.
April Dawn (scarlettsinatra)