Musicians and producers travel literally and figuratively their whole lives to track down and discover the voices that inspire them. For many, the magic of the UK’s Jess Glynne has been hiding right across the pond this whole time. Currently on her second US tour, Glynne is capturing ears and hearts alike, sharing personal stories of excitement and heartbreak alike through her music.
As she belts during the chorus of her single, “Hold My Hand” off her debut album on Atlantic Records, I Cry When I Laugh, “I’m ready for this, there’s no denying/I’m ready for this, you stop me falling,” she could very much be singing about her career path as a singer, as much as she could be singing about love. Several of her songs mirror the same balance lyrically of being personal and vague at the same time, using the formulaic brilliance of the pop record structure that Glynne feels comes natural to her.
“I do worry that people take music less seriously if it’s upbeat,” she says. “But that’s why I am here. The reason the music seems to be finding an audience is because I found something different, which was always my intention. I found me. This is it. I couldn’t be prouder of it.”
Finding herself through her music has resulted in creating beautiful and spirited music that a wide-range of listeners from pop to soul to R&B can enjoy equally. Glynne’s debut comes highly anticipated after winning a Grammy alongside group Clean Bandit, with their hit single “Rather Be” taking home the award for Best Dance Recording.
After spending countless hours in a YouTube blackhole listening to her infectious voice, we took some time to chat about her life on tour and how it feels that her new music has finally arrived.
With winning a Grammy and racking up chart-topping hits, all before the release of your debut album, you must have been so eager to get your album out there! How did you remain patient and how did it feel once the album was finally set loose to fans?
I wanted to make sure everything about the album was exactly how I wanted it. From the final song selection through to the mastering, the album title and the whole look of the artwork, I knew what I wanted. It was worth waiting for to me to get it right and now I’m just so pleased that the fans seem to feel the same way and are as excited by it as I am.
It’s wild to think about how much a year can do. When did the reality sink in that your career was taking off? Or rather, when did it hit you that your artistry was going to enable you to do this as a full-time lifestyle/career?
The Grammy win so early was very surreal. That felt like a dream. This last year or so has been equally crazy with having these big hits in England and being nominated for three Brits and appearing on the show there when I get home. I’m now on my second American tour and seeing and feeling the reaction to the songs from the people that have come to the shows right across the country is such a buzz. That sort of reaction makes you think “hey, I can do this.”
What’s it been like adjusting to life on tour? What are some things you always must have with you when you travel?
Life on tour, I love it. Being with my band, living on that tour bus, but I have to say I look forward to a nice hotel bed instead of those bunks every now and then. Must have things are lots of water to keep me and my voice hydrated and in good shape, my go-to beauty products……and the odd Toffee Crisp to feed my chocolate addiction!
What helps inspire your songwriting?
Inspiration for the songs comes from my life experiences and from the people around me.
I find it interesting how your music is just now finding its way to us over here, because clearly in your case, we deserve the late pass! Do you think the US has a lot of catching up to do in terms of music, or do you find yourself inspired by some of the forward-thinking tastemakers we have over here? Does timing have a lot to do with breaking into the scene in the US, you think?
There’s lots of great new music coming out on both sides of the Atlantic. As far as breaking into the US from a British perspective it’s only once you are here that you realize how big America is. This is my second tour and we’ve played cities we’ve never played before and there’s a whole lot more we haven’t played yet which is why we’re coming back to play some cities again and some we’ve never played before like Philadelphia which we had to postpone when the snow closed the city.
What is your favorite way to spend a day off? Do you get any of those?
Not very many but when I do I like to catch up with my sleep in my own bed or spoil myself with a little pampering at the spa.
What is some advice that has stuck with you over the years that you would like to pass on?
My dad always told my sister and I you get out of life what you put in and to take the positives out of what’s happening. That was good advice from him.
Who do you hope to collaborate with next?
There’s a whole list but Frank Ocean, Timbaland and Pharrell would all be great.
What would you like to see unfold next for your career in 2016? Any short-term goals you’d like to share?
In the short term, I’m loving taking my music around the world. This is my second US tour and I will be back again shortly. When I get home, I’m on tour there and then off to do my first European tour. When that finishes I will be coming back here to do some writing and to play more dates in the States. After that there’s Australia and New Zealand and… many more air miles.
I read that you said Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the album that motivated you to start writing songs. Her album as part of the group The Fugees’ turns 20 this month. Does listening to artists such as Lauryn take you back to a certain point in your life, or do you find the music you grew up with to possess a timeless quality when you listen?
There’s a timeless quality to great music whether it’s Lauryn Hill or Amy Winehouse or Donny Hathaway and a hundred others. Great music stands the test of time.
Photo courtesy Jess Glynne by Simon Emmett