Jessie Reyez R&B’s secret weapon
The first time I ever listened to Jessie Reyez I was driving in my car alongside the scenic avenues of Los Angeles with my windows fully down. Reyez’s raspy tone and soulful voice became the perfect musical score to such a picturesque backdrop. Five years ago in 2014, the28-year-old Colombian-Canadian musician began to build a name for herself in Toronto,Canada. Earning herself critical-acclaim for her collaborative projects [“Living in the Sky” and “ItHurts (Selena)”] with Grammy nominated rapper King Louie, Jessie Reyez initiated the early stages of her rise to stardom. Jessie Reyez’s crossover to the North American music industry sparked in 2017 with her opening act in PartyNextDoor’s Infinity World tour throughout Europe. The release of Reyez’s most popular single, “Figures” received international recognition as well and skyrocketed the career of the emerging R&B singer. The remainder of 2017 included the execution and distribution of Jessie Reyez’s first ever EP, Kiddo. This 7-track list autobiographical experience immerses her listeners into the personal background of Reyez’s upbringing as the EP features creative direction from a few of her very own family members. Aside from music, Jessie Reyez visually recounts the gender discrimination and exploitative hardships she has faced as an artist in her emotionally-riveting short film Gatekeeper. Also, the music video for “Gatekeeper” received high praise for its authentic retelling of grievous situations that commonly occur to young female artists who are just trying to live through their art and music. In 2018, Jessie Reyez was acknowledged by Billboard to be one of the R&B artists to watch blossom throughout the remainder of the year. Reyez’s second EP, Being Human in Public was wildly successful and ultimately led to her touring throughout North America. With two widely known EPs under her belt, Jessie Reyez’s has earned herself a rightful place in the spotlight as she has currently collaborated on notable projects with the likes of Daniel Caesar, Calvin Harris, Sam Smith, 6LACK, and 15 Grammy award-winning American rapper, Eminem. With the recent release of her newest single “Crazy,” Jessie Reyez continuously shows us how to prevail through sufferings with her angelic voice that seems to rapture through any type of emotional pain. We sat down with Jessie to discuss the origins of her passions for music-making, storytelling, and her Hispanic roots. See the full interview, as well as our exclusive shoot with Jessie Reyez below!
What was the most surreal moment for you regarding your recent status as a nationally recognized R&B singer?
When Beyoncé said that she liked my MTV awards performance last year. That fucked me up. I had to go and meditate in the grass immediately after to come back down to earth. I was flying.
Who inspired you the most as an artist? (Because we don’t see a lot of Hispanic women taking over Soul and R&B even though there should be more spaces for them to succeed.)
I think Amy Winehouse inspired me a lot, when I was going through it, it felt like I had a friend in the dark when I listened to her.
If you could take over any era of R&B, which decade/year would it be and why?
1999ish, because Destiny’s Child was thriving and I loved it. Say my nammmmeeeee say my nammmmeeee. Pre Beyoncé’s rise, we got to witness it.
How would you define your sense of style in music? And, in fashion?
I don’t really like the idea of defining my music, but if I had to I’d say it’s very Quentin Tarantino. It’s love and it’s violent, it’s bloody but it’s a warm embrace…I think. It’s shapeshifting. In regards to fashion …I dunno… comfortable? The day I die I hope they bury me in an XXL t shirt and some chucks. I’ve always felt at home wearing that.
Describe your musical crossover from Canada to North America.
Well I was busking in downtown Toronto years ago and doing open mic gigs wherever I could on college st. Eventually, I moved to Florida and was busking and doing side jobs out there, but during my last year of bartending in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, I was really lucky to have auditioned and get accepted into a program called The Remix Project in Toronto. It’s like an art incubator for kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access to studio time or mentorship. One day one of the mentors that came in was this really dope rapper from Chicago name King Louie. Gavin Shepard, the founder of the program, happened to play him one of my songs before he spoke to the participants of the program. He expressed that he wanted to create with me; we made a song and I feel like the first time I started getting real traction was out of Chicago because of Louis.
Since you seem to have your hands in every process of your own music production, whether it be curating the visuals behind an album or music videos or short film…What aspects of your own music-making process do you love the most?
I love writing the most. Everything you listed is great, but it also is very much a collaborative process when it comes to executing the album and getting the music videos ready. However, song writing is still very much an intimate process. And I like it that way. I feel like in the music industry it’s difficult to maintain purity in things that are supposed to be art, but that’s one of the few things that I feel like is still 100% pure. There’s no politics, no big plan, no numbers, just heart to pen.
What stories do you want to continue retelling through your various mediums of art?
If I broke my leg today, I’d sing about breaking my leg tomorrow, so I just wanna keep doing that. Singing about my shit- my life.
What song or songs did you mindlessly play in your head on a daily basis this week?
“Walk Away From Love” by Bitty Mclean
If you could give every single one of your fans all one gift, what would it be?
A mute button for life for whenever you feel like you just need peace.
You have been very transparent throughout your music career about your many hardships rising up…what advice do you wish you could have given your younger self in regards to how controversial the music industry really is?
Love yourself and stay healthy in mind and body because you’re going to war.
What tips would you like to share to emerging female artists all over the world right now?
Google who you’re gonna work with so you don’t end up in a session with a creep who has outstanding charges. And teach people how to treat you. If someone doesn’t show you respect, state what you need. If it’s not given, respectfully leave and go somewhere it is given.
12) You have written some of the most popular pop songs of 2017 and 2018, how does it feel to hear your words being sung by artists like Kehlani, Normani, and Sam Smith?
Feels fucking lit. I’m so happy those songs found a home somewhere else. There’s countless songs that end up on the cutting room floor that no one will ever hear, so it’s nice to know that those ones found somewhere to thrive.
As a hispanic woman, what cultural values did you make sure to maintain throughout your career?
Family over everything. And making sure that I do my best to treat others how I wish to be treated and staying close to my spirituality … Echándome la bendición siempre que me voy a montar en un avión lol.
Who taught you how to salsa in your family and how easy was it for you to pick it up?
My pops… it was very easy because I had a lot of opportunities to practice because there was always a family party. I also learned how to dance cumbia from my mom at these parties… They would actually take me often, it’s kind of part of the reason I like bringing them on tour now; they took me to parties, now it’s my turn.
What was the most rewarding memory you remember in your overall career? What was the hardest?
Rewarding I think was being able to tell my folks that I didn’t want them to work anymore and the hardest is missing birthdays and coming back home and seeing that my niece grew a whole foot but I wasn’t there to see it.
If given the opportunity to creatively produce your own single with anyone, which artist would you collaborate with?
Frank Ocean or Kid Cudi.
Finally, I have seen that you have recently taken up acting; what other artistic or personal goals do you have for the rest of 2019? What other goals you going to2020?
Red Bull gave me the shot to do this Toronto show with a huge budget a few months ago. I was able to hire an array of new musicians, actors and I got to incorporate dance and I wrote an entire script for it. I’d love to do that again, especially on a bigger scale. I cannot wait to put out my album early 2020
Andddddd I want to win that Grammy that I’m nominated for.
Photography and Creative Direction: Prince Chenoa and Jacob DeKat
Stylist: Bianca Agrusa
Interview by: Malik Peay
Make up: Allison Sharp