Despite technology allowing more people to make and release music than ever, it can sometimes feel like attention to musicianship is on the decrease.
We expect our artists to be so much more; fashion icons, video directors, inspirational speakers, reality TV stars – sometimes all wrapped into one. It’s unsurprising that at times the music gets lost in the mix.
Jessie Reyez is quick to admit that music is her world.
The 26-year-old Columbian-Canadian songstress isn’t afraid to put time into the betterment of her craft, and has been building her unique sound – an almost indescribable concoction of raspy vocals, R&B melodies, rap cadences, vivid storytelling, acoustic guitar and bass-heavy beats – unhurried by the need for online gratification or a quick fix of fame.
She first made waves beyond Toronto in 2014 with ‘Living In The Sky’ a collaboration with Chicago rapper King Louie who had appeared on Kanye West’s Yeezus the previous year.
The link up was the result of a workshop at The Remix Project, a creative initiative for young people from disadvantaged communities between the two cities where Reyez would work on her music, and was identified by Louie as a future star.
This year, having further refined her sound and skills, she returned with a debut EP, Kiddo, an incredible introductory collection which shows off her ability to pull you into her world, as she emancipates herself from the pain, stress and anger of her life. It’s not necessarily an easy ride, but Jessie music is filled with unbridled emotion and candid storytelling that make it almost as therapeutic for the listener as we suspect she found in its creation.
Kiddo sounds like the music that Jessie Reyez had to make; whether she wanted to or not.
How has the reception been to your Kiddo EP?
It’s been good, thank God. For different songs it’s been a different kind of response: from ‘Figures’, it’s crazy. I’ll get messages from people or comments that are like, “This has made me stop calling my ex” or “It’s made me feel more powerful.” And then there’s messages from the ‘Gatekeeper’ song where people are saying, “Man, I’ve been through this too. Thank you for talking about it.” Just crazy how everything’s resonating in different ways.
You first appeared on the radar a couple of years ago on ‘Living In The Sky’ with King Louie. Obviously a lot has changed since then, how would you describe the past few years?
My message has gotten more potent. I think it more has to do with my skill level because time and practise makes you better. I guess it happens to a lot of people, but when you hear your old work, and you kinda cringe because you see your own progress? It’s not like it’s super far back, but you can still sense and see the difference, that’s really helped. Working with new people in these three years of this crazy hustle. It’s been able to affect me positively in regards to how will I write and how well I think.
I’ve still got a ways to go. I still feel like if I’m in a studio with a crazy producer, I walk out of there a better musician. Anytime that I interact with someone. There’s always something that someone can teach you.
I learned a lot from King Louie too, man. That guy looked out. He’s dope.
How would you describe your creative process?
I know some people have a different way. I find it interesting, kind of how I just said when you work with other people and you become better because you see their process and how some people do melodies first or all that. I speak from reality, so the emotion kind of drives it forward, and anything else comes secondary to that. I feel like if the emotion isn’t there, then the song’s gonna fall short because the reality, the trueness is gonna be missing.
Anything after that it kinda comes. It’s not like there’s a formula. It’s just a matter of getting the emotion out and vibing. Sometimes it’s melody first. Sometimes it’s words first. Sometimes it’s both at the same time. I’m a fan of both at the same time. I feel like that way the message comes out clearer, because you’re not thinking. If you think too much, it becomes a science, and then what’s art?