Toronto’s Jessie Reyez is on Beats 1 today chatting with host Julia Adenuga about a variety of topics, including working with Paul Epworth, Calvin Harris and Amy Winehouse’s influence on her work. In true Canadian fashion, she also includes comments about her hometown Toronto!
Canadian listeners can tap-in and listen to Jessie on Beats 1 today at 4:30 p.m. ET here:
READ THE FULL CONVERSATION BELOW:
How often do yo go home?
It was two months ago to film the video for ‘Great Ones.’
How many times had you been home before that?
Once. That was the second time. I was in tears when we landed. I felt it and we walked into the house and the house was very similar to my aunt’s house I went to when I was 10. It’s like a paper bag of strawberries and they just can’t help but oozing.
That was a good analogy. Beats 1 has supported this lady since the beginning. Zane Lowe is a huge fan. Her name is Jessie Reyez. Are you a bright colourful person or a somber?
Definitely all over the map
I know you’ve traveled from afar. What does it feel like so far?
Great. I’m happy man I can’t believe it. Jetlag? You’re tired? Who cares?
It’s one thing to go to another country but for people to want to speak to you is a whole other thing.
I’m honoured that anyone cares. I could be busking right now so I’m very stoked.
Do you still love to busk?
To jam just wherever? Yeah I love it
Have you been on the tube since you’ve been in London?
Yes, we almost got lost I was with my parents it’s their first time in London we came from Liverpool Station and before that it was a whole event. We got lost.
I always say the tubes in London are simple but maybe not.
Toronto just might be way more easy. This just looks like a spiderweb.
What are the similarities between Toronto and London?
The fact that you have this melting pot of races is a beautiful thing that you also have in Toronto. The Caribbean influence is also in Toronto. The fact that you could get influences from so many different countries, Latinos, Asians, it’s mad sick that you have the same vibe here. It’s spreading to the suburbs more than it used to. It’s a beautiful thing to be spreading.
Have you met any UK artists since you’ve been here?
I was amped when I got to work with Paul Epworth
He’s an absolute G
It was a pleasure to work with him. I was honoured the vibe he had in the studio. Omg I almost cried. Egg White was super dope. I really vibe with the culture here.
This is good you seem so happy. Your energy is through the roof. One of the tracks on our Beats 1 List is called ‘Gatekeeper’ when did the film drop?
My sense of time is butchered. The film dropped last Wednesday.
If you haven’t watched it yet it’s this almost uncomfortable video of you being the most honest I’ve ever seen a human being be in front of a camera. There were parts I couldn’t watch. You probably are one of the most brave people I’ve met to be able to go through and put something out in the world that people are going to ask you about now. How has the journey been at this stage?
Thank you for saying that we didn’t approach it that way. I didn’t want to approach it as brave. Everyone goes through it, especially women. We all go through it. It just so happens that some of us, the situation is too tense too much and you can’t get out of it, and sometimes it’s not, but I didn’t ever want it to be this thing, like this flagship because it’s not always a bright side. Sometimes those stories have dark dark endings. It’s just an experience I wanted to talk about and it’s been beautiful that the ripple effects have been positive to other people. To talk about it there are two sides to the coin. It’s an honour that women come up to me and say ‘thank you for talking about this,’ something we don’t talk about often, but on the other side It’s wack that it’s even a conversation, it’s wack that so many women have the same story to tell. It’s wack that there are environments women have to walk into every day where they deal with this kind of thing. There’s two sides to it.
Wack is the perfect word you could use for you. In the simplest form it’s about misogyny, sexism in the music industry, women are going through it everywhere in their lives, it’s deep it’s so powerful it’s really a moment for you to take a break. It’s hard to be able to play that track and get on with the show. It has a moment where you really have to take a breath and take it in. When you perform or played it to someone for the first time what were the reactions?
Jessie Reyez: “It’s interesting because sometimes they’re polar opposites. There are people that are guilty of it. Sometimes there are women int he room and get emotional. If you’re getting emotional it’s probably because you’ve been on the not so great side of that. It’s interesting being in rooms and certain men will move a type of way. It’s so potent the way people react sometimes.”
Sharing is half the battle of something you’ve been through?
Jessie Reyez: I feel like my battle with it was won when I didn’t give up music. Luckily it’s not something I held onto or felt after I walked out and walked home and then came back to it and was busking again and pushing my mixtapes. Once I became myself again I’d won.
Being in this space are you like I need to be MORE honest with my music?
Jessie Reyez: I hope my fans do I don’t want no fake people around me and I don’t want to be fake to anyone. I hope people hold me up to those kind of standards. I never want to dilute my experience for anyone. That’s all I’m gonna be.
But can’t you do a video of you doing ice cream and telling jokes?
Jessie Reyez: That’s what I mean by that video being so important, but on on the EP there’s a song called “Blue Ribbon” that’s a freestyle and there was whiskey involved, it’s just a wide spectrum. I hope it resonates with people that I like to show every angle, every facet, every little bit of ugly and beauty so that I can just keep it honest. So hell yeah people can watch me eating ice cream.
What’s been your biggest lesson to date in terms of where you are now with music?
Jessie Reyez: I feel like it has a lot to do with finding good people and a good team that really believe in you as opposed to people that blow smoke or want what’s hot right now. When you have love as a base and belief and faith that makes a lot of difference.
I’ve noticed talking in interviews is not your favourite thing to do
Jessie Reyez: I just get nervous. I don’t know. I like to sing about shit I don’t like to talk about. It’s always been difficult for me to articulate a conversation when my emotions are the most intense. If I’m angry it comes out real easy, but if I’m hurt it’s difficult because I have a lot of internal. Fix it, adjust it, this is what I want to say.
Before music how were you expressing yourself?
Jessie Reyez: Poetry. Since I was a kid. I showed an interest in music since I was 3, cumbia, salsa, a massive mix of stuff. When i started writing 8 or 9 years old some awful awful poetry. When I went through my first human heartbreak at 16/17 that’s when someone heard it and was like ‘this isn’t half bad.’ That’s why I say it’s important to have a team around you. Part of that is paying that forward. Not everyone has real friends or people that believe in them. Some people get turned down every day. My teacher when I was 13, she was the first teacher to ever see my poetry and she said she was really good and told my folks. I’ll never forget that drop of confidence when you’re so easily influenced and your self worth to have one person say, you’re good. It means so much it’s crazy. If my dad hadn’t played guitar and my mom wasn’t open to me playing music and my teacher said I was good, thanks to those people.
As a whole, what does this EP mean to you?
Jessie Reyez: It’s a lot. It’s both sides of the spectrum. It’s a rainbow of emotions, it’s as honest as I could make it. It’s sporadic, a child of polarites, it’s Quentin Tarantino, it’s violent soul music.
(On Amy Winehouse’s influence)
Jessie Reyez: Amy Winehouse all day. ‘Back To Black’ I love it. ‘Stronger Than Me’ is really dope, her take on ‘Valerie.’ There’s so many. She’s amazing. But you can’t identify with your faults, you can’t identify with your pain because you lose your self. I remember this guy named Bryan Espiritu, this OG in Toronto, he’s behind this massive thing called Legends League you can’t identify your shortcomings, even though it’s part of your art you can’t fully identify with it because you will lose yourself in that darkness.
When did you first discover your talent and your voice and were comfortable enough to record?
Jessie Reyez: A few years ago. Not that long ago. Even now I still feel insecure. If I hear a Beyonce song and then I hear one of mine after. I want my work to be great. Her control, her vocal ability, if I listen to Frank Ocean and hear them it just forces me, it’s a little kick in the ass. Don’t ever get comfortable, there’s a lot more you need to, you need to work on your craft, you need to hustle.
Where’s your favourite place to write a song?
Jessie Reyez: Anywhere. It’s just a matter of how I feel. I would’ve answered stationary a year and a half or two years ago but I got to work with some legendary people and someone said to me when you make a good enough song you won’t have to write down the lyrics, the message will be potent enough, the melody will be potent enough that it will be ingrained enough in you. Some people say I like writing in Toronto or LA more, but it’s just a matter of how I feel. If I’m sad or angry as hell anywhere I’m at I just need to get it out. I hope it’s gonna be a good song. That’s what’s driving me to get it out. It can’t be forced. Anytime you force it it comes out awful. Other people do different. I respect anyone else’s approach, but mine has to have that seed of realness or truth it just grows this fake ass facade tree.
Have you written for other artists before?
Jessie Reyez: Ummm there’s stuff coming.
If that’s what makes you write, how do you write for someone else?
Jessie Reyez: I love writing for other people, particularly because I feel like there’s things I could say. I have nieces and nephews and there’s some things I can’t say, so it’s cool that I can express that. It’s not something I want to connect to myself but someone else resonates with it it’s great to be able to collaborate that way. I also learned from Prince and Lucky, these two writers in LA. They were like, you’re coming to it as an artists. You can’t give someone just your recipe. It’s in your best interest to collaborate with someone else make sure it’s other cake recipes so you’re not just giving your soul, your recipe, mix it up it’ll make a different kind of cake. I stuck with it and it’s dope and the placements I’ve been able to get so far have been children of that thought.
Calvin Harris said I worked with the greatest artist of our generation on my album talking about you. How do you feel?
Jessie Reyez: That’s wild no? That’s a lot. I’m honoured. When someone’s got such positive energy it’s like comfort and excitement and happiness. When we worked its as supposed to be a 1-day session and the vibe was dope it turned into a week. and then it turned into more days. He’s been so supportive, he’s offered guidance, I’m so grateful to everyone that’s ever helped me. Real talk I feel like I’m reaping a lot of the benefits from my mom’s prayers. She’s half a saint.
I’m going to read some names who’s your favourite on this?
Jessie Reyez: Frank Ocean. ‘Pink Matter’ is my favourite. Andre sprinkles some sauce on that.