"I stepped on a stage when I was 5 and knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."
Through commanding soul-pop yet emotional tunes, American singer-songwriter Justin Jesso is continuing to attract new waves of fans and, we are one of them.
From songwriting long before he launched his solo career; writing for the likes of AJ Mitchell, Backstreet Boys and even earning a Latin Grammy nomination for Ricky Martin's chart-topping 'Vente Pa' Ca'. Justin Jesso is now embarking a new journey that has already seen him touring the world and working with heavyweight star KYGO.
As he continues to remain on an upwards ascent, we spoke to Justin Jesso about his latest single 'Too Good to Lose', his first-ever project 'Let it Be Me' and how he overcame his obstacles.
Firstly, let's jump into your latest single 'Too Good to Lose', how has the reaction been like since the release and what is the meaning behind it?
Haha, let's jump in! I like it. The reception has been great! I think right now in the world we are going through such a difficult time and at least from my perspective, any bit of creative distraction is welcome, ha! I was in a relationship that I loved, but I was also not right for this person. I was always gone, working too hard, travelling all the time but, loved being with this person so, I didn't want to cut off the relationship even though I knew we weren’t the right fit. I also am really terrible at being alone.
Formerly known as a songwriter before pursuing singing, what influenced you to pursue music and as the years go by have your influences changed?
I was the kid who loved playing with the plastic microphone. I stepped on a stage when I was 5 and knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I started writing songs when I was 9; the first one was about a girl named Leah I liked at camp. It went “Leah, would you meet me by the pier, you bring the lettuce and, I’ll bring the beer. There may be a dear, but don’t you fear, cause I’ll hold you near. We’ll drink some lettuce, eat some beer, look at your rear.” It wasn’t very good and, I didn't get the girl.
I always wanted to be an artist, but I kept writing songs for others because I thought like Bruno Mars, John Legend, Megan Trainor, and Julia Michaels. I needed to get taken seriously as a songwriter first so that I could eventually sing my own songs.
My influences growing up (and still today) are Stevie wonder Michael Jackson, James Brown, Otis Redding, Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Elton John, Miguel, John Legend, Bruno Mars, Lizzo, Queen, Ryan Tedder, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga.
Whilst growing up, who did you aspire to be, and did you see yourself ever standing in the position you are now?
Ha well, originally, I wanted to be Michael Jackson, then Justin Timberlake, then Bruno mars, then Ryan Tedder. Now I'd just like to be me. But in stadiums with them hahahahaha!
I didn't see my career taking the path it has (and continues to) grow. I think in general, it's hard, to plan for anything (especially in the music industry) there are so many odd routes to getting to where you are supposed to be and, it's best to just, work hard and trust the universe as best you can.
Whilst based in America, you have travelled across the world, what is your number one place you've visited and, where do you hope to go next?
Oh, man. Well, I loved Sziget festival in Budapest. That was awesome. 110k people in the crowd and afterwards, me, Shawn Mendes and Kygo tended the bar for all the festival staff - it was a crazy night. I also LOVE Switzerland. I love the landscape. I love the people. Berlin and Munich are amazing cities and, I'd like to spend more time in. The cutest town I've ever been in and would like to go back to is Baden Baden! I always love London and Paris. Id love to go back to Singapore as well.
One of the standout moments of your career was working with KYGO and producing 'Stargazing' - plus touring with him for over a year. How would you describe that experience?
It's been amazing. I've gotten to see the world and sing my songs on huge stages. Kyrre (Kygo) is a great dude, and I've enjoyed every minute of it.
In other moments, you have also worked with the likes of Nina Nesbitt and Alle Farben - who do you dream to work with next?
Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande, Jojo, Miguel, Lizzo, Dua lipa, Ryan Tedder. Big fan of what Conan Grey is doing right now.
Following your recent single, is there anything planned before the end of 2020 that you could tell us about?
Yes! I have new music coming soon - but can't say anything else.
Throughout your career, what has been your biggest accomplishment and what has been the hardest obstacle you have overcome?
Oh, man. Well, I think the biggest accomplishment is being able to support myself doing what I love. I am so blessed and lucky that I get to make music and, that I've built a career for myself where I can continue to do that every day. That, in some way, was also the hardest obstacle.
Breaking in as a songwriter was the first obstacle. Just getting taken seriously in the industry at all then transitioning into being an artist was the second and probably even greater obstacle because people only saw me as a songwriter for others. Various labels heard my songs and wanted to sign me as an artist, only to turn around a week or two later and wanted to take my songs to release on other kids who were big on Instagram and have me continue writing only. I started to feel hopeless because no one was taking me seriously as an artist. One day I looked myself in the mirror and said: “Ok I hear the universe… it is telling me I need to continue writing songs for others and try and write the best songs that I can.” I put my artistic dreams on hold, hoping one day I could return to them. Then I wrote Stargazing and, slowly things started to change as labels and listeners started to realize I had something to say and wanted to hear it in my own voice.
Throwing back to one of your first projects 'Let It Be Me' EP, what is the story behind this and within a space of a year, do you believe you have grown as an artist?
'Let it Be Me' the EP was an introduction. It was also a collection of songs that felt like me at the time. I am always striving to make timeless, classic, soulful music and tell stories I, feel people need to hear.
'Let it Be Me' the song was what I would say to the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. 'Getting Closer' was at the end of a relationship when I couldn’t tell if we were getting closer or getting closer to the end. 'I Will' was a fun vibe I just wanted out in the world that paid homage to some of the R&B I loved growing up. 'My Body' is about that same relationship I didn't get the closure on, knowing I shouldn’t be in it mentally but wanting to be in it physically, and I loved the groove of it. 'One Good Reason' was always one of my favourite tunes that outlines some pretty poor relationship communication, something I still write a lot about to this day and, I am learning from it constantly as I continue in relationships.
Communication is key, and people have very different communication styles. I believe I have grown as an artist. And I am continuing to grow. I feel I have become more and more myself.
Finally, you've worked with stars across the board to travelling the world, but can fans expect an album soon?
I wish I could say a tour, but Covid. Saying that new music is coming soon though.