New Artist Spotlight: Meet Jessie James
By: Matt Bjorke
With one pop album under her belt, Jessie James is hoping to break through in the genre where her heart always was, country music. In this exclusive interview we got to talk via phone with Jessie about "When You Say My Name" and her upcoming project and career thus far.
Newcomer Jessie James made some headlines a couple of years ago when she released her mainstream pop album on Mercury/Island Def Jam Records. Even though that album featured a few pop/country songs, it was mostly an of-the-moment recording featuring songs written with and produced by various producers. With her heart always in country music, Jessie was offered the opportunity to write and record her second album in Nashville, where she always wanted to go.
In this exclusive conversation with Show Dog-Universal’s artist Jessie James, we got to speak with her about her upcoming album and career move. She was kind enough to break away from her vacation in The Bahamas to call our Editor in Nashville to discuss her new single and upcoming project with her label.
Matt Bjorke: Where are from originally?
Jessie James: I’m not really from anywhere, originally because my Dad was in the military when I was growing up so we moved around a lot but I spent most of my time in Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
Matt: What drew you to performing? When did you get your start?
Jessie: There wasn’t anything that drew me to performing; I was just sort of born doing it. I know it sounds cliché to say it but since I was two, I was always performing and entertaining for my big family.
Matt: What inspired you to sing country music?
It was getting a LeAnn Rimes tape is what inspired me to sing country music when I was younger.
Matt: You were first signed to a record deal by LA Reid at Mercury/Island and released one record for them. What was that experience like for you?
Jessie: It was interesting because I had been going back and forth from Georgia to Nashville for years, trying to get a country record deal and publishing deal and they just kept saying no or that “we just signed this girl Katrina Elam or this girl Whitney Duncan.” There was just no room for me. I was immediately offered a record deal by LA Reid (after meeting him) and they told me that I’d be making a country record. So I jumped on it and said yet. I was an interesting experience (making the first album Jessie James). It was an interesting experience and I’ll never forget it. But it was different than I expected, you know, a girl from Georgia all of the sudden in New York City with these execs and they are wanting me to make a pop record and I was like “what’s happening?” (laughs). But now I couldn’t be happier to be where I am now making country music.
Matt: Well, I’m sure part of them wanting you to do that first pop album is because of the similar path that Katy Perry took to stardom, first starting off in Nashville.
Matt: Some fans may know you for the song Katy Perry co-wrote with you for the first record. What did you think of the recent ‘leak’ of her demo of the song?
I’m curious as to who leaked it. Years ago Katy had originally written the song and I went back and wanted to change the lyrics and melody for it to fit my style. But I remember her reaching me out to MySpace before she was a big star telling me that she had this great song for me that her publishers told her to write for this new pop/country singer. So it brought so many great memories back to hear her singing on that leaked track.
Matt: How did that experience shape how you went about recording your upcoming country record deal?
Jessie: Oh, Lord! Making that first record was really intense. I’ll never speak ill of the pop label I was on but I will say that it was very much a struggle because it always felt like a fighting battle because I wanted to sing more country music. I was always begging them to send me to Nashville to write with the people I’d written with and felt comfortable with. And here they were flying me off to London and Vegas to write with all of these Hip-hop producers and I just remember singing in the vocal booth crying when they’d tell me not to sound so country. I went through the circus is what it was so now nothing really intimidates me anymore. It just showed me how strong I have to be when it gets really rough out there so this time it was a breeze.
Matt: So it must’ve been very cool to be able to work Mark Wright on this project…
Jessie: Oh, It was so easy! I almost thought to myself, is this too easy? Like, Shouldn’t there be something going wrong? It was such a natural process. Mark is just awesome. I’ve known him for years and he always said “When you want to make a country record, give me a call.” It honestly felt like home.
Matt: What is the name of your upcoming single? What can you tell me about it?
Jessie: It’s called “When You Say My Name” and I didn’t write this one. I wrote a lot of the songs on the record but it was the last one that we found before we completed the album. Mark sent it to me and I downloaded it to my iPhone and played it in the car with my whole family and we all just looked at each other and said, “this is awesome, we have to do this.”
Matt: It passed the family test…
Jessie: Yeah, I always ask them their opinion because they’re always right…
Matt: It’s a good thing to do because they listen to the same thing you do and they don’t think ‘oh what would the industry think,’ like we might…
Jessie: Yeah, I definitely think that way sometimes but my 20 year old sister doesn’t and my 17 year old brother doesn’t. He’s already played the song for all of his buddies, all boys, and he came home from school one day and said “Jess, they are all singin’ your song over and over again!” And these are a bunch of football players and wrestler guys, so it’s hilarious!
Matt: Have you gotten a chance to perform any of the songs from the upcoming record?
Jessie: Yes, I recently got to play “When You Say My Name” and a potential next single, “Military Man” at a recent Denver Broncos game.
Matt: That had to be a cool experience!
Jessie: Yeah, and it was great performing my new single but I think the most fun part for me was getting to sing “Military Man” there. I got to bring my Dad up on stage, he was in the Air Force, and the whole halftime was dedicated to troops coming home and veterans and I’ve been involved with the military for many years so it meant the world to me to sing that song because it is about growing up in a military lifestyle.
Matt: What would you like to say to fans that may be learning about your music for the first time?
Jessie: I’d like to say that if your interested in girl-power music and songs about love and life, that they should buy the record and if they want to come into this with an open mind, because I am a country singer with pop influences, but if they take a listen I think there’s something on the album for anyone.
Matt: If you had to describe country music in one word what would it be? Feel free to explain..
Jessie: I would say “home.” I know it sounds silly but its home to me. Any time I hear country music it feels like home to me. If I turn it on while driving down the road, it’s a very comfortable feeling to hear country radio. I know it sounds cheesy but I’ve been listening to it my whole life and it feel like home.
We hope you enjoyed the conversation and hope you will take a chance to watch the music video for “When You Say My Name” and that you’ll follow the links to purchase your own copy of the single too. Look for the song to hit your local radio dials in the spring!