Time Out São Paulo

Jessie J: interview

The down-to-earth chanteuse talks booze, fame and vocals 

One name has topped the tips for 2011 issued by practically every media outlet in the land, from MTV to the BBC and even, yes, Time Out. To be honest, none of us was really sticking our neck out there. Jessie J has already written one international chart smash (Miley Cyrus’s ‘Party in the USA’, intended as ironic anthem for herself), has like a zillion YouTube hits for her many live clips and, crucially, she can sing her arse off, and probably yours too.

Jessie is also the first artist to benefit from a new label strategy, whereby singles are released to radio and Joe/Joetta Public at the same time, encouraging word of mouth marketing and hopefully, touch wood with crossed fingers, eliminating the scourge of piracy forever (ha! in your face, Somalia!).

So, you’ve been voted the one most likely to succeed by everyone in the world – how does that feel? 
I’m torn straight down the middle. Half of me’s like, ‘Oh my God, pressure.com’, and the other half of me’s like, ‘I can do this – this is why I’ve been working my arse off for seven years, so I can be like, come on, let’s get messy and let’s do it.’ But I didn’t expect it to be so crazy, to be honest with you. I never expected to win awards or be the next one after, like Amy, Adele, Ellie. It’s very overwhelming.

It must be strange making the jump from singer-songwriter to pop star… 
Totally – you don’t go to pop star school to learn how to be a pop star, or how to be papped, or what to do when a fan attacks you in Westfield, you just have to get on with it. And that’s the kind of thing people think, you know, that if you sign up to be a singer-songwriter you know how to deal with people setting up hate websites, or people being obsessed with you and crying when you touch them, but you don’t, and you just have to deal with it. And that’s big – it’s like, I’m 22 and I’m from Essex, this is really odd! But I’m loving it, now I get to wear Vivienne Westwood clothes for a day and then give ’em back!

You’ve had some pretty scary health problems. Did they give your songwriting a different perspective?
Oh definitely. I think what’s happened to me with my health in the past – four years ago I had a minor stroke – it made me realise that you can’t guarantee life every day. However old you are, however much you love life, however happy you are, how healthy you are, it doesn’t matter. Nothing’s guaranteed. And I think it made me want to take that risk to expose myself as me and not as a version of myself. I don’t become Jessie J. I might put a nicer pair of heels on and a cooler outfit, but I’m still that naughty girl who likes a slice of cheesecake on my day off.

You’re also quite clean living for a 22-year-old pop star… 
Music is my drug and the only drug I’ll ever want. The clean living thing is a bit drastic – I won’t say I’ll never have a glass of champagne to say well done for the Brit award or whatever. I’m not someone who’s anti, I just can’t depend on it. Alcohol and drugs don’t give me the confidence to be who I am and that’s why I really wanna embrace being a role model, I want to show young people that you can be who you are with purity, you don’t have to kind of infect it with a double shot of G&T or a spliff. It’s just part of the role I have to play now, Which I’ve always played, to be honest – ask my girlfriends, they’ll all tell you I’ll have half a shandy and I’m done! A Lucozade is enough for me. I’m irritating enough without it all. 

You’ve given your fans a chance to see your wild side through your internet show, Dare Jessie J
Dare Jessie J
 was always my little plan to be able to do stuff a 22-year-old would do while I’m living my day-to-day life. Sometimes I have to remind myself: chill out, have a Nando’s, put your feet up and watch comedy. And Dare Jessie J was just a chance for me to act like a kid in this crazy whirlwind of my life right now. Humour is a big part of my life – my dad’s a social worker, and he’s always said that laughter is the best therapy. So humour’s a massive part of me and Dare Jessie J is a good way for people to get to know me.

You got your first big break when Chris Brown’s manager spotted you singing on YouTube and booked you to support him for six dates – how important is it for you to be known for your vocal abilities? 
For me, there shouldn’t be anyone who can’t do it live. Ever since I was a kid, I was taught that you have to be good at what you do. If you’re a masseuse, you should know what to do to make someone’s back feel better. If you’re a singer you should be able to sing live. In the last four or five years I’ve been working on my vocal, because if it’s not amazing, people will say it’s crap. Because that’s my job. I should be good at what I do. But I love singing live. Nothing beats the feeling of going out on stage and going, ‘I can really sing.’

So, distinctive haircut, YouTube sensation and discovered by a US R&B star – are you the UK’s Justin Bieber? 
Ha ha! I am, I’m the female Bieber! I’m the Febieber. The Bieber diva. 

By Eddy Lawrence
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