Live From New York, It's Jessie J: A Day in the Life
By Emily Tan Posted Mar 15th 2011 12:15PM
All over the UK, Jessie J is a household name. Aside from playing sold-out gigs, the London singer was named BBC Sound of 2011, beating out indie breakout the Vaccines and James Blake and recently won the Brit Award for Critic's Choice. And now that she's taken over at home, Jessie J is bringing her combination of pop, R&B and soul to the US with her current single, 'Price Tag,' featuring B.o.B., which is heating up radio stations all over the country, as well as her upcoming album, 'Who You Are,' out on April 12. PopEater had the chance to hang out with Jessie J in New York as she prepared for her live debut on 'Saturday Night Live' that premiered over the weekend -- a moment that the singer and songwriter was still in the midst of soaking.
"I don't think I'm quite understanding how amazing it's going to be," Jessie J told PopEater. "I think Sunday morning is going to be the test when I go out to of the hotel to the airport and just see how many people saw it the night before... It's just amazing to be out of the UK but still be on the tip of everyone's tongue and loving that challenge of feeling like I've got a whole other chapter and another chapter and another chapter ahead of me. And the UK was just the beginning, and here I am in the US."
As she stepped into the offices of Sirius Satellite Radio, Jessie J immediately made heads turn. From her sky-high turquoise stiletto heels her and her super short cutoff denim shorts to her straight and sleek black bob and perfectly manicured nails designed by well-known London nail technician Jenny Longworth, she clearly shows how much this girl likes fashion and how much she loves to play with clothing.
"I love clothes," she raved and revealed that she had already picked her 'Saturday Night Live' outfits weeks before coming to New York. "But the one thing I hate is that people think style comes from money and style comes from brands, and that's not the case. You can rock a charity shop dress as much as a Dolce & Gabbana. I think if you're head to toe in designer, I just feel like you're just a walking billboard like an advert. I've got a bit of Chanel, a bit of vintage jewelry."
But Jessie J isn't in the game for the free swag or fun perks -- she's all about the music. Finding her voice when she was a child, Jessie J (who went by Jessica Cornish in her younger years) started on the stage and did musical theater. At 9, she landed a role in the London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman's musical 'Whistle Down the Wind.' "That gave me a taste of being on the stage and that feeling and that adrenaline and rush you get with people watching you sing and perform," she said. "I think watching adults around me doing it for a living made go, 'Actually wait a minute, I can make [this] be my career. I think musically training gave me the discipline, and it gave me the character and the ability to push myself and not stick myself in one pigeonhole or one genre."
Wanting to hone her craft even further, Jessie J attended the BRIT School, which has produced some of today's big UK stars including Imogen Heap, Kate Nash and Amy Winehouse. Coincidentally, Jessie J and Adele went to the BRIT school at the same time but were actually friends. "We used to sing at lunchtime together, and someone would be playing guitar, and it was fun," she revealed. "But I love the Brit School. It made me grow up a lot, and I think it made me realize that opportunities aren't given to you on a golden plate, you have to go and look for it. When you do, it can be life changing."
And although these two could be pegged as rivals on the UK charts at the moment, Jessie J couldn't be happier of her friend and contemporary and explains that there's hardly any drama. " When I saw Adele at the Brits, I'm so proud of her," Jessie J said. "And she's blowing up over in the US and Europe and everywhere. She's number one in 14 countries or something crazy right now, and it's so nice to see homegrown talent flying the flag. And it's the greatest feeling -- like she set the standard for someone like me to come through and hopefully be able to do the same thing."
But Jessie J isn't without her own laurels as she also won a Brit Award that same evening. And as a proud Englishwoman, having the support for her compatriots was something that means more to her than what number she is on the charts.
"It feels amazing," she said with joy. "And even though I was signed in the US, I was so thankful that I was allowed to release in the UK first because that's where you start. And the UK is like miniscule in comparison to the US. It feels great that I've got that home support, and I feel a lot strong and lot more comfortable to go out and fly the flag around the rest of the world, knowing when I go home that people understand me and my music's there and living and breathing. And people have my album and my singles, and it's good. It's the most humbling feeling."
After getting through her last round of interviews with Sirius and some quick snapshots in the lobby, Jessie J heads back into the van for the quick drive over to her next set of meetings at MTV. On the drive through Time Square, Jessie J reminisced of the fun moments she had in the area like seeing Billie Joe Armstrong play St. Jimmy in the Broadway version of 'American Idiot' as well as 'Wicked.' Although she's usually in New York for work, Jesse J does like to peruse the "one-off shops" and nosh on Pinkberry.
Jessie J has been coming to the US for years when she decided to pursue songwriting after her the first record label she was signed to at 17 went bankrupt and was left with tons of songs that needed singers. "When the record label went under, I got signed to Sony ATV as a songwriter in the UK," she said. "I think people get misunderstood. I was always an artist, but obviously you need to pay your bills. And when you're not signed, you have no income. So I started trying to do more writing. And I flew to the US and did some songwriting trips."
Since the album she had with her first label never released, Jessie J gave 'I Owe It All To You' and 'Move' to Dutch 'X Factor' winner Lisa Lois for her 2009 debut album, 'Smoke,' jumpstarting her career as a songwriter. Then while supporting Chris Brown's European tour one year, she ended up writing 'I Need You' for his 2008 record, 'Graffiti,' which Jessie J re-recorded for her own debut record. " I decided to put it on my album, too, just to show my version. Because sometimes it's nice for people to hear where a song started and where it goes and the different sounds you can do with a song," she admitted.
Now seen a hot songwriting commodity, Jessie J wrote songs for Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys (that the Grammy winner didn't end up using) and even initially intended 'Do It Like a Dude' for Rihanna but loved her song so much that she needed to keep it for herself. But perhaps her biggest hit was co-writing 'Party in the USA' for Miley Cyrus -- a song that to this day she still doesn't fully grasp how she helped create a huge hit. "I was lucky to get to work with Dr. Luke and Claude Kelly, Toby Gad, and we wrote 'Party in the USA' on the first day," she said. "We had one day, and we wrote 'Party in the USA.' And I remember the label saying, 'This is a hit, but it's not edgy enough for you.' So he was like, 'I think Miley needs a new song, a single.' So we pitched it to Miley, and within three weeks she recorded it and it went to number one. So I still, to this day, don't know how amazing that is."
With all the songs she's written, one wonders where she gets all her inspiration. But it's simple -- herself. Besides her experience on the stage, she also had her own set of life experiences that have manifested into many of her songs today 'Big White Room,' which was the first song she wrote was inspired by a boy she met while she was in the hospital who was sick and later died while 'Who's Laughing Now' was a reaction to all the doubters in her life who thought she wouldn't succeed in music.
"I wasn't allowed in the school choir," she said. "I didn't do plays in school because I didn't really feel comfortable with being accepted and not everybody liked my voice and people used to tell me to be quiet and laugh at my songs when I'd write songs. It's for all those people who didn't believe. I think a song lasts forever. It's best 'up yours' that you can possibly give."
Not only did she have to deal with those who made fun of her in school, but Jessie J has had heart problems since she was a little girl and even experienced a minor stroke when she was 18. And while some people might keep this type of story a secret, Jessie J wanted to use it as a form of inspiration for people with health issues.
"I wanted to inspire anyone else who has disabilities or heart deficiencies or any kind of health issues that kind of make them feel that kind of make them feel like they can't live their dreams like anyone else can, she revealed. "I wanted to be somebody who says, 'Yes, you can.' My heart problem still affects me now and will never go just because I get older. I just know how to deal with it better now. I don't drink. I don't smoke. And I love to party, but I'm a dancer. I love to dance. You'll see me on the dance floor first and the last to leave. And it's just something that I realized that life isn't guaranteed, and you have to live every second like it's your last however healthy you are or however kind of young you are, it's something that you have to live life to the fullest."
Hopping from interview to interview at MTV for about an hour or two could wear anyone down. But Jessie J kept her spirits high and energy up and made sure her interviews were not only on point but also had snippets of her witty humor, which ranges from making funny face for PopEater cameras while snacking on a candy bar between chats to breaking into a song about the elevator. While Jessie J is obviously having a lot of fun, she does admit that there are things she misses at home, namely her family.
"When I travel, I miss my own bed," she said as we head over to SIR Studios for rehearsal. "I miss my family, especially my niece and my nephews. I feel like I've missed them growing up. I miss home-cooked food. I miss my friends. I miss just the people mostly. I think you can make a home anywhere as it's the people you surround yourself with are important."
The drive to the studio was a solemn one. After a long day of answering questions and posing for photos, Jessie J needed a moment to collect her thoughts and get into performance mode. As she caught up with messages on her phone and just having some time compose herself, one then tends to forget that Jessie J is the superstar that she's viewed at home. At that moment, she's just Jessica. And when asked how she is so grounded she explained, "I don't know why I should be anything but grounded. I do think it's who you choose to surround yourself with... I'm 22, who am I to start acting like a diva or demanding things just because of noise I make with two muscles in my throat. I see that I'm young, and I'm still learning."
Finally arriving at SIR Studios and settling in, Jessie J went straight into her rehearsal space to meet her band. Discovering that she actually had a brass section and backup singers amped her up to get rehearsal started. While she's been reminded throughout the day, that debuting on 'Saturday Night Live' before the release 'Who You Are' is a pretty big deal, Jessie J keeps her cool, focuses at the task at hand and keeps one thing in mind.
"The one thing I've learned, and I learned it a long time ago is that you can never keep everybody happy. Whatever I do, however nice I am, however much money I choose hopefully when I've made enough to give loads to charity and help people, there'll always be someone that hates you. There's always going to someone that disagree with the way you live, the way you dress, the way you style your hair, the lipstick shade you wear. And I think once you've accepted that, I think it's nice to enjoy it and realize there's going to be people who are going to write horrible things and react badly. But there's also going to be people that love what I'm going to do, and I'm their inspiration and my music is what gets them out of bed every day. And they're the people I'm catering for. The rest can spin on it.
Spend a Day in the Life of Jessie J in Photos
PopEater follows Jessie J around on a busy day in New York. See All Photos >>
Max Orenstein, AOL
Jessie J -- A Day in the Life
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