Jessia – Canada’s 2022 Breakout Artist of the Year

JessiaHot off recently being announced as the 2022 Breakout Artist of the Year at the JUNO Awards, BC singer/songwriter Jessia is well on her way. But before the JUNOS, a lot happened to this amazing young artist that helped her earn the rights to that award: she scored a big streaming hit with her powerful single I’m Not Pretty, which grabbed the attention of Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic and Canadian songman Elijah Woods, which resulted in her debut EP How Are You?

We connected with Jessia before her JUNO nod to chat about all that’s happened to her in the last year.

The last time I talked with you, your EP wasn’t even out yet and the I’m Not Pretty video was new. Here we are one year later and the EP is here and you’re the Breakout Artist of the Year at the Juno Awards. Congratulations.

Thank you so, so much.

What did the Juno nominations mean to you?

Oh, my goodness. The little girl inside of me is just screaming. She’s so, so excited. It’s like a moment of: “Oh my goodness, we did it.” As an artist, it’s really, really nice to just have that recognition and know that people like what I’m doing, hopefully.

Is there a Juno moment for you in the past, maybe something you saw on TV, or were a spectator at a live event?

I’ve grown up just watching the Junos, and just seeing all of the up-and-coming artists. I think that is one of my favorite things to see – all of the new talent that people have been discovering and seeing what they do the next year.

Last time we talked a lot about I’m Not Pretty because the video came out. Has that song now taken on a new meaning for you?

It’s always evolving. I love that people are still sharing their stories and still discovering it. It’s really cool when you get a message like, “Oh, my goodness, I just saw this song,” and you’re like, “Hello, welcome to the family.” I still absolutely love it and I need to listen to it more. It definitely gets me through some days where I don’t really feel too great about myself. It’s an ever-growing family and ever-growing movement of people just being able to smile and accept themselves, no matter what they look like that day.

Why do you think people gravitated to it so much?

You don’t usually hear people talk about these things in pop music. Usually, Pop dancing and everybody being pretty and blah, blah, blah. I feel like talking about not feeling your best, the darker sides and some of the ugly thoughts that you have in your mind. It’s something new and refreshing and I think it’s something that we need to talk about more. I’m really happy that this is where the music industry is going. There’s a lot more real and a lot more authenticity in the music coming out now.

That song really was the beginning of everything for you. It grabbed the attention of Ryan Tedder. How did he actually get involved?

He DM’d me on Instagram. That was pretty wild. I had to check it 14 different times to make sure it was actually him. He is one of the most amazing people ever, not only as a songwriter, but as a human being. The advice that he’s given me on how to navigate this industry, how to navigate me as an artist, and the way that he sees me, and the things that he sees for my career, is really, really amazing and super inspiring. Every time I walk away from him, I just I’m feeling like I need to let go and do a million things – just try even harder.

I’m curious, has he actually sat down and wrote with you yet?

We’ve had a couple of sessions. I just glazed over that didn’t I? His melodies and just how in tune he is with where songwriting is going is astonishing. He tries to navigate writing by breaking down all the boundaries and allowing yourself to just flow and be artistic. But, he’s also very, very in tune with how to write a banger pop song. Look at his catalogue. It’s amazing.

He was on American Idol as a mentor to some of the contestants. It’s like you skipped the whole American Idol process and became the one that he ended up mentoring in real life, which is what everybody on Idol would dream of. Would you have ever considered being on a show like that?

I did. I did Canada’s Got Talent and I didn’t make it through the first round. I wasn’t able to do Canadian Idol because it got canceled before I was able to do it. I’m very, very glad that my career took me this way, to be able to just to showcase my songwriting. I would have been open to it. I might go on a TV show, I’m still young. The world still doing its thing.

What made you decide to do the TikTok thing?

I saw that we weren’t in person anymore and our opportunities as artists in the pandemic were very, very limited. We also weren’t able to play live shows and this was the only way to be able to be seen. It’s a little bit nerve wracking making videos and editing yourself, but I find that it’s such an amazing way to reach audiences everywhere. I’ve got fans from all over the world, and without social media, I don’t think we would have been able to do that, unless it was years and years and years and years of touring.

Elijah Woods was part of that. How did he get involved? And what exactly did he do for you?

Oh, what he doesn’t do for me… He is such an outstanding human being and an artist as well. He saw my little 15-second video of I’m Not Pretty on TikTok, and just started producing it. Within two days, it was written, and three days later, we had released it. He’s now like family to me; like we’ve worked together so much that we barely even have to talk. He produced my EP. I’m very thankful to have him in my life.

519 May 2022 with JessiaThis story and others can be found in our latest issue.

You seem to be soaking up all this experience and information through people like Ryan and Elijah. That’s an incredible position to be in.

It really, really is. I still have to pinch myself sometimes. It’s very cool.

Are there any new people that you’re working with?

I’m in and I’ve been writing like crazy. New music is coming. Actually, go and check out my TikTok because I’ve been teasing some new music. I’m not sure if I can say any names just yet, but there’s some pretty exciting people that I’ve been working with.

We did get a taste of something new, though. Next Time, tell me about that song.

Next Time is just a journey. I wrote the song and it was one of the songs that just falls out of you. It had been building up for a while; I’m sure I wrote a million songs to be able to just articulate this one feeling, but none of them were right. Next Time was just supposed to be for myself, and it was supposed to just be like therapy to get something off of my chest, but I ended up showing it to Elijah and he was crazy about it.

We set up a microphone right away and that’s the take that ended up making it. It was just one take, just going in and singing the whole song. I ended up showing it to a couple more people, and they thought it was a powerful message. We ended up just having to release it, and the amount of people and the number of stories that it’s been able to help, is overwhelming. I feel very honored that I’m able to do this with my life.

Last time we spoke, you mentioned that you had a shy side that was always there and it was something you tried to overcome. Has that gone away?

I don’t think that it’s ever going to really go away. You definitely have different personalities that you put on when you have to be in the public, but I do find that keeping time for myself and shutting myself away with my thoughts and really close friends and family has definitely like helped. I’m not trying to just like write something just to write something. You know what I mean? I think I’m definitely embracing the shy side and seeing that it is a part of me. I definitely don’t shame myself for it. I think that it’s normal and I think it’s very, very healthy to have.

Does that shy side hate that you write about yourself?

Sometimes, yes. Very, very good question, actually. Even with Next Time, there was so many phone calls with my team and Elijah asking things like, “Can I say these things? Does the world need to hear this much of the intimate Jess?” But I don’t know. I think that I live my life to connect with people, and to skip the small talk. Having that intimacy and that vulnerability in my music allows me to skip the small talk. When meeting fans, we’re all in it, and I love that.

Jessia
Jessia – photo by William Arcand

It sounds like with Next Time, there was a little bit of hesitation because it was so personal. Is there somewhere you won’t go?

We’ll see. I don’t know. I definitely do like the music that is coming out right now, which is very lyrically heavy and talks about the real stuff. I don’t know where I draw the line. I thought that I would draw the line with Next Time, but clearly, I didn’t. I guess that’s something for me to discover.

It seems therapeutic. It seems like it pushes you.

Yes, it definitely does. It was like a weight lifted off of my shoulders. Like I felt like I had this little gremlin inside of me. I was just like, “Why do I feel like trash all the time?” Then I find out it’s because I just had some things that I needed to get off my chest.

Tell me about LA. You said you were in LA. Are you permanently there now?

No, no. I’m still Vancouver based. Right now, I’m just writing a bunch and doing what I wanted to do when I first got signed. It all happened during the pandemic, so everything mostly happened over Zoom. I’m here meeting everybody and letting them know I exist.

Of the new music, we’ve heard Next Time. Is that the direction we can expect with the next few songs or an EP?

Is it bad to say no? I feel like Next Time was the calm before the storm. I feel like I’m wanting to just release a bunch of serotonins, like “love yourself”. We’re heading into summer and we’re coming out of a pandemic, so I feel like we just need to dance and we need to have a little bit of lightness to our life.

And so, I’m writing a lot of colorful music. It’s funny, even with my nails and stuff, I’m going in and being as colorful as I can. My EP was definitely very bitter and strong hearted, and then Next Time is like the closure that you get. Now, it’s just happiness and rainbows.

We’re able to discover this whole new side of me.

I do like the colors. Is there actually a color that really inspires you?

Ooh. You’re coming up with all the good questions. I would say these are probably the colors that I would say I’m vibing with these days (shows her nails). They were just bright blue the other day.

It’s pretty much just electric colors. That’s what I’m going for.

How important is color for you?

I do see songs in color. I walk into some sessions and I’m like, “Let’s write a green song today.” They’re like, “We have no idea what that means, but sure.” I guess it’s like a part of synesthesia – like seeing music and art in different colors.

It’s cool to talk to other people who have synesthesia, because they can see things in completely different ways. It’s cool to see the different perspectives and how art can be interpreted.

Since you see things in color or you hear things in color, what color is Next Time?

Next time is definitely dark blue. It’s calm, it’s dark, it’s quiet. I really wanted that song, I to be like the moment when you are alone and you’re just like sitting on your bed staring up at the ceiling – just listening to the lyrics and listening to a story. I would encourage you to do that.

Just lie on your floor, stare at the ceiling and cry to Next Time.

For more on Jessia, visit her website.

Photo: Brittany Berggren
Photo: William Arcand
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