Jess Glynne Talks Breaking Out As A Solo Star, Her Forthcoming Debut LP & Dolly Parton: Idolator Interview

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We first got word of Jess Glynne early last year, when she partnered up with Clean Bandit for their breakout international smash — “Rather Be.” Fast forward to 2015, and the singer is now making a name for herself in the U.S. market. Glynne is now planning to step into her own as a solo artist, with her debut (as yet untitled) LP set for a release later this year.

During our trip at 2015’s SXSW, we caught up with the soulful songstress on her musical plans, the artists she has on her radar and working with fellow UK dance-pop groups. Read on to see what Jess Glynne had to say in our fun conversation below!

First off, congrats on winning your first Grammy! What was your reaction when you won?
JESS GLYNNE: It was pretty shocking, I couldn’t believe it. When they called out “‘Rather Be’ by Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne,” it was the most overwhelmed I’ve ever been. I was with my friend and my manager, and we were all in shock. It was amazing.

I always hear a soulful tone in your voice when you sing, did you listen to a lot of R&B when you were younger?
JG: I love Soul, I love R&B — it’s what I grew up with. Like Aretha [Franklin], Whitney [Houston]. Mavis Staples is one of my biggest influences, I love her. “I’ll Take You There” is one of my favorite songs.

Speaking of that, your Mary J. Blige “Real Love” cover is amazing!
JG: She’s another person I grew up with and love!

If you could pick one R&B girl group from the ’90s that you could be a part of, what would you choose?
JG: Oh, Destiny’s Child! They’re my favorite girl group…other than the Spice Girls — obviously!

We love your “Right Here” track with Gorgon City. How did that collaboration come about?
JG: I wrote that song with them, and it was actually something we just put to bed and didn’t really discuss it any further. Then it came about again, and people started to hear and loved it. I was going to put out a single for myself, but [“Right Here”] was just the perfect tone after “Rather Be” and “My Love” — just to show that I write my own music and that I’m getting my album together. It is quite different compared to what my album sounds like, but at the time it felt right coming from “Rather Be.” The song came about from my publisher who manages Gorgon City, and he put us together.

So I personally think your “Hold My Hand” single has a country vibe to it, was that your intention?
JG: [Begins freestyling a country twang] I actually wrote it with Jack [Patterson] from Clean Bandit and this girl called Janee [Bennett] who I pretty much write all my songs with. When we started it, me and Janee had this idea before we even got to the studio of the line “Darling, hold my hand.” It wasn’t originally like, “Oh we’re thinking country.” But when we put the chords down and started singing, it kind of sounds a little bit like Dolly Parton’s “9 To 5.” I later on realized that, but it wasn’t done on purpose.

The video looks really fun too! What was it like being on set?
JG: It was amazing, I had such a good time. We were in a desert in L.A. and it was just wild!

So let’s talk about the album, do you know when it will be released?
JG: Well it’s pretty much finished, and it’ll probably be out mid-year. I know it’s going to come out in the UK towards the end of June/beginning of July, and I’m sure it will come out near enough here — I hope so anyway. I’m going to release an EP here soon, so you’ll be getting that first.

What kind of sounds can we expect from the album? Are you doing to dive into more downtempo vibes?
JG: The album has lot more of a live feel to it, and it’s a lot more soulful and rootsy. Just what I’ve been inspired by growing up. It’s definitely not a downtempo album, it’s a feel-good album. There are obviously moments of that in there, but that’s my story up until now. I’m introducing the world to me and what I’ve been through in the past few years. There are moments of sadness, because we’re not happy all the time, but it’s a mixture of everything.

People obviously know you for collaborating with Clean Bandit, and now you’re breaking into your own. How do you plan on differentiating yourself from being “The girl who sings ‘Rather Be'” and just being “Jess Glynne?”
JG: I think my music has to speak for itself, because the only way people are going to catch onto it is hearing my stuff and paying attention to what I’m doing. I mean, the sound where I’m going is very different. They’re [Clean Bandit] are more of a house-pop vibe whereas I’m more of a soul/R&B-pop girl — so it’s different lanes.

So there is a huge dance wave taking over the industry with people like The Knocks, Kiesza, Gorgon City, Just Kiddin, etc. What are your thoughts on what’s happening in the scene right now?
JG: In the UK it’s been so apparent for so long, and over here it’s really taking off now. The dance scene is a new wave of what went on 10-15 years ago, you know? I feel music always comes around in circles, and now it’s that moment where it’s about dance. Things get boring and you can’t consistently have the same kind of music out there, and I guess things become more popular because it’s exciting and fresh compared to everything else going on.

Do you have any artists or producers that you’d like to collaborate with?
JG: Producer-wise, I’d love to work with Timbaland, Frank Ocean…the list is endless. Also Childish Gambino, Drake, Kanye West. One of my dreams was to work with Amy Winehouse, but unfortunately that can’t happen.

What about a tour? Are there any dates set?
JG: I’m coming over [to California] to do Coachella with Clean Bandit, and I’m going to be supporting them on their tour. I’ll also be doing my own shows in L.A. during that time as well.

Comparing the US to the UK, do you see any differences with the audience when you perform on stage?
JG: With America, you guys are so hype and get so excited. I love that! But the UK is just the same. If it’s your crowd and they know your music, they are always so excited. I just did a tour recently in the UK where I was supporting Clean Bandit again, and the crowd was just amazing. The people will love the music if it’s a good gig.

So what music are you digging lately?
JG: I’ve just gotten the new Kendrick [Lamar] album, and I’m in love with it. The fact that he’s rapping over jazz beats…I think he’s just amazing!

Are there any artists from the UK that you think will make it big in the States just like you have? Like for me, I’ve just been getting into Skepta.
JG: You know it’s so weird, because Kanye basically brought Grime artists into the studio. So is America getting into it now?

Now we are, but just because of Kanye. No one really knew what it was before then.
JG: If they bring Grime over there, that will be amazing! I hope it happens. Oh, and I’m so into Seinabo Sey. That’s the somebody that I’m into right now, oh my god. She is going to blow up, I guarantee it.

This is a non-music question, but I love the way you dress! What inspires you for your outfits on stage?
JG: Visuals to me are very inspiring. I like quirky looks and things that aren’t just the straight and narrow. I don’t think I’ll ever wear a plain vest and jeans. It’s always quite important to have a look and have something that represents you. I’m really into fashion and I love keeping up to date with it all. I always associate visuals with music. When I’m writing a song, I’ll always see a video and me standing on a stage with how I want it to be seen. It all connects!

Are you excited to hear what’s next from Jess Glynne? Let us know in the comments below!

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