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Music Interview

Jessie J interview: 'People are holding on to the old me'

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Jessie J in the video for 'Wild'

Jessie J in the video for 'Wild'



We can't quite believe that Jessie J has been playing the role of popstar in our lives for only three years.

A string of Top 10 hits, a massive debut album, four tours and two series of The Voice UK have all helped Jessie J quickly become one of the most recognisable household names in the country.

Digital Spy caught up with the singer-songwriter to talk about her new album Alive, what she thinks of those Miley Cyrus comparisons and what her future plans for the US are.

Congratulations on the success of new single 'It's My Party'. The reaction initially seemed mixed.
"The reaction has been very mixed. There are a lot of people holding on to the old Jessie J - whatever that means - but I think there's a lot more people realising what I'm about. I think people like it."

We had a look at those dreaded YouTube comments and there's a lot of people comparing you to Miley Cyrus.
"You know what? I have to see it as naive and lazy comparisons. My face has been the same since I was born, but as soon as I had a bob, my music sounded like Katy Perry's. Now I've got short blonde hair, my music all of a sudden sounds like Miley's and Pink's. It's young people a lot of the time, because they're very obsessed with one person.

"It used to bother me, but it doesn't anymore. I know what makes me different. The lyrics of mine and Miley's are similar, but the songs are completely different. You'd never see me kissing a doll in a swimming pool! She pulls it off, but I couldn't."

'Wild', 'It's My Party' and 'Excuse My Rude' are all different in sound, so is that variation a good indication of what we can expect on your new album?
"There's actually a lot more warmth in the songs people haven't heard. I feel like you've seen more of the black and red of the album, but there's more lilacs and whites and sky blue and purple. There's a lot more '90s, R&B, soul, gospel and pop. They all represent different things.

"That's why I'm excited about my tour, because I'll explain it in my show. I can't write 13 songs that all sound the same. That's pretty boring."



'Thunder' sounds like a pretty good song.
"That's the last song we wrote for the album. It got sent over by Stargate and Benny Blanco, and Claude [Kelly] and myself were like, 'Thunder, thunder, thunder'. We just started writing and had it finished in about half an hour before I went to the airport to fly home from New York."

Did the 'second album syndrome' nerves kick in at any point while making it?
"Oh yeah, of course. The biggest difference was that the first album was scary, but no-one knew me - there was no expectation. I wanted people to hear it. Now people are like, 'Jessie J, when's your album out? What's it called?' before you've even done it, and people are running before you're even walking. As soon as I got into the studio and started to sing, it felt right. I've grown up so much."

It was only three years ago that 'Do It Like A Dude' was out.
"When I think about it I'm like, 'Whoa!' From the Olympics to two seasons on The Voice. I've only had one album - only 15 songs! - but had four tours and travelled the world."

You've worked those 15 songs hard.
"I have worked those 15 songs to the death of them!"

Jessie J, Radio City Live concert held at Echo Arena

© WENN

Jessie J



What happens now to all of those songs that didn't make the final tracklist?
"In my iTunes I've got playlists and one's like, 'Never play, never use, never let anyone hear'. Then there's the 'Random songs' and then there's 'Repack'. Hopefully I want to do a repackage, because there's a song I really want to do with Ed Sheeran. I keep messaging him, but he's so busy. I'm like, 'C'mon Ed - let's take it back to the days when it was me and you on Old Street doing an urban gig.'

"There are definitely songs that didn't make the album that I've saved. There's one called 'Strip', for example. The fans were like, ''Strip's not on the album!' and I'm like, 'Strip's definitely happening'. I just wanted to use for the relaunch of this album, so that there's something amazing that's saved. I think it would have disappeared with some of the other songs."

This Mary J Blige duet you tweeted about isn't on your album, so is it for her's?
"Yeah, it's for her Christmas album."

Can we suggest you rename yourselves Jessie J Blige?
"[Laughs] I know! We have the same initials. She was like, 'I'd love you to be on it'. I'm on Smokey Robinson's duet album too. I'm so happy people are seeing the eclectic side of me. I'm really honoured to be able to push my voice into different sounds. Otherwise it all gets a bit samey same."

We're very happy the Brandy duet made the album. 'Conquer The World' sound like a very big empowerment anthem.
"That's exactly what it is. It's about one of my best friends that went through some health stuff. I remember going through health scares and no-one understands - not everyone's disabilities are visual. I wanted to write a song about her and say, 'We can do this. We can conquer the world.'

"I wanted to get Brandy on it because I knew [she] was one of her favourite singers, and obviously one of mine. When Brandy said yes and recorded it, I cried when I heard it back. Brandy's - fingers crossed - attending my iTunes Festival show, so that will be epic."

Jessie J performs during a concert at Morocco's annual Mawazine Music Festival.

© AP Photo /Abdeljalil Bounhar

Jessie J performs during a concert in Morocco



Last time we spoke about a Calvin Harris track that seems to have disappeared. What happened?
"It just didn't work. He announced that it was going to be on the album before the tracklist had been decided. It just didn't fit the sound. I didn't write the song and I didn't feel it. It's a great song, but just wasn't for me."

We're sure someone else will pick it up.
"Yeah, it is a great song. I might kick myself when someone else is singing it and I'm like, 'S**t, it's number one'. For me, it didn't feel like it fitted what my album is about. I'd still love to work with him, but I'd like to write with him."

What would you say are the main differences between Alive and your debut Who You Are?
"Alive is more mature. My voice is better and it's more singing and less rappy and childish. I feel like what the songs are about, I wouldn't mind singing in 10 years. Whereas, I love songs like 'Who's Laughing Now', but I feel 15 when I'm singing it, as opposed to 25.

"Alive is a lot more emotional as well, I think. I'm not afraid to be afraid. From when I was going like, 'I know who I am, who I am,' and I had a wig on and black lipstick. You can't really see my face and my eyes are different colour to what they actually are - it was very popstar. Now I want people to get to know me. I'm not afraid to have no make-up on and no hair. I just want to be stripped back."

Talking of the hair - are you going to grow it out?
"I'm trying to. I don't really care, though. At the moment I'm just trying to make it look decent! It's getting to that length where I'm not enjoying it blonde and it's going, 'Please be dark again'. As soon as I go dark, I'm sure I'll have comparisons to Rihanna. She has dark hair, so obviously we'll be exactly the same. I'm just enjoying the reason why I did it still."

What are you going to do next for charity though?
"I don't know. I'm scared of heights, so I'm not jumping out of a plane. I'm unfit, so I'm not going to be climbing a mountain. I don't know what I'll do. It depends what people want me to do. If you give the people the power, I could end up having an implanted hairy chest or something."

Jessie J in the video for 'Wild'

Jessie J in the video for 'Wild'



The Who You Are era gave us seven singles, so do you have similar long-term plans for Alive?
"I hope so. It really depends on the public. We're obviously two singles in and there's a third on the way. When I spoke to the label we agreed that there's nine singles on the album, but then the reaction to the iTunes previews showed that different ones were the most popular. My two favourites are 'Thunder' and 'Daydreamin'', but who knows?"

Now you've left The Voice, you obviously have more time to zip over to America. Are you planning to push this new album there?
"The album isn't actually coming out in America yet. The American label don't think it will work for their territory. That's not my decision - I wish I could explain that in detail to my fans. The label does have power and if they don't think it will work for their territory, I can't force them to put it out. It looks like early next year that I'll be saluting the UK for a little while and heading over."

So you're going to have re-work the album a bit for America then?
"Probably, yeah. It looks like I'm going on tour with someone amazing, but I'm just holding on until it's all signed off." (Jessie later confirmed she's touring with Robin Thicke.)

Jessie J's new album Alive will be released in the UK on Monday (September 23).

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