Photo: Nate Hertweck/Recording Academy
Jessie Reyez Gets Real, Connects The Dots Between Crying & Songwriting
Backstage at Governors Ball, a random fan stops dead in his tracks and, with eyes open wide in shock, struggles to find the words to tell Jessie Reyez he just saw her set, she is incredible and he really felt what she was doing. It's true. And in person, she connects just as honestly and directly as in her music, thanking the new fan just as sincerely as she sings.
We spent a few minutes with Reyez to hear about her latest version of "Imported" featuring 6lack, the ingenious ways she approaches co-writing sessions and what she's got up her sleeve for her full-length debut album.
People are loving "Imported" right now, especially the new version with 6lack. What do you love about that song? Why do you think it's connected with your fans?
I don't know why, to be honest. I don't know why it's connected. I'm happy it's connected. I'd like to think that it's because it's real life. The song is based on real life. I was going through it and I was trying to get over somebody. And it's just funny, too, because I'm also speaking to myself in the song at a point saying, "Be careful because sometimes it's not always the best way to get over somebody, trying to be physical with someone else when your heart isn't ready." Maybe it's because the song caters to both perspectives as well. I'd like to think [it does].
For sure, a great song often has many angles. How did you get connected with 6lack for that collaboration?
Me and 6lack used to actually see each other all the time at festivals. We would just always cross paths and we were friends prior too, and then it just made sense. So our team reached out to him and then made it happen.
What else are you working on right now?
I'm working on my debut album right now. I'm damn near done. I'm just doing the final touches.
Anything you can talk about? I know it's all under wraps until it's not, but how do you feel about this project being your first full-length?
Stressed. I feel stressed about it. But I heard someone talking about it like childbirth, like when you're giving birth and you're like, "This f***ing hurts, this is awful. This sucks." And then you see the child and you're like, "I love you." So I think I'm right before the "I love you" [laughs].
I'm curious what you're listening to right now? sometimes people just disappear into their own thing when their making an album.
I tend to go backwards more than I go forward in music, so I listen to a lot of Otis Redding and Smokey Robinson and Amy Winehouse, and Bob Marley, Tanya Stephens, and Celia Cruz and Carlos Vives. The cool thing about music is you'll never in your life be able to hear every song, whether you're going forward or backward or now. There's just so much, and it's beautiful, so I'm exploring back.
Absolutely, and art is forever, so what you're making now will be around long after we're gone.
Amen. That's the plan, man. Legendary sh*t. Timeless sh*t.
Switching gears, the importance of mental health is something that you've opened up about. What is it that you do to make sure you stay healthy mentally?
I meditate. Yoga. Oh my god, if it wasn't for hot yoga, I think I'd be a totally different person. Well, not totally different, I would just be more of my bad side, I guess. You know? Everybody's got their yin and yang, so I feel like meditating helps my brain just take a second to be like, "Relax. It's fine. It's not the end of the world if something goes wrong, and just be more chill." So I meditate and I sit in the grass, and I take off my shoes, and I recharge, and it's lit.
Mental health is so important
Everything is clouded without it
It’s like driving a fast car with the windshield painted black
— Jessie Reyez (@Jessiereyez) May 25, 2019
You're a songwriter first, which I love - what's your songwriting process like, especially now that you're a successful artist as well?
Just vibe. It's just kinda vibe. If it's me and my guitar. I just play the guitar and whatever comes out, whatever I'm feeling. And then if it's me and the producer, it's just vibe. It's not really changed, I guess, because it's something that I still do. So for example, if I get pulled into a session and they want me to write for another artist, I'll ask the artist when the last time they cried is. So that I make sure that I'm taking a piece of their truth, so that when they sing their song it's authentic to them. You know? But for myself, it's kind of easy to think of the last time I hurt because it's usually floating right on top of my heart, so I could just grab it and go.
That's beautiful. What's the rest of the year look like for you?
A lot of work. Honestly, I've been in the studio for the last four months. That's so funny. I've been in the studio forever and I just can't wait to drop this music, man. I'm anxious to get this child the fuck out of me.