writer / Jay Loyola
photographer / Simon Emmett
British singer-songwriter has experienced a whirlwind of accomplishments in her fresh career that most new artist only dream of. In the past year alone, the young songstress has topped the U.K. and U.S. charts consistently thanks in part to a string of hit collaborations that include “My Love” with house producer Route 94, “Not Letting Go” with rapper Tinie Tempah and, most notably, “Rather Be”—the infectious, international smash-hit with classical-dance quartet Clean Bandit which earned her a 2015 Grammy for Best Dance Recording.
As a solo artist, she has continued with the same amount of success, taking the No. 1 spot in the U.K. charts with “Hold My Hand” as well as a Top 10 space with “Right Here.” It’s not too shabby for a 25-year-old, North London girl who once auditioned for The X Factor and used to spend her younger days listening to Destiny’s Child, Aretha Franklin, and yet another well-known North Londoner by the name of Amy Winehouse.
But listening to Glynne’s “Hold My Hand” as well as her most recent single, “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself,” it’s easy to understand her swift climb to stardom. Her songs possess a resilient message of hope and courage that are empowering, and her soulful vocals are simply impossible to ignore. To celebrate, we spoke with Jess about her early beginnings, and her August-released debut album, I Cry When I Laugh.
What would you consider your big break, and how was the journey that led to it?
I don’t know if I could pin-point an exact time that I would say was my big break. It wasn’t easy; I worked really hard in different jobs as well as doing music. I met Janee Bennett at a music course I was doing and it was when I started working with her that things started to change for me!
Your songs have a very positive, empowering message of courage and hope. Where does this optimism come from?
To be honest, my dad has always been optimistic and always told me and my sister, “You get out of life what you put in,” so I have tried to live by this. There’s no point dwelling in sadness. You need to look onwards and upwards. This can’t always apply, but for me in creating this album I didn’t have a chance to dwell in my heartbreak so I chose to look forward.
You have a fresh, colorful and very comfortable unique style; how important do you think fashion is in music?
I think it’s really important as that is how people see you and, in some ways, define you as you.
In this early stage of your career, how does it feel to have a Grammy-winning song, four U.K. No. 1 singles, all with a debut album yet to come [at time of interview]?
Hearing all of that in once sentence still doesn’t seem real! I still have to pinch myself. I feel so grateful to be here and to have such amazing people [around me] who have worked so hard with me and [who have] supported me through
everything. I really wouldn’t be here without my team.
How involved are you in the concept and story of your videos?
Specifically, the heartwarming visuals for your latest single, “Don’t Be So Hard On yourself?”
I am very involved. Me and my good friend Jo’lene Henry, who is also my
creative girl, came up with the idea of the story and discussed it with the director who then developed it and brought it to life. This song in particular is a really deep, important message from me. I was going through such a strange time when I entered the industry and this song is about that. It’s about seeing hope through sadness.
In the past two years there’s been a resurgence of house-inspired musical acts, like Katy B and Kiesza. Have you felt pressure from the industry to distinguish yourself from the pack?
I haven’t really, because I’m a soul girl and that’s what it has always been about for me.
You’ve mentioned Amy Winehouse as a big inspiration before. Are there any other artists who have made an impact in your life as a writer and as a musician?
There are so many! Lauryn Hill was a massive influence for my writing. Whitney Houston and Mariah both inspired me to sing big, and soul legends such as Etta James, Aretha, Al Green and many more gave me the urge to make soul music that people could feel.
You’ve been touring festivals for quite some time now and more people are aware your music. Can you describe how you felt the moment you heard the audience singing your songs for the first time?
I felt so emotional, it was one of the most exciting overwhelming feelings. Standing on a stage with a huge crowd singing your song, that you wrote, word-for-word, just shows that all the hard work is paying off and [that you’re] reaching the people.
As you embark on your first ever headlining U.S. tour in support of your debut album I Cry When I Laugh, what can we expect from the show?
You can expect a big, lively, soulful show full of character. I’m going to bring all the songs from the album to life with my gorgeous band and my amazing backup singers!
What has been one of the biggest rewards you have experienced as a musician so far?
I think it has to be receiving a No. 1 record in the U.K. with “Hold My Hand.”
Which song from the record was the most fun to produce?
I think it has to be “Gave Me Something.” We brought a choir in and it was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. I always dreamt of having a choir on my record and now I do—and on quite a few songs.
Finally, what’s the message you would like people to take away from the album?
I want them to listen to the album and see that this record is about hope and that it’s okay to feel hurt or sad or be broken, but never forget to believe. There will always be light at the end of the tunnel.