Photo: Jason Merritt/WireImage.com
Jess Glynne Talks "Rather Be" & Her Mad Journey To Success
Jess Glynne won her first GRAMMY Award before she had ever released a studio album. The British songstress caught her first big break when she lent her voice to Clean Bandit’s track, “Rather Be,” which took home the GRAMMY for Best Dance Recording in 2014. The next year, she released her debut LP, I Cry When I Laugh, and quickly became a household name in the UK. The album reached No. 1 on the UK Top 100 Albums chart and has been certified double platinum by the British Phonographic Industry. Since her debut, Glynne has collaborated with artists including Iggy Azalea, Rita Ora, and Tinie Tempah and appeared at many music festivals including Glastonbury, Coachella, and Bestival.
GRAMMY.com caught up with Glynne to discuss writing over 100 songs to find her sound, her experience collaborating with Clean Bandit, and how she overcame the drama of having a polyp on her vocal chords.
How did you find your sound as an artist? What was that process like?
I had to write a lot of songs and experiment with a lot of different genes and a lot of different things to find what it was that I felt was me. There was quite a lot. I must have written well over 100 songs.
You wrote your debut album when you were going through a bad breakup. You must have had inspiration coming from everywhere.
Kind of. I mean it wasn’t a dream to go through a s***ty breakup. Obviously it was really horrible. But it was amazing the contrast in emotions and what I was going through. And my life was changing so drastically and a lot of aspirations and crazy dreams that I never thought would happen were coming to life. But at the same time, I was losing somebody that was very important in my life. That was really sad. It was a weird time. It is definitely the inspiration for the album. I chose to see the positives in my life and I chose to write this album in hope of good things and not let the bad ruin what good you have going on. And I guess that’s what the theme of the album is. The running theme of hope and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. At times it does feel very black and it feels like there is no way out but there really is. And we are all given second chances. It’s about believing in myself and not letting anything tear me down. And also just showing that I’m a real person and I go through what everybody else goes through. I think that’s really important for people who follow me and who love my music to know, I went through a lot of crazy times over the past 10 years. And that’s what we all go through and I’m not different than anyone else.
What is your songwriting process like?
I write a lot of stuff on my phone, note-wise, and record a lot of voice memos and stuff like that. I write when I’m inspired. But not constantly. I get really inspired on the road. Me and the band came up with quite a few ideas when we were touring in America.
Even before releasing your solo music, you made a splash when you collaborated with Clean Bandit. How did that partnership come about? Did they find you?
Yeah they reached out. We were signed to the same record label and they stumbled upon my music. They were like, “We love this girl’s voice. We’ve got this song and we’d love to work with her.” And that happened. It was really weird timing. I never really thought I’d collaborate and release something with someone else before releasing anything of my own.
What effect did that collaboration have on your career?
It was quite a big change. It put me in a position where I was doing promos while I was writing my first album, traveling, and doing things that I wouldn’t have necessarily done had I not collaborated. It was a great speedy introduction to the industry as an artist.
You won a GRAMMY before your first album even came out. What was the process of making your debut as a solo artist after that?
I definitely didn’t see it going like that. It was a big pinch me moment. It was so surreal. Releasing my solo stuff afterwards was really exciting. It was a really satisfying feeling to be able to have everything out there. The introduction, the full story, to be released as a load, I felt very great about it.
Summer music festival season is around the corner. What do you do differently for those big stage shows versus the smaller club gigs?
For the festivals, I’m probably going to maybe expand the band a bit. I love the energy from a festival. I love the free spirit and the crazy crowds and the loudness. The thrill of standing on a stage outdoors with thousands of people is one of the most exhilarating feelings ever.
How do you find moments of Zen while out on the road?
By having the right people around me. By having the right food and the right schedule. That’s the most important thing really for me. I do try to eat healthily as much as I can. I don’t really do yoga. I like to meditate a little bit and chill out. It’s definitely important to have a lot of time to yourself.
You had a polyp on your vocal chords last year, which must have been terrifying. Tell us about working through that and the surgery.
Yeah that was quite a scary time honestly. It was pre-album and everything and I was really struggling. And I had to get it removed and take lots of time off and cancel loads of shows, which was really sad. But it was an amazing experience to have so early on. I’m very grateful that it didn’t happen after the album and after everything had taken off because then I really don’t know what I would have done. Obviously I would have liked it to have never happen but the fact that it did at the time it did, it taught me a lot about how to look after myself. I am definitely a lot different than how I was a year ago.
What do you do to care for your voice now?
Well I’m just a lot more aware of what affects my voice and what’s dangerous and what’s not good for it. And how to look after it – drinking a lot of water and constantly doing my exercises, making sure that I warm up and I warm down and I don’t over use my voice. And making sure that I have days off and I rest and I don’t constantly work 24/7. Especially when you’re doing festivals. It’s so easy to do a gig and then get rushed off to do a load of promo. And obviously you need to warm down and look after yourself.
So many people see an artist blow up and call them an overnight success. They don’t often see the years that went into getting them into the public eye. What were those early days of trying to make it like for you?
I did so many different things and took so many different roads. I did the music course [at the British Academy Of New Music], which was a little bit weird. I worked at a music management company, which was amazing. That kind of taught me everything about the industry so I was very well prepped for when it all did take off. That was a really amazing part of the journey. I’ve always been a hard worker. I’ve never not done something because I wanted to do something else. I’ve always had a basket full of eggs. I never took one thing and that could be that. With music, I didn’t put all my eggs in one basket. I spread them all out because you never know what can happen in life. And I wouldn’t want to commit so strongly to one thing that was going to turn upside down. But I loved the journey that I did go on and all the things that I’ve done leading up to today. I’ve worked in loads of different shops and different situations. I’ve had normal jobs. I’ve worked so many different kind of producers and writers and I’ve had a mad journey up to now, which is so exciting to think back how long I was doing all that crazy stuff. So the fact that it took a while, was fine. I’m quite proud that everything that I have done in that vein has paid off.