Jessie Reyez Talks Real Friends, And Being A Rookie In The Music Industry

We sat down with singer Jessie Reyez, and yes, she's definitely one to watch next year

Jessie Reyez interview

by Jazmin Kopotsha |
Updated on

Jessie Reyez has no time for fakes. Consider her latest single, Phone Calls, a homage to the ride or dies, the ones who were authentic with Jessie without having an agenda or ulterior motive. But also, consider it a ‘fuck you’ to those people who do have ulterior motives. Those guys, please step to the side, she sings.

‘It’s both of those things at once’, Jessie tells me. Inspiration for the song stemmed from Jessie’s real-life experiences over the years spent breaking into and navigating the music industry that now – with her first EP out of the way, another release on the horizon, a feature on Calvin Harris’ album and a string of insanely popular live shows knocked out the park this year – is at her feet and begging her for more. At least, it should be.

‘In life, unfortunately I’ve had multiple experiences where people that I thought I could depend on, have switched up or I’ve caught them in lies and their true colours have shown. At that point [when she was working on Phone Calls] it was definitely about the industry though’, she explains. ‘I feel like I’ve worked really hard to find that honesty, so much so that I feel like I’ve gotten better at recognising when someone isn’t being honest. It just doesn’t resonate, you know? It doesn’t feel the same and I get angry because I feel like it’s a lack of respect when someone moves like that with you.'

If Jessie could give her 18-year-old self any advice, it's be to 'find the people that really fuck with you, even if its only one or two people, stick with them. You don’t need a massive team, you don’t need a lot, you just need that.' I think we’d all agree that it’s an important skill to have both in and outside of an industry as challenging as music.

Hands up if you’ve been through (or are perhaps still going through) that strangely cathartic process in your twenties of only suddenly realising who your friends are, who you can trust and what you’re really about? ‘Hell yeah!’ Jessie, now 26-years-old, says. ‘I mean, I still feel like I have a lot to work out and there’s two sides to that because you end up being a little paranoid which is kind of where I am already… It’s also kind of like trying to make sure my paranoia doesn’t get out of control because I’m so apprehensive of that, but yeah, I totally think that it’s gotten better with age.’

Up next on Reyez' radar is another single, of course. And if you're wondering what to expect, brace yourself for more of the beautifully tender and emotive side to Jessie we were introduced to with ‘Figures’ earlier this year... but with that same poignant, raw honesty you find in all of her other tracks. ‘Oh man, you know what? That song I recorded in my living room three years ago,’ she tells me. When I ask what took so long Jessie explains that putting Kiddo together meant narrowing down a lot of material. ‘I wanted Kiddo to be as potent and direct as possible and songs I wanted to save for later – it just felt right to hold it, it felt right to wait’.

Jessie reyez interview

‘My ass is still a rookie’, she smiles, ‘but the way that we’ve been doing it, I like it. I like being able to just put everything out on the table and letting the cream float. Saying this one resonates the most, this one doesn’t hit as hard…'. But of the new song that's on the way, Jessie says 'my heart and my blood went into it’. You can definitely tell when you hear the song. But given Jessie’s existing body of work, that’s honestly no surprise.

From Kiddo, it’d be fair to say that the song that hit people the hardest was Gatekeepers, a song about sexual harassment and sexism in the music industry, which along with the accompanying short film that Jessie features in, refers a similar scenario that Jessie experienced herself. Looking back over the year we’ve had since the song dropped in April, there’s a real poignancy to the message and the fact that no, this sort of thing isn’t exclusive to one industry or another.

‘To be happy that there’s a conversation is an oxymoron because that song was about a situation that happened to me over five years ago, and when it came out there was a part of me that was happy that it was resonating with so many people and then the other part is like, fuck, how is it so many people are resonating? How is it so many years after…?’ Jessie says. ‘I don’t know it makes me angry and happy which is such a fucking strange thing to feel. It’s messed up.’

‘At the end of the day it’s a good thing that so many conversations are happening about it, it’s a good thing that women are feeling less fear because there’s solidarity in numbers, it’s a good thing that the internet is a platform for us to be able to talk about it without having someone trying to shut your mouth or without having a gatekeeper, no pun intended, trying to stop your story telling, trying to stop your truth.’

We all know too well that it’s one of those awful things that, even after so much news coverage and conversation, is still really difficult to get your head around. ‘It’s difficult man, it’s so difficult’, Jessie agrees. ‘Especially because so many women still live in fear. I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t think about it so much and my family sat me down, my brothers sat me down and were like, are you sure you want to do this? Because if you start something does it mean that you’re going to be in danger…?’ But Jessie did it anyway. And lifted the lid a little wider on the realities faced by young women in music.

‘One of the good things is that now we’re watching the men standing up being vocal about it. Not being a bystander speaking against it as opposed to watching it happen in silence – I think that’s a really good thing that’s happening now but its bullshit when the blame gets put on the short skirt. Blame the person who’s doing it.'

Like this? You might also be interested in...

What’s A Girl Gotta Do To Get A Number One Single?

Cardi B Breaks 17-Year Women’s Rap Record

If Taylor Swift Wasn’t So Try Hard I’d Probably Be Into The Album

**Follow Jazmin on Instagram **@JazKopotsha

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us