Meet Jess Glynne, Britain's Fiery New Pop Star
To achieve success at such a young age, singer Jess Glynne has had to remain steadfastly assiduous—to her practice, yes, but also in pursuit of her practice. As a Grammy award-winning artist and the second British female solo artist to have five number one singles in the UK, Glynne has made sure that singing was not so much her profession of choice as her only choice. With fiery, curly hair and a commanding presence, she’s tearing down the pretense, one boisterously soulful ditty at a time, of what it means to be a pop star. Where some musicians have eschewed their backgrounds for all-encompassing fame, Glynne remains viscerally indebted to hers.
The Jewish, fair-faced fatale had a rather normal upbringing in North London—and you can tell that she still thinks of herself as that same unassuming and unremarkable girl. Amidst the legions of voraciously self-absorbed and self-seeking pop stars today, Glynne has maintained an unsettlingly modest attitude. Her pipes tear at the heartstrings, suffusing her music with joyful and inspiring energy. Glynne uses her music as an honest outlet, braiding her lyrics with words and phrases of encouragement that have helped her transcend her own hardships and achieve her childhood dreams. And as anyone with an ear for talent can attest, Jess Glynne is certainly worth her salt. Read on to see how the spunky songstress has been faring since the August release of her debut album, I Cry When I Laugh, and to find out which girl group she was ogling in the ‘90s.
Your lyrics seem to be teeming with little nuggets of wisdom and pieces of advice. What’s the most invaluable piece of advice someone has given you?
The best piece of advice is to, for me, a few things—one, to believe in yourself; two, to be confident in what you do; and three was one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given: to go and write a hundred songs, create, and find myself as an artist. That’s exactly what I did and, yeah, I guess that’s what got me to where I am now.
What’s your usual starting point when working on a new song?
It’s different every time. I’m inspired by life and whatever it is. Sometimes I’ll be on my phone and write on my phone and sometimes I’ll be in the studio.
Who, so far, has been your favorite person to work with?
Probably Knox Brown—he’s the guy who produced the majority of my record. We get on so well. He just gets it.
What’s the first album you ever bought?
I think it was Born To Do It by Craig David. Yeah, it was my first proper album as a CD. Actually—not wait, it was the Spice Girls!
Do you ever feel the responsibility to tie in political or feminist issues into your songs?
No. I don’t go like that. I would never purposely stand there and be like “women.” It’s not really about that. I do think it’s important to be a strong woman in what you do though, and I do think we do get a hard time in certain situations and I think it’s important to speak up and not be afraid. And I do think some of that does come up in my music—definitely.
How did your parents and upbringing help foster your career and success today?
My parents are very knowledgeable people. They’ve always wanted me and my sister to be very happy in what we do. [Becoming a singer] is one of the biggest things I dreamt of as a kid, and they’ve always put me in music schools. They have such good morals themselves. My dad is such a positive guy, so I think that’s why I have that positive side to me, where I always want to have hope in things, you know? My mom’s always straightforward. She’s a strong woman and I think I get that from her.
What accomplishment are you most proud of so far?
Probably having an album out. I think that’s a massive accomplishment for me. You know, to do it right and make it. But you don’t always get your album out even if you do make it. I think that’s probably the biggest accomplishment for me so far in music.
Who’s you dream person to collaborate with?
[It] was Amy Winehouse. I would’ve loved to work with her. She’s such an inspiration to everything I’ve done.
What’d you think of the documentary about her?
I guess, in a way, it frustrated me. Seeing the people around her and how it could’ve been very different.
If it’s not too personal, would you mind telling me about your tattoo?
Yeah, I’ve got a tattoo on my wrist. It’s got my great aunt’s name—it’s Ivy. She passed away a few years back now. She was a massive inspiration to me growing up. She was another really strong lady in my family. She went through a lot in her lifetime, [she went] through the war and all sorts of crazy things. She was a fighter and she lived a mad, crazy life, and to me it’s really special.
Is that the only tattoo you have?
I have another one, but that’s just in Hebrew writing.
Oh yeah, you’re Jewish. Did you have a bat mitzvah?
No, I was too naughty.
What’s the best celebrity perk you’ve gotten so far?
I don’t know, I’m not really one of those people that indulge in that lifestyle. I still feel pretty normal. I did fly on a jet not long ago, which was really weird. I wasn’t even that much of a fan because it was so small and I’m terrified of flying. So, it was quite scary. It was nice at the time because I guess it made things a bit easier. But I don’t really live like a lush lifestyle. I live pretty similar to how I used to.
It’s 1997 and you’re getting dressed to go to your favorite concert. What concert is it and what are you wearing?
1997? Where was I? I was about nine. I would be going to the Spice Girls concert. Yeah, and I would probably be wearing some sort of crazy outfit with a lot of color.
Is there any book that has inspired you a lot?
I was asked that question the other day. There was a book I read a while ago. I don’t read a lot, but it’s one of the few books that I’ve read. It’s called Mr. Nice by Howard Marks and I love it.. It’s about this guy that’s basically like a drug dealer, but he’s an amazing life force. It’s really interesting seeing the journey he goes on. It was inspiring how he mastered his techniques of selling drugs across the world.
Do you have a favorite protagonist from literature or from a movie?
I loved Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. She’s a very strong lady.
What are some philosophies that you live by?
You get out of life what you put in. I think that relates to a lot of situations whether it’s with people or work or, you know, love and friends. Say “thank you” and “please.” Always live by that. I also live by “shit happens” and “we are all human.” I always allow myself to make a mistake.
“I also live by ‘shit happens’ and ‘we are all human.’ I always allow myself to make a mistake.”
What’s your most prized possession?
I’m in the middle of trying to buy a place, so I think once I get that out that will be my most prized possession.
What’s your favorite area in London?
I live in East London at the moment and I love that. It’s quite cool and I guess there are quite a lot of cool people there that I really like. It’s a really chill area and it’s got a lot of wicked bars and food. Chill places to hang out. In north London, where I grew up, it was just as great.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done or the weirdest thing about you that not that many people may know?
Jump[ing] out of a plane. It was pretty strange. I hated it. I would never do that again.
Have you gotten any cool gifts from fans?
I did get a few cool gifts. I got one really cool bomber. [The fan] had [lots of my lyrics] written on the back and stuff.
What’s your ideal night or ideal day?
Ideal night, if I’ve had a day off, is getting a really good meal, a few cocktails, hanging out with my mates and my family, and going out. Ideal day at the moment would be having a massage, sleeping in, drinking loads of water, and just chilling.
All photographs shot exclusively for Milk by Andrew Boyle.
I Cry When I Laugh is available for purchase on iTunes.
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