In what feels like an overnight transformation, 25-year-old Jess Glynne has gone from a pop newcomer to an unstoppable global hit-making sensation.
Since she debuted on the music scene in 2014, Glynne has amounted an incredible five #1 singles in the UK, tying Girls Aloud’s Cheryl Fernandez-Versini for the most ever number ones by a British female artist. As a result, her just-released and superb debut album, I Cry When I Laugh, already feels like it could be a greatest hits collection.
Currently embarking on her first headlining tour, the soulfully voiced chanteuse chatted with me about her whirlwind year, her artistic identity, her first Grammy win, her love of horseback riding, and much more.
NAGORSKI: In the past year and a half, you’ve been part of seven Top 10 singles in the UK. As a solo artist, “Hold My Hand” and “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself” hit #1 on the charts and “Right Here” reached #6. As a featured artist, your collaborations with Clean Bandit, “Rather Be” and “Real Love,” peaked at #1 and #2 respectively, and your collaborations with Route 94 (“My Love”) and Tinie Tempah (“Not Letting Go”) also hit the #1 slot. How did achieving such massive success before your debut album was even released impact how you wrote and put together that record?
GLYNNE: When you put it like that it seems like the pressure should have been intense, but weirdly I just took everything in my stride when making my album. I always go in to sessions with an open mind to create a masterpiece that I love, and that’s how I approached making this album. I wrote songs that meant a lot to me. I think that’s why the album is quite diverse and each track has its own story because I didn’t create them by following a theme. I created through my day to day experiences and emotions.
You also took home your first Grammy this year in the Best Dance Recording category for “Rather Be.” What was going through your head when you found out that you had won?
I still can’t quite believe it. When they announced our names as the Grammy Winners, I was in shock. It was a surreal but an unbelievable experience and one I’ll always remember.
How do you think your music as a solo artist differs and stands out from your collaborations with other musicians?
When I started writing, my music had always been soul and R&B orientated. “My Love” was a collaboration with Route 94 and I gave my soulful vocals to it. “Right Here” I wrote without knowing it was going to be my single. I was working with Gorgon City at the time and they were very house infused and I guess that’s where it came from. I’ve always loved the genre and I guess it worked for those songs, but my material has always been inspired by what I grew up listening to and that was stuff like Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Amy Winehouse, John Legend and Jay-Z. So I think the shift was always going to happen.
Why is I Cry When I Laugh the best name for your album?
Well it’s firstly a fact, I actually cry when I laugh! Like, a lot of tears. It’s a weird thing I think I inherited from my dad. My sister has it too! I chose it for the name of the album because the album is a story of me and my life with everything I’ve been through. There’ve been ups and downs and I thought that title suited the emotions of everything so well – plus it is a fact about me. So there was no better way to sum it up really.
Do you have a favorite song on the record?
To be honest I love every song, but I would say “Ain’t Got Far To Go” as it was the first song I wrote with Knox Brown and it helped form the spine of the album. It’s about never giving up and believing in yourself, not letting people get in the way of what you want and making it happen – all the things I live by daily.
“Hold My Hand” is starting to really take off in the US. Can you please tell me a little bit about how that song came about and why you think it makes for a good introduction to your music for American audiences?
I was in the studio with my writing partner Jin Jin (Janeé Bennett) and we were both going through a bit of a rough time. Believe me. We held each other’s hands, put our cheek’s on each other’s cheeks, and sat on one another’s laps. I was having quite a lot of anxiety after having had such a mad year. That was what the song was about. Hold me and tell me everything’s going to be OK. Getting a hug and feeling like you can take on the world. Like many of the songs on the album, this was a reminder about the positive and having someone by your side, and I think everyone in the world can relate to that feeling.
So then what made “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself” the perfect follow-up single?
This song in particular has 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.
You’re currently on your headlining “Ain’t Got Far To Go Tour” in both the US and in the UK. For fans who have not caught the show yet, what can they expect from it?
They can expect a big lively, soulful show full of character. I’m bringing all the songs from the album to life with my gorgeous band and my amazing backup singers!
You recently underwent surgery on your vocal chords with the same doctor who performed the same procedure for Sam Smith. How are you feeling now and what made you realize this was something that you needed to have done?
I had been having problems with both talking and singing for a little while because I had a polyp on one of my chords which was getting in the way of me singing. It got to a point where I couldn’t deliver and I had to put a stop to it and get the surgery. Now my voice is better than ever and I’m so grateful to Dr. Zeitels for his magic.
Which artists were you listening to the most while recording your album and who would you say was the biggest influence behind crafting its sound?
I was listening to a lot of music both current and classic but my main inspirations were from things that have happened to me, things I’ve experienced in my life or that of my family and friends. Without them and without living, I would have no experiences or journeys to talk about.
What was the first album you ever purchased?
Born To Do It by Craig David!
The UK dance-pop scene is enjoying quite the resurgence at the moment. Artists like Clean Bandit, Disclosure, Gorgon City, Sigma, and Naughty Boy are churning out hit after hit. What is it about this sound that you think is causing audiences to respond so positively to it on a global level?
There’s obviously the production and the sound, but I think people connect with the emotion of the songs. That’s what they relate to. At the heart, these are songs about love, sadness, joy and life – all very human things!
What’s something about yourself that you think your fans would be very surprised to learn?
I love horseback riding. I haven’t been able to do it for a while but hopefully I can do it again when I get a break. Maybe I’ll have my own horse one day!
You had already done so much leading up to this album. How did you finally celebrate once it was released?
In the UK, I threw a party with all of my family & friends and just danced to my favorite songs! In the US, we were right in the middle of the tour so I get to see every show as a mini party! Come and join the celebration!
Originally published on PopBytes