Manchester soul-hop singer Jessie Rose
has a voice like none you've ever heard before -- and with her warmth and charisma, she's probably not like anybody you'll ever meet. Her debut single "Boy, Boy" effortlessly spans rock, soul, jazz, and pop while nodding towards the blues and taking cues from hip-hop beats. With her powerhouse vocals, killer electric guitar skills, and a back-up band that ties the sound together brilliantly, she's re-inventing vintage-rock and offering it up to the American masses with style and flair. With a recent signing to S-Curve Records
and an upcoming, debut full-length in the works, Jessie and the band are the kind of act that won't soon stray from your mind. We recently had the chance to catch up with Jessie and the boys, and were blown away by their energy and warmth. Here, they talk about their whirlwind rise to the top, how girls can own boys at lead electric guitar any day, and why they're very much like a tree. Yes -- a tree. Buckle up, because this interview is a wild ride with one of rock's most lively, up-and-coming talents. Also, make sure to check out their Facebook
for more musical updates.
PureVolume: What spurred your decision to enlist a back-up band, rather than feature yourself as a one-woman act?
Jessie Rose [vocals]: I was doing mostly singer/songwriter style songs on my own after I left college, and that’s when I decided that what I really loved doing -- and had always loved doing -- was playing in a band. Funny enough, it was my Mom who introduced me to our drummer Jimmy. Him and I started jamming right away, playing gigs like Ting-Tings
style, except we knew that wasn’t how we wanted it to be and that we needed a bass player. We initially started out with a girl on bass and a trumpet player, to create a bit of a jazz soul thing. We played that way for about a year, and then we wanted to take a slightly cooler “route” -- as you Americans say! We held auditions and got Mark as our first guy. We connected so well, and though we did audition some other people it was like, “nope! Mark!”
PV: Once you had this final formation, and began reconstructing your sound, is that when you began experimenting with the soul hop that’s prevalent in the music you’re now making?
JR: Yeah, that is kind of a new addition actually, slightly more towards the hip-hop side with the beats anyway. It just sounded so cool with the electric guitar, and ever since then, we’ve been driven towards hip-hop beats. It’s just two genres that you can’t help but want to move to and get into. It takes a while to hone your sound. We started recording ourselves, we do a lot of production ourselves, and that’s what we love doing, that’s how our sound comes about, really.
PV: Was there one song in particular that you laid down and knew immediately it captured what your signature sound would be?
JR: I think “Boy, Boy” was the trigger -- but then again, when we first recorded it, it wasn’t really what it is today.
Jimmy Wood [Bass]: Jess wrote “Boy, Boy” just before we got Mark on bass, so we were just going through the change at that time. When we recorded it, that was it. That was kind of like, Mark came in, everything fell into place with the direction of our music, and it all seemed to naturally happen at that time.
PV: Jessie, do you take the lead in the song-writing process? Or is it still a collaborative effort?
JR: I write the music and lyrics on my guitar first, and then bring everything to the table to jam it, and at that point everything around it gets embellished.
JW: Sometimes we’ll even write each others parts. For instance, sometimes Jess or Mark will suggest a drum beat, I might suggest a bass or guitar part, everyone suggests everything. Nobody’s pretentious about wanting their ideas to stay in there, so it always ends up really being about what works best for the song.
PV: You’ve recently signed with S-Curve, which is distributed by Universal. Can you talk about how that opportunity came about?
JR: We were just kind of doing our thing in England, trying our best to get anybody’s attention -- and it’s really hard! Daniel Pierre, who’s a producer/writer, found us online and contacted me saying, “I need to come to Manchester this second.” So he literally jumped on a train the next day! He sat in the studio with us and was just like, ‘I’m going to move to Manchester for a few weeks, we’re going to record and then take it to America, and you’re going to perform in front of loads of industry people, and find a label to sign to. He was striving for S-Curve the whole time, though.
PV: It sounds like a whirlwind! How did it feel to be striving so hard for attention, and then become bombarded with it?
JR: It was very daunting, because when somebody comes into your life after you’ve been working -- but really just plodding along -- and tells you you’re going to do all these things, you really don’t know how to take it. [laughs] It’s like you’re thrown in the deep end. Just thrown in front of these really important people and you’re just like, shitting yourself, so it’s very daunting but amazing. And it’s one of those things I still think about, and pinch myself that we had to do -- bloody horror -- but it’s just, wow, so amazing!
PV: When you find yourself in those kind of nerve-wracking situations, is there a phrase you keep in mind, or anything in particular you do to bring yourself back? Kind of remind yourself you can handle everything?
JR: Well these two [points to Mark and Jimmy] are the two most laid back people you’ll ever meet. Like, pretty much laying down, horizontal the whole time. It’s fine, though, because I’m generally highly-strung, and it’s quite good because they’re scaled down aside of me, and they kind of balance me out a bit.
PV: Would you say that energy translates over the same way during live performances? They stay more composed, and focused on jamming out, while you work the audience a bit more?
JR: Yeah, and it’s actually funny you say that, because it also describes our music as well. Sometimes the drums and the bass are very united in what they do, and I’m pretty much the willy-nilly all over the top of it. So they’re just like this solid foundation, and then I’m this lunatic up at the top. We’re like a tree! They’re like the solid base of a tree, and I’m like all the leaves and branches!
PV: Since you’ve started getting public attention, you’ve started to garner these insane comparisons to voices like Amy Winehouse and guitar skills like Jimi Hendrix. How do you make sense of such incredible comparisons?
JR: The Amy Winehouse thing I never asked for -- didn’t even know the girl when she came out -- and I never tried to be anyone else, I swear on my life. It was just one of those things because people love to compare. I was in my own world doing my own thing, and all of a sudden she came out and became massive, and it was at that point where I thought, ‘oh, damn, she sounds quite similar to me’ [laughs] and it’s like ‘oh shit!’ But then having the guitar is a huge thing, and I was into Hendrix for years -- he’s actually why I started playing. There’s a lot of female singers, and they’re incredible, but I think it’s such a shame that there are not many playing lead electric guitar. I don’t know if it’s just something by default where females don’t [gravitate towards that] because it’s generally more of a “boy” thing. I guess I was a bit of a tomboy when I was younger, so that’s probably why I took to playing. And it was always electric guitar, not acoustic. I actually started on electric.
PV: That’s actually very interesting. Do you ever work with an acoustic or write with an acoustic?
JR: I have but it’s never something I’ve been bothered about, because all of the music I was into was always the old school blues, and seventies rock n’ roll, where it was all more on the electric side. But then, on another side of music, I’ve always been into soul and motown which was also electric -- so it all just came together.
PV: Did you find it hard to be a female playing lead electric guitar, and making the kind of music you do, in a generally more male dominated scene? Did you ever feel criticized or like you had to live up to some kind of greater expectation to succeed?
JR: I don’t think so. I’m quite feisty, so I sort of have been able to get through. The past couple of years I’ve really stepped up my game a lot more, forcing myself to play really big solos and learn the ropes. I didn't pick up the electric guitar until I was fourteen, and it was really just because I loved it so much and gave it every second of my life. I was just so obsessed with it -- and also because I secretly wanted to show up all the boys [laughs].
JW: I think the thing is that she’s giving boys a run for their money on the guitar. It’s not like they can criticize her playing, so I suppose that’s why she’s never had to deal with it
PV: You’re releasing “Boy, Boy” as your first single, so have you been working on a debut album you’re planning to release anytime soon?
JR: Well, we have our EP done. It’s going to be a digital release as well as a vinyl release. We really want to get the actual vinyl in red, with a bit of gold, which would be absolutely amazing! As far as the album, though, I don’t know when they’re aiming to release that. We’ve pretty much got it planned though. There are the ground-works for a few tunes recorded, and a bit more polishing to do and things to tidy up. We can’t wait to get that done.