While sitting in an airport in LA, JESSIA tells me that she’s on her way to Asia, where she’ll spend the beginning of the new year with her mother taking a relaxing songwriting getaway. After the busy year the Canadian pop star has had, it’s time to take a break.
Last year saw a string of singles for the musician, who originally went viral with her 2021 hit “I’m Not Pretty”. On December 8, JESSIA 2023 with the release of “One Before The One”, a heartbreaking yet comforting single about breaking up with somebody who you really thought was the one. Although a melancholy track, the song isn’t an angsty breakup song. Rather, it conveys a healing process, JESSIA says. One that is similar to what’s felt during her live shows.
“I find that I go to music when I'm going through stuff and when I'm not able to articulate my feelings,” she says. “So performing [“One Before The One”], I feel like I want it to be this warm hug.”
Allegedly, the pop star was able to sing before she could talk. Growing up in a musical household with a mother who was a music teacher, music was always the thing JESSIA wanted to pursue. She was involved in musical theater until a theater director told her to stick to singing. Throughout her music career, JESSIA says her theater background has had an effect on her songwriting.
“I like things that are kind of whimsical and storytelling as well,” she says. “I feel like a lot of my music is very conversational and very lyrical driven.”
Her new single, “One Before The One” was born during a session with a producer that JESSIA was working with for the first time. Towards the end of the session, it felt like the songwriting wasn’t going anywhere. However, after talking about past experiences, JESSIA said that it seemed like all of her exes were in happy relationships, and JESSIA was able to help them find that. After this realization, it was 11:30 pm. Nearly three hours later, “One Before The One” had come alive.
Serving as a sister song to her 2023 single “Somehow”, which JESSIA says is her favorite single and the first love song she’s ever released, “One Before The One” is very similar to “Somehow”, but it’s a lot softer, according to the singer.
“This year has been a lot of introspection for me and a lot of growing pains, and I feel like it's really reflected in my music,” JESSIA says. “I think I've released the most ballads I've ever released in a year. I guess I was just going through it. I'm very much a person who's like, if you're sad, the entire world knows. I was like, ‘I can't write bobs right now, I'm just not into it.’ But I think that I've flushed all of that out of my system and now I'm so excited about the new bops that are coming.”
“One Before The One” ultimately captures the feeling of when you’re a stepping stone for somebody else. Not every relationship lasts forever; sometimes the one you’re with isn’t your forever person. Healing and finding peace after this can be very hard, according to JESSIA.
“I think that everybody is going to be a one before the one for everyone,” she says. “So, just knowing that I'm still going to have a one, and…hopefully this guy, some guy thinks [this song is] about me, you know? But yeah, I mean, rejection sucks. Rejection totally sucks. And seeing somebody move on, it's the worst feeling. I would say just listen to my song and cry [and] eat ice cream.”
After writing a steady stream of slower ballads, JESSIA says there’s definitely pressure from producers to mix things up.
“My fans seem to like the ballads, but I don't wanna just be a sad girl...I also want to dance around,” she says. “We just needed to go through a little moment of what is going on in life and I'm so happy that so many people have followed me on my journey. There's pressure, but I try and just give myself the permission to be like, ‘this is me.’”
If there’s one word to describe JESSIA’s upcoming EP, it’s “sassy”. As of late, the pop star has been listening to unapologetic, badass women, in her words. Inspired by artists such as Miley Cyrus, Renee Rap and Julia Michaels, JESSIA adores female artists who aren’t afraid to talk about the weird stuff - something she herself will explore on her upcoming EP.
“I think that I’ve gotten my fire back,” JESSIA says.
She’s already started to tease the upcoming project on her socials, and she’s letting fans decide what kind of music they want to hear. Whatever her fans say they need to hear at this point in their lives, that’s what JESSIA will release. Doing so brings a solidarity that connects JESSIA with fans and fans with each other.
“I feel like this year was really selfish of me,” she says. “I just put out everything that I was feeling…I think that it brings the fans in. It shows that…I'm still reachable and I still listen.”
Last year marked the first year that JESSIA released her music independently. With no label comes a lot more freedom, and JESSIA has loved her career since the change.
“There's been a lot of second guessing,” JESSIA says, “but also, I'm so proud of every single song that I've released this year and I think that this year…it's been a lot of growing pains, but I'm so, so happy with how I'm ending my year and the person that I've become. Because looking back on the woman that I was…I think this is definitely the better path. And I'm hoping to just inspire independent artists. There's more and more of them coming up. You don't really need a label to have it all.”
JESSIA says that, in the music industry, many artists are pushed to sign to a label. While some artists have great relationships with labels, she is open when discussing the fact that not every relationship between artist and label is a healthy one.
“You have this mentality that as soon as you get signed, you're good,” she says. “And it's like, no, that's when the work actually begins. And it's 10 times harder because you have to please everybody and make sure that everybody approves and everything.”
JESSIA left her label on great terms, but for her to sign to another label in the future, she says it would have to be a perfect relationship.
“I would also say to anybody who's going to sign or thinking of signing, read the fine print,” JESSIA says. “Most record deals are not in favor to the artist, unfortunately. I would say that there's a lot more horror stories than there are good ones…growing up with Miley Cyrus and…seeing pop stars and [thinking] they have it all. It's like, no, once you pull the curtain back, there's definitely some things.”
Leaving her label and becoming an independent artist brought a lot of satisfaction to JESSIA’s career, but the musician is no stranger to success. While taking the pop scene by storm, JESSIA has won the Juno award, gained 375 million global streams on all platforms and her debut EP “How Are You?” (2021) was supported by SiriusXM, Billboard and iHeart.
“It feels incredible,” JESSIA says. “I mean, little Jess is dying right now…I feel like I'm just always on to the next thing. I'm like, ‘okay cross that off, cross that off, cross that off.’ And so I feel like I need to step back sometimes and have somebody read off a list of things that I have done and being like ‘you're gonna be okay, kiddo.’ I'm so, so unbelievably thankful for all of these things. But it's just the beginning.”
As JESSIA reflects on her career accomplishments and the joy that 2023 has brought her, she has big goals for 2024.
“I really want to allow myself to feel the ugly feelings, because you don't realize that you've been suppressing the feelings that you don't really want to face, and then they just don't go away and they just haunt you for 12 months,” JESSIA says. “I guess I'm kind of pre-cursing to one of my favorite songs that I've written that's going to be on the project and it's all about being like, ‘I'm allowed to say that it hurts.’ Because there's so many things that we brush off and we say it's totally fine because we just don't think that it's worth mentioning. And it is. It's totally worth mentioning.”
“One Before The One” by JESSIA is out now.