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Jess Glynne: ‘I could throw water at people to plug my album’

By Will Stroude

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Jess Glynne has pretty much provided the soundtrack to 2014. Since hitting the top spot as the voice of Route 96’s My Love and Clean Bandit’s enormo-smash Rather Be earlier this year, her soulful tones haven’t left the airwaves – and now she’s scored a top ten hit in her own right with debut solo single Right Here. But who exactly is Jess Glynne? I gave the 24-year-old Londoner a call to find out more about her musical background – and discovered she’s not the world’s biggest X Factor fan.

Right Here entered the charts at number six earlier this month. How did it feel to have a top ten hit on your own?
“I mean, I never expect anything and the fact that I released the first thing in my life as a solo artist and it went top ten is amazing, honestly. To even get top 40 is like, ‘wow!’. I’m still finding it kind of weird, it’s been a massive whirlwind. I feel like I’m running to keep up with myself! But obviously it’s amazing. I work really hard so I’m grateful it’s all paying off.”

Rather Be and My Love both went straight to Number One – they’re two of the biggest hits of the year so far. Were you expecting them to be so successful?
“Not at all! You know, the success that Rather Be‘s had, I don’t think anyone can expect that. I’m still getting my head round it.”

How did those collaborations come about?
“Basically, the collaboration with Clean Bandit came about because they heard me singing on My Love and got in contact because they wanted a power vocal – they wanted something very particular for the song. Originally I was quite hesitant because I’d never actually sung on a song that I hadn’t written before, so it was a bit of a weird thing for me to go and do. But once I got in the studio and met the guys it was actually the most amazing experience – and obviously now it’s such a success.”

As a British female singer with two Number Ones to her name, you’ve already matched the likes of Jessie J and Emeli Sandé. But were you wary of starting out as a ‘feature’ artist?
“I originally got signed for my solo stuff, so it was never the plan to feature on anyone’s songs. I have to be honest, I wasn’t that keen on the idea. I love what I do and I’m very passionate about what I do, so when they came about I was a little bit funny about it. I was worried about how it would be perceived and didn’t want it to affect what I was doing. But I think not being in the videos and just being a collaborative part of the songs is a great platform. I can now grow and people don’t really know me or what I look like – they’re only getting to know me now through my own music, which is originally what I would have done anyway. But having the two Number Ones behind me is obviously a great thing!”

When we can we expect your album?
“It’s so nearly finished! But I definitely won’t be letting the album go until early next year; you won’t be getting it this year. I don’t like rushing things and I think the plan for me is to kind of, you know, I’m still growing and I want people to get to know me. I don’t want to rush straight into an album. I think they’re really important and I think these days before you release something you really need to earn it and have that moment where people understand you and want to hear what you’ve got.”

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What’s your musical background like?
“I mean, I’ve always loved singing and performing, but at school I didn’t really take it on because it wasn’t something they supported much. I did a few shows but.. well, basically the music department didn’t really like me! I don’t know why!”

They must be kicking themselves now!
“Well, I don’t know whether they are or not! I think teachers just sometimes have that thing where they either love or hate you, and they weren’t the most supportive and I wasn’t the most confident person, perhaps. But I went travelling when I left school and when I came back it was like, ‘What the hell am I going to do?!’ I didn’t want to go to uni and the only thing I loved was music. Thankfully I got a job in a music management company and just learnt everything you could possibly learn – from contracts through to touring to promo, the whole thing. And it got to a point where I was like, ‘I want to be the artist!’. That was when I was like 19 or 20, and ever since then I’ve just been putting myself out there, writing and working with producers. One said to me, ‘Jess, you need to write 100 songs, minimum,’ and that’s what I did. And through doing that I found the sound that I wanted. It’s been about four years.”

At 24, and after all that work, do you feel you’re a bit older and wiser than your average pop starlet?
“Yeah, I have to say I’m fucking grateful for all those years that I’ve had. When it comes to being an artist, it’s not just about being a singer – you need to have a business mind and know how it all works. I’ll probably get shot for saying this but I don’t really care: when you’ve achieved a top ten hit it means so much because of everything you’ve done, so for me when I see artists that have gone on X Factor and essentially been given a career and they get these Number Ones, and you’re against these people, it’s sometimes very disheartening.”

Is the reality show route something you’d ever have considered?
“I mean, I’m not going to lie to you, when I was 15 my auntie signed me up to The X Factor and I went and did the audition, and I got through and got to the round before the judges – ’cause there’s all these production rounds before, it’s all so fake. And I remember going into the audition and finishing my song, and they’re all like ‘Oh, amazing,’ and whatever, and I remember there was this one woman – she wasn’t very nice – and she was just like, ‘No no, we don’t have enough space’. And previously I’d seen this guy with Tourettes go through and this amazing singer not go through, and I stood there and I was like, ‘You know what, I don’t understand what you guys are doing.’”

What happened next?
“I was young, I was quite mouthy and I was like, ‘What are you looking for, what exactly are you looking for?’ And they genuinely couldn’t answer what I was asking them. I was actually just like ‘This is a joke!’ and just walked out and left. I didn’t feel right at the time so, yeah, I would basically never go back! Haha! But I do have to say with reality shows, it’s a great thing for people of an older generation who never got the chance to work at it. I think for them it actually can be great.”

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You’ve appeared at Lovebox this summer and you’re performing at V Festival too. What can everyone expect from your sets?
“I’ve got quite an exciting set, which I don’t think people expect when they see me. I’ve got such a great band and they’re like a little family. I think everyone can expect a great moment of fun.”

Are you a festival-goer yourself?
“I’ve been to some, yeah. I went to Bestival a couple of times. But I’m not the best person when it comes to camping and stuff!”

Are you a bit of a ‘glamper’?
“I’m not a glamper at all! But when I was at Bestival, for me to enjoy that part of it I had to have alcohol! But I loved going when I was younger and going mad, and I performed at Glastonbury the other week and we went down to Shangri-La and I loved it – but oh, the mud! I just can’t. I just hated it. It was so muddy. I like to be clean and tidy. I’m a bit of clean freak!”

Your songs naturally lend themselves to clubs: Have you heard them on a night out?
“It’s really weird, I haven’t actually been out clubbing in a really long time, which is really sad. Last night I did a gig in Manchester and afterwards we were really tired but I was like, ‘You know what, let’s go out!’ So one of my singers and my drummer went out to this club and Little Mix and their dancers were there, and that’s the first time I’ve actually danced in a club for a really long time. I didn’t even stay that long though – I think I was there for an hour!”

We were reminiscing in the office about the time that Geri Halliwell rode a horse down Old Compton Street to plug her album, so I wondered what stunt you’d pull in the run-up to your album release?
“Oh wow… What stunt would I pull? I don’t know! Hold on, I’ve got to think of this.  I dunno, I don’t think I’ve got it in me… You know what I used to do – this is really boring – did you ever used to play that shouting out the window game? When you’re driving along and someone’s walking down the street and, say, they’ve got blue hair and you just shout ‘Blue hair!’. I’d probably do something stupid like that. That or throw water on them.”

That doesn’t sound like the best way to win people over.
“Yeah, I’d probably lose some fans over that. ‘Jess Glynne’s that bitch who threw stuff at me!’ Haha I don’t know, I don’t think I should pull a stunt if I’m honest with you. I’ll keep it über-natural.”

There are a lot of well-known Jesses in the public eye at the moment, so do you think you could rank these famous Jesses?
“Oh my God, which Jesses?!”

Jessie J, Jessie Ware, Jessica Ennis and Jessica Simpson.
“OK… Jessie J I’ll put first, because I love her music and I think she’s an amazing talent. I enjoy her. I’ll put Jessica Ennis second because I loved athletics at school and my dad always wanted me to become Jessica Ennis but I never did, so I respect her! Jessie Ware I’ll put third because I love her but I don’t know much of her music so I can’t rank her as high as I’d like to. And finally Jessica Simpson because I’ve got no connection to her, I don’t really know her. She’s an actress, she’s beautiful… but, you know, I love all the Jesses – they’re all great!”

Right Here by Jess Glynne is out now. She plays V Festival in Essex and Staffordshire on August 16 and 17.

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