“It’s nice to just be recognised for doing something good, and it’s the biggest compliment for me to be put in the best newcomer category.” Arguably, Jess Glynne’s achievements this year have been more than “something good.” 2014 has been something of a whirlwind for the London-born singer. Two number ones, a number six and a Mobo nomination for best newcomer, she was relatively unheard of this time last year. But what a difference a year makes; Glynne has begun to make a name for herself, and with her debut album yet to be released and a tour on the horizon, the singer is only at the start of the journey.
Establishing herself as a familiar face in the music industry wasn’t easy for Glynne, therefore there is obvious excitement behind her recent Mobo nomination. “It means a lot to me because I watch the Mobos pretty much every year and I guess it’s something you kind of dream of when you’re watching, like ‘oh I’d love to win an award’. Her excitement is clear, “to be actually put in that category is pretty insane.”
As becomes apparent from my time speaking with Glynne, the London-born singer is truly overwhelmed by her recent success. She found herself at the centre of chart success through number one collaborations with Clean Bandit on ‘Rather Be’ and Route 94 on ‘My Love’ within two weeks of each other, thus finding herself as a relatively unknown artist while holding the accolade of being the top selling British singles act of 2014 – a rather unheard of combination.
Although, she never planned on doing it that way, keen to dispel the opinion that it was her game plan from the start. “It’s not something I set out to do, I signed my record deal for my own music, to do my own album, but the opportunity came round, and no one knew what was gonna happen.” Talking about her collaboration with Clean Bandit, she explains, “I was only hesitant purely because I had never sung a song that I hadn’t written before, so it was just like a bit of new world for me.”
Despite obvious hesitations, Glynne has taken only positives from the experience of her collaborations. “Such a platform has been made for me through doing it. I feel like I’m in a great place, a great position to be me. It’s a bit nerve-wracking just purely because of the success of the songs I’ve had out, and obviously my stuff’s quite a lot different, but I’m not scared because I know it’s what I’ve always loved doing. I was always a solo artist doing my music and that’s what people found me for.”
Does Glynne feel pressured by the level of expectation surrounding her solo music? “I think when you do expect you’re always disappointed. I kind of just said don’t expect, because then you will be surprised.” The reasoning behind this is clear, as the singer hints that the album won’t contain dance floor hits made for a Saturday night in town, reminiscent of ‘My Love’ and ‘Rather Be’, instead, fans will be greeted with quite the opposite.
“I love pop, I love house music and I love R&B, and both collabs were amazing songs, but my stuff, it’s not as poppy and it’s not house at all,” she laughs. “It’s something that I just hope people will get, cos at the end of the day, featuring on songs is very different from releasing your own music.”
Glynne hints at potential collaborations on her own unreleased album, but refuses to reveal the details just yet. “I’ve worked with some amazing people and there potentially could be a collaboration or not, on this album, yeah…” In the future, Frank Ocean, Andre 3000 and Jasmine O’Sullivan are people she would love to work with.
Inspiration for her music comes from her childhood. “Growing up, I’ve always been interested by a lot of soul records and R&B has been a massive thing for me.” Glynne recalls how her parents exposed her to music that has inspired her own work, from Eva Cassidy to Sting, Aretha Franklin and Etta James. Later on, she reveals, it was Whitney, Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child, Jazmine Sullivan, Lauren Hill that framed her teenage years, people that “inspired me to sing in that kind of vein, and take that kind of style.”
More recently Glynne tells me, it’s “the hip hop crew – the Jay Zs, the Eminems, Kanyes, that have musically inspired me because I love big sounds.” In terms of the influence on her debut album, the singer confesses “I’ve kind of just taken everything from all of those things, gone into the studio and thought right, what do I love and where do I wanna go, and done it that way. I haven’t sat there and taken a song and gone right I wanna have exactly the same as that but change this. It’s just from over the years, it’s loving that music and singing it, tryna sing that Mariah Carey song”, she laughs.
The route into music wasn’t an easy one, and this has made the singer appreciative of her recent success. Just a year ago she was working full time for a drinks company, having failed to be acknowledged for her musical talent at school. “I’ve been doing this for four or five years, and it’s only this year that everything’s kind of come to head. At one point I was doing three jobs, music, and at college. There’s a lot of hard work behind it, nothing just happened. I’ve gone through shit times and good times, and to actually have these moments now, you’re so appreciative, you know?”
She cites disbelief as the primary difficulty faced trying to break into the industry, revealing that even her mum urged her to think about other career options. “I think disbelief is probably the biggest struggle. When you’ve done it for a long time, and you’ve had people firmly telling you no, you’ve had disappointment, you’ve had things that haven’t worked out. You genuinely have to believe in yourself, and that your stuff is amazing and people will love it.”
Glynne refuses to get carried away with the potential life change that musical success can bring, as she has seen happen to others. “A lot of artists get hyped with people telling them they’re amazing and it goes straight to their head, but I just get on with it.” It’s clear that her ego remains firmly rooted and that she will remain appreciative of the opportunities that she has been given.
“My life has changed quite dramatically, but I’m still pretty weird and normal. I don’t think I’d ever let the success get to me, or run away with it. Running away with success is kind of like running away from who you are, so I’m kind of just going with it.”