Jessarae: The singer-songwriter who is doing it his own way.

The Courier Music Editor, Toby Bryant, speaks to singer-songwriter Jessarae when he stops off in Newcastle...

Toby Bryant
24th February 2018
Image: Jon Stone

In a music industry saturated by singer-songwriters, even with social media's ever-growing influence, it's incredibly hard for an artist to stand out. Nonetheless, from the moment a 20-year-old Jessarae packed his bags, split up with his girlfriend and boarded a flight to London from dazzling Los Angeles, his ambitions were clear. 

"[The U.K. music scene] is influenced by different things. Lots of sounds that I've become attracted to by just living here. It's in the culture - it's not something I can really explain. There's a lot of stuff that works in America but means different things over here.

"I’m based in London. I’ve got an apartment there but I’ve been going back and forth [to L.A.] at the moment. Growing up I played in every pub in the U.S. I had a ‘momager’ parent who was really supportive. They’d invite friends to the house and stuff and I’d end up playing six days a week for someone."

I've done a lot of thinking since previous tours about my mission statement and what kind of concert I want to supply to the fans, how I want them to feel.

That mix of cultures and influences is important to Jessarae. He speaks of his admiration for Dua Lipa, who scooped up two BRIT Awards last week, and later adds a rocky touch to her track 'Be The One' in the live show:

"[Be The One] made me feel good. Along with the sounds I've been messing around with on my guitar we could bring it into a different area and put my own spin on it."

The 22-year-old goes on to mention Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground and Jimi Hendrix as artists he thinks about when performing. His repertoire is equally as diverse with every single showcasing a different sound, as well as his covers which are hugely popular online.

"I wanted to get to the place where I could do whatever I felt I wanted to and not be pigeon-holed into one sound in particular. That has taken me on this sonic journey of trying all kinds of different things and seeing what works best.

"I like covers just as much [as his original music]. I like the idea of making my reworks completely my own songs."

In terms of his audience, it's incredibly mixed. At mid-afternoon, I enter ThinkTank with fans who could as young as 13-years-old already queuing, some accompanied by parents who genuinely seem equally as enthusiastic to be there, whilst others could be upwards of 20-years-old. As we descend the steps of Digital, I mention this to Jessarae and he is evidently pleased.

"It's been going exactly how I want it to. I really wanted this tour to get back to a place where we are really comfortable and happy. I've done a lot of thinking since previous tours about my mission statement and what kind of concert I want to supply to the fans, how I want them to feel."

Image: Joe Brady

Jessarae has made a name for himself supporting acts such as Little Mix and Hey Violet. The success of this shows cannot be questioned as he now turns to the same cities to sell-out his own solo tour. He supported Little Mix at the Metro Radio Arena last year but hints at a preference for the smaller venues.

"It's crazy every time as it's a different and new experience. When you're doing [smaller] shows it's a lot more intimate which I almost prefer now having experienced the big venues. I like having that kind of eye connection with people that you just can't really get when playing arenas."

'No Warning' is Jessarae's latest single and it shows exactly why he's moving in the right direction. It's simplicity is refreshing and the catchy chorus makes for a surefire live hit.

"I wrote that song a couple years ago but I didn't have the follow-up material and it took me time to find this producer I liked. We did four or five songs together and I thought, why don't we revamp No Warming?

"When you're performing songs it's the best way to gauge if a song is good or not. [No Warning] means something to me and it means something else for the audience. When you perform a song live, it's alive for them too. You see things like a guy grab his girlfriend and pull her in. That's stuff is amazing."

Jessarae is tight-lipped on what to expect next but is confident he knows the direction he is taking.

"I know the material I want to release next. My fans can expect something a little different again. For me, it's kind of coming full circle with the integrity I started off with and the journey I've been on. It's about taking all those elements and those things, getting rid of the rest, and going on from there."

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