A word painter who displays the light and shade of her life — we caught up with Jetta to discuss her artistic process, working with Pharrell, and her plans to perform in space.
She is a multi-faceted powerhouse and no matter how upbeat a song may be, her voice carries a moody weight into every line. Hailing from Beatle-land, Liverpool-born singer and songwriter, Jetta received her first taste of the joys of music-making behind the scenes as a backing vocalist for the likes of Paloma Faith and Cee-Lo Green.
But it’s this cloud of anonymity that makes her fascinating, not only because she has the ability to turn unexpected tracks into high energy and catchy melodies, but because of the self-expressive and creative freedom to pursue all avenues of her own satisfaction. Her new single, ‘Crescendo’ has left fans and critics amazed at her impressionistic approach that abandons contemporary music conventions for an unpredictable, free-roving style. Her music is certainly not for the fainthearted, but if you can keep up, why not read on to find out more about the lady herself.
Did music gravitate towards you?
I think we gravitated towards each other. I was involved in an acapella choir at the age of 6, so I’ve kind of been singing nearly all my life. It’s always felt really natural. It was just something that I really liked. As time went on I realised that music was something that made me content. When I was 16, I started taking songwriting more seriously, after that I got my first laptop with the software Logic on there, and then I pretty much started to actually create my own music.
Do you think music is an addiction?
Yeah. It’s an addiction but I don’t want to control it. I think if you’re addicted to something like, that it makes you feel good. Tabasco sauce is my other addiction. I just throw it on everything.
Was there a particular moment you discovered you could sing?
I was actually pretty shy at the start —at school I use to sing to myself. One of my friends overheard me when I was about 8, and shouted to everyone, “Come and listen to this.” I use to make them face the other way and sing really quietly with my head in the corner. I think I knew I could sing but I just wasn’t very confident, unless it was with a group of people.
Who is your music talking to?
It’s talking to everyone and anyone who wants to listen. I’m just being honest, saying what I think, and just talking about my own experiences. I know that everybody goes through similar emotions and one of the really important things for me with the EP and my upcoming album was to make sure that everyday when I was writing I was staying true to how I felt. It’s got a whole range of emotions like, a rollercoaster of feelings. One day you might feel really happy, the next day you might feel angry or sad — my aim is for people to be able to connect on any level.
So did you deliberately rebel to be a musician instead of following your dream to become an astronaut?
The dream is still there because I’ve still got this plan to go and perform on mars. I really want to do it, that’s why I’m combining the two. The thing music provides for me is that sense of rebelling and saying whatever you want. I think with anything, if you’re really true to what you’re saying people will believe you.
You seem to throw yourself emotionally into your songs. Where does your imagination come from?
I am an only child. I’ve got no siblings, so I spent a lot of time in my own world, creating my own scenarios. With music it’s like colouring a story with real situations and making it bigger and more dramatic than it actually is. I am a very emotional person. I have a lot of ups and downs, I really feel things and music is like my therapy. It helps me to express whatever that’s going on in my head.
I love the gritty soulfulness of your voice and I think you’ve really created a sound very specific to you. You seem to also find great ownership through your voice rather than the music. I don’t know if I’m reading too much into that.
No, I don’t think you are. I want my music to be something you can listen to. My mum’s a singer, my dad a sound engineer, so I’ve always been interested in the music itself and the recording process. I definitely want people to hear what I’m saying lyrically, I think that’s really important. I think I’ve basically now found a way to scream with powerful vocals without having to actually scream [laughs.]
That’s exactly what you’re doing on your new single, ‘Crescendo,’ where you talk about leaving everything behind and only looking forward. I think the song really hits the listener with a feel-good vibe from the outset.
Yeah. I really wanted a song that was just happy. It was last summer that I actually went over to Miami and wrote it with Pharrell. I hope it shows that happy side to me, even though I talk about moving forward and not looking back at the past. I think it’s important to reflect and use that as an inspiration for what’s to come. The song is about being positive and not being afraid to take steps to see the world.
Pharelle’s handiwork really complements your voice. How did the collaboration come about?
He heard a few of my earlier stuff including ‘Start A Riot’ and some demos that I had done and said, “Look, I really wanna work with this girl.” Obviously, the minute I heard he had said that I was straight on a plane to Miami. I think the experience brought out the happy side of me. He is very much that kind of writer and thinker. He also has this really good way about being positive and that’s how he works. He’s really inspiring.
I must ask you also about your time as a backing vocalist for Cee-Lo Green. How did that come about?
I managed to meet a lot of people working with Paloma Faith. I remember someone mentioning that Cee-Lo was about to do some shows in London, so I said, “If you’re looking for anyone to help then give me a shout.” Fortunately, he did and the first show that we did was at Wembley. The rest is history.
On your new EP ‘Crescendo,’ from what I can make out, you continue to express your emotions, right?
Absolutely. It’s a running theme and as I said earlier a rollercoaster that matches my emotions and everything in between. The whole sentiment of the project will be about running with your fears and not from them.
Words: Noel Phillips
Jetta’s EP ‘Crescendo‘ is released on June 24