Justin Jesso is the latest pop star catapulting to great heights, and he’s added fuel to the flames with hard-hitting new single and music video “Drink Alone”. Plucked straight from his record The Opposite of Loneliness, he’s coming back to bite.
Amassing a colossal billion streams across all platforms, and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ricky Martin, Maluma, and The Backstreet Boys – Jesso is no stranger to the spotlight. Poised to break the mainstream, “Drink Alone” is the perfect tool in the box.
A tale as old as time, “Drink Alone” is about the perils of an ended relationship. It’s a shock to the system to break up with someone, and Jesso’s track navigates that headspace. Time is of the essence, and while our impulse is to drink the memories away – there’s nothing you can do but relive them. Grounded pianos spring the track into action, while Jesso’s powerful vocals lay overtop. Stripped-back, and melancholic, Jesso’s pain oozes from the track.
“Drink Alone” is paired with an equally gut-wrenching music video, in which the artist finishes a bottle of wine to himself – with a projection of long-gone memories played behind him. Jesso’s latest offering really hit us where it hurts, and we had the pleasure of chatting to him all about it. From the inspiration behind “Drink Alone”, his Latin Grammy nomination and what else he has in store – we covered it all.
Head below for the interview…
Hi Justin, how are you doing?
Hi! I am good! I am on a plane currently flying to NYC because I’m singing at Carnegie Hall on Thursday for a charity event! Very excited as Carnegie has been on my bucket list.
So, tell us about “Drink Alone”, what was the inspiration behind it?
Drink Alone is all about the process of getting over someone. People always say the best remedy is to get out, dance, drink, meet someone rather than sit at home looking through old pictures of your ex on your phone. Of course, it’s easier to preach than practice as most inevitably just end up on the couch scrolling through old photos (myself included). After a break-up, going out can feel just as empty as staying in. Drink Alone really highlights the inescapability of getting over someone and realizing it just takes time.
The video is about trying to drink your thoughts of your ex-relationship away, but being unable to clear them from your mind. You can’t just paint over those feelings, you can’t drink them. You can go out with friends and forget for a little but the memories of what you lost always come back no matter how hard you try to ignore them.
How do your personal experiences with relationships and heartbreak influence your music?
They completely influence the music. That’s what most of my songs are about. That and dealing with depression and anxiety.
Your latest EP “Finding The Opposite of Loneliness” is divided into two parts, can you give us some insight into the concept behind that?
For sure – The songs in part one are where I am searching for the opposite of loneliness, or dealing with my depression and haven’t found the opposite of loneliness. Part 1 is the dark place. Part 2 is where I am on the journey to finding my way out, or I have found it!
Depression has been a constant part of my life and I am always fighting to make sure it doesn’t bring me down. Even when everything is going amazingly, somehow this dark cloud follows me around in a way I can’t shake. Sometimes you have to stop, acknowledge your pain and let go, and sometimes you have to force yourself to keep going. It is hard to trust that you will find what is truly meant for you, that you will be able to find the opposite of loneliness. And honestly, you may find your opposite of loneliness for a moment, but that doesn’t mean you can keep it. This two part EP explores the struggles of finding it, keeping it, and losing it all over again.
You’ve had a lot of success collaborating with other artists, can we expect more collaborations on the new EP?
Well, on this EP there are no new collabs. It’s actually just Seeb, but I am definitely working on new music collabs that I hope to have out this year.
You’ve written for some major pop acts in the past, how do you approach writing for yourself compared to writing for others?
When I’m writing for someone else I’m always trying to get inside their head, or if it’s not a specific pitch to someone I am always trying to hit some sort of a “mark” to write a song with a hook line and melody I know will interest people. It’s funny… When I write for myself, I’m really trying to find my way into my own head… and am usually trying to also get something that resonates with people. So in a way it is exactly the same… except I’ve recently been quite a bit less concerned with what everyone else might think and have freed myself to experiment sonically with a sound I am calling Soul Stadium Pop. Big songs that have big pop hooks sung with soul, and are fit for stadiums – however even that sometimes feels like a box. I don’t love writing in boxes… I really just want to be free to express myself and see what comes out. When I’m writing for myself I like to divorce myself of any preconceived notion of what I am “going for” and just write. The editing can come later.
How do you balance your role as a songwriter and a recording artist?
I think they are one and the same honestly. But it kinda gets balanced for me. I tour a lot, so I can’t really be writing songs for others on the road… just cataloging ideas… and those ideas can end up being released by me, or others. They are all born out of my own truths. I tend to book more writing sessions for myself, but then I get burned out and it’s refreshing to try and jump into someone else’s creative process and try to nail something for them… so when that opportunity presents itself, I take it.
The two singles “Getting Closer” and “Let it Be Me” from your debut EP were successful, what was the creative process behind those songs?
Oh man, haha that feels so long ago, PRE PANDEMIC! Let it be me was about not being in love and writing a song about what I would say to the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Getting Closer was the last song written for the project and me and my buddy Petey Martin did it in my basement one night after the record was basically done. It is about not knowing if we are getting closer, or closer to the end. It was about the relationship I was in at the time. Things were good, and then they weren’t. It was confusing. It ended up not lasting.
With over a billion streams, how does it feel to have that kind of reach and impact with your music?
I feel the impact more individually. When I hear a story from a specific person about how the music has affected them and their life. I get some of the most incredible messages. Can I share one with you about “400 Trillion”? This is from a mother with a 10 year old autistic son:
“It’s almost unbearable to write but my son has never been able to tell me he loved me in all his 10 years – understanding and verbally expressing his emotions is really hard for him I had accepted the fact that saying I love you just wasn’t something he was able to do, and had come to peace with it because I could feel his love and he shows it in other ways – that was until a few months ago when “400 Trillion” came out. After we figured out “400 Trillion” helped with his anxiety it became his go to song. He loves #s. He asked me what the song was about and I told him there’s a 1 in 400 trillion chance that we are born the unique individual we are and because that chance is so tiny, it’s really special that we are exactly who we are and should celebrate that – and make sure we tell the people we love that we love them. Well after I explained my interpretation of 400 trillion he looked up at me and just said – mommy I love you – I was absolutely floored. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this now because he tells me he loves me all the time and I will never take it for granted because I’ve waited a whole decade to hear that. Justin I really can’t thank you enough for that. And thank you for providing a way for me to start to explain to my son his neurodiversity within the context of a song with which he deeply connects.”
Even though that song didn’t get the streams I thought it would that would denote it being a huge success… I feel like I put that song out for that person. Yes I still hope it gets a bazillion more streams too, but the experience of knowing I really changed someone’s life with my music is why I do it.
What has been your experience working with Columbia Germany and Epic Records US?
Columbia Germany and I have been working together for a while and I think they are great! Just lovely people all around. Epic is a new relationship!
Your recent European tour was a huge success, what was the highlight for you?
Probably my birthday show in Cologne. I was surprised with all sorts of gifts and a crazy cake! It was packed and really special. I also really loved this festival in Norway called Idyll Fest. It was one of our biggest festivals we played and the crowd in Norway was just incredible.
Are you preparing differently for your upcoming festival performances?
Yes! I think we gotta give ‘em a whole new show.
Can you tell us more about how you see your music as a “force for healing and self-discovery”?
Well, it certainly is for me. But that’s also what I want it to be for others… if they need it. It did that for that mother and 10 year old son. I have other stories that have made me cry… in fact I have a folder on my phone, whenever I get a message from someone who is affected by the music I save it. A lot of people need help overcoming trauma, breakups and abuse. I am so grateful that sometimes my music can help.
You earned a Latin Grammy nomination for “Vente Pa’Ca” (Ricky Martin, feat. Maluma), can you tell us more about that experience?
I did! It was one of my first big “wins” in the music industry (although we lost to “Despacito”) ha! I was so excited to go to the awards, but actually didnt get to, because that weekend I flew out to Bergen Norway to shoot the orchestral version of “Stargazing” with Kygo, which was definitely the right move. I wanted to celebrate the nom by going to the event, but I am so glad I went to Norway… I love the orchestral version of “Stargazing” and it really started my relationship with my now good buddy Kygo.
You’ve written for a variety of genres and artists, how do you adapt your writing style to fit different genres and artists?
I think I’m always adapting when it comes to what’s current and modern, and definitely will adapt to fit whatever artist I am writing for, or aiming for. When I am writing for myself, or just writing, I try not to adapt.. I try to just feel my way through it and see where it goes. I always feel there’s a subconscious little editor in the back of my mind anyway that’s gonna do its thing, so I try not to play in to it too much.
Selling out Madison Square Garden is a huge accomplishment, how did that feel and what are your next career goals?
Playing The Garden was insane. Definitely a lifelong dream of mine. I cried during the damn soundcheck listening to the strings ha! I am so proud of Kyrre (Kygo) and all he has accomplished. I am really lucky to be a part of it.
Next career goals, to do it myself? Haha. I’m just lucky I get to keep making music honestly and that people keep listening!
Lastly, what’s next for you?
Very excited to release a bunch of new music this year (maybe an album?!?! ) and continue touring. I have also started focusing on telling more longform stories in different mediums (like film and tv) so I am quite excited to start pursuing that path this year. In the meantime, hope to see you at a show!
To watch the music video for “Drink Alone” by Justin Jesso, head below…