BBG Presents: Jessarae

17 March 2017

Photographer Caoimhe Hahn
Stylist Jenny Holmes
Grooming Lillie Russo
Words and Interview Brogan Anderson

"Sunlight paints with shadows on your face..."

The day couldn’t have been more typically British; bitter and grey, with the presence of the questionable sleet in the air that couldn’t quite be distinguished between rain or snow, but was still enough to shake the country into moral panic. In all honesty however, isn’t this the perfect day to capture what it really means to be in England? California raised singer/songwriter Jessarae packed up his life in sunny LA and relocated himself all the way to London, all at the sweet young age of 19 - this is basically what he came here for.

Jessarae’s boyish demeanour kept him bounding around the local park and jumping over tennis nets, meaning little direction was required from photographer Caoimhe Hahn. You wouldn’t have guessed he deemed himself officially homeless just hours before meeting us. Just for a little while. Discussing exciting tours and greatly influential British music icons, it sparked the question as to whether he was born in the wrong place. A musician delivering uplifting beats and feelgood lyrics are enough to remove ourselves from the grey mundane everyday, whiling away the hours instead in sweet summer escapes in our minds. Jessarae's latest EP 'The London Loft Sessions' is available to listen to here, a completely raw and charming delivery of his classic sound.
Stylist Jenny Holmes pieces together a mismatched array of nautical stripes and heavily embroidered denim and leather; the accessible rock and roll aesthetic. A variety of blues complement his wild blonde hair tamed by Lillie Russo, sun bleached over his teenage years in LA. Never the one to deny a challenge, Jessarae has positioned himself in a drastically new landscape away from the creature comforts he grew so accustomed to growing up. Often the life of a musician is glamourised in incomprehensible ways, but it’s nothing that he could have possibly imagined. You don’t need a house when your home is the stage.

How did you find the shoot today?
Really fun. I’ve never done anything like that before with that many people involved, and the clothing was better than what I would’ve picked on my own - yeah, it was fun.
If your mother were to describe you, what would she say?
That’s a good question, ‘cause mum should know. She would describe me as... she would say that I’m probably an excitable, kind of, fun loving individual. I don’t know, creative maybe?
‘Maybe’. When did you discover your affinity toward producing and making music and writing?
I started from an early age. I grew up singing ever since I was little and I learned the guitar when I was about 9 or 10 years old - I started writing songs right away. I’d just write lyrics, and then when I got my first laptop, that’s when I started producing music and making my own demos, and it was really just for me to listen too, you know. Then from there, I signed a publishing deal kind of by accident- well not really by accident, but I kind of fell into a publishing deal. I didn’t understand that you could be a songwriter as a career, how big the world was, and how many other people were doing what I was doing. I was like 17 or 18 when I started meeting publishers and maybe around 19 when I signed with them.
Wow, cool. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Everything actually. The way I think about music is that it can never make you feel something that you’re not able to feel on your own. It might maybe make you think about something in a different way, but really it has to be something that you’ve felt before, for it to make you feel anything or for you to connect to it, that’s what good music is. So, I think I’m inspired a lot by just music, you know, going out to parties or clubs and the way people dance at those and the way they listen to music there or I guess by the world you know. I try to pick things up - travelling especially is good for that too.
Have you travelled a lot?
Yeah, I’ve been to Spain and been all over Europe pretty much.

Getting around. What sort of artistic influences do you think you draw into your own work?
I’m a big fan of David Bowie and I like early Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett and stuff - I like a lot of British artists. I started diving into that more once I moved over to London. I also like Americana sort of artists like Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel. I even pick up things mutually; if I like Queen or something like that, he was really into certain kinds of music that I’d never listen to, so then I’d get into his influences or like, Kurt Cobain's. It’s the same thing, so you start getting in to that kinda music then realise it’s in your own.
Is there anywhere in particular that you find that you like to go write your music?
I guess it has to be a comfortable environment. The way it is now, I am writing all the time, doing a lot of writing in studios and stuff, so I guess the more relaxed, the better it is. I’ve realised after all this time, that you could try and sit there and analyse everything and try to be creative in that given space, but there’s a better way to do it. It depends on what kind of song you’re writing, for me at least, ‘cause if you’re trying to write a song that will make people feel a certain way, you have to put yourself in that environment first. Sometimes I work in these really kind of bland studios and I don’t like that that much. The studio doesn’t have to have the same vibe as me, but it has to have a vibe.
Is there any sort of particular message you want to say with your music?
Yeah I mean, I like to think of my songs like primary colours. When you hear my record, you’ll see it all comes from the same Crayola box, but there’s different emotions for each, a different feeling. I’m a pop song writer, every song that I do I try to write something that you can listen to over and over, and always find something new in, and for it to be sort of an escape from reality. You know, so every song sort of takes you out of whatever.
Aside from music, what other sort of things are you passionate about? You said your dad’s from a sporting background, are you the sporty type as well?
Yeah, I mean, I can? The sporty side comes out of me sometimes. I think it’s important to be athletic in some way, try to do something like that. Whenever I go back to LA, I’ll go play hockey and stuff - I really like hockey and being on stage also. We put a lot of energy into our show, there’s a lot of movement and so, I guess that’s kinda sporty too. I don’t think people realise when you’re a touring musician that you have to think of yourself almost as an athlete. If you’re a singer you know, you’ve got to do certain things to look after yourself in a similar way.

Anything else that completely gets you out of your music zone?
I like to do art. That’s something fun for me to focus on if I get too into the music, I can sit and draw. I just got a watercolour set, so I’ve been doing that. I like to cook too. I spend a lot of time just making something, and that’s a good way to totally zone out. I watch TV, do all the normal things, like going to see movies.
You said your dad was from Canada and you were raised in LA - what made you come to London?
Yeah, my dad’s from Canada, he’s from Montreal and I think some people think that I was born or raised there. When I signed this publishing deal, they had brought up the idea about me working here in London, because they had a lot of talented writers out here that they wanted me to collaborate with. So I came over and did a month of writing, met my management team and we kind of agreed on it. I guess the real reason though was because I come from this family that’s been successful, you know borderline celebrity family, with my dad an athlete, my brother an actor, and I thought it was important for me to find my own path and make my own identity. It was a test of my commitment to music. I used to think about my favourite artists, what made those songs come to them, and really I think all it is is getting out of your comfort zone, really trying something new and taking yourself somewhere you maybe don’t feel safe.
What do you think is the difference growing up in a place like LA and then growing up here?
Well, obviously you’ve got the beach and the sun. It’s totally different here, but I find I get along with the people fine anywhere I go. I don’t really feel more of a connection to California than I do anywhere else in the world now. I think when you’re raised in America, you’re very much led to believe that that’s the only part of the world worth seeing. I think growing up here you probably have an opportunity to see more things, ‘cause a lot of people don’t really leave America ever you know. I think people are sort of starting to open up their eyes more lately. My parents live in Santa Monica, but I spend a lot of time in Venice, I kind of really like that scene, well I choose to like that scene. I don’t know what I see myself as, I think just a wanderer. I’m currently homeless.

You’re gonna be all over the place for a little while, what’s your immediate future plans?
I’m doing a lot of tours. I’m going on my headline tour, which starts next Wednesday - first show in London, and then after that I’m going to America and touring with Hey Violets. We’re gonna be flying around from city to city doing that tour. Then I’m coming back and doing some more stuff here in Europe too, also. It’s pretty full on for a while, so I figured what’s the point in having an apartment if you’re not gonna be there.
Settle when you settle. In terms of the music scene, how do you think it’s different in London compared to LA?
I think there’s obviously a great scene in LA for music, but here, I wanna say that people are maybe more open to different kind of things. Maybe it’s just for me in particular ‘cause I grew up listening to a lot of British music. It’s just the rain and everything, it inspires different music. You see different kind of artists here, you know even the buskers on the street are totally different here.
You were touring alongside 5 Seconds of Summer. How was that?
Oh, it was amazing! Yeah, that’s when I feel like I kind of lost the training wheels. I was put on the road right away, doing arena shows, getting to play songs that I wrote in those small studios with my friends or just on my own and then getting to test them out in front of thousands of people every night. I have been singing my whole life, but when you have to do that every night and your voice has to work, and you can’t miss a show - that was when I was learning what it was like to be professional you know, on the road and touring.
You were really just thrown right in there. It’s all gone pretty fast, hasn’t it?
Yeah, and everything since then has kind of felt like a dream, which is fun. Things have moved very quickly so it’s easy for me to, I don’t want to say down, but you can get kind of lost sometimes. Then when I start to think about it as being this chapter, it’s been such an amazing ride already and I think of myself as being on that level of that artist that I always loved and looked up to. I suddenly feel like I’ve got to own it and stand tall you know, which can be scary and daunting, but it’s also exciting.
Definitely, and your headline tour is coming up, starting next week, how excited are you for that?
I’m really excited! It’s been a long time coming and we did a headline tour before after I did the tour with 5SOS, and I was still so caught in that world. This time I’ve done a lot more writing, I’ve got a lot more material, and my band and I know each other that much better. I really think that I know what kind of concert I want to deliver now, so it should be really fun.
What else does 2017 hold for you?
If all goes to plan, I think I plan on making my record and hopefully releasing it this year. That of course is kind of tangled up with all the touring and stuff I’m going to do you know. I’ll be touring for the next three months or so, but after that I kind of hope that I can get to do some of these really exciting tours and keep building. I feel 2017 is me planting my feet in the ground more.

Above Left: Shirt and Jacket by WOOD WOOD, denim Jacket by WAVEN, Watch by Nixon, Trousers and Belt are models own
Above Right: Coat by CAYLER AND SONS


Above: Jumper by ARMOUR LUX, Jeans by LOHA VETE, Shoes by NOVESTA


Above left: Glasses and Watch by KOMONO
Above right: Jacket by NICCE LONDON. Coat by BOY LONDON, Trousers by ARMOUR LUX


Above right: Trousers by TOURNE DE TRANSMISSION, Coat by CAYLER AND SONS


Above: T-Shirt by BLAC, Shoes by H LONDON


Above right: Headphones by URBAN EARS

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