Jess Glynne Talks Grammys, On-Stage Breakdown + Missing Amy Winehouse: PopCrush Interview
Babe Ruth never sported a World Series ring before stepping onto the field. Meryl Streep never bagged an Oscar before accepting a role. Jess Glynne, however, did win a Grammy before the release of her debut album earlier this month, an honor she'd match not long after by tying the record for most No. 1 hits by a female artist in the United Kingdom. Not bad for someone who earned a living tidying salons and peddling shots for a booze behemoth only months earlier.
Glynne, who's finishing up a brief United States club tour, seized her first bit of radio real estate as the smoky featured voice supporting Clean Bandit's 2014 dance hit "Rather Be." The song was a promising start, and its soul-meets-singles club temper paved the way for I Cry When I Laugh, a verifiable disco-pop daydream.
Now, as "Hold my Hand" catches on Stateside, Glynne says she's ready to make an honest first impression—no starry veneer necessary. See what she told PopCrush about steering clear of celebrity, missing Amy Winehouse and why a potential X Factor bid years ago just didn't work out. Plus, check out her remaining tour dates to see if she'll stop by a spot near you!
PopCrush: Most acts don’t typically win Grammys before their first albums come out—what did you make of that?
Jess Glynne: The whole Grammy experience was surreal. Just being nominated was like being in a dream and then being there when they announced that we'd won, I thought "Pinch me, this is a crazy dream!"
I think I read you handed it off to your parents because you don't trust your flatmates around it. Where do they keep it?
On the mantelpiece along with some other gold discs and things. I love my parents, they've been so supportive. In any case, my flat isn't big enough!
You’ve spoken a lot about how much you appreciate being home, and your fondness for North London. How powerfully do those themes feed into your creative process?
I write about things that have happened to me, things I’ve experienced in my life or that of my family and friends—that's what inspires me the most when it comes to writing songs. Without them and without living, I would have no experiences or journeys to talk about.
You’ve said people in the States know you but don’t really know you. Do you feel pressure to make a particular first impression?
I don't feel any pressure. I don't think of myself as a celebrity or think about making an impression. I'm honest and I think that's what comes out in the songs, how I feel about things I've experienced and how I've reacted even when things haven't necessarily gone right.
How do you hope people see you?
Real. Honest. Optimistic. Hopeful.
You’ve classified I Cry When I Laugh as a happier, more upbeat record. Do you find that that’s the type of person that you are, or is it just coincidence that most of the songs are so sunny?
To be honest with you, my dad has always been optimistic and always told me and my sister "you get out of life what you put in" so I have tried to live by this. There's no point in dwelling in sadness, you need to look onwards and upwards.
What would your heartbreak album sound like? Would you ever make one?
Who knows! I haven't started thinking about the next album yet—this one has only just come out here in the States and not until next month in some other countries. Right now, all I'm thinking about is taking this album and the live show around the world.
On the more emotional side is a song like "My Love," which brought you to tears recently—you’ve been pretty forthcoming about struggles with love, so I wanted to ask what that song means to you.
I did cry when we played at the V Festival back in the U.K. recently. It was my first big festival back after [my vocal polyp] surgery and I admit I did lose it when the crowd started singing along with the songs. "My Love" was a No. 1 hit in the U.K. so it obviously touched a lot of people. When I heard them singing that song back to me, that touched me. It was emotional.
What’s your current stance on love—hopeful? Cynical?
Hopeful. I'm big on hope.
And speaking of your surgery, it left you silent for a few weeks. What was that like?
I had to write so much, scribbling on that whiteboard, whether it was sitting in with the band rehearsals, in meetings or out with my friends. Basically, I couldn’t talk for a few weeks prior to the operation and total silence for three weeks after until I got the all clear from the doctor. Good those messages just wiped off [laughs]!
I wanted to ask about "Saddest Vanilla" with Emeli Sande—it stuck out to me as having a very different, sort of old-school sound—something you’d hear from a jukebox. Did you conceive of that any differently than the rest of the album?
Not consciously. Emeli and I had gone out for some food when we met through Naughty Boy. We just talked for a while about our experiences and when we got back into the studio, we started writing what was to become "Saddest Vanilla." It just worked.
You've mentioned a potential X Factor bid earlier on in your career—what happened?
I'd gone to a meeting with some of the producers, and having met them, I just thought this isn’t the right thing for me. It's fine and works for other people, but it was not for me.
You’ve sung with Emeli and Clean Bandit, covered Sam Smith, R. Kelly and Mary J. Blige. Do you have a dream duet partner?
I’d love to have sung with Amy Winehouse. She was such an inspiration for me, but sadly, that isn’t going to happen. But if Frank Ocean, Timbaland or Jazmine Sullivan would like to do something, I’d be there.
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