With a sound that reminds you of everything from Off The Wall-era Michael Jackson to modern day indie music, Jessy Lanza is currently a hot commodity. Fresh off a performance at the prestigious South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, Lanza is in the midst of touring her debut album, Pull My Hair Back.
The album itself (which Lanza co-produced) is an unqualified success with sharp lyrics and catchy electronic beats that mix funk, R&B and synth in equal doses and, with a tour stop in Ottawa coming up, The Revue caught up with Lanza.
The Revue: What are your inspirations and what kind of music shaped your sound?
I think what probably most deeply impressed me was mainstream R&B music. When I was a teenager artists like Ciara, Cassie, Aaliyah and Missy Elliott were very big. So that was the music in high school that I started passionately liking. I never grew up listening to dance music but in the past 5 years, especially when I met Jeremy (co-producer Jeremy Greenspan), it has become one of my influences. He has such a big background in dance music and got me into artists like Jack Sierra and Bambounou that I really love listening to. So dance music has become one of my influences but it is still primarily new and old R&B music.
The Revue: When did you know that this is what you want to do with your life?
Jessy Lanza: I’ve always been into music. My parents are both musicians and put me into music when I was really young. I’ve been teaching music and giving private piano lessons for a long time but it wasn’t until I signed with Hyperdub and realized people were interested in what I was creating, that I thought being a performer could work out.
The Revue: What inspires your lyrics?
Jessy Lanza: Like most pop music, I write about the stuff that most people write about, like love and wanting somebody that doesn’t want you back. Those are feelings that everyone feels. A lot of times I’ll get a phrase from somewhere – like a movie that has a line I like – and improvise. Sitting down and writing a page of lyrics for me doesn’t work. So taking a more light hearted approach is better for me.
The Revue: How has it been dealing with success?
Jessy Lanza: It’s been good and I’m kind of lucky I live in a city in which nobody really cares about the kind of music I’m doing. I think a lot about what I’m going to put out next. It’s the pressure of now you have people’s interest and keeping people interested is what freaks me out.
The Revue: Has any show stood out you as a “woh” moment – either good or bad?
Jessy Lanza: I played in St. Louis and there was nobody there but the people that were there, the seven people, were all very enthusiastic. It was a slaughter of a show but the people that came were very nice so that pretty great. Other times I’ll think it was a good show and some guy will come out and say “who does your beats” when it’s just me on stage. I’m like “there’s nobody else around”, so that can be pretty disappointing.
The Revue: What can people expect from your live show?
Jessy Lanza: I don’t wanna say it’s mellow because it’s usually the crowd that defines what kind of vibe the show has. It’s only me and a couple of synthesizers on stage and I’m not a showman so I try to do everything I can to make the music sound as good as it possibly can.
The Revue: What’s the next step?
Jessy Lanza: I’ve been mostly working on new music and touring a lot. I want to put out a new record by early 2015. I’ve also done some collaborative things but I’m not sure which ones will come out.
The Revue: If you could open for any artist in history, who would it be?
Jessy Lanza: It’d be pretty sweet to open for Evelyn King. That would be the most awesome vibe ever. She’s the first one that comes to mind. I think I’d have to change my set a little bit but she’d put on a pretty good show and it’d be a good atmosphere.
Jessy Lanza performs at Mercury Lounge in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 30. For more information and tour dates, go to:
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