by Martyna Turczynowicz
Jessy Lanza is an up-and-coming R&B artist from Hamilton Ont. She made a name for herself with her debut EP “Pull My Hair Back”, a mash-up of R&B and electronic with some funk and soul thrown in. Stylus caught up with Lanza for a Q&A.
Stylus: How is it being an R&B musician in a place like Hamilton?
JL: The music scene is small but cool. It’s not a big city with a huge cultural draw like Toronto or Montreal. People who live there and play music or make art in general do it because they’re compelled to, not because they want to be a part of something bigger. I think that makes for a purer effort, maybe not better but there’s something interesting about it.
Stylus: How did you get together with Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys, who you collaborated with for “Pull My Hair Back”?
JL: He’s from Hamilton as well, and my best friend growing up, her older brother was in Junior Boys. Probably four years ago he asked me to come in and do session work for him on one of his records. Working with him, I’ll have an idea for a track that I’ll show to him or he has an idea or a sort of progression that he likes and then we’ll pass the file back and forth until it’s mixed or more finished. We work independently in our separate studios until we’re ready to mix songs.
Stylus: And now you’re signed with UK label, Hyperdub?
JL: Steve Goodman, who runs the label, has been friends with Jeremy for a long time. When Jeremy and I were thinking of some labels that might fit for the record. We played our stuff for Steve and he really liked it.
Stylus: In an interview, you said that lyricism that sounds good is more important to you than logical lyricism. Can you expand upon that?
JL: I’m really shitty at writing lyrics; I can’t sit down and write a whole set in one go. I’m more successful with piecing things together. Taking vocal takes that I’ve done and piecing them together to make something that sounds better in the moment works better for me than writing out a whole set of lyrics. That’s not to say that I don’t do that sometimes but I’m not trying to be Bob Dylan or something.
Stylus: You have a degree in Jazz Performance, how has that affected your music?
JL: When you’re studying Jazz, one of the first things you learn is how to listen to other people’s music. You learn to pick out baselines and chord progressions and that sort of thing. When I’m writing my music I have this repertoire of chords and ideas that I’ve taken from other people that I incorporate into my own sound.
Stylus: What are your inspirations?
JL: I like lots of different music, lots of new and old R&B. Everything that DJ Mustard puts out is really great. I like a lot of older stuff too; Evelyn King or old Aretha Franklin stuff.
Jessy Lanza will be at the West End Cultural Centre on Sunday May 11th with Ghost Twin and Glass Random.