Photos by JV Rabano
One could say Jess Connelly’s rise coincided with the advent of bedroom beat makers coming into full swing. It was Under Blankets, her track produced with beatmaker CRWN that put her on the radar. Even before that, she’s been active in the entertainment biz, though her time in Pinoy Big Brother and her short-lived stint in girl group SINYMA no longer qualify as the coolest things in her resume. Steady grinding has assured her success — aside from being a VJ for MTVph, she’s also been working on her mixtape since 2017.
[READ: CRWN opens up about ‘Orchid’ and his growth as an artist]
Her mixtape “JCON” (which, if you squint, looks like “ICON” on the cover art, which is fitting) just dropped, and it’s evident that she’s been putting in work. The mixtape is a collection of steady grooves, which sees the singer-songwriter getting a little more adventurous with her beats and melodies. Y’all should’ve been at the Listening Party though. Everybody was vibing out, and XX XX was the perfect place to sample Jess’s new stuff.
We caught up with Jess at her listening party to talk about her creative process, and her evolution as an artist.
YOUNG STAR: How would you describe the creative process for making the mixtape, compared to when you were working on your EP?
JESS CONNELLY: I think I was definitely more sure of my sound and my style. And I was fortunate enough to be paired and to meet with amazing producers internationally, aside from my favourite local homies. So, the process was the same, I prefer to write on the spot, like go into the session, finish a track there and then think about it later. I can’t write at home, I punish myself too much. It started with the local homies (CRWN, Lustbass, Similarobjects), I started writing with them. Turn Me Down was the first [track] that set the tone for the whole project. It got picked up by Fader and I was like, “What the fuck!” Everything just kind of went uphill from there. I started working on it February 2017. I made Turn Me Down then, I released it June, I made a video with Paco Raterta. And before I had released the video, that’s when I had met my friends, my management in LA. They had found me from Turn Me Down. After that, I started flying out and just working with different producers.
Let’s talk about lyricism. What kinds of ideas or experiences did you find yourself writing about for the album?
As usual it’s all about love. I love love. But that doesn’t mean that’s all good, you know. There’s bad sides that come with love as well. And it’s also just about the self. There’s a track with an interlude called Note to Self. When you hear it, people may not think that it’s about self-love, but sometimes, you just really have to fuck with yourself 100 percent. But lyrically and melodically, I think I’ve definitely come into my style.
What’s different about Jess Connelly now and Jess Connelly circa PBB?
Oh, definitely more sure of myself. I mean I still have people telling me, ‘That’s not possible,’ but just less of them. There’s more believers now than people telling me ‘Oh you can’t do that here, it doesn’t work like that.’ Uhm. You know what’s funny? I read an interview that I did right after PBB, it was like a showbiz interview, and I still talk about everything I’m doing now. The goal has never changed, I was just trying to figure out how I was gonna get there. I don’t ever think people change, I think you just become who you’re supposed to be. I’m JCon now. This is the beginning of JCon.
The past few years I think has seen a sort of renaissance for hip-hop or R&B. How would you say your work jives with the cultural landscape, in that respect?
I’ve been listening to hip-hop, R&B, rap, my whole life. Even in Australia, like, no one… even ‘til now, it’s not really Top 40. I think people should just admit that this is what everyone listens to, what everyone wants to listen to. So I think that has also helped with the acceptance of my music with a lot of people. But I hope as well that my music is for a lot of people.
You can listen to ‘JCON’ on Spotify.