A Sit Down With DJ Jes
There are few female DJs who can dominate and be successful in a male predominate DJ world. However JES is a tremendous songwriter, singer and DJ whos talents and gifts speak for itself as she continues to blossom in the EDM world while having an exceptional voice and style. Believing in her vision and setting challenging goals, JES has topped Billboard charts and continues to receive widespread radio play, not only in the U.S. but internationally as well. She also has a radio show called Unleash The Beat thats syndicated on over 60 stations worldwide.
JES extraordinary voice, passionate songwriting and legendary collaborations have cemented her as one of the most recognized names in dance music, with recent features in MTV Buzzworthy, Jungle Magazine, Cliché Magazine, Marie Claire and a place in Vibe Magazines "Top 10 Females in EDM 2013".
"I think working through a number of different styles and genres helps you find your own voice. You have to stop imitating and start creating."
What influenced you to take the step to work with music?
Well my dad is a businessman, but my mom is very musical. Growing up in my house, the radio was always on and we had a piano and a guitar. I grew up going to plays and recitals, and I was humming, singing, and making up songs from a really early age. I can remember being as young as 5 years old and making songs. I went to a performing arts school and was part of the choir and always going out for auditions. I never really wanted to do anything else. I feel kind of lucky that way because I was always surrounded by music and knew what I wanted to do. Its not easy you know, but I kind of went into it sort of naive. I was working at studios, working for anything that can get me around music.
What was your interest or inspiration behind wanting to become involved with music?
Well, it was with me since I was so little. I was lucky enough to have my mother with me who was into music, into theater and into the arts and she made sure we had lots of instruments around. It was something that was so natural. When I was fourteen I got to record my first song. When that happened it was kind of like a dream come true. I never looked back from there. I kind of knew I wanted to pursue it at a young age.
How easy was it to change to today? Do you remember your first ever trance track?
I do not think any genre of the music business is easy to break into. It can be fun at times, but it's definitely hard work. I grew into the Trance of the World in an organic way and it was not really a decision on my part at that time. I always like to say that Trance found me. At the time that I started writing with the band, I was working in the rock genre. I was also working as an assistant engineer at a recording studio in Hollywood, and one of the engineers was a Trance producer. We started working on songs. One of the first tracks we made was picked up by Paul van Dyk for his 'Politics Of Dancing' mix compilation and that really kick started my career in Trance. I think it's easier in some ways now with the advances in social media. In that respect I do not think things have changed too much.
Youre originally from New York City. Which part did you grow up in?
I grew up on 10th Street between University and 5th. Then when I was around 12 years old, my family and I moved uptown to the East Side, but I still have an apartment in the East Village.
Who are some of your favorite female EDM artists/DJs?
Kate Bush, Bjork, Little Boots, Roisin Murphy, Miss Nine, Annie Mac, Miss Kitten, Peaches, Dinka.
You have had the opportunity to work with the best in the industry, you have achieved what most could only dream of what`s next for Jes?
Thats a tough question! For me a great producer or collaborator is someone who brings out the best in me. I love to be inspired and find something new inside myself with collaborators. Theres also long list of people I would love to work with even outside of EDM as well but some are including Nigel Godrich (Radiohead), Dangermouse, Stuart Price as well as Dillon Francis, Calvin Harris and Axwell!
When making the original track with Tiesto, what was your approach?
I wrote it while I was on tour in Europe. Tiesto was looking for a new song for In Search Of Sunrise 6, and I didnt have much time. I was working on it in hotels and recorded the vocals in a bathroom. I intended to re-record the vocal in a studio before the project was finished, but Tiesto loved the raw first takes and kept that vocal in the final version. It started off as a moody alt rock ballad with just an acoustic guitar. It was very innocent, direct, and emotional, and I knew Tiesto would take that and mold it into something different and inspired.
Do you think your style of music / singing has changed over the years? Would you still call yourself the queen of Rocktronica?
I thought that I was still in the habit of working on that project and that I had to call myself the queen of rocktronica. It's very refreshing to get back to the things that first sparked your passion for a genre. I think it has changed a lot over the years and my voice too! I would still call myself the queen of Rocktronika and I love that title. I think I may have strayed a bit, but with "As We Collide" I think that brought me back to my roots. I've been recording more of the newer material by getting back to my roots. I think that's what people liked in me in the first place!
Where do you think trance music will go in the future?
I think that Trance music is really a feeling. Its the emotion that brings people in, and as long as we make sure that the emotion doesnt get lost, it will continue. It has been incorporated into so many other genres, and EDM had become more of a melting pot for a while, but I think the genres are more clearly separated at the moment. Im not sure that Trance will break into the mainstream, or even if anyone involved in it would want that. Its identity is a little left of center, and thats what makes it so special to the trance family and fans. All music forms grow and change over time. As long as trance continues to reach people emotionally, it will continue to grow.
As a female songwriter, singer and DJ, what are some of the challenges that you face or have faced on the regular in a male predominate industry?
Well, you know. I dont really think of it so much that way. I think it just makes you have the need to be really at the top of your game, to really be confident, and to also know all aspects of it. Im first and foremost a singer and a songwriter. And I kind of find myself in the DJ world. I also produce and play the piano and guitar. I try to do my best. It also made me learn about the business more.
What are some of the most memorable moments from your career?
That's a tough question to answer. I have been so lucky to work with so many amazing people, so it's hard to narrow down the short list. Singing at the Beijing Olympics was an amazing moment. I had to learn Mandarin for the event, so I was more nervous than usual. It was absolutely amazing to be at the Olympics and to get to perform; it was like a dream. I also performed "As The Rush Comes" on the legendary UK chart show "Top Of The Pops." Beyonce was on the me, and Maroon 5 was on the same show, so that was pretty much an amazing day. My first performance with Tiesto was another unforgettable moment. We played at the Heineken Hall in Amsterdam during the promotion for "In Search Of Sunrise 4."
What do you like to do in your spare time when youre not writing or producing?
I dont get as much spare time as I would like, but it was always my dream to be involved in music so I would never complain about being busy. I love to stay healthy and love to cook. I also work out regularly which includes a little gym work and also hot yoga. Yoga has really calmed me down so much and given me the space to think! I love a great trip to the spa and Ive been working on a cook book! I enjoy to be out in the country and I love the beaches around East Hampton so I try to spend as much time there as I can. I am a keen equestrian and love horseback riding; I also enjoy reading and painting.
What advice would you give to the "new generation" of singers?
I think the first and most important thing is to remember. You need to locate yourself in the community (not necessarily physically) and get involved with that. Learn how to listen to your instincts and your heart. Everyone will have an opinion about you and your music. It's going to be a difficult path to be prepared for rejections and some struggles. Build a team around you of the collaborators and supporters that compliment your natural talents and make sure that every day you are doing something to further your career. Work hard but be humble. Hone your craft and focus on being the best "you". Lastly, never give up, ever ...
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