There are two versions of Jessie Reyez, in a way. The Canadian singer-songwriter has two EPs and several singles of her own, but she first got on many people’s radar through her writing work; she’s written and sung with Eminem and Calvin Harris, among others.
But with her debut album set for release later this year, and a summer run of festival dates (including this Friday at Governors Ball), music listeners will get a much fuller view of Reyez the artist and the person.
We recently chatted with the 27-year-old ahead of this weekend’s festival.
You’ve essentially got two catalogs right now: your tracks, and songs you’ve written for and with others. What’s it like putting together a festival set with those as your options?
It’s super fun! Honestly, I feel like it’s a blessing to almost have two avenues to connect with people. My songs, obviously, people know it’s me and they’re connecting with me. But it’s kind of cool to be able to sing another song, and maybe there’s someone in the audience who hasn’t heard of me before, but they like that song, and when they find out that I’m the one that wrote it, we’ve been connected this whole time and they didn’t know. It’s almost like having mutual friends in common with somebody and you all show up at the same party, and you’re like, “You know him too?”
When was the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
It was a long time ago, before I had anything on Spotify or a manager. This is when I was doing bottle service at this club … in Toronto, and I would always bring my mixtapes to work and try to talk to the DJs and give them my songs. And I met this DJ called Little Pete, and Pete was a DJ on one of the radio stations in Toronto as well. So, we connected, and I told him what I want to do with music, and he said, “Well, let’s go to the studio and create.” We made this song, just one song — and I didn’t have anything press photos, any anything — and since he was an on-air DJ he was like, “you know what Jess, I’m going to try to play it this weekend.” I told my dad what was happening, and he made everybody go outside; there were eight cars in the driveway. He made everybody turn on their cars and everybody put on the radio station. So, it’s these eight cars, all have the same radio station, and they were blaring. And [Pete] introduced it, “it’s a Jessie Reyez world premiere,” and my mom started crying. It was epic, it was happiness, it was great.
What are you obsessed with right now?
Self-love. It’s something I haven’t really given a lot of time to. These last two years, I worked my ass off for the first vacation I’ve had in 700 days in January. I took the vacation, and I got really sick. My dad saw me, and he saw I was stressed and sick and had all this work to do, and he sat me down and said, “If you don’t love yourself, who’s going to do it?” And it just resonated.
Jessie Reyez performs Friday at 3:45 p.m. during Governors Ball which takes place Friday-Sunday at Randall’s Island Park, governorsballmusicfestival.com