It is not common to find a fresh face that is both sharing the stage with DJ Kygo while having been nominated for a Latin Grammy, however, Justin Jesso is that rare gem. To many, it may seem that the 25-year-old rising star has recently found the spotlight overnight, but in reality, he has been building his career for as long as he could remember. Justin Jesso is a perfectly packaged singer, songwriter, composer, and musician.
Jesso knew from a young age that this was going to be his career path. “The first song I ever wrote I was seven years old and I was at camp. It was to get a girl and her name was Leah,” he told us and joked, “I don’t think it worked out with the girl. I Should have quit right there but I didn’t.” Fast forward, Jesso polished his songwriting chops at New York University, and with an internship at EMI Music Publishing he fell into an international crew of songwriters, found some success, and ended up where he is today.
“Nothing I’ve ever done is intentional. Most of the writing that I’ve done I’ve fallen into”
Nominated last year for a Latin Grammy for “Song Of The Year” as a writer on Ricky Martin’s “Vente Pa’ Ca”, Jesso explains that, “Nothing I’ve ever done is intentional. Most of the writing that I’ve done I’ve fallen into”, “I’ve had songs that have been out in Germany, in Korea, I’ve had Spanish songs, EDM songs and none of it has been my intention to write a certain kind of song. I write a song and it ends up finding a home.”
Whether it is writing music for himself or writing songs for others Jesso has a very organic songwriting process, and it continues to differ every time. “I’ll go in and essentially try and get at what an artist is feeling and thinking or what I’m feeling and thinking,” he said. He tends to work off of experiences that he has had and then Jesso will let the creative process take over.
Jesso discusses what it was like to work alongside Kygo
As for his step into the spotlight with Kygo, it was almost as if it was overnight. Jesso was featured on the recent Kygo single “Stargazing”. “A couple of friends and I wrote the song on a Monday, Tuesday it was sent to Kygo, Wednesday we had a completed version back from Kygo, and by Friday it was a confirmed single that came out two months later,” he explained. This sort of process is very unusual for the music industry, and Jesso just got lucky to have his song come out immediately.
The song gets about two million streams a day and to date has been streamed over 175 million times. He even got to tour with Kygo in Europe. “I didn’t expect it now, and I didn’t expect it in this way. I certainly hoped that eventually, I would get to the place where my music would be heard. It’s my voice, it’s my story and it’s a piece of me that people are responding to which is really cool,” he commented. Recently Jesso was in Bergen, Norway shooting an orchestral version of “Stargazing” which is accompanied by a very cool video.
“It was just so cool to shoot the song with the power of a full orchestra behind me. It was a totally different and awesome experience and the video turned out great,” he explained, and the video is totally worth watching.
Currently, Justin Jesso is focused on writing songs that are going to be his project and are going to find a home with his music. The only difference in the writing process is the production process. “Most of the time when I’m in the studio writing songs I write from a place of where my heart is, so the writing process isn’t different,” he remarked. Since he will have complete control over the production and sound of the music, he will have a chance to represent sonically who he is.
Jesso explained that his music will strive to fuse soul and pop music, what he grew up listening to and what he is currently experiencing. Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Otis Redding, and Prince are among his favorites.
“A part of listening to music is work for me. Listening to what’s on the radio and what’s on the charts is what I do so I kind of listen to a little bit of everything and kind of listen to a little bit of nothing so that I can kind of listen to myself,” he explained when we talked about what he’s currently listening to. Unless you’re Justin Jesso, you shouldn’t be listening to anything. His song “Stargazing” with Kygo is available to stream everywhere and you should be on the lookout for a single release from Jesso himself soon.
Like Justin Jesso? Then keep up with him on, , and .
Read the rest of our feature with Justin Jesso here.
Purchase a print copy here.
Get more updates from Beyond the Stage here.