WHO You Are, the debut album by Jessie J, marked the London-born singer out as an instant star.
It went on to sell more than 2.5 million copies, while the singles Price Tag and Domino reached Number One across the world. Do It Like a Dude stopped just short, at Number Two. She also served as a coach and mentor on two series of the BBC talent show The Voice but recently announced. she was quitting. This week she releases a new album, Alive, and next month starts an arena tour.
Were you nervous about the new album?
Yeah, because the first album is about ‘Why are you here?’ but the second is, ‘Why should you stay here?’ and I was more nervous about that. With the second one people have preconceptions, they have songs that they really like that they want to hear again, they have opinions of you, and they have expectations of you. But I’ve actually enjoyed the experience much more than I thought I would. It’s nice to get to know your voice again. It’s like being a chef and always cooking the same meals then branching out into baking. It’s nice to feel you’re exploring another piece of yourself. And I’m excited about pushing myself on stage. This second album is harder to sing but I like a challenge.
The reaction to ‘Wild’, the first single from the new album, was amazing, wasn’t it?
Amazing! Bearing in mind it wasn’t a normal single, it just came out when the video came out… there was no pre-promo, no six-week build-up and it went top five! I just wanted my fans to have something before everyone else got it. I wanted to see the power of music without all the social media and press and it was a new way of doing it. I didn’t want the music stations and all that to get it before the fans did. It took a lot of convincing to get it through but it went to number one in four countries, so the reaction was great. I couldn’t be happier.
What’s your favourite track on the new album?
“t’s the same one as all the journalists liked actually. It’s called ‘Daydreaming’ and it’s a real 80s throwback. Prince meets Whitney. Very feel-good. I’m really proud of the album but this one I wrote on my own and it was about someone I liked and I wanted them to notice me. It was an exaggeration of a real feeling I had. I said to someone who listened to the album for the first time the other day, ‘What words would you use to describe it?’ and they said, ‘Positive, light, honest, anthemic…’ and they’re all words that I really hope describe it. I feel like it really represents me
Are there no sad songs?
There are a few that are quite emotional but there’s one song on there that is so sad I don’t know if I’ll be able to sing it live. It’s called “And I Miss Her” about a family member who’s not very well. The song is basically about when you have someone you love who’s ill and it’s like they are gone even though they are still there, if that makes sense.
How much of the album did you write yourself?
I was part of everything. Four songs I wrote on my own and on the others I was with Claude Kelly and there’s a song on there called “Breathe” that I wrote with Sia in New York: she did the melody with me and I did the lyrics.
What other favourites do you have on the new album?
There’s a song called “Gold” that is about someone making you feel like gold, whether it’s my fans, my family, my friends. It’s just really feel-good. A lot of the songs are very feel-good.
So, why did you leave The Voice?
Forget the emotional side of things, they sent me over the diary and they needed me for 42 days and for 40 of them I was on tour. And I can’t be replaced on my tour. I don’t think people would appreciate a look-a-like coming out. I was gutted, really gutted but my tour is way more important and I have to prioritise that.
Since your last album, you had the massive Olympics performance, didn’t you?
It was amazing! I was the only person who performed twice other than Emeli Sandé. As I was walking up that catwalk it was like I’d reached that moment where I’d watched people like Beyoncé do that when I was 14 and 15 and I was determined to enjoy every minute of it. I just came off shaking with excitement.
What have your other highlights been since the first album took off?
Glastonbury always sticks out for me because I had my broken foot but the minute I stepped out the sun came out. And all the amazing charity stuff I’ve done this year. From the little things no one knows about to the big stuff like shaving my hair for Comic Relief. I’ve always had a soft spot for children who are sick because at one point in my life, I was in Great Ormond Street with a heart problem and I understand, I can relate to it. I remember being there for tests a lot and knowing that Baby Spice was in the building and praying that she would know you wanted to see her.
Your look has always been a really strong part of who you are, hasn’t it?
At the moment I have no stylist. I don’t want to be a cartoon character anymore. I sometimes look back and think, ‘Who’s idea was that?’ I want to be normal but with a little extra special. I know my fashions now. I do my homework, go shopping...
I’ve controlled everything on this. The covers, I’ve picked Rankin to do the photography, I’ve chosen my video director, I’ve written the treatment, the pictures that go in the sleeve, the track listing, it’s all me. I’m a control freak. [Laughs] And I should be in control. It’s my baby and I don’t like it when I’m not in control!
October 19, Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield, 7.30pm, from £27.50. Tel: 0114 256 56 56. www.motorpointarenasheffield.co.uk