She was toping the canadian billboards with her first single “The Rush” when a global pandemic started. But here comes JJ Wilde back on track with the launching promotion tour of her first album, “Ruthless”!
How are you JJ?
JJ Wilde: Good, I’m very well! How are you?
“Ruthless” is your first album and it got released during a crazy period. In which mindset are you right now considering the success you get without being able to have a proper traditional launching season?
JJ: Obviously I’m very grateful for any success that is happening but that’s definitely a weird time because traditionnaly you would play shows right after the release and I had this vision in my head that once you have your song playing on the radio you’ll have shows and more people will show up and you’ll see what you’re building. So it’s kinda strange in that way because I can’t really see it, but it’s not because I don’t see it that it’s not there. I’m seeing it in other ways. I think social media are a great way for connecting people when you can’t play shows so I started doing live streams. It’s not the same as a concert but it’s all that you can do. But it was fun, I could see the numbers climbing on there, more and more people watching and the response I was getting through messages, so that was great though. And I also feel that people need music more than ever right now. I mean it’s a time when people are listening and consuming more art because they are less busy with what life brings on usually like career, job and all. The hope is once the pandemic is aside, people will be so excited to go to the show that they’ll kinda explode!
We assume your album toped the canadian billboards during a semi-quarantine period, right? How do you manage to build a relationship with your almost new-born public in this context?
JJ: Social media have been a huge tour for me. I started live streams every night, it was called “Coffee & A Cover” and it was just when the pandemic first started. It was a way to bring some normal things in people’s life like in the sense to bring people together. And then people responded pretty well to it, they had something to look forward too, it was like a little program. I got more and more people messaging me like: “Hey, I heard your song on the radio” and it was encouraging to see that they’ll listen to the song and would feel so good to tell me about it!
We know a very few about you here in France but we got the chance to get to know you and your experiences through the lyrics of some of the songs on “Ruthless”, in “Wired” for instance. So who’s ruthless, is that you or was it life with you at a certain time in your life? Can you tell us a bit more about how you made it in this though business?
JJ: That title to me is basically about the two years that really inspired the album. It was a dark time in my life, I was unhappy, working three part time jobs and doing music on sides and it was exhausting. I was going through different experiences with music, thinking I was getting a chance and then not. A lot happened in this chunk of time and it was ruthless, I mean life was throwing a lot of curve balls at me. It was complicated to continue at that time and that’s what the title is about.
As we said earlier, “Ruthless” seems to be a very personal album. How free were you to give birth to that first baby of yours? Did you write all the lyrics and also had the melodies in mind for a while or did you have to follow some guidelines from Black Box since it’s your first album?
JJ: I’m very lucky with the team I have. They’ve heard my songs, I started with them with a collection of 500 voice notes, half songs, full songs. I think my manager, who’s also the head of the label had an idea like : “OK, she’s got something to say”, and he was interested in just hearing my story. But we definitely sat down together and said: “OK, what do you wanna say ?” but it was never: “This is what you should say or look like”. Part of that is just a working relationship, realising if you try to tell me what to do, it wouldn’t happen! There was always suggestions that I was free to say no to. I was very free and I feel very lucky because I know a lot of artists who don’t have the same freedom to put their heart on into something, but that is what I got to do and it was great.
It sounds like you have pretty various rock music inspirations, “Home” sounds pretty blues when “Trouble” is a crazy dark and strong rock n’roll song. Was it something important to you to give several rock dimensions to this album?
JJ: It’s interesting because one of my favourite jam in music is actually folk music. I love rock music but I’m always about the story telling really and folk has great lyrics focusing on stories. It wasn’t really intentional that it came to that rock space but I just found as I was writting that I enjoyed writting it, it was really exciting and I love the instrumentation, it made me feel alive so we just kinda continue that but it wasn’t intentional to get the album to sound like that. It was: “Let’s get the lyrics and then the guitar down and then we’ll build on that” and my producer and I built every little piece of the songs together. It was a very collaborative thing. It really was an organic collaborative effort but it was all just kinda little building blocks that made the songs the way that they are.
If you had the chance to sing a duet with whoever you’d like to on your next album, who would it be?
JJ: Lyrically, I’ve always idolize Bob Dylan for his storytelling and guitar work so that would be amazing. One of my favourite band is King Of Leon, I’ve always dreamt of doing a tour with them or opening for them or anything, that would have been a goal of mine as well. And then a female artist that I love is Elle King. I love her songs, I think she’s great, she’s a powerful woman, she got things to say and I love her music styles as well: there’s some rock, some blues, some soul. So these three but I could keep going because there are so many!
Which song of this album are you the most proud of and why?
JJ: That’s an interesting one. There’s favourite for different reasons I guess. So my absolute favourite is “Feelings”, the last song of the album. It was one of our last days of our recording sessions in L.A. with my producer and we were kinda at a point when we were thinking: “Let’s just have fun”.
It was a day when there was no idea of what the guitar should sound like or ideas of anything, it was just a voice note that I had written after a period of two weeks when I basically stayed in my house just before quarantine, I didn’t leave and I just wanted to write.
And so I was almost capturing the feeling of insanity, I literally felt like I was going insane because I was going through these huge emotional waves of feeling extremely inspired and thinking everything I was writting was shit. I remember just kinda sitting and strumming my guitar, staring blankly into nowhere just like murmeling these words and I remember my producer being like: “What is this about ?!”.
The whole song is just to capture the feeling of insanity and what it looks like. We had so much fun because it was one of those days when we used a lots of sounds instead of instruments, there’s pots and pans clinging, we had a very creative song like that and that was definitely my favourite creative process and it was right at the end too so there was no pressure. It was: “We might use the song or we might not, whatever!”
“Funeral For A Lover” was also probably one the most difficult song for me to write and sing and kinda put out there. It’s very vulnerable, it was hard for me to put out. So for me that’s a song I’m proud of in the sense of putting it out there but also the response that I was getting to it of starting a conversation about mental health and people coming to me after and said: “You know I went through something similar the way you tell this story, thank you for saying that because I never felt confortable talking about it”. For me, being able to accomplish something that gives people hope is something I’m proud of.
That’s good because you anticipated our next question with this last answer. “Feelings” is an interesting song to finish your album with, a pretty dark slow melancholic one, even with an outro at the very end of it.
JJ: Yeah I definitely did that on purpose! I knew it was the end of the album and it was like everything that I wanted the album to be is in this song. I’m a sucker for the secrets outros. There is one album by Damien Rice I listened to when I was younger, called “O” I think. And when you listened to the last song on CD (because now on Spotify that can’t happen so I hope people will listen to “Ruthless” on CD as well), you have to really wait, like a minute and thirty seconds or something like that, and then a new song comes and I was like: “A secret song!” and I was so excited so I thought: “I need to do that at least one time!”
We can feel so much energy in “Ruthless” and we’re not always sure if it’s rage or determination or something else that drives you in there, through explosive songs like “Knees”, “The Rush” or “Trouble”?
JJ: I think it’s definitely both negative and positive vibes. Because I wrote it over a spare of time, there was a lot of different experiences and emotions and let’s say a chunk of it came from these bad two years. So there’s a lot of desperation, anger, rage, frustration and then there’s a few songs about me kinda realizing my self-sabotaging habits and trying to correct them so there’s a little bit of like glimmers of hopes in there as well. I think there’s a wide range of emotions because I’m an emotional person! I can go from being super happy to super sad and I don’t hide my emotions at all like anybody who’s close to me can look at me and if something’s wrong they take one look and know immediately.
Your latest song “Best Boy” got released a few weeks back and sends a pretty empowering message to women. As you said yourself and since the music industry is pretty male crowded, how did you feel and fit in there at first?
JJ: For me that song is all about flipping the narrative and stereotypes of what men and women are allowed to do, how they are judged for talking about the same thing. This is all about empowering, self expression, just being whoever you are, owning it and not having a fear of criticism. It definitely comes from my experiences, I mean as a woman in life, it doesn’t have to be in the music industry, we face tones of unfair stereotypes, sexism, especially in the service industry and bars. Especially in music industry as well, I wouldn’t say there’s a lack of respect because it’s a lot better but there’s still this kinda boys’club mentality and you see that in production, in touring, in everything. Maybe I’m just being hopeful but I think that it’s starting to shift a little bit but it’s still present. Even as an artist and a woman I was afraid to say those things at first, am I gonna be taken seriously about this or are they just gonna discard this because I’m saying these thing or am I oversexualising myself? And with the video as well: the day before we were filming, I was super excited but also nervous and I thought: “Maybe that’s a bad mood for my career” and then I realized: “Wait, this is why I’m doing it, because I shouldn’t have this thought, this is exactly why I’m doing it”. At the end of filming, I felt great, I felt amazing, I felt empowered, I thought: “Yes, this is exactly what I want and this is exactly what I want people to feel when they watch it”. And not just women: in the video there are men in short shorts and makeup and if it’s who you wanna be you shouldn’t face criticism for that either. So I think it deals with more than one stereotype, it’s trying to squash all of them.
Last question: as our website is called “RockUrLife”, what rocks your life JJ?
JJ: Good food, good conversation, good music and a few drinks!
Thanks a lot for your time JJ!
JJ: Thanks, it was great talking to you!