Interview: JES

14 October 2013 - - - The DJ List


It is a commonly held belief that leaders are born, not made. If this is true, then JES’ position in the world of EDM can only be described as her birth right. In a world where few have the vision, creativity and will power to carve their own distinct niche JES has excelled in exactly that. One voice and vision that has forged a career path that is often imitated, but rarely equaled. JES’ extraordinary voice and passionate songwriting has won her the respect and adoration of both the music fans and industry across the globe, releasing songs with the very cream of the international EDM crop. We got a chance to sit down with her during her live tour with ATB in San Francisco.

You're a singer, songwriter, producer, DJ and artist. Which came first?

It actually happened in a very specific order. Singer first, then I started writing my own songs and developing my own style as an artist. Once I started recording my songs the producer part came into play with DJ coming after that. It’s been a non stop learning process since I started but one thing leads to the next and when your heart is truly in it all seems very natural. I think now that we have a broader sense of branding in every area of our lives it is important to diversify your talents and reach into new areas. The new challenge is to make sure that you don’t compromise your artistic identity in the rush to grow.

How did you get into dance music?

It’s a funny story. I often say that dance music picked me because although I always loved it I wasn’t aware of all the different genres and sub genres. I had started out working in more traditional pop and rock genres in New York and was writing and singing everyday doing that. I relocated to LA for a change of scenery and started working in a Hollywood recording studio as an assistant engineer. One of the engineers working there was very much into EDM and introduced me to the rave scene in California. I was really attracted to it because it was so much about the connection of melody and emotion. The music and the voice seemed so connected and that made a big impression on me. Before too long we started writing and producing together whenever the studio was empty. One of our first songs was eventually picked up by PAUL VAN DYK for his “Politics of Dancing” mix compilation which opened a lot of doors to work with other producers and DJ’s and eventually led to more releases and finally getting signed by TIESTO to his own label to release my own songs.

Describe to us your sound.

I like to think that my sound is colorful and edgy with strong melodies. Someone once described it to me as being an out of the box approach with mainstream appeal. I try to keep it fresh so it has changed a little over the years and I just let my voice lead me to new places and ideas. I’m very critical of my work but in the end I always try to let my heart judge it. Music is really just a feeling, so when it feels right it is right. I strive to keep that as my barometer. I enjoy writing lots of different styles of music and some of my most famous EDM songs started out as a very different type of song. Once it gets remixed the sound of the track and production might change, but the best songs for me keep that initial spark and feeling of where they started. You can check my sound on my SoundCloud page.

Talk to us a bit about your latest release "Higher Than the Sun".

I loved working on “Higher Than The Sun” - it’s a beautiful song. I got to collaborate with two wonderful artists on this one, ROGER SHAH and BRIAN LARUSO who have worked together before as Global Experience. Roger and I had been talking about working together for years so when he sent me the track it really started to grow on me. I started to hear ideas for it when I wasn't even listening to it so it became something I really wanted to do. It has a driving sense of emotional empowerment, although it is a little dark here and there. I have had a massive response playing it out at my shows and that is always the best way to road test a track. We all had a great time shooting the video During Winter Music Conference in Miami before the songs release. We were lucky enough to get a great remix package that goes with the incredible original mix and the Aly and Fila remix has proved particularly popular. I even included it in my guest mix spot for ABOVE & BEYOND's Group Therapy Radio show, you can check it out and our magnificent waterfront-themed video.

Any upcoming records you can share with us?

I actually had so much fun working with Roger that we did another song together for his new Sunlounger Album “Balearic Beauty”. It’s called “Glitter and Gold” and we’re planning a single release for it in the near future. Roger has made an amazing remix of this that will be leading the package and I can’t wait for the fans to hear it. I have two songs on BT’s recently released album “A Song Across Wires” which topped the dance charts on iTunes. “Letting Go” with FRACTAL and BT has already hit top 5 on the Beatport dubstep chart so we’re talking about a single release on that in the near future. We also have another song called “Tonight“ which we worked on with TYDI. I’m currently on tour with ATB for his amazing new “In Concert” series. I’m performing 2 new songs from ATB’s upcoming album “Kontact” which comes out in December. I've had so much fun singing “Hard To Cure” and “Together” with ATB and a full live band on the shows so I can’t wait for the official release of the songs. I also had a song called “In Your Eyes” that was a part of FERRY CORSTEN's last album, WKND. It was recently remixed by Dirty Chips and the mix has taken on a whole life of it’s own going to number one in several countries. It still doesn’t have a hard release date but it has become a firm favorite on my weekly radio mix show, #UnleashTheBeat so you can check it out there!

Talk to us about #UnleashTheBeat.

Unleash The Beat is a big part of how I reach my fans. I started a radio mix show which I named after one of my song almost 2 years ago and it grew in popularity very quickly. It started off monthly but as demand increased I had to go to a weekly schedule and it’s currently airing on over 70 stations world wide. I focus on playing music that I love mixed up with new tracks, mashups and remixes of my own songs. There’s no music business politics involved, I have complete autonomy so it’s a real reflection of what I see as the quality releases in the world of EDM. We’re approaching show number 50 right now, so check it out and enter the contests, there’s sure to be lots of fun prizes! In support of the show I am releasing a mix compilation series also called “Unleash The Beat”. Volume 2 was released a couple of months ago and I have been getting some great feedback on it. I’m scheduling volume 3 right now – so look out for that in the near future! You can check out the teaser for the mix compilation while everything to do with the mix show can be found on #UnleashTheBeat.

If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be and why?

That’s always a tough question to answer! I admire so many people in the world of music and as my moods change so do my ideas of my favorite possible collaborators! Outside of the world of Dance I would love to write something with Broken Bells, and I really love what PHOENIX does. I think CALVIN HARRIS has an amazing take on how to make authentic EDM energy fit into a pop radio format and so I would love to try something like that as well, although I would also love to sit down and write something with WILLIE NELSON so I guess it’s a fairly broad palette that we’re talking about! As far a producers go I love to work with people that can capture the magic as it happens and aren't afraid to take risks.

What has been your most memorable gig so far this year?

I would have to say that it’s tough to pick because there have been a lot of great shows this year. Recently I played at Exchange LA in Los Angeles at Insomniac's event “Awakening” and it was completely off the hook. I was singing and DJ’ing the show and the venue was completely packed with a loving, educated and excitable crowd and the energy was really special. I have just come home from the opening weekend performing with ATB’s “In Concert” show and it has been so much fun. Being up there with ATB and full live band has been such a different experience and the energy has been amazing on the opening shows. It’s really something special so if you get a chance to check it out I would definitely recommend it.

Anything you'd like to share to your fans?

I actually get a lot of emails about how to get started in the music business and I wanted to say please keep them coming! I love answering those emails and offering any insight I might have about ways to start establishing yourself in the industry. I feel so grateful to the fans so it’s wonderful to be able to give back in anyway you can. This is a very hard career and they really make every step forward feel like it’s worth it. So if you feel like you want to reach out, whether it’s on Facebook, at an industry panel or a show please do. I’m also starting a blog as a part of my new website which will be launching very soon called that will cover a lot of the non musical parts of my life like healthy living, nutrition, cooking, yoga and other lifestyle choices and I look forward to catching up with the fans through that portal as well.

Bonus Question: Any embarrassing moments you'd like to share with us?

Now there’s a question every performer fears! And I have probably had more than my fair share of embarrassing moments. I was performing a show in LA a few years ago wearing a very revealing outfit and realized halfway through a song that one of my boobs had popped out and was in full view of the whole audience. My friends still remind me of that one whenever I play in LA. I was playing a massive show in Malaysia where the stage was a little unfamiliar. I stepped between two monitors and fell flat on my ass out of sight and had to find my way back onto the stage. Also when I’ve been on a really busy to schedule I have occasionally gotten the name of the place I was performing at wrong when talking to the audience – Goodnight San Francisco never sounds good when you’re actually in San Diego!

Be sure to follow JES on her socials to keep up-to-date:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | SoundCloud | YouTube

About the Author

Caleb Lau
above & beyond aly & fila atb brian laruso bt calvin harris ferry corsten fractal jes paul van dyk phoenix roger shah tiesto tydi willie nelson