We’re not sure which is sweeter: her personality or vocals. Though it’s been tough for female singer/songwriters to gain recognition in the dance music industry, Jes has become one of the genre’s few breakout vocalists. Fans sing along with every word and adore the rocktronica queen. This weekend, she’ll be in Vegas to perform at Rain on Saturday, but first, Jes gives us the scoop on emerging from anonymity and her upcoming album.
When you first started out singing in bands in New York City, did you ever think you’d be involved in dance music? Did you go to a lot of nightclubs?
I was always going out to clubs. That was just part of what you did. When I was in bands, I never really did think I’d be this involved, even though I loved and grew up with house music and everything. … I always loved [dance music]. I was working in a studio and the kid I was working with [Mike Olsen] was really into the rave scene and very heavy underground trance. He just sort of got me into that, especially melodic trance. We collaborated on a song called “Star Children,” and that’s sort of where it started for me.
Often in electronic dance music, singers are nameless, faceless voices while producers get a majority of the recognition and credit. How were you able to make a name for yourself?
It was really hard. It took me by surprise because in other genres, that’s never the case, so I was kind of shocked. There were a lot of songs I actually did before I was in Motorcycle [with Gabriel & Dresden]… I fought pretty much all the way to get where I am to just try and get people to know my name. I would do songs where I figured at least my name would be featured, and then it never was and I was very hurt. Even in Motorcycle, I was sort of known by people as “The Motorcycle Girl.”
It’s taken a long time. I’ve been singing in the dance world for a while… Especially since [Motorcycle], I’ve been pushing hard to get my name out there and I still have to fight. It’s a joint effort when you’re working with producers, so you should both get the credit.
Why do you think this happens? In other genres, like pop for example, the singer’s name is all over the album.
I don’t know. I think that’s just the way it’s been for a while. In the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, I just don’t think that people ever pushed for it. It’s important. I have always thought of myself as an artist. I’ve always been writing, producing, playing and singing… With time, I think things will change and they have changed since I’ve started. But you kind of have to be a strong woman and push for it.
Your next album, Highglow, will be released this year. Can you tell us a little more about it?
It is still set for fall… We’ve done many, many songs for it; it’s being chopped down to 11.
I am a big fan of my band and also just using a lot of live instruments. Also, there’s a little bit of an urban feel in some of the songs as well. There’s an amazing ballad; we just recorded live strings and it was beautiful. I had a friend of mine play piano on it. I really cherish the ballads, because I get to shine a little bit more with my singing and my writing, so I’ve got two really, really good ones on there as well.
Besides writing lyrics and melodies, do you play any instruments at all on your albums?
I do play guitar here and there and some piano. It’s funny because I’m always giving [the rough recording] to people I work with and they usually keep a little bit of it, but then go to major players and get a real good track out of it as well.
Will we hear anything from Highglow when you’re in Vegas?
I’d like to perform at least one song from it. We have been working night and day on it for the past couple of months between shows—I go away on the weekends, come back and recover, go back in the studio and then leave again. I can’t give away too much because you know how quickly it goes up on the Web. I performed recently and did two new songs with BT and as soon as I did it, it was leaked right away. So, I definitely want to preview a little bit, but I’ve got to be careful. I don’t want to give away too much yet.