Sci&Tech Editor Leah Renz chats to Grammy nominated singer Jessie Reyez about preparing for shows, touring in America and Europe and how her work has progressed


Last week I had the privilege to meet RnB/Pop singer-songwriter Jessie Reyez. She enters the zoom call in a green puffer and characteristically cropped orange shirt; a crucifix earring dangles from one ear and her nose-ring is in place. She smiles as I am being introduced and I find myself relaxing, even though I am in the presence of a Grammy-nominated artist.

Hi. It’s lovely to meet you. Thank you for taking the time out to like talk to me! You’re at the beginning of your tour and you’re performing tonight, right? How’s it going so far? How are you finding it being back on stage again?

Oh great, I have no complaints. I’m happy you know. It was just sad all the cancellations and everything that we’ve been through as a collective and I feel like everyone definitely is still riding the wave of ‘we’re outside again!’ you know?

It’s good I’m having fun.  My family’s having a good time, my team’s having a good time. People are having a good time. I don’t got no complaints.


Do you have your family come with you when you are performing in the US? Are they the audience?

Yeah. Well, in the beginning no because I wanted to catch a rhythm. As much as everyone’s on the ‘oh, we’re outside again’ tip, there’s a lot of people that are still getting sick, you know what I mean? So I want to make sure that we’re being as safe as possible, but they came out. I guess we’ve been on the road now for three weeks, maybe two weeks and my folks got here last week.

They’re in the back right now [Jessie gestures behind her] and I’m at the front. They’re at the front doing something in the kitchen.

…I try to do affirmations every day and try to pray when I wake up in the morning, so I think that that’s what helps me mentally


I was like reading some reviews of people talking about your live performances and they always comment on how you have so much energy on stage and really interact with the audience. So I was wondering… how do you always get up the energy to do that every night? How do you prepare before you step on stage?

In terms of preparing, I was just like, mentally, there’s this, like, I pray and I pray with my team and I try to do affirmations every day and try to pray when I wake up in the morning, so I think that that’s what helps me mentally. Physically I prep by making sure I’m staying hydrated, making sure I’m putting an emphasis on my on my physical health. No dairy day of shows, nothing fried day of shows… and yeah working out. So, I guess there’s making sure that my physical and my mental health have priority to make sure that I’m stable enough to be as present as possible and almost hold space for the energy because [Jessie looks up, thinking how to describe what she means] It’s like a symbiotic moment. It’s a symbiotic relationship. There is that beautiful energy and then that just like explodes. [gestures]

So that’s it. It’s the first time in my life that I said like, it’s not actually that. I guess it will kind of be the second is my first headlining tour, where I feel like I’ve ever been as healthy as I feel, both physically and mentally. Yeah, so it’s a different experience for me as a whole because I just feel like I’m much more present than I can be, by default, much more appreciative and much more grateful and just have more fun and feel lighter. More seated in myself. I’m just having a great time. I discovered that I felt like I was in this new space. A few months ago when I was opening up for Billie. And then this tour… It was a different experience. Things just feel like they shifted, you know?


Are there differences between touring the US and then in Europe, the crowds or like the venue’s different?

No, the only difference for me I feel like is when I’m going to countries where people don’t speak English as a first language. Not when I’m in Europe, but like music’s universal, you know, so it’s just, it’s almost like you could argue that there’s a barrier but there’s also an opportunity to communicate in more of an intimate way because you know, you lose it you lose a sense all of a sudden the other ones get heightened. So the connections are more like pure emotion, a shared wavelength.



Do you have like a favourite song to perform live?

It switches. Like right now it’s MOOD. Oooo, actually wait, someone asked me this a few days ago and I said MOOD. But I think it might be BREAK ME DOWN.

I love BREAK ME DOWN. I think that’s my favourite track.

Yeah, it’s one of mine.


In terms of creating YESSIE, in what ways is it then like a progression from like your earlier work like BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US?

Like I mentioned earlier, I changed as a person during the pandemic, a lot of people didn’t, but I was lucky to be one of those who did. I found this book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I feel like it just cracked me open. Made me give myself more grace, but also give myself more priority and then I started making more of an effort to be more in touch with my intuition. And so, by default, it changed. You don’t want to finishing a project. Like before, I’d be more inclined to do like 100 songs, 200 songs, 300 songs and then choose from there and then there’s a lot of the cutting floor. And I still did that to an extent but what I did differently this time is that has there been times on the floor? There was like 50 versions of the song. Like I just chiselled and chiselled.

Then I had to get in touch enough with my intuition to know that I was like okay, emotional detachment demo, has pretend emotional detachment B10, B20, B30 And then when I guess we’d like to be 35 to have enough discernment to know, hey, actually, B5 is it. Despite all work, you know, I invested. That shouldn’t be the determining factor of whether or not you go with something. So finding more faith in my decisions and holding space for that sort of conviction in my decisions, because I was lucky enough to work with people who supported that, you know what I mean? Because anybody else… if I’m working with other producers and bigger teams, that could be like, ‘Yo, we’re on version 33, 35 All all this? You’re gonna say all that was for nothing?’ But sometimes you need to turn over every rock to make sure that you know, I think that that’s how it’s different. It’s just a different process. A different mind state.

…I changed as a person during the pandemic, a lot of people didn’t, but I was lucky to be one of those who did


I guess you need like more confidence to trust in your intuition as well. Is that when you started doing the affirmations like read when you were reading The Power of Now, or is that an older habit?

Oh, it’s an older habit. I’ve been doing affirmations since I was 19. I found the secret a long, long time ago, and it really resonated with me. But there’s also just other elements and deeper practices like, like meditation and like practising non-attachment. And then by default, it makes you more present, you know, and having faith in the greater good earlier, but I’ve been doing I’ve been doing them a long time. But maybe now I’m just sitting there with my conviction.


That’s really cool. I’ve heard a lot of like, successful people talking about affirmations. I also wanted to ask you also about your friendship with 6lack who obviously features on YESSIE. I heard you say that you chose him because he’s a really good friend of yours. I wondered, how did you guys meet and become friends?

We met I think… one of my managers had said that he… Fuck how did it happen? He’s amazing. And I think someone suggested him and I was like, Oh my God, this makes so much sense. Wish so and it works. And then just develop more like just a closer friendship. OHHH that’s right! We met before that. Before all of that culminated. We met at a festival. And he was sick, and I used to get sick often back then. Because I was just working myself hard and I had no boundaries for saying no. And when you get started, you want to just you’re working with so much momentum and after not having an opportunity for so long and working so hard to get your foot in the door, when it finally comes in it’s very hard to like not say no to opportunities and not think that all this greatness is not gonna be taken away.

You’re supposed to say yes, working like crazy for a lot of things. I will get faster but because of that I always had like copious amounts of vitamins in my bag. So he’s like: ‘I’m not feeling good’. And I was like: ‘you’re not?’ and he’s like: ‘no, no’ and I was like: ‘I got you’ and I opened up my pharmacy. And then like, I think that’s one of our first real life connections.

…after not having an opportunity for so long and working so hard to get your foot in the door, when it finally comes in it’s very hard to like not say no to opportunities


Oh, that’s really cute. And I noticed on YESSIE, and your previous works, all the songs and album names are capitalised. Is there a meaning behind that?

It’s strategic, it’s just strategic. When people are strolling through, there’s a lot of songs that aren’t [capitalised].


And finally are there other art forms that you like, besides music and reading I guess. What are you into?

Love reading in terms of… I forget the name. I love making shit. I love making clothes. I love customising T shirts and love repurposing things. Repurposing things is probably one of my favourite things to do just to make something that is something that was essentially dead, you know what I mean? And just giving it a new life as something else. I just have a lot of fun.

Jessie Reyez will be performing at the O2 Institute in Birmingham on Saturday the 28th January

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