Jess Glynne: I don't think the idea of a socially distanced gig is realistic
Jess Glynne is back after a career-threatening vocal cord haemorrhage and has a lot on her mind including lockdown, anti-Semitism and whether gig-goers will stay in their boxes after a few drinks. She and collaborator Oliver Lee of Snakehips talked to Alex Green
WHILE some stars spent lockdown frantically writing songs, teaching their fans guitar over Instagram Live or penning long-overdue memoirs, Jess Glynne took time to recalibrate.
The singer, who celebrated her 30th birthday last October, marked a pause after a busy six years in which she scored two number one albums and featured on seven number one singles.
After years of hard touring, Glynne suffered a vocal cord haemorrhage around a year ago and doctors warned her she could damage her voice permanently if she did not take time off.
“It’s been really great. It’s been such a nice chill period,” she explains over the phone. “Last year got a bit intense for me. My diary went so crazy and I was put under so much pressure. Physically, it really did get me.
“So it has been a really nice period for me to get back to myself and find a new balance, which has been really good.”
Glynne’s first release of the new decade is a collaboration with Sheffield electronic music duo Snakehips – Oliver Lee and James Carter – that was, for the most part, recorded remotely.
“Lie For You came when I was doing my second album but it didn’t really fit with the whole sound and concept of the record,” she recalls. “But I always wanted to release it.
“I left it sitting there and then in this period I had a few ideas so I reached out to Snakehips and they put their thing on it. It turned into what it is now.”
The low-slung earworm features Afrobeats star Davido and US rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. It’s also accompanied by an anime-style video – created by Hound Content, director Nicholas Lam and animation studio Point Five Creations – that riffs on the Japanese genre’s classics
Set in a dystopian authoritarian state, it features the four artists involved in a battle with an evil corporation. This played into Lee’s childhood love of series such as Dragonball Z and Samurai Champloo.
“They killed it,” he says excitedly. “It was a really nice way to do something while avoiding making a really budget home video,” she adds, laughing.
The north London singer, famed for her staggering vocal range, is excited to be back on the treadmill but admits she expects little from 2020.
“I’m definitely doing a bit more now but it’s not crazy, crazy busy. I don’t think this year is going to be a busy year. It’s just going to be a ‘something’ year.”
Like many, lockdown has also been a time of reflection for Glynne – both personally and politically.
“Lockdown has been a very telling time for people and it has opened our eyes to a lot of things you wouldn’t have probably realised before. None of us have ever experienced anything like this before. It makes you really think about how you live your life and [about your] health – a lot of different things.
“It’s made me want to not travel as much and not fill up my diary in the way I potentially would have used to.”
Recent months have seen the issue of racial equality come to the fore. Glynne, who is Jewish, was among those who condemned rapper Wiley – known as 'The Godfather of Grime' – after he recently posted a string of anti-Semitic comments across social media.
“You are disgusting. Check yourself,” she tweeted to him at the time.
Grime producer DJ Spoony and MPs including Jess Phillips and Dawn Butler were also among those decrying the musician.
“The Black Lives Matter stuff is super important because a voice is being heard and it hasn’t been forgotten,” Glynne asserts. “It hasn’t just come and gone.
“The anti-Semitism as well. I think that is super important. That kind of stuff doesn’t get spoken about. People just dust that off. Me being Jewish, I think that is a very important voice to be heard. It’s something that hasn’t been forgotten and should carry on.”
Glynne is confident that the end result of 2020 will be positive.
“When we come out of whatever recession we are about to go into and all this craziness, I do feel there are going to be positives.
"My mindset is very different to what it was six months ago. I know that everything has affected me quite drastically. I presume it has for everyone else.”
Lee, who has worked with stars including Anne-Marie and Joey Bada$$, agrees.
“There’s been a lot of totally unplanned time to reflect,” he suggests. “Obviously, there has been some crazy stuff going on in the world. It’s been a good time to get educated. People are usually so busy and it’s almost like they need roadblocks to really make change.”
Both miss the thrill of performance and are keen to return to the live setting.
In August indie rocker Sam Fender played to an audience of some 2,500 socially distanced fans at Newcastle’s Gosforth Park – each group watching from inside a personal raised pen.
“I would be down. That sounds hilarious,” Lee says when asked whether he could see Snakehips doing a similar gig.
But Glynne has some reservations: “It’s a weird one because I feel like when you do a show the whole point is that everyone is being free in themselves.
“I can imagine it being really odd like that,” she says, before adding: “But I would never say never.
“Once people have had a drink and they are let loose, the likelihood of people staying in those boxes – I don’t think it is realistic personally.
“We will have to see, I guess.”
Lie For You by Snakehips and Jess Glynne featuring A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and Davido is out now.