Our new favourite Irish artist producing perfect pop with an alluring queer edge
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS
It’s about time we introduced you to some Irish LGBTQI artists, don’t you think? If you’re a fan of pop icons with an underlying sultriness such as FLETCHER and MUNA, you’re going to love Jess Young.
Jess showed the strength of her songwriting, her unique sound and embraced her sexuality with her debut single Champagne & Caviar, which amounted to rave reviews in Ireland and the UK.
Her latest single, Holding on & Letting Go, has bold lyrics, with just as powerfully stunning vocals to match.
Jess says: “This song is absolutely for everyone who has had to let go of somebody they love, somebody they know they can’t hold onto- but a part of them always will. Whether it’s a lover, friend, or parent.”
Her career is off to a flying start and we couldn’t wait to get to know Jess better before she takes on the rest of the world. 🌈
DIVA: How would you describe your sound for people who haven’t listened to your music yet?
JESS YOUNG: It’s quite sultry pop. Someone once described it as “sophisticated pop with a deliciously dark edge.”
I completely agree. Have you still been making music during lockdown?
I live alone and just before lockdown, my song-writing partner was like “come and stay with us.” We were meant to be writing music together for a week anyway so I went to stay with him and his family. For the whole of lockdown he and I had a whole routine in his home studio writing music, and I even released a single. It’s been great to be with my best friend. We don’t have to hide our LGBTQI vibes in that household, we can truly be ourselves.
Who has had an influence on your sound?
Growing up in Ireland I was listening to bands like U2, The Coors, Thin Lizzy. Nowadays it’s anything I can get my hands on. I want to listen to as much diverse music as I possibly can from across the world.
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
There’s so many people that I admire for what they’re doing right now. Her for example, I adore what she’s doing. I’ve always wanted to collaborate with Gavin James who is another Irish artist I really look up to. Janelle Monáe is a big one because they represent everything a human should be. Johnny Rzeznik, the lead singer of The Goo Goo Dolls, I would die if I ever met him.
Taking it back to the beginning – when did you start out in music?
I’ve always been writing music, since I was sat at a piano aged five in Ireland and I learnt classical music. It all really started about four or five years ago, some personal stuff happened in my life and I’d really struggled with my mental health and sexual identity for a really long time. I remember thinking if I’m gonna be unhappy, can I at least by unhappy doing something that makes me feel excited? That was always performing.
I enrolled onto a song writing course in Brighton, I packed my bags and a month later I was living in Brighton. I wanted to go and explore myself more as a woman who identifies as whatever it is I identify as. I met my writing partner there and the rest is history.
Did music help you become comfortable in your sexual identity?
Definitely. Anything where you have to shine a torch into the darkest corners of your own psyche and evaluate yourself and everything around you helps you to get to some sort of understanding of who you are as a human being. It’s helped me to grow so much.
The music industry is getting there, but there is under representation. I know that the fight is being fought, but it’s still really difficult.
Which queer artists have you looked to for representation?
I’m a huge fan of Troye Sivan. I love his sound. I love that he’s just so straight up with himself. I adore Years and Years. I saw them live and I thought their show was incredible.
I love FLETCHER, Kehlani and MUNA. Their sound is so moody and sexy and sultry and I’m so into that.
What’s the LGBTQI scene like where you’re from in Ireland?
I think the Irish as a population are very open minded, curious and welcoming. When they don’t understand something, they usually ask, and I love that about them. Things have changed now, but back when I was growing up people would use the expression “queer” as a derogatory term. I remember being called a dyke once when I was 11 because I wasn’t really interested in boys at that point in time. There were a lot of derogatory terms being flung around, people weren’t sensitive. It’s changed a lot for the better.
Would you say your fanbase is predominantly queer?
I can’t actually tell. I think my fanbase is massively a mix. I would hope that my fanbase will grow into a nice big mix of absolutely fucking everybody. One big party for everyone.
What message do you want people to take away from your music?
Some days I wake up and I think, good Lord I have been through quite a lot in the last few years personally. Then other days I think I haven’t been through nearly as much as other people and I have to be quiet. I think my message would be to never ever give up on yourself.
You should dig deep and find your own self respect and carry it like a fricking torch. In our beautiful community, we’ve all gone through trauma. People can get bullied and harassed for just being who they are. We can feel like we’re worth nothing because we’re carrying this shame that other people have put on us. Put your value above your head and don’t let anybody else put the price tag on it for you.
What’s next for you? Anything you can share with us?
Seeva and I have a collaboration coming out at the end of the summer and it’s gonna be VIBES. Keep your ears peeled.
We certainly will! Make sure you check out Jess Young’s latest single, Holding On & Letting Go, below.