By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Although Jessie Villa has written for 15 different artist projects, which have collectively amassed over 12 million Spotify streams alone, 2021 has proven to be her time now – with two singles already out – “Thriller” and “Wire,” her most personal material to date.
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to chat with the indie-pop artist about what she’s been up to lately and more.
Music Bugle – What was it like making “Thriller”?
Jessie Villa – I get to work with the incredible Aaron Sprinkle on a lot of different projects and the track that he sent me – that would become “Thriller” – was so different from anything we’d ever done or probably will ever do. When I heard the track, I was instantly pulled into a desert Western love story and that’s the perspective I wrote from. The music inspired me to tell a tale of an intoxicating, complicated, addictive relationship. Aaron played all the instruments and totally produced this one and I wrote, tracked and produced my vocals in my bedroom.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about indie-pop music?
Jessie Villa – I love how indie-pop can be experimental in nature and constantly reinvented. Indie-pop I listen to really harps on feelings of nostalgia, with some kind of quirky, interesting twist and I love that. That uniqueness makes it easy to sound like very specific feelings and times in your life you wanna remember. Indie is so broad. I love how different music labeled as indie-pop can be. I like to get swept up in a song with something unexpected or vaguely familiar, but with a fresh new outfit on. Most indie-pop follows pop song form, but with room to play around. It’s my favorite.
Music Bugle – What would you say is your key tool to successful songwriting?
Jessie Villa – One Halloween at a bar in New York, I met a writer from London and he told me, “Be really honest and write what you know” and I think it’s great advice. I might not always follow it because sometimes, I just write stories, but I think people can really connect with your music if you’re being honest about some part of yourself. If I don’t know what I’m feeling, I will do some stream of consciousness writing until I find something to explore and I think that’s a helpful technique. Telling the truth and talking about what you really feel, not what you think someone wants to hear or think is cool, I think is the key.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Jessie Villa – Both! Social media makes it so easy to compare, to keep looking ahead instead of how far we’ve come and to adopt a mindset of never doing or being enough. I follow so many artists and I am so guilty of feeling this, but it’s also amazing for connecting with people and sharing art, ideas, struggles, passions and building a beautiful community. As long as you can use social media for inspiration and community and feel comfortable being yourself, I think it’s wonderful, but the addictive and comparative nature of it is so distracting and damaging for creativity and overall mental health.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Jessie Villa – First off, I am very grateful to be able to say that my job hasn’t changed too much. I have gotten to work from home for years and am so thankful to still have my job. I know a lot of friends who have lost theirs, but like everyone else, it’s very hard not seeing friends, family, going to shows or going out much in general, which is a major source of joy and inspiration and it’s been pretty tough on my mental health, but I consider myself extremely lucky and blessed to not personally have anything major be affected by COVID.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Jessie Villa – SZA! I have “Good Days” on repeat, like practically everyone else. It’s a perfect song. FKA Twigs also always surprises me. So good. The Caroline Polachek obsession is still going strong over a year since I heard her album ‘Pang.’ It’s so freaking good. Ruston Kelly has quickly become a favorite as well. I think I’ve also been waiting for an album like Kari Jobe’s ‘The Blessing’ for a long time. It’s beautiful.
Music Bugle – What’s something you wish happened more in today’s music industry?
Jessie Villa – Honesty about what goes on behind the curtain. A lot of times, artists present this image of everything being shiny and perfect and “together,” but in reality, there’s a lot underneath it. It really takes a village to build an artist’s career. It’s not as simple or beautiful as people might think and everyone’s going through some difficult things behind their polished photos. Let’s talk more about how we’re all on the same level. We’re all dealing with what it means to be a human in a difficult world. Artists, musicians, creators are often put on this pedestal, but it’s scary how easily we can forget that people like Taylor Swift are just people dealing with the same emotions and questions we are. Their job is just more culturally celebrated.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need to escape?
Jessie Villa – If it’s Summer, then underwater if there’s a pool or lake nearby. It’s so quiet under there. Or my room with my phone switched off, that’s good too.
Music Bugle – Away from music, what’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
Jessie Villa – I used to be pretty athletic and have played a ton of sports. My faves were volleyball, gymnastics and ice skating, but most people wouldn’t guess that cause I can be so spatially unaware.
Music Bugle – What do you hope for in 2021?
Jessie Villa – Empathy. I wish people would listen to each other with an ear of understanding rather than judgement. There is too much of that online and it’s dangerous. Tell me your opinions and why you’ve formed them. What experiences have led you to these beliefs? Let’s learn instead of assume and point and divide. That needs to stop, so people aren’t afraid to ask questions and be part of a conversation. We can all get better at this!