INTERVIEW: Justin Jesso | Kygo collaboration launches new pop star...


Justin Jesso has appeared on the US and UK emerging artist market seemingly overnight. However, before this breakthrough came, Jesso had a solid and steady uprise including a stint as a Latin songwriter which saw him receive a nomination for a Latin Grammy Award. With a collaboration with highly acclaimed DJ Kygo on ‘Stargazing,’ he appeared on a collection alongside the likes of Selena Gomez and U2. This big break and subsequent confidence boost caused Justin to make the switch from songwriter to centre stage performer. As he prepares to release his first EP by the end of the year, we talked to Justin to talk about his past, present, and future career as an artist.


You’ve already got stellar collaborations to your name, most notably Kygo. As the only ‘emerging artist’ Kygo worked with on that collection, how is it having such mainstream reception as a rising star?


It’s definitely an honour to appear on the same EP with Bono and Selena. The label actually wanted a bigger name to sing stargazing. However, it was Kygo and his manager Myles, who stuck up for me and kept me on the record.  At the time, I didn’t know them, they just liked the way I sang the words I wrote.


What tips do you give other rising stars for forming their network and community, and the approach to creating collaborations with established musicians?


  1. Get an internship. I started off in the industry as a writer and got put in sessions because I interned for a publishing company. I was the best intern I could possibly be. My bosses put me in sessions when I asked after the internship was over. 

  2. Work with the people around you. My best music has never come from trying to work with bigger writers or producers. It’s always from passionate people who are as excited as I am to work. Make the best music with your friends.


I looove Chicago, can you give us an insight into the music scene there?


I do too! It’s an amazing place. I grew up in the northern suburbs and started recording music in the city when I was 16. I don’t know much about the music scene there though, as I haven’t lived there for years. If you go, you have to get Lou Malnatis deep dish pizza and if it’s warm outside, do the architectural boat tour! 


Obviously, you relocated to NYC / LA afterwards. What pulled you to these cities? Do you think it’s vital for an artist to be in a city with other musicians and industry like these?


Well, Kygo’s done a pretty good job from Bergen Norway, so I think you can succeed in music from anywhere, ha! But it definitely helps a lot to be in a city with other creatives and an industry. I’d say if you want to be in music, you should move to LA or London. NYC is great too but it’s a bit expensive. But I’ve met wonderful musicians who are doing great in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Berlin, Canada…


You were nominated for a Grammy for song writing before your name as a performer made an impact, what made you want to do it this way round?


Yes! I was nominated for a song I co-wrote called Vente Paca, which was a single for Ricky Martin ft. Maluma. It’s in Spanish! (Even though I don’t speak any Spanish... it was originally written in English!) I have been a songwriter for years, writing for others with the hopes of pulling a Bruno Mars or a Julia Michaels, who were writers for others first, and then taken seriously as artists themselves. I’ve always wanted to sing my own songs and am so lucky I get to do so now. 


How involved are you with the tracks, for example what were your contributions to your latest track ‘My Body’?


Oh yes. I’m incredibly involved. I write all of my songs from different life experiences. ‘My Body’ is about that feeling you get in your chest, when your head knows you can’t be with someone, but your body is craving them. It’s a song based on rejection, even though it is so happy. I had a crush on this girl and she turned me down. I knew in my head I had to move on but I couldn’t get over the sharp, tingly feeling in my chest.


I then co wrote the song based off that story with friends Fernando Garibay and Rollo Spreckley. Then two young Swedish producers, Johan and Felix, started working on the track and really made something of it. I then made tweaks with them and finally took it to my friend Theron Neffu Feemster to finish up the production. I was involved in every step, sitting in the studio, crafting. 


The video I did with Darren Craig who is amazing. He brought me the initial concept and we then honed it together. 


Check out Justin’s latest track ‘My Body’ below: