By Anna Birk, Contributor
[Photo via Spotify]
Raw emotion is true to Jessi Blue’s brand as a musician. Accompanied by record-pops and a calm, jazzy demeanor, lyrics such as “My sanity is bound by a single thread / You left me a letter and I cried when I read,” convey the deep, dark wounds of depression and loss of love in their song, “Frank Said”. In emotional and melodic contrast, Jessi brings a much different tone by the end of their September 2019 album, Lips Do What Hands Do, with “Oranje Guice”: “I was the happiest when I wrote it,” Jessi recalls.
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Rising “anti-pop,” R&B artist Jessi Blue has always been fascinated by music and emotion. Striving for their own originality, Jessi hopes to bring a higher level of maturity to their music. As a child, their parents provided much of the inspiration for Jessi’s current endeavor as a singer-songwriter and music producer hopeful.
Young Jessica Happel was surrounded by music and sound as a child. Their father would listen to classic rock bands such as Queen and often encouraged Jessi to do the same. Later, Jessi would draw lyrical inspiration from soul artists such as Amy Winehouse and Fiona Apple.
After finding lyrical creativity, Jessi was able to find their passion for performance from their mother. Jessi’s mother would play live recordings from Justin Timberlake’s Summer Love tour. Jessi, however, was not allowed to watch the videos and would instead, sneak into their mother’s room for separate viewing. Seeing Timberlake on stage sparked Jessi’s interest, and since then, they’ve wanted to share their music with the world from a stage.
Jessi was 14 when they began to professionally produce music. They attribute the beginning of their SoundCloud career to a fellow artist, Natalie Graham, who asked if Jessi wanted to record in-studio. Up until then, Jessi had uploaded cover songs to the popular media outlet, Vine. Their stage name, Jessi Blue, was born after much consideration. In October 2015, they released their first original song, “Pretty Little Thing”, after three months of production.
Jessi, immersed in music throughout their life, was inspired by other artists such as Frank Ocean and Lin-Manuel Miranda—artists who allow themselves to be vulnerable in their music. Vulnerability and passion are the main focal points for the songs that Jessi writes.
As seen in their latest album, Lips Do What Hands Do, production for Jessi begins and ends with emotion. The album is designed to be listened to as if it were a story—every song connected to the other and often referencing lyrics in sister songs. Coincidentally, Jessi makes other references, too, including video game soundtrack samples and not to mention Shakespeare—their biggest reference on the album.
Oftentimes, Jessi would turn on the 1963 film Romeo and Juliet to relax after writing or recording music when they were younger. Fascinated by the diction and personification used, Jessi drew many themes from Shakespeare’s plays: “let lips do what hands do,” a direct quote from Romeo and Juliet, references praying and kissing. “I feel that Lips Do What Hands Do is a really cheeky play on words because what do hands do? Pray,” Jessi muses. “So if you pray with your lips, then you’re kissing.”
Much of Jessi’s album delves into themes such as love, loss and mental health, making Lips Do What Hands Do an appropriate title. These themes of love and honesty are something Jessi hopes to showcase in their music. Listeners are encouraged to look within and feel their deepest emotions when listening to Jessi’s introspective songs and themes. To add the strong pathos that is so common in their songs, Jessi oftentimes begins writing after confronting strong emotions.
“I write to tell myself how I feel about a situation because I feel the most honest with myself when I am writing,” Jessi explains. “I’ll think of a clever line—it doesn’t have to be the first line or the chorus—and then I’ll fill [the rest] in, and it goes from there.”
Attesting to this passion is Lips Do What Hands Do, which tells a beautiful story of finding yourself. When listened in order, the album tells the story of breaking your own heart as you grow and shift to a stronger version of yourself. Through healing, self-discovery and recognizing the toxic aspects of yourself, the album rejuvenates listeners stronger than ever by the end of the record.
“I want to say ‘I love you’ [through my music]. Be whoever you are, and if you feel like nobody accepts you, just know that I do.”
Stream Jessi Blue’s self-released album, Lips Do What Hands Do, here: