British singer-songwriter Jess Glynne sits across from me at downtown Toronto’s Rock ‘n’ Horse Saloon, all fiery red curls and quintessential British style. Her brand of ’90s-influenced, uptempo electronic pop (you know her from Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be“, the song you couldn’t get out of your head for most of 2014) and her infinitely cool vibe seem out of place at the tricked-out bar that sits atop that evening’s concert venue, Adelaide Hall—but a couple of minutes after chatting with the positive, petite pop star I could see her being game for just about anything—even a ride on the mechanical bull. (Sadly, we didn’t have time before soundcheck). We talked about what it’s like to have a number-one album (her debut I Cry When I Laugh shot to the top of the UK charts) and taking a stab at designing through her new collabo with Bench.
When did you start singing and writing songs?
I’ve always sung, like as a kid, so for forever really. I started taking it seriously later on, around 18, 19, when I was thought “OK, this is what I want to do.”
What can uninitiated listeners expect from your album?
I think the album’s really relatable. It’s full of a journey that I’ve been on over the past few years and every song’s got a different story behind it. It goes through hard times, good times, crazy times, things that everybody goes through in life. You know when you idolize someone and listen to a lyric and you’re like “Wow, they’ve been through something that I’ve been through”? That for me is so important. Like, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and Frank [Amy Winehouse’s first album] are two of my favourites, both of which are full of songs that I find so inspiring and relatable. They made me feel like I wasn’t alone.
And they just endure, right?
Completely. I just get joy from listening to them.
What was your reaction when you found out that your album was number one on the UK charts?
I was an emotional mess! How amazing that all that work that you’ve put into something [has been recognized]. There are so many artists and bringing out music and it’s so competitive, it’s an amazing feeling to think that my music was speaking to people.
What do you love about touring?
I love performing more than anything in the world. Jumping on stage with my band, who are amazing, is one of the most exciting things. Bringing the songs to life, bringing the album to life, and listening to people sing your songs on the other side of the world is one of the most gratifying feelings.
What’s the first thing you want to do when you have a break from touring?
I don’t think I get a break, I don’t think it stops—it’s gonna be a mad year but when it stops I think I’m going to be very depressed.
How do you approach your personal style?
My best mate [artist Jolene Henry] has been introducing me to all sorts of crazy stuff. She’s got an amazing eye and has always inspired me artistically, visually and style-wise. I’ve always been intrigued by different things, I’ve never really followed specific trends. I find things I become obsessed with and then I do my own thing, so I’ve always had that kind of eye as well. Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss were massive influences for me growing up. I remember watching fashion weeks and stuff online and being so fascinated by it.
Have you had any pinch-me fashion moments since you’ve been on this journey?
One of my favourite outfits was at my album launch party and it was this Balmain waistcoat, which was just insane. That was a good moment for me. I’ve worn some amazing stuff.
Can you tell me a little bit about your partnership with Bench?
That’s a totally different world really, because it’s not really part of the show world or part of the stage world, it’s more part of the everyday world. It’s so important to be able to put on an outfit that’s comfortable, and it’s so cool to be joined with a brand that’s so supportive of music. And it’s been so exciting to have my own line with them, so the whole thing is just really exciting. And coming to Canada and seeing my face on billboards is insane!
Do you have plans for a follow-up album that you’re thinking about right now?
I do have plans for another album, but have no idea where I’m going with it yet. And that’s the truth. I haven’t had a chance!