Q&A: YouTube Stardom, ‘Wonderland,’ and the Teenage Years with Jasmine Thompson

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The ever-evolving world of the Internet and social media have given rise to platforms for singers and musicians all over the world to display their passion for music. YouTube, in particular, has helped us discover incredible talent, whether it be through original music or covers of our favorite songs.

16-year old Jasmine Thompson began uploading covers to YouTube when she was just 10 years old. Since then, her pure yet powerful vocals have garnered the attention of over 2.8 million YouTube subscribers and over 6.5 million monthly Spotify listeners. The numbers are impressive, but the music speaks volumes. Her recent EP, Wonderland, has proved that she has a maturity beyond her years in both the quality of her music and lyrical content.

Thomspon just wrapped up a tour with Astrid S, and we had the incredible experience of hearing just how naturally beautiful Thompson’s voice is IRL. We were also fortunate enough to chat with the young singer before the show, and her sweet yet confident personality is certainly reflective of her singing. 

OTW: How has touring with Astrid S been? Are you excited for tonight and to play in L.A.?

Jasmine Thompson: I’m just so happy. I’ve been to so many new places over the past two weeks, it’s been incredible. Astrid’s whole team is super lovely. It was my first time in Toronto, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Minneapolis, and I’m going to San Francisco and Santa Ana for the first time next week. It’s been amazing. It’s honestly been a really cool, intimate feel as well. We’ve been playing a lot rooms just with people who are there to listen to music, and all the crowds so far have been really lovely.

OTW: That’s amazing! What’s your favorite city out of the new ones you’ve been to?

JT: I really liked Minneapolis. It felt like it was very music-based. After we finished the show in Minneapolis, my brother and I—my brother’s on tour with me at the moment—were walking around, and we saw a venue opposite that was doing another gig. We went to like this electronic music show. It was crazy. So I liked Minneapolis, and Chicago. Chicago was so beautiful. I love it there.

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OTW: Let’s go back a bit to when it all started on YouTube. What prompted you to start uploading videos?

JT: I was watching a lot of YouTube videos when I was younger and I’ve always really enjoyed music. I’ve been learning music since I was eight, I think, like properly getting into piano lessons and singing lessons. When I was around 10, I was watching a lot of YouTubers, and I loved watching cover artists and people playing piano and singing. I wanted to try it out, and I just did it. It didn’t feel like a big deal. It was more just like, I’ll film it and upload it and see what happens, and everyone was really supportive, so I continued to do it.

OTW: You said that you didn’t feel like a big deal, but was music always your main passion? Did you want to be a singer at 10 years old?

JT: I’ve always loved music. I’ve always just wanted to make music and I liked learning piano and singing. I went to a theater school where we had singing lessons every week, and we had drama lessons and dance lessons. I’ve always wanted to do something creative. Uploading to YouTube didn’t feel like a big deal. It wasn’t like, “This is what’s going to start my career.” It was more like, “This seems fun, so let’s do it.” It’s mainly just that I really enjoy music, so I wanted to do it.

OTW: When did you start writing your own music?

JT: When I was quite young as well. I think I was eight or nine. As soon as I got chord shapes on the piano, I started writing.

OTW: Writing at a young age, where do you draw inspiration from, and has that changed for you as you’ve grown older?

JT: I think it’s always stayed the same for me. I like writing songs about stories that I’ve heard or stories that have happened to me. I was quite an emotional child as well. Even when I was eight, I was really sensitive to other people’s issues, even like in movies. Now I write about things that actually happen to me and more experiences like that. I remember one of the first songs I released was based on a fairy tale.

OTW: What was it like going from putting out covers to putting out your original music?

JT: That was a lot scarier. I wasn’t rushing to put out original stuff because I wanted to wait for the right time. It’s a lot more personal, and if I write it, I’m more precious about putting it out. I already know a cover is good because I’m passionate about a song, and other people seem to be passionate about it as well. Say I cover a Bruno Mars song, and it’s a popular song, it’s popular because it’s good. I feel safe in covering it, whereas with my song, no one’s heard it yet, and I don’t know if it’s terrible or not (laughs). Eventually, I just started putting out original music.

OTW: So now you have original music out. Can you talk about your newest EP, Wonderland? What was the inspiration behind it?

JT: It all started with the song, “Wonderland.” I was using Pinterest all the time. It’s really handy for forming ideas, so I was forming an idea for a video called “Wonderland.” It was all about my mates and I going around London, and I just chose photos that I thought represented what my mates and I do back home. The video was all about walking around London, messing around being teenagers, but also about having a lot questions. When you’re around my age, there’s a lot of stuff that’s like, “What do we want to be when we’re older?” Of course I want to be a singer, but what kind of person do I want to be? All of my friends are having the same questions as well, especially because they’re choosing the next colleges they want to go to, or what they want to study more, or what job they want to get in the future. The board gradually grew into something that was super creative and fun and artsy, but also quite sad. I wrote the song “Wonderland” based on the video. After that, I sent the song and ideas to my label, and they suggested we build an EP around it. I was like, “Oh yeah, true. That would be a good idea” (laughs). I went through all of the songs I’d been saving up for the past year or so, and I saw how this song and that song and this song relate to “Wonderland” and how I can build a story around it.

OTW: How was shooting the video for “Wonderland?”

JT: It was really fun! I really enjoyed. It was the first time I shot a music video with my actual friends. It was shot in places my mates and I actually go to. We shot it on film, and it was just really cool. We basically just had a camera crew follow me and my mates around London. They didn’t tell us to do anything. They were just filming us and captured little moments.

OTW: With the different pathways you and your friends are taking, of course you’ve had an amazing experience pursuing music, but is there anything you feel you’ve missed out on?

JT: It’s obviously a different way to grow up and experience your teenage years, but I’ve definitely gained a lot more from it. I’ve been able to travel so much, and it’s been incredible to have so many experiences. The only thing that I miss is being at home, to be honest. And if I wasn’t doing it now, hopefully I’d be doing it in five years or so, but I’d rather start early, and I had the opportunity to when I was younger. I think I’m spending the whole of October at home, and I’m excited to just go home and to see my friends as much as possible. It balances out. I spend my time working, and I spend time at home.

OTW: What are the differences for you in uploading covers versus writing your own original music?

JT: I still treat them in the same way. For covers, I’ll only choose a song that I actually like, whether it’s the lyrics or melody. I like to do both very simply, just on piano and sing it. With my own songs, I’ll write a melody and lyrics and write on the piano, and it’ll turn into a song. I think I’m more precious about my own songs because I have to spend more time thinking about it. With a cover, the lyrics and melody are already done for me.

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OTW: What are your plans for the near future?

JT: I’m definitely going to try to release more music. I’ve been playing an unreleased song on the tour so far, and that’s been really fun. I think we’re releasing more music videos soon. When I go home, I’m going to spend a lot of time writing. I love writing in London. I’m going to go see some producers and writers I love working with and do some more songs.

OTW: Are there any people in particular you want to collaborate with?

JT: I’d love to collaborate with Avicii. He’s definitely someone I’d love to try singing on a track with. I really like his music. There’s a lot of people in London I love, like Tom Misch.

OTW: Finally, who are your Ones to Watch?

JT: A lot of London crowds, like Will Heard, Zak Abel, and Mura Masa, who’s massive now. And Billie Eilish. She’s incredible, it’s ridiculous.

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