Jess Connelly’s ‘ATM’ Sees Her Growing Beyond Cultural Norms [Q&A]

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Photo: Dan Franco

We here at Ones To Watch cannot help but swoon when Jess Connelly’s gorgeous vocals bless our ears. The Manila-based songstress has been leading the underground R&B scene in the Philippines for quite some time, and now she is making us unbelievably proud with a stellar EP, ATM. ATM arrives as a sonic documentation of Connelly challenging cultural and gender norms, and it is sure to leave you speechless and desperate for more from the rising artist.

Opening with a blissful piano arrangement, “hooked / good lover” is all about Connelly being present as she experiences life’s ups-and-downs, just as the EP title ATM (At The Moment) suggests. The synthy “Company” hears Connelly reclaiming her independence as she rejects the very notion of a counterpart. Soon enough, we are transported to Connelly’s arsenal of luscious melodies in “Lock” and “Sweet Tooth.” ATM closes with “Slow Drive,” which is a gratifying track that reminds us of Connelly’s steady progression throughout the notable EP.

On ATM, Jess Connelly shared,

“I was sticking to an idea, then going to another idea because I wasn’t truthful about what I felt. The project, for me, is a reminder to myself that: ‘You’re okay.’ The overall concept was the hardest thing, but it was there in front of me the whole time.”

To celebrate her latest EP, we recently chatted with Jess Connelly about the Philippines, cultural norms, and, of course, ATM.

OTW: How did you first get into music?

Connelly: My dad loves singing and I was always drawn to music. My parents were always supportive and took me to vocal teachers, competitions, and studios. I started off singing at the Filipino functions in my hometown when I was little.

OTW: Did you ever expect to be this far along in your journey?

Connelly: I wouldn’t say I expected things, but it’s always something I wanted and prioritized. I’ve never expected anything else for myself.

OTW: What are some differences between living in the Philippines and Australia?

Connelly: They are like night and day. Naturally, there’s a big difference culturally with the Philippines being a developing country; some things that are normal here are unheard of there and vice versa. From simple differences like traffic to general living standards and opportunity. Both have their pros and cons.

OTW: Can you describe every track on ATM in one word each?

Connelly: “hooked/good lover” - present. “Company” - option. “Lock” - honeymoon. “Sweet Tooth” - lust. “Slow Drive” - release.

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OTW: What was the creative process like for ATM?

Connelly: I spent my summer in LA writing pretty much every day. I went through a whole bunch of different emotions and ideas but nothing really stuck with me. I’m the kind of person that tries to control a situation to assure myself of the outcome I want and I realized that what was holding me back so one day I said, “Fuck it. I’m going to do, think, and feel however I like in this moment and that’s okay.”

OTW: What advice do you have for young people struggling with cultural norms?

Connelly: What may feel heavy when you’re young becomes smaller as you and your surroundings grow. Seek to understand, not to be understood.

OTW: If you could sell out a headlining show anywhere in the world, where would you pick?

Connelly: London.

OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch?

Connelly: Jason Dhakal, Ryan Trey, Yeek.

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