Photo courtesy of artist
This week, we caught up with Ones To Watch featured artist Jetta in the midst of a whirlwind of a month. Shortly after making her television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live last Thursday, Jetta headed down to Austin for SXSW. While she joins the ranks of hundreds of artists vying for this year’s spotlight, after speaking with Jetta, we know this fiercely talented and fearless songstress deserves the eyes and ears of all. Check out our Q&A below, where we discuss the making of her Start A Riot EP, fashion (she’s a natural sartorialist), her biggest dreams, and words of wisdom from Paloma Faith.
So I know you’re based in London - where are you in the world at the moment?
I’ve been in the U.S. for most of the year, I’m in New York right now and going to LA in the morning.
On Instagram you’ve been mixing and mingling a lot, and fashion plays a big role in your self-expression. Is there anything you can speak to about how fashion has influenced you as a musician?
Yeah I think you are right — they’re both about expression. I think similarly with my music, I like to experiment, you know blending different genres together and different influences, and I think the same with my fashion sense. It’s very much a combination. I always tend to have something that’s from the high street, like you know something like an American Apparel piece, with a designer piece - with some, like, vintage jewelry. It just always happens to be that I always mixed and matched in that way. The two go hand in hand, for sure.
It’s fashion week in Paris right now, how closely have you been following everything?
I’m trying my best to! Actually I miss fashion week every time but I end up catching it on a plane. I’m from a country where fashion week is, but I’ve been catching up online. I have my personal favorites and actually like a lot of new young designers too, because I really like some one who’s fresh, and having the ability to watch them grow and vice versa. I feel sometimes there’s a different kind of hunger and different kind of passion when you’re both doing something you maybe just got this desire to do, and work an extra bit harder because you don’t know if you’re gonna actually get there or not.
Who are your favorites right now?
I have Moxham, they’re a jewelry line. I really love all of their chunky necklaces and a lot of neck brace. And just quite a futuristic style. That, and I love Alexander Wang. I’ve been keeping a close eye on his stuff, I’m a really big fan. And Margiela. There’s this brand called Juun J which is really good, quite androgynous stuff, which I’m really into. Because I’m in New York right now and it’s super cold, I have my eye on a few really nice jumpers - right now I’m wearing a jumper actually. It’s this jumper, but you’ve got the materials and textures that are really interesting - and you can layer them. And so it’s not just like wearing any old jumper; you can feel casual, or dress it up.
For sure. Layering, especially, is so key.
Yeah. And I’m really into the whole androgynous look. I’ve actually just got some really really nice Doc Martens. They’re like really low, cut-off ones, ‘cause I have all the really classic ones that everyone wears and I wanted something a little different. I think now everyone experiments.
If there was any one designer who you could fuse your music with, or if you could have your music soundtrack a runway show, whose would it be?
Ooooh…do I have to pick one? [laughs] I’d probably want to pick like two! Okay let me just say Moxham. Probably because I think it’s similar to my own sense of fashion - how it is DIY, with a futuristic twist. I remember I used to watch movies like Bladerunner and Element, and I loved how they felt really out of place almost in the setting…it was quite futuristic. So I think Moxham really reminds me of that. The whole thinking outside of the box - you wouldn’t necessarily expect a necklace to be made out of a leather strap with all those crazy kinds of metals; I think it’s really innovative.
Your fascination with piecing together so many influences must certainly play into the music you’re making now. What was making your new record like?
Throughout the whole process, I’ve been working with one producer, Jim Eliot, and I’ve felt really so happy that I’ve been able to grow with this one person. I spent 18 months in a studio with him in the countryside. And being from the city and going out to the countryside, the minute I reached that greenery, I felt so inspired. Like, my mind opened. Everyday in the studio I wanted to write as honestly as I felt, so every song is from the heart and it’s all based on true experiences, events, things about myself and people I’m close to. Overall, I’d say the body of work is kind of like a roller coaster really, just all those ups and downs and emotions, and all the little bits between, you know? When I listen to music, I want to feel like I’m being taken on a journey. I want people to be able to be in any mood and have a song on there that fits that mood. So both the EP and the album are both about that.
Where are you right now emotionally, on the roller coaster?
I am so really close to the highest point! The “just before you go over the edge” squealing kind of exciting. Obviously I’m excited for Jimmy Kimmel this Thursday, SXSW, the John Newman tour…there’s just so much I’m looking forward to. After being in the studio all that time I’m really excited to show everyone what I’ve been working on.
That does sound exciting! So I’m sure you picked up a lot from performing with Paloma Faith. What kind of lessons did you take away from that?
You know, it’s that balance isn’t it? About working really hard and getting serious about everything while having as much fun as you can. And I think that’s what I’ve learned: the amount of hard work you put into it as well is totally equal to the amount of talent you might have. They have to go hand in hand. Like now when I’m traveling, my stamina for travel is so much stronger when it comes to crossing the time zones. I’m so used to it now. I think the funniest thing I learned from Paloma when I was singing with her was when she gave me a pair of shoes, like six inch heels, and was like, “You’re going to wear these on stage and you’re going to dance in them.” The whole time I was just thinking “Don’t fall! Don’t fall!” That was the biggest confidence booster ever. Once I’d overcome that one, I was like, yeah I can do anything now.
Haha definitely, I know that is no small feat.
I think I could actually run in a race in heels now!
We’ll have to set something up, and have you come over and film it.
Oh my god I am so totally up for that, I’ll do it!
You said somewhere that if you weren’t doing this right now, you’d be an astronaut. That, combined with the tarantulas crawling all over your face in your music’s artwork, makes you seem like either a daredevil, a free spirit, or an adrenaline junkie - or all of it.
It’s so true!
Would you really want to be an astronaut if you weren’t a musician?
I have this real fascination with space because it’s like the unknown and none of us really know what is going on and it’s just that real mystery. It’s still that same idea of skyrocketing and aiming high. When I was 7 or 8 years old, my dad got me a map of the solar system and it just blew me away. I just have this fascination with it I think, like most kids do for five minutes. I watched Gravity and it just reminded me why I wanted to go to space so bad, despite all the terrifying things that happened in that movie. It still seems epic, you know?
What planet would you visit if you could go?
I think Mars, because the closest thing on Earth, to me, is performing at Red Rocks, which looks to me like how I imagine the landscape on Mars.
"Start a Riot" is a special song for you, and it’s the title you also chose for your EP. Can you tell us more about writing it?
The process of that was so much fun with Jim and the guitarist on the track, Ethan. So Ethan sat in the back of the room, and he was really quiet and he had come up with this just really cool drum beat. And all of a sudden all these images came flying into my mind and an emotion was attached to all these images. Which is how I often write, with images and words together. When the emotion came over me, it was this reminiscent feel, and it reminded me of when I was a teenager with all of my friends, and felt like we could just do anything, and this real sense of adventure and nothing could stand in our way. And I just had to write about that. The idea of starting a riot is obviously not like a violent thing, it’s more about running with your fears and embracing them. Because we all have fears, but it doesn’t mean you have to pretend that you aren’t afraid of things, it’s like you can be scared and still go for it. And yeah, then i remember Ethan was very quietly like, oh— how about this part? And he came up with the really heavy guitar sound. It comes in under when “my heart aches” and it was really the piece that completed the jigsaw. Because the lyric “my heart aches” is such a delicate thing to say, but then with this really aggressive sound with it, I just really liked the contrast of it. I thought it was so perfect.
What kind of images do you see when you’re writing?
Sometimes I just close my eyes and, say, Jim comes up with a chord sequence, it will just make me feel something. It’s almost like my subconscious is my therapist in that moment, because sometimes I look back at it and am like - did i really write that? Is that what I was thinking? Then it’s like…yeah, it makes so much sense. Kind of like a picture paints the words…?
You mean a picture is worth a thousand words?
[laughs] Right, like a picture is worth a three and a half minute song!
Well I’m looking forward to seeing you at SXSW! You need to be our fashion correspondent.
I need to find some heels so I can do it!