Jessie Reyez talks conquering the 'male-dominated' music industry, working with Calvin Harris (Exclusive)
Jessie Reyez is certainly one to watch.
The 28-year-old singer-songwriter launched onto the scene in 2017 with single, "Figures," and has written several other smash hits for other artists, like Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa's global 2018 song "One Kiss."
As she continues to reach new heights in her own career, Reyez is also making sure to help other women break into the notoriously exclusive music industry, where women comprise just 17 percent of artists. The Canadian-born singer is partnering with Secret and the non-profit Women in Music to heighten the careers of fellow females in the business via a talent search.
In conjunction with the launch of the partnership, AOL caught up with Jessie Reyez over email to hear about the collaboration, who her mentors in the music industry have been and why her hit-making work with Calvin Harris has been so successful.
What about this campaign with Secret spoke to you?
Secret has a history of supporting women’s progress and telling stories of women’s strength, which is something that I feel equally passionate about. As a woman in the music industry, this campaign in particular resonated with me since I’ve experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to make head way in such a male-dominated field. Since I actually use the product and because we share the goal of equalizing opportunity for women in the music industry, this partnership was a natural fit in more ways than one.
How have you navigated the industry as a woman? Have you noticed any improvements?
At first it was difficult for me. I was younger, naive and scared to speak up when I felt like I was being taking advantage of. I was lucky to have strong mentors, both women and men, who helped me understand that sometimes you have to teach people how to treat you. You can't accept anything less than respect, and learning to voice when something is not up to your standards. Having been able to find that strong voice within myself has helped me a lot, but breaking into such a male-dominated industry wasn’t easy -- women make up just 17% of artists, 12% of songwriters and 2% of producers. Finding support along the way was crucial for figuring out how to navigate when I was, often times, the only woman in the room. Since I know first-hand how intimidating that can be, I'm amped to be involved in Secret’s partnership with Women in Music. Secret is funding membership and mentorship opportunities for 250 aspiring female musicians and making a commitment to feature 100% women-made music in future campaigns resulting in more opportunities to make female voices heard.
Who have been some of your key mentors in the industry?
Two mentors I was really fortunate to have had in the industry were Daniel Daily (one half of the duo dvsn) and Michelle Anthony.
I met Daniel at The Remix Project (a Toronto youth program I was fortunate enough to be a part of). He helped me learn how to elevate my songwriting. I remember he would always tell me, "Make sure you cut the fat and don't be redundant in the information you're delivering." I've applied that throughout the years and I've been fortunate enough to continue to work as a song writer while simultaneously working as an artist, and I think it's very much due to me being able to hone in on my skill more after having graduated from the program.
I met Michele Anthony a few years ago while my management and I were being courted by different labels to partner with. Michele is the Executive Vice President of Universal Music Group. It's a special thing when you can learn so much from someone by just watching how they work. She commands respect, she's had to work hella hard to get where she's at and her plethora of knowledge of the music industry, the way she's been able to solidify such powerful alliances throughout the years and her history of success speaks for itself. From any time we have a meeting, to having been invited to perform at Michele's event with Gloria Steinem, I feel like I am always learning from her.
What advice do you have for aspiring young female artists trying to make it?
Don't be afraid to fail, don't be afraid to take chances and don't be afraid to teach people how to treat you. You have to set the precedence for yourself, know your standards and make sure you walk away when sh-t is just unacceptable and if you are not being respected. Part of me feels like having been born a woman, is the equivalent of having been born up-hill -- though our goals may be more difficult to achieve, once we get there, we will be twice as strong for it.
In addition to your incredible successes as a solo artist, you've also written some huge hits for others, like "One Kiss." How do you decide what to record yourself and what to give to others?
Honestly I equate it to knitting a sweater; I may have made it, and it may be beautiful, but once I try it on, if it's not fitting me perfectly, I know that it was probably made for someone else.
You've written a bunch with Calvin Harris. What makes that working relationship so successful?
Calvin Harris is an amazing producer and human being. He was one of the first people to share encouraging words with me after "Figures" was released, through a Twitter DM. He ended up inviting me to L.A. to collaborate with him. This following fact should go without saying, but he was super respectful and made the environment very comfortable. It's sad that the sentence above isn't always the case. Sometimes people have ulterior motives for wanting to collaborate -- but his were pure. He is a real musician, and I think that's probably why we clicked so well.