Jessie Wagner is known as a “touring singer” and so far she has collaborated on stage with huge names of the industry such as: Lenny Kravitz, Chic, Duran Duran, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. At the same time, she is the frontwoman of the band Army of the Underdog, from New York.
Wagner recently released her debut solo album, “Shoes Droppin”, through Wicked Cool Records and the stand-alone festive single “What Christmas Is To Me”. Two projects that she waited a long time to happen in order to conquer her own space in discography.
With steady, upward steps, Jessie reveals herself as a promising performer and songwriter and proves her worth through 11 brand new songs, “painted” with colors from a large music palette.
But who is Jessie Wagner? What are the collaborations that stigmatized her career so far and what Christmas mean to her after all? Meet Jessie Wagner and find out everything about her future plans through the exclusive interview she gave to SounDarts.gr!
Hello Jessie and welcome to SounDarts.gr. So how did your journey in music start in the first place?
My professional career started when I was fortunate enough to meet the illustrious drummer, Omar Hakim, and write with him. He was the drummer for Chic at the time. He mentioned that Chic was looking for a singer and he made arrangements for me to meet Nile Rodgers and audition for the gig. Nile liked my look and sound and next thing I knew, I was on my way to Japan to do a Blue Note tour. That was my entry into this world.
Could you describe your feelings when you collaborated as a young musician with singers like Lenny Kravitz, Chic, Duran Duran, Stevie Van Zandt, Kid Rock etc?
It is an amazing feeling to work with people you grew up listening to and admiring. It’s like a dream come true. It can also be a bit intimidating because these people are legends in their own right. I was very excited to have these opportunities, but it’s still a job and you have to remain professional. I always put professionalism first.
Does any of these collaborations stand out for you and why?
I’ve had wonderful experiences with each of these artist. I have special memories that came from all of these tours. I suppose Chic stands out in that it was my first professional gig. I learned what it meant to be a touring artist and to perform on a large stage. I had just done weddings up until then. I was also really excited to work with Lenny Kravitz because I wanted to be the female version of him. It was like working with one of my idols. But Stevie Van Zandt is the one I cherish because he gave me my record deal. The fact that he liked my music and found it worthy is validating.
Is there any special moment that you recall vividly among these collaborations?
When you’re on tour, you miss a lot of special occasions at home. I usually spend my birthday in a hotel room between cities. But one of the most memorable birthdays happened when I was with Chic. Nile stopped the show and asked an audience of 20,000 people to sing happy birthday to me. The presenter came out with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I was overwhelmed with happiness. I’ll never forget that amazing moment.
Recently you released your solo album “Shoes Droppin’”. What should people expect from this release?
“Shoes Droppin” is my most vulnerable and honest project. Many of the songs came from a tragic experience that I went through. The songs talk about my struggles with faith, my fears, and ultimately, my hope and acceptance of what life had thrown at me. It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions. It’s also many different genres. I don’t fit in a box. There’s a little bit of something for everyone.
Is there a song form this album that holds a special place in your heart and why?
Caretaker is the one that stands out the most to me. When my life started to fall apart a few years ago, I was having a lot of difficulty handling the guilt associated with the situation. I just wanted out. I wanted my life back. But I also felt like I was being selfish. Caretaker was a hard song to write, but it’s honest. It was also a unique song to produce. I wasn’t sure of my producers vision at first. And then I had this unusual cadence with how I sang it. But in the end, it came out beautiful. It’s so much better than I thought it could be.
Are you satisfied with the response you have received so far for “Shoes Droppin’”?
You never know how people are going to respond to your work. It’s terrifying because of self doubt. It’s satisfying to know that so many people have just listened. But knowing that people have favorite songs and that they meant something to them, is a feeling that I can’t put in to words. I do hope more people discover it. But it feels good to know that so many have enjoyed my work.
A few days ago you also released the song “What Christmas Is To Me”. So what Christmas is to you? Is there a special story behind its writing?
I was approached by an online radio show, Soundwaves TV, to be a part of their Christmas line up. I could do any old Christmas song, but I knew that if I were to be a part of this, I’d want to do my own song – something that really means something to me. So I wrote “What Christmas Is To Me” as a way to tell my family how much I appreciate spending the holiday season with them. It’s all about the love that we have for each other. My aunt passed away right before I released the song. I dedicated it to her. It seemed fitting. I talk about the memories of the love that was shared over the years. She’s now a precious memory that I will hold dear, especially at Christmas time.
Do you have any musical ambitions that you have not yet fulfilled?
I’ve always wanted to tour on my own. It’s been my dream ever since I started in this industry. I hope that I’ll be able to fulfill this dream when Covid 19 is under control.
Do you remember the first song you recorded in the studio? What song was it and what do you remember form this experience?
I think it was called “I Wish I Could Find.” I had just started writing songs. My mom helped me get some experience working in a production space called Blackhouse. I was so nervous because I was around “industry” people – even though it was a small production house in Florida. To me, it seemed like New York. It was all so new to me. I’d never worn studio headphones and I didn’t know how to make adjustments to hear myself. All I could think about was, just don’t look stupid. But that turned out to be one of my best summers. The people were really nice and I learned a lot.
Are there any other artists in the world that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
If genies existed, my wish would be to work with Harry Styles, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, or Brandon Boyd of Incubus. But I’d probably be too starstruck to get anything accomplished!
If you had to choose 5 songs for the soundtrack of your life which would they be?
That’s a tough one. I tend to like a lot of melancholy songs lol. 1. “I Know” by Jude 2. “No Such Thing” by John Mayer 3. “Stop This Train” by John Mayer 4. “I Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer” by Stevie Wonder 5. “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette (maybe all of Jagged Little Pill for number 5).
How much did the Covid-19 pandemic affect your plans?
I thought I’d finally live out my dream of touring under my own name. I pray that I can still make that happen in the future.
What are your next professional plans? What should we expect from you in the near future?
I’ve just been so focused on promoting “Shoes Droppin” right now. I’m going to do a Christmas live stream show Friday, Dec 11th. I hope to be able to do some live shows on stages in front of actually people next year. But I’m always writing. Keep looking out for my next album!
What is your motto in life?
Live for the happy moments.
Interview: Thodoris Kolliopoulos