Interview: Jessi Malay
Mon, 05 May 2014 12:03:52
R&B gets really sexy in Jessi Malay’s hands. Her Give Me Life EP adds a seductive edge to a classic sound. At the same time, she goes big. All of the tracks come together to tell one coherent and unforgettable story that’s as infectious as the collection’s hooks. Malay adds another to dimension to the genre and will seduce anyone who hears it.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Jessi Malay talks Give Me Life [iTunes link] and so much more.
What ties the Give Me Life EP together?
First of all, I worked with the same producer and writing team on this EP for every song on this EP so it would have that really cohesive feel. Conceptually, the first five songs actually make up a little love story. "Give Me Life" is about meeting that someone who just changes your life forever. It's the beginning of a relationship. "Beg" is like, "Okay, now it's time to make you work for it". On "Do Not Disturb" and "Fetish", we're having fun. "Thing About Love" is knowing you have to let that person go. There's a little storyline to those tracks. It ties together conceptually and sonically.
Did you go into it knowing you wanted to tell a story?
Yeah, it's always just better to talk about what you know. I'm a hopeless romantic person, and that's what I always want to write and sing about [Laughs].
Do you have visuals in mind while recording or do they arrive once you're done recording?
They come once we're done with a track and have worked out the sequencing. I have a production group called The Coalition Group with my best friend. We actually sit down and brainstorm conceptually about what we want to do conceptually for each of these videos. We're a really narrative-based duo. We're truly trying to tell a story through the videos.
Will all of the videos string together?
They do! That guy in "Do Not Disturb" is a good friend of mine. He's like my brother in real life and on-screen lover. We're using him loosely in every video. It will help string the whole storyline through. I'm really lucky to have an amazing team. We've been able to conceptualize the whole thing from the beginning and keep it cohesive.
What artists shaped you?
I'm a pop dance artist first. I always inspired by all of the big female divas whether that's Madonna or Mariah Carey. Janet Jackson was huge for me because her videos were epic, and she's just the best dancer. I'm a dancer first. I'd love for her to come out and do something strong again. Of course, there's Michael Jackson. Right now, I'm loving the whole new wave of R&B like The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, and Jhené Aiko.
What's the story behind "Thing About Love"?
That was a really personal song for me from an experience. It's all about being completely in love with someone knowing they're not the right person for you, and you're going to have to let them go at some point. That reality is so hard. We wanted to do a song I could really sing on and get a little emotional.
If Give Me Life were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
You're going to think I'm crazy, but it'd be The Notebook meets Requiem for a Dream. The love story is as happy and sincere as The Notebook but as dark and twisted as Requiem for a Dream. We did take influence from those too. We take you everywhere from beautiful sand dunes to dingy motel rooms.
How much do fashion and music intersect for you?
They completely intertwine. I started my fashion blog MyWhiteT.com because people kept telling me I didn't have style. They were like, "You're an artist, and you don't have style. You need to look like Lady Gaga and wear meat dresses. You need to look like Nicki Minaj and dress like you're from outer space". That works great for them, but they're both character-driven entertainers. That's not me. I'm not comfortable being that way so I decided I would start my own fashion blog and show I have great style. It's worked somehow. People think I'm a style guru! They come to me to style videos. Fashion lines are coming to me to style shoots. It's played a big part in it. Because this project has been so cohesive and we want it to tell a story and have a complete vision, I like to have control over everything from the music to the costume design and wardrobe. Fashion plays a huge part in it. Being musically driven plays a huge part in my personal style as well.
Have you heard Jessi Malay yet?