JES is no stranger to the EDM game. The talented singer-songwriter has established her legacy and unique sound with some of the scene's most notorious names.
Being backed by legends such as Paul van Dyk, Tiësto, Paul Oakenfold and Armin van Buuren, JES is one of the most requested artists to provide vocals for EDM songs that music fans have come to know and love over the years.
With the recent release of her sultry and smooth track "Carry Me Away," JES took the time to chat with iEDM in an exclusive interview about her background, creative process and some of her favorite festival clothing.
iEDM: Hey JES! Thanks for doing the interview with iEDM. I know both California and New York are special to you. How did both coasts influence you as a singer and performer?
JES: I was born and raised in Manhattan so I’m actually a native New Yorker! I have lived in Los Angeles for about 10 years although I do go back and forth between the two cities as my family still lives in the city. I have to say that as much as I love New York the West coast has had a huge influence on my music. When I still lived in New York I was mainly working in Rock and Pop.
I took a work-ation in the Caribbean singing standards in hotels. When I went back to New York--an opportunity to go to LA came up. I had never been there so I was very excited to go. It was exactly the change I had been looking for at that time. All the different scenes and new people really inspired me and when the time came to return home I decided to stay on as hard as that was. It must have seemed like a pretty drastic decision to my friends and family in New York but the music was calling me.
iEDM: Besides answering the call to become incredibly talented singer, you are also a writer! I have respect for people who love to write. What made you start your lifestyle blog, "The Rock Star Diet?”
JES: I love to write stories and poetry and I also love food and cooking so a lifestyle blog based around food seemed like the perfect combination. The Rock Star Diet started out as a real diet. I have to stay in as good of shape to be able to fit into my stage outfits! The music lifestyle can make it very difficult to stay healthy with late nights and traveling so it’s important to stay strong and healthy.
I don’t eat meat but I do eat some fish. I love to try new and exotic foods, which is one of the most fun parts of being on tour. I also have a kitchen in my studio so I cook most days and experiment with new recipes for the blog. I love to make healthy versions of popular dishes that are healthy and low in fat but still satisfying which is the whole idea behind the blog.
iEDM: Speaking of healthy living, what inspired you to take part in the Honolulu Marathon? Just thinking about all that running is making me break out into a sweat.
JES: Haha! I would say to anyone who is athletic or runs that they must consider running a marathon. It’s great to push yourself and it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
I ran as part of a group which raised money for Team 2 End Aids in Los Angeles. It’s a great cause and I was able to tie the marathon in with a show in Hawaii while raising money for a very important cause I believe in. I don’t consider myself a runner at all but there was a real sense of achievement when I crossed the finish line which made it all worthwhile and I have plans to run another one!
iEDM: We are all going to be rooting for you! Your voice has accompanied some of the hottest tracks on the EDM scene. How did that path come to be for you?
JES: I think the truth behind that question is that dance music picked me! I had never set out to write and perform dance music. I had pursued a career in music from a very early age. When I lived in NYC I was mainly working in pop, rock and R&B music.
After I moved to LA I had a job working as an assistant engineer in a studio. It was there that I was introduced to trance music. It was really interesting to me so I started to try and write a few songs in that style. I started going out to clubs and meeting some of the DJ’s that were playing trance and seeing how it worked in the clubs.
I was working on songs with a lot of different DJ’s and producers when I met Dave and Josh (Gabriel and Dresden.) They liked my songs and invited me up to Oakland to work on some tracks together. We wrote and recorded “As The Rush Comes” in that first session. That song went on to open a lot of doors for all of us and really introduced us to the scene. Since then I have strived to improve my writing and performing and always try to make music that comes from the heart.
iEDM: It's no secret that fans of the EDM scene love their festivals. What are some of your favorite festival and concert memories both as a performer and a fan?
JES: I always loved playing at the Global Gathering Red Rocks. I was lucky enough to play there a few times and after the shows, I always made it a point to climbing to the top of the stairs there to watch the show below. It’s really majestic up there and I find it to be a place of great spiritual energy.
I played at a huge festival in Poland for over 10,000 people. After I played I went down into the crowd with Tony McGuiness from Above and Beyond and we just danced with everyone pretty much unrecognized which was so cool.
I also performed at a Bacardi festival in Lebanon right on the beach at Byblos. The wind was blowing the night air in off the ocean and the waves were rolling in behind me as I performed. It was truly a magical night.
iEDM: You know what else is magical? The fact that you've performed on every continent except Antarctica. Is there a chance that Antarctica will see a JES performance? It sounds like the one last thing to cross off on your bucket list.
JES: I have looked for a South Pole EDM festival but I don’t think there is one yet! I would like to cross that off but I’m thinking we should leave the last great wilderness for the penguins. I think we’re already doing enough damage to it with climate change!
iEDM: Good point. Global warming is real. Judging by the pictures you post--you are a very stylish person. How do you put your outfits together? Is there anything in particular you like to wear when you perform?
JES: I love clothes and fashion so this part of being in the music world is perfect for me. I have a few different designers that I work with in LA to come up with the concepts and outfits and every trip home is also accompanied by a lot of running around to find interesting pieces.
Recently I have been working Adolfo Sanchez whose work I love! I also work with Maggie Barry, who I also love, on a lot of my stage outfits. Stage clothes need to be very durable as my show is very energetic and there’s a lot of jumping and dancing. I’m always searching for the perfect heels that look great and allow you to dance for 90 minutes or more!
Generally I bring two or three outfits to a show and decide at the last minute what to wear as the energy of the night starts to build! In the end what gets worn is all be based on my mood!
iEDM: People need to go see your show. Your energy rubs off on everyone around you. Awards are a big deal. What were you feeling when you were nominated for Best Trance Song at the 2015 International Dance Music Awards in Miami? Do you remember what it was like to be surrounded by other major names in the industry? And what about the Grammy awards last year? You are on a roll to say the least.
JES: It’s always amazing to be nominated for a prestigious award and I was really happy that “Letting Go” got a nomination. I really loved working on that song with from his “A Song Across Wires” album so it was great that the fans recognized it.
I have presented at many of the big awards shows and it’s very exciting to go out there with your peers from the dance community and give an award out. We usually have a lot of fun backstage and everyone is funny because everyone is quite nervous but once you’re out on the stage it always flows very naturally.
Attending the Grammy awards was one of the most exciting days of my life. It was amazing to see how the day unfolds and to be able to walk the red carpet. I was especially proud because “Hold On” (the song that was nominated) was the first release on my own label “Intonenation” so it was great to be able to talk to everyone about that. I even got to sit next to Justin Bieber at Sushi Samba before the evening awards!
iEDM: Biebs! Let's talk about the new single, "Carry Me Away." "Carry Me Away" is absolutely beautiful and is going to capture the imagination of music fans everywhere. I read that you wrote it during a delayed flight during a snowstorm. What was that process like for you?
JES: I’m always writing and I always have some basic songwriting tools with me like a voice recorder, headphones, and Abelton. Being stuck there was very frustrating and I was looking out of the window at the weather and feeling like it would never end when the melody and the words came to me. I sketched it out on my voice recorder with notes about ideas for the track and the feel of it.
Once the idea recorded and it was more fully formed I reached out to the guys and we worked on it over the Internet using WhatsApp to leave voice messages for each other. I think voice messages work much better than email as you can tell a lot from the sound of someone’s voice about how they really feel!
iEDM: Preach. What made you decide to collaborate with the Game Chasers? It was the perfect fit.
JES: I met Clint when I did "As The Rush Comes" in Lebanon and we have been close friends ever since. He started to work with Shant and they make such a great team. Our first collaboration that we worked together on “Hold On” which was nominated for a Grammy as best remixed recording last year so we have a fairly high bar to maintain! They are really inspiring guys to work with and they have a natural gift for those uplifting tracks so I thought they would be perfect for “Carry Me Away” and as usual they came through with flying colors!
iEDM: I have the feeling we can all expect many more great collaborations between you guys in the future. Speaking of collaborations, What were you feeling when Markus Schulz decided to take your song and create his own trance remix? It is totally getting me ready for summer.
JES: Well I love Markus and it was very exciting to hear that Markus Schulz wanted to do his own remix of the song. I’ve never done an actual collaboration with Markus, although he has remixed a few of my other songs. We’re old friends so it’s great to be doing something together again. Markus has always been a really creative producer so it’s no surprise that he came up with this amazing version and I think it’s so different to a lot of the other remixes he’s done recently.
iEDM: Completely agreed. Before I let you go, what do you see for yourself in the future? Are there any collaborations that EDM fans can expect going forward?
JES: There are always a lot of new songs floating around at my studio and of course many exciting collaborations that I’m working on right now.
I also have and artist EP that I’m working on at the moment which will be coming out in the next couple of months. I have a totally non dance project that I have been working on for a while which is almost ready to launch and I’m really excited to see what everyone thinks of it. It’s much more mainstream sounding but the songs are all still very much from the heart so I think my fans will totally get it.
There is also a very alternative project that I have an EP in the works for with Jim Jacobsen, also known as Juki B from The EELS. It’s called “The Heavenly” and I have really enjoyed working on it as it’s a chance to break out of a lot of the normal expectations of modern music!
Cover and thumbnail photo provided by Katheryne Thomas.