Jessy Lanza Pop Like No One's Watching
Published Jun 06, 2016"Not to get too clichéd, but I think I'm always anticipating that things can change in my life at any given time. I'm always kind of obsessed with the idea that someone can die. It's a weird thought. At the same time though, good things can happen too."
Indeed, a lot of things have changed for Jessy Lanza over the past few years. The Hamilton-born and based singer/producer experienced a significant breakthrough with her 2013 debut, a pulsing album of R&B pop called Pull My Hair Back. Overnight, she went from an unknown upstart to a critically acclaimed artist on the Polaris Music Prize shortlist, performing her music all over the world. Success was a gift — but also a curse.
"Since I was a kid I've been pretty nervous. I was one of those kids that cried at everything and anything," Lanza explains. "I've always felt that having music has really helped with being caught up in your own self-obsessed neuroses. Music has always been a great escape for me. When I released the first album, I didn't really have any expectations. But when it actually went well and people liked it and I got to tour, it was weird because music became my career and that was kind of stressful. I think if you're prone to anxiety, music can end up being one of the worst career choices you can make."
For her second album, Oh No, Lanza once again worked with partner and co-producer Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys. What is remarkable about Oh No is how Lanza has used her "constant nervousness" to channel a newfound confidence. On tracks like "Never Enough" and "VV Violence," she is almost brassy compared to the diffident voice heard on Pull My Hair Back.
"I definitely felt more confident," she says. "I think Jeremy and I both had a better understanding of what we were going to do. I just felt more focused on this idea that we were going to make it poppier. Pull My Hair Back came together over a period of time where there was a lot of trial and error. Jeremy and I were learning how to work best with one another. But it took a long time for us to find a sound for Pull My Hair Back, and this album just came together a bit easier than the first one."
Lanza and Greenspan have taken greater creative leaps the second time around, pushing both a stronger pop angle on the production side, and cooler, more assertive vocals. While there has been plenty of confusion as to the classification of her music, Lanza believes Oh No will clear that up.
"I really feel comfortable calling it pop music," she says. "I am an electronic producer, but I'm not like Aphex Twin. I see him more as an electronic artist. Jeremy and I are both suckers for James Taylor, Steely Dan and Carole King. We're into songwriting as well as production, so that factors into it as well. I think that is missing from when you're describing electronic musicians. I do think with this album calling it pop feels right."