x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Jessie J: a strong voice for change

The singer tells The National about her 'secret' new album and how she's helping others off-screen.

Jessie J shaved her head to raise money for charity in March and is sticking with the look. "I think it works and I do want to make a statement," she says. Neil Hall / Reuters
Jessie J shaved her head to raise money for charity in March and is sticking with the look. "I think it works and I do want to make a statement," she says. Neil Hall / Reuters

Jessie J is back. Her new single Wild was released last week and her profile remains high thanks to her role as mentor on The Voice UK.

Your new single Wild is all attitude and addresses your growing fame.

I am super excited about it. I was in Los Angeles and worked with the producer Claude Kelly on it and people were asking me: "What is this song about?" It is actually about my fans. To be honest, it is about nothing less or nothing more than what people write about me and how they make me feel. When you read something about yourself that is not true and, sadly, other people believe it, that is a weird thing and something that no one can really understand unless they are living it.

So the song takes a shot at those tabloid rumours dogging you throughout the years?

Well, I have heard many things. I have heard that I am anorexic, that I have a doctor with me on tour because I am always stressed out. I wanted to write a song that was positive but at the same time hitting back at those people and reminding my fans how much I appreciate their support. People can talk about me and say "who does she think she is?" or "she can't do this" but it is the fans who come to the concerts. This song is for them.

Is the song an indication of the themes discussed in your forthcoming second album?

I am being very secretive about it because in the industry at the moment, I feel like the public expects everything straight away. I want to keep that mystery for the fans.

However, what I can say is that the album is done. I am really singing on this album. It's got gospel, pop and just me and a piano. The people who heard it describe it in one word: light. It is full of positive songs.

Have these insights come from your present stint as coach on The Voice UK?

It is not very often that you are filmed being yourself in day-to-day life and able to watch it back with millions of other people. I have definitely learnt a lot about myself from being on The Voice, the good and the bad.

When you do a show like that you open yourself up to the world, which has an opinion on everything about you. I learnt not to take myself so seriously. I am very passionate about music and I am also a goofball. I also learnt that I am very honest and I hope that doesn't change.

You are open about your health challenges. You spent most of your childhood in and out of hospitals with a heart condition and you suffered a stroke at the age of 18. How have those setbacks shaped you as an artist?

When you go through that at a young age you either feel defeated and give up or you become a role model for other people who go through it. In my spare time, whether in the UK or anywhere else around the world, I visit as many hospitals and charities that I can where there are children like I once was.

I met one girl a few years ago. Her name was Amy. I found out that she needed to raise money for equipment to maintain her health. I asked her, "What can I do that people wouldn't expect?" She said, "How about shaving your head?" So a year later I shaved my head at the March 15 Comic Relief charity evening and raised £6.5 million (Dh37m) for charities in Europe and Africa. Amy was there to see it.

And now, judging by the video to Wild, this is in fact your new look.

I like it. I think it works and I do want to make a statement. People are desperate to see others do good things and I don't think enough people in the limelight do that. You should use your light and shift it on to places that are dark. That's why I have this haircut.

Wild is out now. For more details on The Voice UK, go to www.bbc.co.uk

sasaeed@thenational.ae

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