Interview: Jessie J, singer

Jessie J
Jessie J
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JESSIE J must feel she can do no wrong right now. After topping the BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll at the start of the year and then winning the Critics’ Choice award at the Brits, the young starlet has gone on to sell more than a million albums and three million singles worldwide.

The singer, real name Jessica Cornish, had a number one with debut single Price Tag and another massive chart hit with Do It Like A Dude - and to top it off she was the big winner at this year’s MOBO Awards, taking home four gongs including Best Song and Best Album at the star-studded ceremony in Glasgow earlier this month.

“Everything’s such a whirlwind at the moment,” says the 23-year-old Essex girl, who has also just been announced as the new face and legs of stocking company Pretty Polly.

“It’s a bit like taking on ten more jobs at the moment. I wanted to be a singer, but now I’ve had to become a model, a spokesperson, a good interviewee... everything.

“You have to take it step by step and not get overawed,” adds pop’s latest superstar, speaking ahead of her visit to the Usher Hall on Tuesday.

It may have seemed to some that Jessie J arrived fully formed and with an arsenal of surefire hits, but the girl with the Cleopatra hairstyle is no overnight sensation.

As an 11-year-old she was cast in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End production of Whistle Down The Wind. Then, having started to take music seriously in her teens, she was signed to a record label as a solo artist shortly after her 17th birthday.

“I’d been in a girl band for two years before that, but that didn’t come off,” she explains.

After her first brush with the music industry came to nothing, she began trying to sell the songs she’d written to other artists, with a great deal of success.

Indeed, Jessie has written for Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys and Miley Cyrus, who had a chart-topper in the States with Jessie’s song Party In The USA.

“I’m reluctant to call myself a songwriter,” she says modestly. “It’s kind of come across in my interviews like that’s my main thing and being an artist is second, but that’s not it at all.

“After my first solo deal fell through, I thought about selling songs to make some money - I had rent to pay,” she goes on. “Songwriting is a by-product of me wanting to be a solo artist that has control over what they do.

“There are lots of artists out there who are just dummies, getting dressed by management, being told what to say and sing and wear, but I’m really proud of the fact that I write songs and pitched one to Britney.

“She might not have used it, but I’ll just write a better one,” she adds.

Jessie, who has also broken the notoriously tough American market, admits she’s gone from zero to hero this year - but it hasn’t all been fun and games for the pop princess.

During the summer she snapped a bone in her left foot after toppling over when rehearsing for a show in a pair of towering heels, which meant she was forced to appear at many UK festivals wearing a specially-made surgical boot and walk with the aid of metal sticks.

“I’m back in the swing now,” says the hitmaker, who has just had her cast removed after nine weeks. “Maybe the high-heels I wore were a bit crazy. It wasn’t the best time and it still isn’t... it’s just something that happens.

“I don’t think I’ll wear heels again,” she adds, laughing. “I might just get some really blinged-up Skechers trainers.”

As if she wasn’t in high enough demand, it’s also just been announced that Jessie J will be a vocal coach on new BBC Programme The Voice, mentoring contestants on the UK version of a show that’s already been a massive hit across the pond.”

I’m so excited to do The Voice,” she enthuses. “I always go with things that represent me and I love the idea of being coach, mentor, inspiration to young people. I wanted to be involved.

“They approached me and I was well up for it.”

Millions of television viewers also saw her help out Tulisa Contostavlos on the X Factor earlier this year, but despite her role on the show, Jessie insists she wouldn’t like to follow in her pal’s footsteps and become a judge herself.

“I wouldn’t be a judge in The X Factor,” she says. “I’d rather mentor than judge people.”

Jessie J, Usher Hall, Lothian Road, Tuesday, 7pm, £23.50, 0131-228 1155