Just last year, I discovered Dallas/Fort Worth based artist JMES for the first time. When her sophomore single, “Heartless Romantic”, hit my inbox, I was instantly taken back by her stunning vocals and impressive lyricism. Delivering a moody, heartfelt tune, it was hard to believe that she was only just getting started. Polished and concise, I found myself coming back to her tune time and time again and to this day it continues to connect with me. The 21-year old pulls inspiration from her life, penning the tunes at home in her bedroom and is ready to share a whole lot more with the world. Having been performing live for years now, launching her solo project seems like the obvious next step for the talented musician, but I can’t help to think the best is yet to come.
Most recently, she has released her new single, “Porcelain”, and it is a perfect introduction for anyone who has not yet discovered the buzzing young artist. A bit grittier than singles passed, her latest offering is a dark Pop jam that relies on driving rhythms, distorted vocals and hard-hitting drums to deliver a moody, stand-out jam that I will without a doubt be rocking for some time to come. With clean production setting the tone, JMES once again proves her worth on her new song, securing her spot as an artist to watch on my personal list for 2021.
With plans to release her debut EP later on this year, I figured now would be a good time to sit down with her and share a bit more for our readers. After you’ve clicked play on the tracks above, make sure you keep scrolling to check out our chat – – – and make sure you keep an eye on this one!
RDFO: What was the music scene like in your hometown (Dallas/Fort Worth) and do you think the city has any influence on your personal sound?
JMES: Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) has a fairly big music scene. It’s kind of like a hidden gem almost. Most people don’t expect it to be as big as it is because DFW isn’t necessarily portrayed as being a music city. Growing up, this music scene did not have any impact on my personal sound simply because I didn’t know there was a music scene. It wasn’t until two years ago that I discovered the music scene as I was preparing to enter it. I do occasionally hear things locally that spark my creativity to go create but, because I hadn’t been influenced by it for so long I wouldn’t say that my city itself influenced my personal sound.
RDFO: Your new single, “Porcelain”, def brings a bit of a different more edgy vibe from you (which I love), what was the process of putting this one together as raw as the final product sounds?
JMES: The process was quite similar to the others. My producer and I worked together on creating what is now, Porcelain. Coming into the process I knew I wanted a more upbeat and edgy vibe as opposed to my last two songs. I listen to a wide variety of music and at the time of producing Porcelain I was listening to a lot of the Band Camino. I knew I wanted something that I could just scream-sing in my car while also creating something that reflected myself. I wanted a bass to carry throughout the song and once that was established the edge just came with it.
RDFO: You first learned to play classical piano when you were young… What was the first song you learned how to play, what used to be your favorite piece to play and what made you get into learning piano to begin with?
JMES: I started piano because my family is musical. Both of my parents played instruments growing but my mom’s side of the family is especially musical and primarily all played piano. The generations of music in my family is what really influenced my parents to put me in piano at such a young age. I probably learned Hot Cross Buns as my first song. Not very impressive but you gotta start somewhere! The last song, however, that I learned to play is Moonlight Mood by Gillock. It is such a gorgeous piece and I emotionally connected to it. It was the last classical piece that I have played and is by far my favorite out of all my years of playing.
RDFO: Seeing as you transitioned to playing guitar later on, do you think your early experience on piano helped to make you understand or play better on guitar?
JMES: This is such a great question! I was always told that knowing piano would help me learn guitar. It did not. I usually am fairly quick to pick up on anything musical but I have had to work very hard to learn guitar. I see similarities between the two instruments but not enough where it made it easier. That said, I thoroughly enjoy it and it is my instrument of choice to write with. It’s just been a struggle.
RDFO: While you only launched your solo project last year, it looks like you have a fair amount of live performance experience. Have you always been performing originals or were you part of any other groups or bands before you went solo?
JMES: I did a bit of both. I was never in a self-created band but I have had the experience of working with other musicians in terms of writing and performing. I did not always perform originals. I started live performing on my own around age 13-14 in competitions. Most competitions I only sang cover songs. This is one of the reasons releasing music has been so special for me. So many of my friends and family that have supported me all these years in music and performing had never actually heard any of my original material. I am really excited to continue putting out my original music and hopefully soon perform my own songs live!
RDFO: Seeing as you are still so young, are you currently pursuing any other paths outside of music or are you “all in”. If music is a full time thing – what made you take that leap and make that commitment?
JMES: I am all in. I am currently getting a Music Industry Essentials certificate through New York University to grow my knowledge even more. That said, this leap has been years in the making. I was terrified to make this decision and had always considered other career fields, even up till last year when I changed my major to Education before stopping traditional college all together. I just finally decided that I’d rather fail at something I love than spend my whole life regretting that I never even tried. So I’m all in and have no plans of stopping anytime soon!
RDFO: I have been listening to your tunes since you pitched me, “Hopeless Romantic”. So far what is your personal favorite release and why is that?
JMES: Hopeless Romantic has been my favorite release so far. I am very excited about all of the releases and all the songs as very honest and raw in terms of my personal experiences. Hopeless Romantic, however, was the first song about relationships that I didn’t put blame on someone else for them ending poorly. The relationship I wrote about in that song, it was very much two sided. There was blame to be pointed. However, I chose to stay in the relationship. Ignoring the red flags was me contributing to my own unhappiness just as much as my partner was. It was a real period of self-growth for me and I think ‘Hopeless Romantic’ was the perfect way to start out my solo project because it established who I am and who I want to continue to be as an artist.
RDFO: How old were you when you wrote your first song, and can you tell us your favorite lyrics from that song?
JMES: My first song I wrote when I was 7. It was a bit scattered but I wrote a song when I was 13 that I consider to be my first song that can stand on its own. It’s called “Gravity”. I wrote it while grieving the loss of a loved one. My favorite line “the world’s got a grip on me”. I think it was a very delicate way of saying that I was sinking. It was the first death I remember experiencing and it really scared me how quickly unhealthy thinking really grabbed on and didn’t let go. That’s what that line really captured for me but I love it because it’s such a gentle way to speak about what I was experiencing.
RDFO: Seeing as you are currently independent, are you actively seeking label support or management, or do you prefer the DIY life?
JMES: I have done a lot of studying on this because it is very new to me. I am not seeking it right now because I am able to manage it on my own. The goal is to be so busy and so in demand one day that I will need to delegate responsibilities to other people and bring in that support. For the time being though it’s primarily just me. I do have a PR team working with me for these past two releases which has been a huge blessing! Besides that, I’m taking being independent and using this opportunity to learn as much as I can!
RDFO: So far you have released 3 singles… are these tracks leading up to a larger body of work, or are you going to keep pumping out singles for now?
JMES: Great question! I am aiming to release a larger body of work… My goal is to release an EP by the end of this year. I do plan to release a few more surprises in the meantime.
RDFO: Beyond writing and performing, how involved are you in the production of your tunes? Is there anyone on your team working in the background that you want to shout out?
For the past three songs I have worked alongside producer Josh Goode and mixer Bradley Prakope. They have been very influential in making what’s in my head come to life and I am very thankful for that.