James Gallant

“I want to use my platform to be real.”

July Jones has the potential to be the breakout pop princess of 2019.

Last week, the Slovene-British songstress released her second incredible autobiographical pop anthem, Liar Liar, which chronicles her experience with mental health – a topic she says she will touch upon often in her music.

“I want to use my platform to be real about those things, and very very transparent about everything even if it’s uncomfortable,” she tells us. “I just want to talk openly and that’s what I want to do through my music.”

The openly pansexual singer-songwriter landed her first record deal at the age of 14, but broke out of her contract after straight male executives tried to force her into a direction she wasn’t satisfied with. Now, she’s doing it all on her own terms.

We spoke with July about breaking free from the restraints of men in the industry and why it’s important for her to be visible with her queerness and her experiences with mental health and anxiety.

How would you describe your sound?
My sound is quite alt pop, it’s a lot of electronic elements mixed with pop music. I would say I’m a little bit on the left-field pop side, my sound always changes, it’s just however I want to be creative.

Who would you say your main influences are?
So many people. Musically, I’m very similar to Charli XCX, Lorde, Halsey, fka twigs, Banks… Visually, I love Madonna, because she’s been changing herself so much, and I love the fact that she’s all these different characters all the time, and I feel like I evolve a lot. People are always like ‘What is happening?’ and I’m just like, ‘It’s my gut feeling.’ So I think Madonna visually is the closest, but I can compare my genre of what I do to really anybody which sometimes feels weird, but it feels good as well because it’s really coming out of my intuition, and just something I created within myself.

I love your new single Liar Liar – what’s the story behind the song?
Liar Liar is a reflection of social media and mental health and my experience with it. I feel like all of my songs have serious topics, they talk a lot about mental health and if you read the lyrics, it’s very sad and deep but the melodies are very catchy. Liar Liar is the start of me speaking out about mental health, to me a lot of times you look at social media and we’re like ‘I really want to be where these people are right now, like why am I here alone’ and the reality is I am so fortunate. I live in London and I’ve done my own career, I have friends, but when you look at those things you feel a certain type of way and I feel like we don’t speak about those things at all. So when I started suffering with mental health and anxiety, I reached out to my fans and I was like, ‘You know what? I am not okay.’ The response I got back was absolutely insane. People were like, ‘You know I was thinking of committing suicide a month ago but I’m good now,’ and it’s shocking, and it encouraged me to speak out about all those things and be really real. I want to use my platform to be real about those things, and very very transparent about everything even if it’s uncomfortable, I just want to talk openly and that’s what I want to do through my music at this moment, just talk about mental health.

As a new artist, do you find it quite difficult to navigate social media and streaming, which are quite important for artists to embrace now?
Of course. I’m really good at social media, I love developing visuals so that really helps. When it comes to the streaming world, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, there’s a lot we don’t know, so it doesn’t really correlate as much a people think. I think it’s musically subjective and with platforms like Spotify when you go through playlists, if somebody is having a good day they might just put you on the playlist, if they have a bad day they might not like your music, that way it’s very subjective. I think you shouldn’t take it personally and just keep going because the music is good and people relate to it.

How did you get your start in the music industry?
I’ve been on this rollercoaster since I was 14, I was first signed at that age. I’ve been pushed around by a lot of men in the industry and I’ve had really weird experiences. I was first signed under a 360 deal which was crazy for a 14 year old, I had no idea what I wanted to do and they were telling me, ‘Okay you have to do this this and this and you have to do what we say.’ I was very strong in my intuition and I know what I want, and I knew that wasn’t the right thing, so of course it didn’t work out. Then I went through a different management two years ago, and they were great people but we had very different visions. I just decided to take all my songs at that point, ‘So thank you very much, I really appreciate it, but I believe in my art so much.’ So I took all of my songs and I went and I’m now doing everything by myself at this point. It’s really scary because you rely everything on your intuition, everything is your decision and that becomes really heavy, and you try to be creative at the same time, do the social media and do the business side, so I find it really scary, but what are you going to do? I have nothing else to do in my life so I just have to put it out there.

At least you’ve got complete control over what you do now. You’re not being bossed around by straight white men, now you’re able to to do which must feel like complete freedom?
Yeah I’m building around my team, it’s incredible they respect me and I have the final word and that’s how I want it to be. I know what I want at this point and before I didn’t so it took time, you need to build yourself up and believe in something, you cant just be controlled by a label. I’m in a really good place and everything will come down to how people accept the songs.

It’s quite incredible that at 14 years old you were able to say ‘No absolutely not.’ How have the past few years shaped you as a person?
Well I’m from Slovenia, I signed my deal at 14 and then we were back and forth in Germany. I was so young at that point I didn’t even know that my main skill is actually writing. I love singing and performing but writing and creating… I started growing as a writer at that age and I’m super grateful for that. I then got a scholarship to go to the States, so I finished high school there, which was super weird! It was a growing experience. Then I went to London and I started building everything from zero, I was performing for the next few years for free anywhere, any stage that would take me and that would be my income, I never lived for anything else other than music. I grew up really really fast, but I feel like I have so much perspective on what I want, I don’t have this rush, I just want to do music at this point.

You’ve been open about your sexuality from the start, and how your ex girlfriend directed your video for Solo. Is it important for you to be as visibly queer as possible?
Oh yeah, I’m pansexual. My partner now is transgender, and so are my previous partners, so I’m definitely pansexual. I think being visible as a person on stage who people admire is so important because I wish that I had somebody like that when I was younger, because I had no idea what was happening to me when I was growing up. I had no idea if I liked boys or girls or whatever, I had no idea that those things existed. I think talking about those things and opening up peoples minds is so important. In England, we are so already advanced, but if you go back to Europe people still kind of don’t get it. I perform a lot around Europe, I performed at Slovenian Pride last year and it’s so important because we have this knowledge that we have in England, we’re educated and we are fighting for these things, but the rest of the world is probably 5-10 years behind. When I came out to my family, they were in a massive shock but then when they started being educated, it took them a year, they educated themselves about gay people and gay rights and LGBT. They started coming to Pride and it’s such a big shift because I do think hate comes out of ignorance, so that’s why I think there should be education, that’s the most important thing that I want to do.

What would you say attitudes towards LGBTQ people are like in Slovenia at the moment?
It’s not like here in Britain where Costa Coffee has the rainbow cups. It’s still a protest and it’s still in those stages. but you can see it flowering and flourishing every year so it’s on a good path, we just have to keep fighting and keep spreading the voice. 

Queer females are really killing it at the moment – why do you think it’s happening now?
I do think everything started with gay men, they were the first people out there, and then women came after. I think it just took time to educate people. It takes time for people to first accept those norms and then be like, ‘Okay, I can listen to her music, it doesn’t matter what she likes to do in her personal time.’ I’m really happy to be part of this era where I have the opportunity to just be who I am, and have these kind of role models, who are absolutely incredible. 

Finally: what are your plans for releasing music? Can we expect an EP soon?
Oh my god, I’m so excited. It makes me so excited to say that I’ve been carrying this baby for two years and now we’re releasing a single with a music video every two months for the next eight months. Then we’re releasing an EP on mental health, and then releasing another EP which is going to be collaborating with all the incredible women that I know. I mean there’s a lot, there’s so much music I have it’s just ridiculous, I’m really excited. There’s going to be a lot of boundaries pushed…

Listen to July Jones’ incredible new pop banger Liar Liar below and follow her on Instagram here.