Upcoming, genre-defying artist Jessica Winter is booked and busy. Her gentle vocals over thumping, danceable basses have garnered her a lot of attention over the last year. She’s performed at festivals and toured with Lynks, but this is only the beginning for Winter.
Limerence, her third EP, sees the star broaden her sound, leaning into heavier soundscapes and embracing the airiness more than ever before, especially on the infectious ‘Funk This Up’ and dancefloor-ready ‘Clutter’.
We caught up with Winter to hear more about her highly anticipated debut album, working with Rebecca Black, and taking over the GAY TIMES stage.
Hey Jess, how’s it going? It’s been a few weeks since you took over the GAY TIMES stage at The Great Escape…
Just coming down off of the glory that that made me feel! It was such a good three days, you can’t ever expect three shows to go well in a row, and it did, so I was quite shocked about that!
You made quite the impact with that iconic ‘GT’ taped onto your back!
I just had to do something… it’s GT! But a lot of people asked, ‘Was that gin and tonic?’ I don’t even like tonic! I thought it’d be a nice little surprise.
So, outside of playing shows, what are you working on at the minute?
I’m right in an album now. I’ve got some bangers and I’m just trying to make sense of it all. I’ve written so many songs, and by the end of the next two weeks, I’ll be able to look back over everything I’ve written and things will just jump out. I can’t even see the big picture at the moment, but it’s nearly there. I just want to make sure I’ve got the best.
How is the creative approach, for the album different from the EP?
I’m approaching the recording in a completely different way. I can try to make a sonic palette and make things sound more cohesive: a body of work, rather than the schizo EPS that I’ve put out so far. It would be nice to try and experiment with putting all the guitars in the same room at the same time. Drums and my vocals, and through the same chain, so that I can actually create a sound.
How does it differ from having the budget to indulge in your creativity?
When you go to someone and say ‘I have no budget’, and they go ‘’Okay, I’m gonna do this for free’, and usually they’ll do it with all their might because they’re doing it for free. Then, when you have the budget, people are like, ‘Oh, this is a job. I’ll get paid and I’m going to do it in my time slot.’ It sometimes can hinder the work. As soon as you try and make it capitalised, it can be worse. I’m really conscious about telling people I’ve got a budget.
Your track ‘Choreograph’? is a tune but also hits home with the lyrics. Where did the idea for the song come from?
That song came about from a few different scenarios in my life at that point. One was me, being newly single, and finding myself in these choreographed dating scenarios, where I felt I needed to tick boxes to be happy. That was really depressing. Secondly, being around my brother all the time – I come from a very LGBTQ+ family. The way that technology has hindered us, with sub-labels of labels – it’s too many labels now. I think it has made us more segregated. We need to just get rid of technology and stop creating more labels to try and fit into and enjoy who we are, as we are, on this planet.
Your sound is quite eclectic. Do you like to take a labelless approach to your music?
I do! I don’t want to have to adhere to anything – if I want to make a sexy pop song, then I don’t have to wear certain things or be a certain way. It’s the same with the genres that I’m choosing to be in. Why should I put myself into one genre, just because Spotify’s algorithm picked up on that one? You’ve got to do whatever you feel in the moment. If you want to suddenly change up and become a classical musician, then go and do that.
When I see pictures of me on stage, I look almost like ‘Sharon from finance’. It’s fine. I’m happy with that. Like I said, sometimes I wear a bra and other times I’m wearing a full trench coat. It’s fun to play with image and not have to play to what you think the music should sound like. I’ve always found that really difficult because I’m so obsessed with music and image. If you can try and free yourself from having to fit into a certain thing, then that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it?
You’ve had a tumultuous relationship with music and the industry. What’s made you committed to the industry?
I’ve always loved music, I don’t know how that happened but people, like my parents, have told me to stop but that feeling of writing a song and performing it – there’s nothing else like it. I have to keep doing it until someone physically stops me.
Moving to London really helped me find my people. I was always searching for connection where I was growing up and I never really found it. I got to London and I started making music and meeting new people making music. I became part of something more accepting of myself. That helped me flourish and ever since then, the friends that I’ve made have definitely helped me keep going.
What does that music community look like to you?
People that don’t want to fit into what society tells us we should be. I didn’t have the best upbringing and I’ve always felt a bit like a misfit myself. Then when I came to London, it’s like the misfits all run to London and form friendships through that. You can blossom when you’re in the right environment and you find people that are accepting of you being a bit different, or being a bit socially weird. You suddenly feel okay in that skin.
We’ve gotten to know your voice and your music. What’s a fact about you that might surprise people?
I love trains! I went to school in Portsmouth called Isambard Brunel and so I started researching him and I was just obsessed with the Victorian era. I’d started getting quite obsessive about steam trains.
Have you ever thought of sampling trains?
No, good idea – ‘choo choo!’
It could make a very camp intro…
You’ll get a credit!
Another fan-favourite is ‘Clutter’, featuring Lynks. How did that track come to be?
That song came from decluttering and finding a box of memories and love letters and all these weird things. Why do we keep these things that longer exist, these painful reminders of stuff that’s just gone wrong? I wanted to create a fun song about imagining burning everything, all your memories of the past. We carry this dead weight around with us and it’s holding us back from new love.
I liked doing the twist of ‘cluttering up my-’ and then leaving that to your imagination. I had this hanging around, and I knew that it needed someone equally as crazy, weird, fun to be on the track. I thought Lynks, when we went on tour would be perfect, so I played it to them, and then they just hopped on it.
You and Rebecca Black seem to continue to cross paths. You’ve recently toured together too…
Yeah, we did. We meant to do a session as well, but it didn’t happen. We ended up doing a DJ set instead. Her girlfriend is an amazing writer and producer as well. We did a session together and made a really nice song, which I think might go on the album. At the moment, it’s called ‘Shandy Eyes’.
Have you come up with a theme for the album?
There’s definitely some themes popping up. I’ve just come out of a very long codependent relationship. I’m writing songs with quite different themes. I feel way more free and I’m feeling everything way more. I can’t really tell yet, but I’m sure it’ll come through in the wash. It’s all very early at the moment. So, I can’t really say what it is, but it’s gonna be good!
What would you deem your most successful music moment?
Getting to play Maida Vale was always a big dream for me because all my favourite artists have done that and been in that room. Being able to support Rebecca Black actually was one of my best moments – I remember when she came out. Seeing all of that go down with her, then suddenly being backstage with her when she was singing Friday, the revamp. Metronomy asked me to do a song with them. Having these little things that keep happening, where people that I’ve looked up to come back to me. I can’t – I have to pinch myself really. I’m gonna do a tour with Jake Shears. Again, another thing Scissor Sisters is my ultimate – I did a show with him recently.
You’ve had a lot in the works. So, we have to ask, what else have you got planned?
I’m planning on working with people I really admire and aspire to be or get inspiration from. I’ve been working with Tom Rasmussen. I really rate them, what they believe in and what they stand for. We’ve written a song together. Really excited about that. I feel like things are moving in the right direction. I’ve made a real summer banger, which I’m really excited about. It’s called ‘Aftersun’. That should be out next year. At this point in my career, the main important thing is to not be swayed by ‘Okay, now, I should be doing this’ or ‘Now I should be this’. I should just keep doing what I’m doing – that’s my intention.