It’s been quite the morning for Jenna Doe. We meet in Whitechapel, outside a nearby fashion university building, as the 23-year-old slides her phone into her pocket, slightly sheepish, having gotten lost. London, for Doe, isn’t her usual stomping ground. But, for the last few weeks, she’s traded the business of Toronto for her first time visiting the UK’s capital. Here recording new music, the artist has been making the most of being overseas. “I did my last session yesterday and I’ve come out with so many songs that I’m super excited about,” she says pulling a star-printed beanie over her head. “Today is my last day in London so I got to sleep in, eat a good London breakfast and, then, came here!”
There’s a good chance the alt-rock jangle of Doe’s music will feel familiar, at least from TikTok. Whether it’s her queer detention fantasy ‘Pink Slips’ (“You write me love letters, while she gets pink slips”) or the twanging guitar backing the body horror lyrics of ‘Shapeshift’, Doe’s made a craft of pocketing viral hits. The singer-songwriter recently ditched her days at Berklee College of Music to pursue her fast-rising music career. “Everything was happening so fast. I would get all these opportunities that I had to turn down because my management didn’t want to take away from my college experience,” she says. As we move indoors, Doe reflects on her choice to commit to her music career over studying music at school; “I decided to really go for it and take this risk. It’s been worth it because now I’ve been able to dedicate all my time to working towards my goal of being a pop star.”
Making her name on TikTok, Doe has created the blueprint of dark-humoured coming-of-age tracks that capture the queer experience. And her new single ‘Sorry Brody’ is no different; a soft-rock tune about stealing her friend’s ex-girlfriend. Classic. So, with new music on the way, we caught up with Doe for our latest instalment of Queer & Now to chat about her online breakthrough and writing unfiltered queer rock hits.
Jenna, welcome to London! What brought you here?
I decided to fly out to London to have a week in the studio to write and record my next project. I’ve never been outside of North America before so it was the perfect opportunity to explore the city and meet other UK-based musicians which has been super fun.
‘Sorry Brody’, your new single, is out now – what can you tell us about it?
‘Sorry Brody’ is definitely one of my favourite songs I’ve written. This song seemed to write itself as it was about such an unbelievable story. It’s all completely authentic and how could I not write an anthemic queer banger about stealing my friend’s ex-girlfriend? I wanted ‘Sorry Brody’ to be the first single that I released in this new era to foreshadow the vibe of the forthcoming EP. My goal is to create high-quality music that is also unapologetically queer – and without making it seem like a big deal! At the end of the day, love is dramatic, complex and, let’s face it, fun! My latest single ‘Sorry Brody’ encompasses exactly this. If you want a song that is slightly controversial and toxic yet heartwarming and touching, I wrote an extremely catchy pop-rock queer banger for you!
What can you tell us about your current music plans?
It’s so surreal. I always knew I was going to be a musician. There was never a moment where I actively decided to do music. My mum has always told me that I was singing before I could talk. For most of my life, it was a dream, something I was working towards. Now that it actually has happened, it’s a mixture of ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ and realising my hard work has paid off. It wasn’t an overnight success, I have been working at it for so long. It’s really exciting to have these opportunities and to be excited about the things that are gonna happen next.
I have this horrible problem. I get bored with stability, or with what is expected. I want something a little dangerous
You made your name on TikTok after going regularly going viral. How has having that audience affected your music career?
It has changed my life. It’s made it possible for someone like me to get recognised. I come from a suburb in Canada where I had no music connections and nobody in my hometown was doing music. I didn’t know anybody else with a dream as big as mine. I didn’t know where to start. Posting the music, where anybody could listen, changed my life and gave me a platform for people to find me as an underground queer artist.
Who are your biggest LGBTQIA+ music inspirations and why?
My two favourite queer artists are Chloe Moriondo and Conan Gray. I also really love Troye Sivan. I don’t think Conan Gray has ever really talked about queerness, but I love his music so much. I watched his YouTube videos when I was around fifteen. I didn’t know he was gonna be a big pop star. To me, he was my little YouTuber and I watched him and the trajectories of our lives somewhat align. Kid Krow is still one of my all-time favourite albums.
How do you think you’ve grown as a writer and an artist since your experimental ‘Bedbugs’ era?
Oh my god, what a throwback! I’ve grown so much. Back then, I was writing on my guitar in my bedroom. I used ‘Bedbugs’ in my audition for Berklee. I was still there when my music was blowing up on TikTok and then I wrote and recorded ‘Pink Slips’. Ever since dropping out of school, I started doing real recording and writing sessions in different cities. In the summer I dropped out and stayed in LA, where I was making lots of music, spending every single day in the studio. I was going through the biggest learning period of my life. Now I can write a song in a day and have my songwriting style to a science. I’ve grown so much as a songwriter because now I know how I like to craft my hooks and lyrics.
‘Pink Slips’ was your breakout song. Where did the idea for that track come from?
I have this horrible problem. I get bored with stability, or with what is expected. I want something a little dangerous. I was seeing this girl a few years ago who was, on paper, the perfect girlfriend. She would send me flowers, write me extravagant love letters, buy me gifts, constantly validate me and call me pretty. I’m like, ‘I should like this! I know that this is what is expected of a girlfriend.’ I got bored because there was no risk in it. I know it’s probably not a good thing because it just leads to pain, but I ended up having a crush on this other girl who was the extreme opposite – you want what you can’t have. I can’t say it’s healthy but it is more entertaining.
I listen to straight music and I still like it. I want people of all sexualities to like my music
‘Shapeshift’ has become another major release for you…
I love Chloe Moriondo and their album Blood Bunny inspired that song. I have so much internal queer rage. I listened to it and relate to it so much. I interpreted it as their feeling this rage towards straight men who sexualised them and her girlfriend. The way that lesbian and sapphic people are perceived, through a sexualised straight male gaze, is so frustrating. I love that song so much because I experience the same rage and emotion Chloe expresses.
What’s your favourite music memory?
I grew up playing really small venues and I just started playing proper shows. Live music has always been my favourite part of music. It was the most magical experience to be on the stage singing my songs. That has to be my favourite memory. I’m dying to actually tour one day and meet fans every single night.
You’ve got new music on the way. How’s the new music coming along?
It’s so exciting! I’m working on very queer, super fun, upbeat pop songs with some grit and rock to it. I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow the angsty, pop-punky Avril Lavigne feel of a gritty guitar and angsty vocals. But, I can say I wrote every single song on my own. Obviously, Ross has done the instrumentation, but I feel like this is 100% me. What you get in this next EP is the most authentic side of me, so I’m really excited for everyone to hear it
You’ve been outspoken about wanting outright queer songs…
Queer people don’t deserve a ‘nudge, nudge, this could be queer’ song. I want to be represented in the way straight people have been. It’s not a secret message. I want good pop music for queer people on the radio. The thing is, I listen to straight music and I still like it. I want people of all sexualities to like my music.
Jenna Doe’s new single ‘Sorry Brody’ is out now.