Jessie Reyez on how saying ‘no’ more often led to second album ‘Yessie’

Jessie Reyes never quite celebrated the release of Before love came to kill us, her long-awaited 2020 debut album. “It came out in the same f–king month that everything happened, everything went on hiatus,” she recalls. “Nobody could really point me in any direction or give me any kind of advice because we were the guinea pigs doing it in the middle of the pandemic.”



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Although there have been a number of highlights in the interim (a No. 4 debut on Billboard‘s Top R&B albums chart, an opening slot on Billie Eilish’s tour), the Grammy Award-nominated singer is eager to experience a proper album launch with the release of her second album, YESSIE, out Sept. 16 on FMLY/Island Records, noting that this project “almost feels like the real first.” Filled with vengeful ballads (“Mutual Friends”) and intimate collaborations (“Forever” with 6LACK), the album, Reyez says, is a mix of “the bullsh-t I’ve been through and the bullsh-t I expect to go through .”

The artist will on the road in support of YESSIE, which she’s preparing for with a vocal coach, practicing guitar and working out, showing off her chin-up progress on Instagram. She already knows which song she’s most excited to perform live (“Break Me Down”) and can’t wait for fans to make new memories with her music. “Hopefully this time people will actually have the chance to just live life and sit along [my album],” she says. “I’ve always made music for myself, and the fact that people resonate with it is just this beautiful, unintended byproduct. It has changed my life that people give a–k.”

You announced YESSIE just over a month before release. Why the relatively short rollout?

Delayed gratification is one thing, but we live in a world where there are billboards everywhere, screens everywhere and anything that grabs our attention. So I figure if I’m going to get you a stop sign, I’d rather the intersection be close, not f-king miles away.

Does the title indicate that you have said “yes” recently?

If anything, I feel like I’ve said “no” more, which I like. It took me a long time to realize that “no” is a whole sentence. I originally thought I should name the project Self, because I feel like I’ve put so much emphasis on self-discovery, self-healing. I have been much more selfish than I have ever been in my life. You need balance, but I needed that extra push to get close to myself again and treat myself with kindness. I am so nice to everyone else but when I am alone I criticize myself or am too hard on myself and am not kind, do not show myself mercy. I finally realized, “How can you be cool to everyone but not cool to you?”

On the lead single “Mutual Friend” you sing about your experience in real life where a mutual friend of your ex wants to talk. How did the mutual friend react when they heard this?

They said, “F–k, Jessie, come on.” I’ve done it before, where I’ve written songs an hour after a fight: got out of the car, slammed the door, went to the studio. [Debut EP] Kiddo was made that way. So it wasn’t really new to me, but I think it was new to them to have a song that came from a meeting that literally happened during the day. So they were just like, “How? When?” It was fun – for me.

When you work with music, how much do you think about how it will translate to the stage?

For me it comes later. I don’t, because if I do, I’m out of the moment and I’m not present and I focus on the future. What I love most about being in the studio and creating is the magic of the moment. It is not stained. The industry is f-king tainted. When you are in the moment in the studio, you create something from nothing and are literally a conduit for alchemy. It is beautiful.

How does having your own island imprint, FMLY, help you stay in the moment?

It’s having my own imprint and also having a team that respects and supports and sets a precedent so people know what they’re getting into. Whose [someone wants to] collaborate with me on something for my project, then people will know that I’m f-king-driving.

This story will appear in August. 27, 2022, edition of Billboard.

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