Jessy Lanza: Gleeful gloom

Interview by Patrick Baillargeon

Jessy Lanza has just released her third album All The Time, an album on which the Canadian artist again expresses her many moods once through music that’s often playful and uplifting. A few days before the release, the singer, musician, and producer told PAN M 360 about her acclimatization to New York life, about the genesis of All The Time and her accomplice Jeremy Greenspan, and about her little quirks and worries, with great sincerity and many bursts of laughter.

Additional Information

Photo: Milos Jacimovic

Moving from Hamilton, Ontario to New York in 2017, Lanza had to come back from her European tour at the start of the outbreak, but was unable to return to her home. So it was in the San Francisco area, where she was in quarantine with her lover, that PAN M 360 reached her.

PAN M 360: Did your new life in New York – you’d always lived in Hamilton – have any repercussions on your music or on yourself?

Jessy Lanza: It affected my life in really good ways, but it was tougher than I’d thought. I didn’t handle it very well and found that I was homesick, and felt really isolated and disconnected. So a lot of the songs for the record were written while I was feeling that way. But at the same time, I started doing this residency at The Lot Radio in Brooklyn, which is a really great radio station in a shipping container. After I started doing this monthly show there, I started meeting people, inviting some artists to the show and that opened up a whole world of producers and DJs that I always admired but never met. So it was a huge turning point for me because I felt much more connected and that felt really nice.

PAN M 360: On this album, like your previous ones, you refer to difficult feelings and anger – can you tell us more about that?

JL: It’s not very apparent because the songs are mostly joyful, with catchy hooks and bouncy basslines. But I think it’s a tension that runs through a lot of my music. I’m really always writing to try to drag myself out of this pit of feeling depressed. It’s so easy for me to get pissed off and be sad (laughs). But making music is what helps me get out of those feelings. So I always try to make music that is the opposite of how I feel. I think with always that in mind, that’s how I approach the songs. 

PAN M 360: Is the whole album informed by that kind of mood?

JL: Yes. I think the problem for me is that I feel really angry about a lot of things a lot of the time, but I don’t want to be an angry person (laughs). So I think that’s why I’m always working through that opposition in the songs. Because I want to work my way out of feeling that way. So it’s all over the album, but it’s definitely not apparent. 

Photo : Milos Jacimovic

PAN M 360: You’ve been collaborating with Jeremy Greenspan (Junior Boys) since your very first record, Pull My Hair Back (2014). How do you explain this longtime complicity, what brought you together?

JL: Jeremy is my favourite person to work with. He did all three albums with me. But this time it was a bit different because we were not living in Hamilton together. So I drove back and forth from Hamilton to New York quite a few times over the last two years for this album. Jeremy doesn’t get precious about ideas, he’s very curious and loves experimenting with equipment, and so do I. And so we’re really getting into the fun aspect of doing a lot of takes, editing stuff. I don’t know what he likes about me, though (laughs). I think we both love songwriting, despite the genre. It could be a Loggins & Messina song, or a new Don Toliver number, or some new R&B stuff. What we both have in common is that we really like hooks and pop music, whatever genre it’s been put into. 

PAN M 360: You’ve often admitted that you have doubts about your vocal abilities, that you’d like to have that big voice that some R&B and soul singers have. Is that why you prefer to pass your voice, however delicate and pleasant, through a whole range of effects?

JL: I think it comes down to a personality thing. I’m a bit of a spaz. I have trouble getting to the point. It’s in my nature. Even if something in a song is fine, I just cannot resist the temptation to fuck around with it (laughs). And also I have a lot of fun with effects. It’s fun to experiment with a new pedal that I got or a new bunch of plugins that I wanna use. But yes, I do have trouble leaving things alone. Maybe it’s because I’m impatient? That’s the best way I can explain it (laughs). 

PAN M 360: Plans for the near future? Even though it’s hard to have plans in these strange times…

JL: I have a bunch of remixes I did for a few friends, it should be coming out in the next few months. There will be some remixes for the new album that should also come out in the next few months. Since I’m not going on tour, I might as well work on some new music, so I might put something new out, maybe pretty soon, because there is not much else to do!

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