The 27-year-old Canadian singer Jessie Reyez is small in stature (I clock in at a mere 5’2 and felt as though I were towering over the artist) but her voice speaks volumes. Upon releasing her gut-wrenchingly emotional single “Figures” in 2016, Reyez showed the world her piercing songwriting skills and raw vocal ability. The song boasts an honest truth by placing the insecurities that come out of heartbreak in the spotlight.
Reyez’s follow-up to “Figures” was an even more vulnerable track, “Gatekeeper,” featured on her 2017 debut EP Kiddo. The song and accompanying short film was an opportunity for Reyez to bare her personal #metoo experience within the music industry to the world.
On speaking her truth through music, Reyez says, “It’s not a responsibility that I feel to be honest, it’s just innate.” Her uncensored voice garnered her a performance at the 2018 Video Music Awards as well as a nomination for Push Artist of the Year and Video with a Message (for “Gatekeeper”). With vast success so quickly, Reyez is in disbelief. “This whole year seems surreal,” she admits. “It’s hard to stay present and be appreciative and not lose momentum at the same time. You have to keep going.” Though it might be challenging to stay present, she adds that she’s very aware of how fortunate she is.
Reyez has made a name for herself outside of her own personal music but nabbing songwriting credits on songs like “One Kiss” by Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa and “Promises” by Calvin Harris and Sam Smith. On songwriting, Reyez says she always sings her truth and she knows when certain songs she works on are meant for another artist. “Sometimes [the song] just feels like home. It feels like when a sweater fits just perfect. Sometimes I love the sweater but it’s just too small or tight or whatever,” she says, giggling at her own metaphor.
The songs that “fit just right” for Reyez are consistently the ones that tell the singer’s story honestly, no matter how difficult that story might be to tell. “I want [listeners] to take away the human truth that is hard to face in public,” Reyez says. “It’s my truth. It’s me thinking about immigrant kids and feeling something inside because they look like me and I have family that’s been through that. It’s me talking about my #metoo experience.”
Reyez explains that seeing her music–and honesty–resonate with other people is what propels her to keep going and truly gives her a purpose. “I want people to feel connected and walk away cradling their flaws,” she says, adding that achieving this is easier said than done. One of the first times Reyez experienced this intangible feeling from an artist was from the late Amy Winehouse. “Amy made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my struggles,” she says. It is no coincidence that there are musical similarities between Reyez and Winehouse including their signature rasps and ability to captivate the world with authentic songwriting. “I’m human. I’m flawed and I’m really honest about it. Or, I try to be honest about it,” Reyez says.
Other songs from Reyez include “F*** Being Friends” and “Body Count” (with a remix featuring Kehlani). Most recently, Reyez collaborated with Eminem on the songs “Nice Guy” and “Good Guy” from his tenth studio album, Kamikaze.
With an unapologetic honesty that has transcended beyond her music and into the lives of her listeners, Reyez has become an authentic role model to artists and fans alike. She will be performing on the all-female lineup at All Things Go Fall Classic music festival this October and her upcoming EP Being Human in Public is set to be released later this year.