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‘YESSIE’ is Jessie Reyez’s Product of Healing

Written by on November 11, 2022

Calling in from her tour bus, Canadian-Colombian artist Jessie Reyez virtually sat down with Vocalo afternoon host Nudia Hernandez ahead of the second in her two-night string of sold out shows at House of Blues Chicago…

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jessie Reyez is no stranger to emotion — her performances are even known to move people to tears. Her newest album YESSIE, released this past September, is a testament to her growth.

Since she began making music, Reyez has found the power of vulnerability. While Reyez explained she’s always been open when it comes to expressing sadness, she noted she simultaneously struggled with fixating about the past and worrying about the future. With YESSIE came a shift toward focusing on the present moment — which has given her the freedom to be equally honest about joy and positivity.

“Before, I’d be vulnerable, [about] heartbreak… and eventually, it became comfortable to be vulnerable there,” Reyez explained. “When I made that shift into becoming more present, I was given the opportunity to be more vulnerable outside of that space, and more vulnerable with openness, and just not as much sadness, and not as much heartbreak.”

Practicing mindfulness and focusing on achieving her goals proved to boost Reyez’s career tenfold, as her listener count skyrocketed. Although Reyez has toured with the likes of Billie Eilish and Beyoncé, she also noted how playing shows in Chicago specifically provides her with numerous reminders of her progression as both an artist and a human. 

“It’s very beautiful to feel at home in a city that’s not yours, where you’ve never lived in, but also to be able to have marks of progression… Lincoln Hall, and then… Schubas,” she said. “It’s just insane.”

“And now two nights, sold out [at the House of Blues]… it’s beautiful, in and of itself, to have happened. I’m in awe.”

Earlier this week, Jessie Reyez spoke with Nudia Hernandez about how living in the present moment transformed her career, as well as her pre-show rituals, pacts with God, Chicago-style hot dogs and vulnerability in music. Hear their whole conversation below.

Nudia Hernandez: I’m so excited right now! I’m getting to chat with one of my favorite artists that we play. I was playing her song “Far Away” earlier in my show today. And so we have right now Jessie Reyez with us, hey! 

Jessie Reyez: Hello, hello. 

NH: Hi! Okay, so two sold out shows here in Chicago. How are you feeling?

JR: Happy. I just ate some good food… I got people that I love that live here in Chicago, too, like outside of the city, it’s also the people from here that held a special place in my heart. So, I’m just happy, I’m in a great mood. Great day!

NH: I know. So… just a backstory, you’re just coming from soundcheck and so we’re getting you in the middle of everything. And I heard that your show last night, which was Tuesday night, I heard there were some tears in the audience. I heard there was a lot of emotions, people were feeling emotional, crying. Do you feed off that type of energy from your crowd?

JR: Feed off of it! It’s contagious. Because the tears were a two-way street… I definitely started crying, especially at the end of the show. Because I’ve spent a lot of time in Chicago. And it’s very beautiful to feel at home in a city that’s not yours, where you’ve never lived in, but also to be able to have marks of progression. So deeply drawing the line… Lincoln Hall, and then — what’s it called? Schubas? It’s just insane. 

And a lot of the people, when I say that I have friends here, and people that I owe a lot to, that helped me early in my career, come to these moments, where the first show might have been like 30 people that might have known, and then the next, a 200-cap room. And then the next show was six [hundred], and then to have it double, and now two nights sold out… It’s just, it’s beautiful, in and of itself to have happened. I’m in awe. But it’s also really beautiful to be able to share it with people.

NH: I love that you say that! I love when artists come to a venue and… they’re like, “Three years ago, there was 30 people in here.” And you’re like, “Now, y’all are all over each other, all upon each other because it’s packed in here.” I love hearing stories like that. And it’s so funny because… earlier this week, I was watching your Tiny Desk concert — we are a part of NPR — and I believe you started off with “Mood,” right? That was the first song you performed in the Tiny Desk? And I started… I don’t know, my hormones were hormoning, something. I started tearing up. And my intern came in the office, and he’s like, “Are you okay?” I was like, “Mind your business, okay! No, I am not okay.” I was like, “I know we’re inside. I don’t know, allergies, something in the wind”… 

You sing with so much emotion, so I wasn’t shocked when I heard that people were getting emotional at your shows. Especially this album, YESSIE… you seem so raw and open with so many things especially, I feel like, heartbreak and things like that. Are those difficult to write about? Do you feel like you’re kind of naked it a little bit when you’re being so open and honest?

JR: I feel like I’ve been consistent with how I talk about my truth and how I talk about what I’ve been through since my first project. I don’t think that’s changed very much. But what I think changed is that, ironically, now I feel more open when it comes to, for lack of a better word, the positive side of love, and standing in joy. It could still make you cry, it can still… pull at your heartstrings, just for different reasons. But before… I wasn’t a very present person, and I’d ruminate a lot, whether it’d be… ruminating on the past, being worried about the future, [I’d be] messing up being present, and just living my life now. So I feel like, because I’ve done that, it’s almost like I’m not as identified with my pain as I used to be. And before, I’d be vulnerable [about] heartbreak, I’d be vulnerable with that. And eventually, it became comfortable to be vulnerable there, because I was so identified with it. And I feel like I’m still healing, but I feel like I’m in a much better place. 

When I made that shift into becoming more present, I was given the opportunity to be more vulnerable outside of that space, and more vulnerable with openness, and just not as much sadness, not as much heartbreak. And also taking more risks, when it comes to my intuition. If I wanted an 11-song album, and someone wanted 18, it was just a hard no. If someone really thought that this song needed more production, and it was a hard no from my gut, then it was a hard no. And just things like that, I feel like I’ve grown into more. But the vulnerability, I think, has just been a constant from the beginning. It’s just a different kind of vulnerability now.

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