Photo by Carina Allen (@rlyblonde)
The thing about growing up is once we hit a certain age, we think we've outgrown certain things and certain behaviors. We try to dismiss and chop off entire sections of ourselves for being "too childish" or "not grown up," and try to replace it with things that we deem more acceptable for the years to come. But what we fail to realize is we can never really get rid of those little childish things that make us who we are. Bronx native jessa understands that better than anyone I think.
jessa's new single "TUFF" hit streaming today wrapped in a purple-glittered manilla folder, hot out off the Disney Channel writers room. Bouncing around over hazy synths and a break beat that would make Jay-Z proud, her new single brings that Disney fairy tale love to life and writes you right into script of a Lizzie McGuire episode- and I mean the "Just Friends" episode. "TUFF" is a love letter to all the romantics we ate up on TV as kids, to all the let-downs in our young love lives, to all the JNCO jean heartbreaks we thought we'd never get over.
Ahead of the release of her new single, we had the chance to catch up with the star-in-making and chat about the new single, filming the music video with her childhood best friend and fellow artist, Raffaella, and all that good ol' Y2K nostalgia.
I'd love to ask about this lyric- "Boys like you don’t learn as fast / as girls like me who built to last / and nobody taught me how to be TUFF”- what was going through your head when you wrote that hook?
j: I wrote it with one of my oldest and best friends, Raffaella. We were thinking about how our childhoods shaped our expectations of adult romance and how that played into a breakup I was dealing with at the time.
A huge conversation being had today is about romanticism and sexuality in children's media. How have some of the expectations we picked up from shows and movies as kids popped up in your life and writing, and how do you think we can move away from those trains of thought and start moving towards more inclusive ways to teach kids about relationships and love?
j: I had a realization that when I was growing up I never had any serious conversations with my parents or adult figures in my life about how to have a successful, loving, respectful relationship. I think the emotional component of relationships should be treated as importantly as the sexual aspect. There’s a focus on teaching kids about safe sex but not necessarily about emotional safety.
You've got the music video for TUFF coming out, and you've been working with your childhood best friend Raffaella on it. What has that been like, and how has the experience differed from working with other directors on your other videos?
j: It was so much fun, we always have the best time together. It felt like we were kids again making a music video for our ten-year-old selves.
Talk to me about Minnesota, that's a long way from the Bronx! I'm a fish outta water myself, grew up in NC and ended up all the way up here in NJ/NYC, what was that experience like? Did you find that they take a different approach to music out in MN, or was it an easy translation? And how about them Vikings!
j: Raffaella lives in Minnesota, I was visiting her when we wrote TUFF together and went back to shoot the video. I’ve visited Minnesota a few times and have grown really fond of it! It feels familiar and homey to me. It also has a really dynamic music scene, I’ve been lucky enough to see a couple of great shows while there. Raffaella and Jake are so comfortable to work with - they create a really inclusive and supportive environment. Regarding the Vikings, I’m not big into football but I wish them the best!
Also on that, the visuals for your new music video are said to be taking heavy influence from things like Lizzie McGuire and Y2K. Do you find that in your art more and more of your childhood influences start to poke through, and why do you think those influences take a stronghold?
j: It’s been fun to tap into The Lizzie McGuire Movie and the more extreme side of Y2K fashion. I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately, I think it stems from sometimes struggling with all that comes with being an adult and craving the comfort of my childhood.
Talk to me about the Don't Touch My Hair hat from the "I Can't Stop Crying" video- how do you put together your looks and fits for videos and social media, and what goes into putting together the jessa image that we see online?
j: I love that hat! I make a mood board before a shoot and pull things from my closet. I usually style myself. The things I wear in my videos, I wear on the street all the time. A fun styling moment for me was wearing my “Bitch” tank top in the “I Can’t Stop Crying” video. It speaks to how I felt I was perceived in the situation that inspired the song. It also is me taking ownership of the fact that when I’m feeling hurt and vulnerable I can be defensive and bitchy.
The music video for "TUFF" drops October 6th, but what's after that for you? EP soon? Album? new show dates?
j: I’m going to be playing a set in NYC in October and releasing music a bit more consistently!
Lastly, what's on rotation right now? What are you listening to, what's your favorite album right now?
j: My favorite album right now is “LIVE, RAFF, LOVE (Act I)” by Raffaella! Other artists heavy in my current rotation are Unusual Demont, Hank, Syd, Kelela, GROOVY, Araya, Frank Ocean, Ethel Cain, and Beyoncé!
Stream "TUFF" now on all platforms!