British Pop Star Jess Glynne burst onto the scene in 2014 with the huge Clean Bandit collaboration ‘Rather Be’ – and went from strength to strength with hits like ‘Hold My Hand’, ‘My Love’, and ‘These Days’.

In just four years, she became the first British female solo artist to have seven UK number 1 singles. She also racked up four billion career streams, two UK platinum albums and a Grammy for best Dance record.

Following the release of her second album Always in Between in 2018, Glynne took an unexpected five-year hiatus, in which time she split with both her management and her label over artistic differences.

This year, the North Londoner makes her long-awaited return with singles ‘Silly Me’ and the upcoming ‘What Do You Do?’ in what signals a new era for the artist with a more introspective and raw feel to her music. We caught up with her in New York.

Square Mile: You’re back after five years. Does it feel like a new era for your music?

Jess Glynne: I feel like it is significant because I’ve been away a long time and a lot has changed in my life. I’m in a very different place from where I was before – from where I left off with ‘Thursday’. This era takes off quite nicely with the messaging and where I’m going musically as well.

SM: How are you feeling about the change?

JG: The music isn’t that different, the song I’ve got coming out [What Do You Do?] is pretty ‘Jess’ and I’m not too worried to be honest with you. I really like the music I’m making – and I feel like people will get it.

SM: One of your big songwriting influences is Joni Mitchell and you can see that with your new music, as it’s raw and vulnerable. When you’re writing songs, how do you decide what to reveal and what to conceal about yourself?

JG: I’m a very honest songwriter. It’s all about how I feel and not about what I want to hide or what I want to say; I just sing and say. I think it’s what happens in the moment and what feels right. There have been times in the past where I have written songs and I’ve looked back and listened to them and I thought, “Oh God, that’s quite deep” or “Do I want to share that?”

The blessing is that I write these songs and I listen back to them and I hear the message myself and I feel comforted by it. It’s actually amazing to be able to then share that with people who can relate because we all experience the same emotions in our lives and I think sometimes it’s really nice to have a song to hold on to, that can be your friend through whatever it is you’re going through.

Jess Glynne

SM: To see that messaging, do you have to almost take yourself out of the equation and view it objectively?

JG: I don’t take myself out of it but I don’t know how to describe it. Songwriting, and being involved in the process, is quite a vulnerable space. This chapter has been very different because of all the rollercoasters and the change of team and everything that I’ve gone through in my personal life. You brought up Joni Mitchell, listening to her music is full of storytelling and it’s like listening to a mate, and it’s visual and poetic.

For me, I was really struggling at times when I was doing this album and listening to her reassured me that it’s OK to tell a story and say what the fuck you want and not think about it. I was very much in my head at times and listening to her really opened my mind.

SM: When you dreamt of being a musician all those years ago, is this the kind of music you envisaged writing?

JG: I don’t think I ever envision things in that way because I’m a very day-by-day type of person and things change a lot. I’m a visual learner so I have to be able to see things, so I guess to a certain degree I did visualise how things could be or how I wanted them to be.

But I’ve always been a fan of Joni Mitchell because of my parents. I never thought I’d be sitting and listening to Joni Mitchell while in LA on my own writing an album and being inspired. Although, I’m grateful because it’s amazing that I had that to turn to as I was taught and shown that music.

Jess Glynne

SM: You’re back from a five-year hiatus; why did you take so long out?

JG: I’ll be honest with you, I never intended to take five years out of music. It’s actually crazy! Covid happened and I was intending to take a break, but I was due to get back in the studio earlier than I did.
Then obviously things didn’t work out with my management, my label and I lost a really good friend. All these things set me back a bit. Changing management was one thing and then the label was a whole other thing – and then I had to find new people to trust and go on that whole journey.

I was doing everything on my own, it was just me and at the time I didn’t have any assistance. I was taking calls, I was dealing with meetings, I was travelling here, there and everywhere. That was a lot. That definitely took its toll on me, the self-managing and doing everything.

That set me back and then getting a new label and you have to build new relationships and build a new foundation for everything. During those times I was in and out of the studio creating and writing songs but the process was just a lot slower because there was a lot of change.

I have no regrets because I think everything has worked out really beautifully and I’m really happy with where I am now – with my label and with my team. I think I’m now in a place where I feel very confident in my team and in my music and myself and where I am, so I feel like it’s not so daunting.

SM: You split from Atlantic last year as you said you “felt trapped”, I was wondering if you could expand on that a little?

JG: The problem I had with my old label was I didn’t feel seen, I didn’t feel heard. I felt like they had a very particular vision for music. I love hits and I love dance records – it’s part of who I am as an artist – but I wanted more for this album. We just couldn’t get on the same page so I decided to find someone who could.

Jess Glynne

SM: It must be surreal to now be part of RocNation as Jay-Z was one of your songwriting influences, have you had the chance to meet him?

JG: I have met him, yeah. He’s a very humble and good guy; they all are. It’s very inspiring to be around people like that and to see how kind and warm they are, and that they are just like us and there’s a reason why they are so successful.

SM: When you won the Grammy in 2015, there were some of the all-time greats in attendance like Prince, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and Smokey Robinson. I know Prince was another huge influence on your music, did you get to meet him on the night?

JG: I didn’t get to meet Prince, gutted! I was at the parties and I met a few people, but I didn’t get to meet him. I met Beyoncé recently though; she’s lovely. It’s a scary thing when you’re going to meet someone that you’re such a fan of, but actually she’s really sweet.

SM: Your performance at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend recently went viral as before ‘Hold My Hand’ you said “Who’s ready for me to ruin their summer holiday?” This is poking fun at the fact it’s the song on the Jet2 adverts. But as an artist how much do you care how your music is consumed?

JG: I have morals and there are certain things that I wouldn’t like my music shared via, but other than that, I don’t mind. I think it’s important to be able to hear good music so whichever way it’s shared, I’m here for it.

SM: You started in the industry in your early 20s and like anyone growing up you’ve been on a journey of self-discovery and development, but what is it like to go through this in the public eye?

JG: It’s not the easiest because you’re constantly being picked apart. But having had some time out, it’s actually taught me a lot about how to be in the industry. You learn what you can say and what you can’t say and what’s acceptable and what’s not. I’ve had a few moments that have really opened my eyes to how I will never allow things to be again.

SM: You recently took a break from social media after saying that it scares you. You’re back but how are you using it differently this time around?

JG: Social media is a scary place because nobody’s safe. It feels as though there are a lot of people wanting to see you fall and the minute there’s a little mistake or a little wrong word or wrong picture everything can feel very heavy.

I think for me, taking a break from social media was important because there was a lot of stuff going on. Also, you can’t explain yourself, there are so many people on these platforms that it doesn’t matter which way you try and speak as everyone’s gonna see things their own way.

I think it’s about learning to be on the platforms and not being too attached and not oversharing or not overdoing it because then you’re able to sail through it.

I want people to see the real me and I want people to understand that I’m a human being and not just this person that stands on the stage and sings. Those songs come from somewhere, those songs come from a place of honesty, of life, of growth, of mistakes and of all different things.

I think it’s great to be able to share that on those platforms but I also think it’s important to have people around you that are there to protect how that stuff is shared. 

Jess Glynne’s new single ‘What Do You Do?’ is out on 14 July via EMI