Gary James' Interview With Electronic Dance Music Artist

She is one of the standout artists in the Electronic Dance Music category. A singer, songwriter, producer, and yes, a DJ all describe this multi-talented artist. Her 2004 recording of "As The Rush Comes" went all the way to number one on Billboard's Hot Dance Airplay chart. In 2009 she did it again with "Imagination", which also went all the way to number one on Billboard's Hot Dance Airplay chart. We are speaking about the artist known as JES.

Q - JES, when you were starting out you worked as a reference vocalist. What's that?

A - Well, a reference vocalist is someone they call in to give a song a personality. Songwriters write something and they need a singer they like that has character that can do the parts that the star is going to come in and copy. (laughs) So, that's what I used to do. I used to go in and sing these Pop songs and do sort of all the vocal arrangements and they would hire me for my style. Then they'd bring in the artist and the artist would sort of copy the way I phrased the song and how I did the harmonies and vocal arrangements.

Q - Would you be doing this for female artists or male artists as well?

A - Just female.

Q - Who would we be talking about here? Anybody we would have heard of?

A - Well, I wasn't really privy to who the person was at the time. I worked for a lot of different producers, mostly in New York and mostly in Pop music. So, I became sort of popular in doing that. (laughs) It sort of helped me develop my own style.

Q - Would it have been anybody like Madonna or you just don't know?

A - In that range of stardom, yes, but somebody like Madonna I think had her own style and that's what made her Madonna. A lot of times it was girl groups and different types of singers that maybe didn't write their own material.

Q - You were doing this type of work for major record labels?

A - Yes.

Q - How did you get to be in the position where in 2013 you were recognized as one of the Top Ten Female Dance Music Acts? Did you ever sing in say a dance band at a Holiday Inn or Marriott and someone, for lack of a better word, "discovered" you?

A - (laughs) Well, it's funny. I have done that and sang standards in hotels and sung in cover bands, but that's not really how I got into this world of music. I started out as a songwriter. I come from New York. I came to L.A. after traveling around a bit and just getting tired of New York and needing some new inspiration. So, I came out here (Los Angeles) and I was working in a recording studio and one of the interns was a raver kid. He was very into raves at the time. I actually never heard this music before. I didn't know what this music was, this typed of dance music, progressive music, trans music. As a songwriter I was very interested in it because it was built around the melodies. So, at night we would stay at the studio and record songs. One of the songs got on a major record of DJ Paul Van Dyke. After that song came out, "Star Children", a lot of DJs started calling me because I come from more of the band mainstream, Pop/Rock world. I was out there in the clubs, performing new songs that I'd written and I met a kid from San Francisco. I went down and wrote a song called "As The Rush Comes". We were in a band called Motorcycle. The song just took off and really just took me into a whole new world of music. I didn't know who half of these people were that I work with all the time now. I'd been working in music for awhile and it was kind of my big break.

Q - You're referred to as an Electronic Dance Music Artist. I used to know that term as Techno. The two must be different.

A - Yeah, it's really become like this modern music these days. It's a very wide playing field. It used to be a sort of niche music that involved Techno and Progressive House Music, but now it's sort of become mainstream. It's really popular. People have combined it with Rap and made new, different styles of it. It's just sort of mainstream music. You wouldn't hear dance music on the radio six years ago, but now all our Pop stuff has dance music elements in it. It's reached quite a ceiling now. It's quite popular.

Q - Is it primarily a male dominated form of music?

A - It is. It's funny 'cause all music genres are male dominated, but I would say E.D.M. (Electronic Dance Music) is mostly men. There are some big women DJs out there. There's a couple out there that are very strong. You will see them with the male DJs, but it is very male dominated. I think even more now.

Q - You more or less have the field to yourself, don't you?

A - (laughs) You gotta work hard. You gotta work even harder.

Q - Where do you take your act?

A - It's interesting. When I had a band before I broke into this field I worked really hard to get 250 people into a club. When I started doing dance music, a small show is maybe 500 to 1,000 people. That's the norm and most normal shows I'd say are probably 3,000 people to 5,000 people. I've played to 28,000 people. I do now play mostly clubs, but a lot of the clubs also cater to 'live' music. So, they're nice sized clubs with back lines, with production, but I do travel with my own set-up as well. If I'm in a smaller club and I need to do it I can control my sound. But yeah, mostly festivals and clubs, but during the summer there's a lot of 'live' venues as well.

Q - You bring to the stage not only your music, but probably a light show and everything that goes along with that?

A - Yeah. There's a light show. There's dancers. A lot of visuals. A lot of these parties are themed. A lot of times the clubs will have different themes. So, they do put a lot of work into the production. Dance music sort of thrives off of that, the lights, the visuals. All of that works together for these shows.

Q - Girls like your music because they like to dance to it and they like the way you dress. Guys like your music because they like the way you look. Jes, you've got all the bases covered, haven't you?

A - Well, music and fashion kind of go together. With performing you've got to be a little bit larger than life. So, I do like to take advantage of that. So, I'm very into the fashion of it. I also like to promote a strong, healthy lifestyle. I think I appeal to the women in that way as well and men too. I try to get all my bases covered. (laughs)

Q - How are you writing, on guitar or piano?

A - I write on a piano and guitar. I do both. I try to do acoustic versions of all the songs I do. Right now I'm doing one of my current singles, "Get Me Through The Night". I tend to write very simply and then I usually work on it with the DJ or the producer I'm working with and make it into more of a dance songs. A great song can turn into a great dance song. Since I come from more of a singer/songwriter place, I've actually been working to go back to that a little bit, to my roots, not abandoning what I'm doing but doing what I felt I started out to do.

Q - When you're not writing or performing, what type of music do you listen to? Could you enjoy listening to Frank Sinatra?

A - Yeah, sure. Actually when I'm with my parents they're always listening to a Sinatra station. I don't listen to dance music on my own time so much. I have my own radio show called Unleash The Beat that's been on for three years. It's a dance radio show so I do listen to dance music for that. Even when I'm on my own I listen to singer/songwriters. I love all different types of things because it's inspiration for me to write new songs.

Q - Black Sabbath?

A - I love Black Sabbath! (laughs)

Q - Kiss?

A - Yes. I've even been to a Kiss show. I love Van Morrison. I love The Beatles. I love The Rolling Stones, especially from a songwriter's point of view. Those are the classic, beautiful songs. I do a Christmas song every year because I love the way Christmas music is written. Beautiful melodies.

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