Jessie Reyez on her debut album and trusting herself: 'Why the f— would I start compromising now?'
Reyez, 28, spoke at length about Before Love Came to Kill Us, working with Eminem, and her leaked Drake collaboration.
Last week, Jesse Reyez dropped her long-awaited debut album Before Love Came to Kill Us, a 14-track release she calls "sporadic, like me." It's easy to understand why. The project is a genre-bending mashup representative of her Canadian and Colombian roots — equal parts soul, R&B, and rap, with a Latino twist. The project takes listeners on a journey through her biggest pains, deepest loves, angriest moments, and back again.
Reyez may be a new voice to some, but longtime fans like Billie Eilish and Eminem have been preaching her gospel for years. She spoke to EW about the struggle she underwent to ensure the final product represented every dichotomy in her DNA. She also chats about her postponed tour with Eilish and dives into her feelings about singing in Spanish.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your new album is bilingual. You've discussed in the past your hesitation to sing in Spanish. Why was it the right time to do it?
Jessie Reyez: Even though Spanish is my first language, when I’m working in Spanish I feel like you have to respect it more. Songs in Spanish have the freedom to get super heavy with poetry and alliteration and imagery, and it risks getting cheesy when you do that in English. But in Spanish you have free reign, and for whatever reason it doesn’t sound cheesy; it sounds beautiful. It takes me a little more effort and more care to be able to write in Spanish. I think maybe it’s something subconscious because Spanish is the language that I learned how to love and how to be a human [in]. So maybe that’s why things just feel more intimate for me when I sing in Spanish.
The album that was released is not the same version you originally planned to drop. What changed?
I was doing promo for the album and I kept getting asked by reporters if I was nervous about the release. At least five people asked me the same thing back-to-back and I was like, "Damn! Am I supposed to be nervous about this right now? Because I wasn’t when I started." By the end of the day I was second guessing it. On top of that, I was letting people [tell me] that my first album has to be cohesive — like that should take precedence, that I needed to make sure it flows and goes together. And that bulls—t got into my head.
So when we were working on the tour, I’m observing what my musical director is proposing for the set list and I just looked over at him and said, "I hate it." My songs are my kids, and this looked like my kids but they weren’t dressed like my kids. It had to do with sequencing, it had to do with certain songs misplaced. I had a moment of clarity where I was like, "I haven’t compromised my whole life." This was my opportunity to deliver [a] full body of work in my debut album. Why the f— would I start compromising now? So I shook it off and I called everybody and told them all the changes that needed to be made. Before the changes, the album wasn’t as sporadic. Now it’s sporadic because it’s a reflection of me.
There was a rumor that there was going to be a collaboration with your friend Billie Eilish on the album. Did that song fall off due to the changes?
Umn, I don't know...not for the album... We've been in the studio together before, that's the homie. But when the time is right it'll happen.
What has her support meant to you?
She's been supporting me for years. This was before she had all these followers. I can't express enough how dope she is as a human being. What I love about her is that she is who she is. I feel that we're in an industry where the opportunity to meet someone who is really legit are few and far between. She's always been consistent with her support and showing me love. I got to meet her brother and her mom and dad at a session and they're so dope too. Meeting them you know why she is who she is.
With everything so influx right now, do you think there's a chance you'll still be able to tour together?
I hope so, but that's in God's hands, the hands of politicians, and the community, not mine. We have to wait and see what happens.
You've long spoken about how much you love your fellow countrymen Juanes, and we saw you pop up during his recent Instagram Live. Are there any plans to collaborate there and what type of music would you want to tackle?
Yeah, I hope so! God willing, man. He's so sick in his own right and the fact that I'm Colombian, it makes it my duty to make sure we do. His music resonates with my blood. I'm good for a vallenato. I'm good for a cumbia. I'm good with a reggaeton. I'm down for whatever because he's so dope.
You have now worked on two songs with Eminem. Why do you think your styles mesh so well together?
It's incredible to get support from somebody that I looked up to since I was a kid. What I admire the most and respect about him is that he's always authentically been himself. This is something that I respect as an artist and as a human. Working with him is an affirmation that we're on the same frequency. And I appreciate his sarcasm too. It's a good vibe how we come together and we speak the same language.
Before you go, we need to know about "Zodiac Sign," your track with Drake that leaked. What were the original plans for that?
I plead the fifth on that one. I don't know how it got leaked. He's a legend. And similarly to Juanes, I feel patriotic when I work with Drake. Like, f— yeah. I was born in Toronto and what Drake has done for the city, you can't really quantify. So the fact that, not only did I get to work with him but to get his support publicly, it's mad love. I really have no idea how it leaked but it's out!