DJ JES Interview

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New York native JES has not left her throne since she entered the dance music game. From her hit song “As the Rush Comes” to “Imagination,” the blonde bombshell is as lovely and beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside. From her Los Angeles apartment, JES talks to us about her constant craving for the Big Apple, her two-story studio, and her positive yoga lifestyle. Check out the DJ JES interview below!

Cliché: You’re originally from New York City. Which part did you grow up in?
JES: I grew up on 10th Street between University and 5th. Then when I was around 12 years old, my family and I moved uptown to the East Side, but I still have an apartment in the East Village.

Do you visit New York often?
I never really thought I’d be in LA as much as I am, but it’s much easier because I have a studio and I’m always working. I do go back and forth as much as I can. Last year I really tried to move back to New York. I was there the whole year, but nobody wanted to come with me. It was very hard to be the head of my business and control it from New York when everyone is here in LA. I try to go every month or two and I try to stay as long as possible. These days you can write on a computer, and I have a microphone I bring with me, so I can write anywhere. Recording is a little bit different; if I need to work on vocal production, then I really need to be in my studio. When I am in New York, I like to visit as many museums and take in as much of the city as I can.

Tell us about your studio.
I have a beautiful and huge studio in LA. I partnered with a few people, so it’s actually a full, two-story live recording room with a bunch of different writing and media rooms downstairs. I also have a workroom in my apartment where I can sing all the time with a whisper room so I don’t bother my neighbors! In my New York apartment, I just pretty much close the door and hope my neighbors don’t get mad. My neighbors are funny; they’ll come to me and say, “I really like that song you’re working on.”

What kind of music did you listen to when you were growing up? Was there a specific group or artist you gravitated towards?
I was always into songs and voices; I wasn’t necessarily really into groups. I was listening to Madonna and other kinds of pop music. My good friend introduced me to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Van Morrison. It taught me a lot about songwriting and different styles.

What influenced you to take the step to work with music?
Well my dad is a businessman, but my mom is very musical. Growing up in my house, the radio was always on and we had a piano and a guitar. I grew up going to plays and recitals, and I was humming, singing, and making up songs from a really early age. I can remember being as young as 5 years old and making songs. I went to a performing arts school and was part of the choir and always going out for auditions. I never really wanted to do anything else. I feel kind of lucky that way because I was always surrounded by music and knew what I wanted to do. It’s not easy you know, but I kind of went into it sort of naive. I was working at studios, working for anything that can get me around music.

Would you consider yoga as one of your hobbies or is it more of a lifestyle?
I’d definitely consider yoga a lifestyle. It kind of saved my life. I’ve always done yoga, but I started doing a Vinyasa power/hot yoga and also meditating. Anything that can quiet my mind for an hour or two is relaxing. It’s very hard; you have to be so strong, but it’s such a great workout that has calmed me down and helps me maintain my focus. I know it’s not for everybody, but I find that it’s one of the best workouts for me. I ran a marathon and I work out every day at the gym, but I’ve seen more change through yoga than any other workout. 

Which marathon did you run?
I ran the Honolulu Marathon about two years ago and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. I actually had a show on a Friday and ran the marathon on a Sunday. I ran for an LA-based charity APLA and I met a lot of wonderful people. I remember training on the treadmill and I was so nervous about the marathon. I really didn’t think I was going to be able to do it, but I did and finished under six hours, which is pretty good time. I would suggest anybody to run in a marathon because it’s an incredible life-changing experience. I’d love to run the New York marathon, but there’s something very magical about Hawaii. 

From watching your music videos and performances, you have a very rockstar style. What are some of your favorite pieces in your closet?
I do so many shows and it’s kind of funny because you can’t wear things too many times. I like a lot of vintage pieces and my sister is an amazing photographer in New York who finds some really nice pieces. I also work with a designer here named Maggie Barry who designs a lot of stuff with me. When I’m in New York, I check out downtown shops, and in LA there’s a place called Santee Alley, which is a great place to go for cool jewelry and artsy/trashy boutiques and shoes. I’m kind of eclectic with things that I put together. When I started out, I was the girl with the corn rolls. Now, through the years, I am a little more dressy, but I love the sneaker wedge craze. I know they aren’t the most beautiful things, but you can find some really cool ones and for long shows they are very comfortable. I love to dress up and I get the opportunity to indulge that when I perform.

You collaborated with ATB and are featured in three of his songs on his album Contact. How was the experience working with him?
I did shows over the years with him and we’ve always bumped into each other. We’ve been wanting to work together for about five years now and when I put out my song, “Higher Than the Sun,” he wrote me and said, “JES, I’m doing my album; we gotta sit down.” It was a wonderful experience and he’s such a sweet guy. Unfortunately, we were too busy to actually be in the studio together because he’s in Germany, but we went back and forth for a year with tracks and he really pushed me in certain directions. I was very happy because the first track we did was a mid tempo ballad and I’m very known in the EDM world, but I really come from the rock/pop world, so it was nice to be able to collaborate on different tracks. They had different elements and they really came out great. The track “Together” is one of my favorites. “Hard To Cure” is a big dance anthem that I think will be one of the singles, and “Right Back to You” is a little more pop. I love them all and I’m so happy with the way they came out. We did a few preview shows for the album in Chicago, San Francisco, and Roseland Ballroom in New York City before it closed. My mother came and it was a really special and wonderful show. It’s very exciting and I’m really looking forward to doing more shows.

You have collaborated with many artists over the years. What has been one of your favorite collaborations?
Like I said, I don’t always get to go in the studio with artists, but one of my favorites and one of my most successful collaborations was with BT. I had a song called “Every Other Way” and we performed it with a huge orchestra. It was like a dream; it was amazing. I actually have been able to work with him in the studio so that’s special. I think Tiësto and BT are the only two people I went in the studio with. BT was one of my favorites and we’ve written so many beautiful things together and are very good friends.

Since you’ve DJed all over the world, what is your absolute favorite city to play in?
You can’t beat Ibiza, but I love so many places because they’ve been so wonderful. Mexico City and Kuala Lumpur are amazing. One of my favorite places to play is the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado.

JES’s Interview “The Queen of EDM” originally appeared in Cliché Magazine’s April/May 2014 issue.

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