Jessie Frye: The Rock Star Risk, Feeling the “Bern” in Texas

Jessie Frye has brought pop to the forefront of the Lone Star State’s music scene. After having won Best Pop Act in 2015 and 2016 in the Dallas Observer Music awards and the same award in 2017 at the Denton Music Awards, Frye has put herself at the forefront of Texas’ music emblems.

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Her music has captivated audiences from her hometown of Denton and nearby Dallas, across the state to El Paso. Frye has also become a symbol for Texas’ rising Liberal leaning. A new generation of Texans has been hitting the voting polls to voice their concerns about women’s rights and gay rights. Without politicizing music, Frye has used music a platform to represent her home state.

Jessie Frye opening for Bernie Sanders at one of his rallies during his 2016 presidential campaign is an example of how although her music may not have political motivations, musicians have a significant role in unifying if not a country, people in general. And there may not be much that unifies people like music, especially catchy, fun pop beats that make you want to dance, like that of Jessie Frye’s.

Frye was on tour with her guitarist, Michael Garcia.

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Antonio Villasenor-Baca: Who is Jessie Frye?

Jessie Frye: Well, I’m a pop-rock singer. I like to think, at this point, I represent Texas not just Denton. I’m a high-energy performer. I love to play for my fans. I write music about positivity and empowerment, and also sometimes some sexy stuff. It’s kind of a mix. That’s who I am.

AVB: What does it mean when you say you represent Texas?

JF: That’s my home state and we play all over the DFW Metroplex and Austin a lot. So I just kind of feel like, especially after performing for Bernie Sanders when he was running his presidential campaign, I just feel at this point representing Texas feels more accurate because of how much we’ve played the market.

AVB: What do you mean you played for Bernie Sanders?

JF: Yeah, in 2016, I got asked to perform for Bernie Sanders when he came to Texas to speak. It was crazy. You know, Jim Hightower, spoke with Bernie and [Jim] is a friend of mine, he said that Texas is not a red sate. It’s a nonvoting state. I always remember that. It’s an interesting point of view. People go to red states, so they don’t even bother voting. If Bernie taught us anything, it’s that the youth really matters and should be the ones making decisions for our future. Shit show we’re in now.

AVB: How did you get into music?

JF: It’s always been a part of my life. I started when I was eight years old, taking voice lessons. And then I got into piano lessons, and then just kind of singing around the house, lyrics started to pop out. And then I started journaling. One thing connected to another. You know? Singing, piano, writing lyrics. I started working at a local music store when I was 16 so I was just constantly around music, musicians, teachers, that taught me. I started teaching music professionally at 17 and went to college, tried to go to college for a couple of semesters, but I skipped class to go practice with the band. So I knew from the beginning that I wanted to take the risk to pursue the rock star dream. It was never really a question, it was just in my blood.

AVB: And what were your early influences? What did you listen to growing up?

JF: Well, the Cure is my favorite band of all time. Like since I was five years old, the Cure has been my favorite band. Toree Amos is a big inspiration for me. More current, I love Paramore. I like Bring Me the Horizon. Classics like Michael Jackson, Madonna, just pull from a lot of different genres. I love Type O Negative; I have a tattoo of them. Um, sometimes you don’t sound like your influences and it’s kind of interesting. I like dark stuff and I try to play into the dark imagery sometimes, but it’s not always present in my aesthetic. I just kind of always tend to blend pop and rock in my production studio and in my songwriting.

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AVB: Can you tell me about the two singles you just put out?

JF: So I have a couple of records I put out a couple of years ago but right now I’m actually focusing on releasing singles because I feel like it’s kind of the way that the future is headed for listenership. With platforms like Spotify where it’s very, and I don’t mean it in a bad way, but a very instant gratification mentality where you just click on the song you want to hear. So for me as a creator and who pays to have their music recorded at a studio, and there’s money involved when you go to a studio obviously, so I have to think what’s more cost effective for me as an artist. Recording an album costs thousands and thousands of dollars and it takes months, especially if you’re independent or self-funded. Gosh, I think it would be fun to just record the songs as they pop-up, if I like them, and release them as singles. It’s less expensive that way and I can have a theme for each single cover. It just feels more relevant and it’s not as torturous for me. I don’t really enjoy making full-length records, the permanence of it freaks me out, like these ten songs, on this one collection, that document my life, and there it is. I love everything I’ve ever put out and I’m proud of it but I thought by the time you put out a record, you’ve already been working on it for a year and the band’s kind of tired, well not tired, but they’re ready for the next thing so this is why I’m focusing on singles. I released “Honey” in August of 2017 and then we just released “Why So Serious?” [this month, in February.] “Honey” did really well for us. I feel like “Why So Serious?” is a good supplemental track. I personally don’t think, I think it’s hard to do a follow-up for a track like “Honey.” I work with a really great producer. His name is Matt Aslanian. He produces my music and co-writes with me. I brought “Honey” to him when I wrote it and he heard the direction that it should go and I agreed with him that it should go in that pop synth direction. So we just wanted “Honey” to feel like a very, big, powerful, sexy, top 40 song. And we spent a lot of time in the studio on that song. I just kind of went all out. Did a bunch of photos that were themed around it. Spent a chunk of change on the music video for it. And it’s the song that I’m most proud of so far. I was a little nervous when it first came out because it was a bit of a departure from my last material that was a bit more indie-pop-rock. “Honey” is just a bit more straightforward, mainstream, which I don’t have a problem with. My fans seem to receive it really, really well. I was excited about that.

AVB: Where did the idea [for the theme] of “Honey” come from?

JF: I wanted to do something a little weird. David LaChapelle, is a photographer that I really enjoy his work and all of his stuff is very full of social commentary and larger than life imagery. And so I thought it would be cool if we made me look like a doll. If you look at the photo I’m almost bare but I’m not bare. So I just kind of wanted to create a character for “Honey” and my character also ended up being in the music video. I feel like it just makes it fun for fans to have an imagery and a character that they can connect to and identify with that.

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AVB: What was the idea behind and how did you transition from that, to a more serious song like “Why So Serious?”

JF: “Honey” is like a fun, sexy song. It’s very celebratory. “Why So Serious?” is definitely more on the emotional side for me. It’s actually kind of a dark song. I wrote it in a very difficult time of my life where I wasn’t sure if I believed in love. I was going through difficult times in relationships and stuff like that and so “Why So Serious?” is just love, or those lyrics are kind of a way of making fun of myself. It’s like why so upset about your feelings about, it’s just the most important thing in the world. It’s kind of a way of me trying to make a light of my entire world view of love just collapsing in on me. Making fun of my choices on like dating the wrong people or going out and getting tired of it because it’s the same old thing. Just kind of taking a step back and being able to call myself out on perspectives that are making me miserable, I guess?

AVB: So is that irony how you came up with the idea for the carousel in the background for single’s cover?

JF: The carousel in the background- that was interesting because I needed promo photos for “Why So Serious” and it was kind of last minute. My friend, Dustin Schneider, he took those photos. He’s a fantastic photographer, I hit him up and said I really need these IMG_0182photos I thought I had the right ones but I don’t. Can you help me out? And he’s just like, that’s so funny that you ask because I’m going to go shoot at the carnival, do you want to come with me? So we went to this carnival in downtown Fort Worth and carousels and colorful rides and the outfit I was wearing just happened to be perfect and that was a happy accident and it ended up fitting with the energy, I think.

AVB: Finally, I just wanted to ask you about playing for Bernie Sanders. Why did Bernie Sanders resonate resonate so much with you and what was it like being asked to play for him?

JF: Yeah, it was crazy. So he resonated with me because I feel like he spoke to the youth and he addressed issues that mattered, and he didn’t take money. He was just different from every other candidate. I read his biography. He released it after the election and it talks about his struggles throughout the years and running and how he went through so many hurdles and struggles that it was almost impossible for him to run for president. It’s just inspiring to me and unfortunately; it’s always the good people that are the underdogs, especially in politics. In Texas, where we do struggle with women’s rights constantly, and gay rights, just the Liberal lifestyle seems to always be under attack and so Bernie kind of spoke to every one in that community. The way that it came was crazy. I was on tour in February 2016 and I got an email from the campaign and they asked me to play at a rally in Denton, Texas on February 14. Bernie was not going to be at this rally but his Deputy Director of State was, and Jim Hightower was, representing Bernie Sanders. So I had to perform, there was about 500 people there, it was a really unifying event, it was awesome.

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I hopped off stage and David Sanchez, Bernie’s Deputy Director of State, said, ‘gosh your song “One In A Million” is so positive and it brought the crowd together. If Bernie comes to Dallas would you want to play for him?’ Two weeks later I get the phone call, at 9 o’clock at night, ‘we think Bernie is going to be here in 36 hours, we think we could probably get you onstage. Can you do it?’ At the time I had a couple band-mates that were out of town, and the Secret Service is very particular about what they allow at events so a bunch of music was something that they were not cool with, because vetting is a really big deal. So they were like. ‘oh, sorry it’s not going to happen.’ After I already got a friend to learn the music on guitar. I was trying to make it happen right? Then he called me back, ‘well if you can do an acoustic, you can perform two songs before Bernie Sanders speaks.’ And I had like 36 hours notice to get it all together and I don’t perform acoustic. Typically it’s a full-on rock show. So that was ore nerve-wracking that I wasn’t going to have my band and I was going to perform in front of 10,000 people with my acoustic guitar. So we did it. And it was probably one of the greatest moments of my life. I just started crying because that had never happened before; having that many people singing to a song I wrote at an event like that. And then I hop off stage and take pictures with Bernie Sanders and shake his hand and he thanks me in his speech. My whole crew and I were all in tears. I still get goose bumps talking about it. It’s like dreams can come true.

By Antonio Villasenor-Baca

 

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