Notion 88 cover star, Jetta, speaks about her latest single "Taste" and the impressions that shaped her musical landscape.
With her distinctive soulful voice and enthralling melodies, British self-producer and artist Jetta continues to deliver a stream of dreamy, inspiring songs with stunning visual appeal. We speak to Jetta about her songwriting journey on the tail of her latest release “Taste”, a sumptuous tale of temptation and romance.
From the moment Liverpudlian songstress and record producer Jetta joins me on a Zoom call, it is palpably clear that she embodies an artist in every essence of the word. Donning a loosely twisted updo of ash-blonde space buns and a diamante netted vest layered over a black mesh undershirt, she appears under a wall of trailing iridescent stars: it is a small glimpse into her aesthetic vision and inspired universe. Having only recently dropped her latest single “Taste”—a pulsating, ethereal electronic number accompanied by a decadently esoteric music video—the gifted singer has been busy at home and in the studio working towards the upcoming release of her first full-length album.
“I’m an only child, so I’ve always been in my own world—my own imagination,” Jetta begins in her grounded and charismatic Scouse accent. “I’ve just evolved with that mindset and it’s how I make my work—just me in my bubble or planet, and that started really young.” Born to musically-inclined parents (her mum ran an acapella choir whilst her dad worked as a sound engineer), Jetta’s formative years were infused with a deep appreciation for the elements and technicalities of music. “My parents always encouraged me to do whatever makes me happy, but music was never forced on me. It was just around me all the time,” she says with a wide smile. “I was lucky enough to have vocal harmonies around me every weekend–,” she references her mum’s choir, “–and I think it’s why I really love music production.” A chance discovery of Annie Lennox’s debut album Diva also greatly influenced the young talent along her own creative journey: “I found a recording that my mum had on the shelf: it was back-to-back videos of Annie Lennox. I just fell in love with her aesthetic, this dream-like world that she created, and just the fact that she is an amazing musician with such a powerful voice,” Jetta exhales with admiration. “It was watching her basically being really theatrical, having fun with the way that she looked as a woman and tapping into her youthfulness—that was where it sparked for me: all of the dimensions of being a ‘creative’ beyond the music.” But the impressions shaping Jetta’s musical landscape don’t stop there. With Liverpool’s rich history of music and band culture, it would be hard to imagine that being raised in the city centre wouldn’t somehow leave behind a lasting impact in some shape or form. “There’s always a gig—well, not right now, but there’s always a band playing in town,” Jetta laughs. “Especially with the history of The Beatles, there’s a pride in Liverpool for real gritty music. I was always immersed in seeing loads of local bands, and the attitude and the personality of being a Scouser is just really friendly—there’s this supportive energy in the city for musicians. I’m really proud to be from Liverpool, and even though I’ve branched out from there, I still carry that with me.”
Jetta’s international breakthrough arrived when her touching and impassioned ballad Feels Like Coming Home was selected to soundtrack Google’s Zeitgeist 2013 in Searches roundup montage, which has since appeared in shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and The Originals. “It was extra special because it resonated with people, complementing those key moments in the year,” Jetta comments. “Making music to connect people is the biggest reason for doing it—to see that actually translate the way that it was supposed to was everything, and it was so nostalgic and surreal!” With the universal nature of Jetta’s music being so adaptive to the screen, it is entirely fitting that the singer is so inspired by visuals and the art of cinema. “I’m a huge film fanatic,” she shares, “I’d say it’s my passion just as much as music!” Her dark and brooding spin of Ten Years After’s seminal track I’d Love to Change the World ushered in a new wave of recognition, as it was featured in trailers and soundtracks for the likes of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Nightcrawler, and Terminator Genisys. “I love the genre of films that it was associated with; they’re some of my favourites. I’m very visual when I make things so that whole world is something that I’m inspired by all the time as I’m creating. I have a big inspiration wall of images and setting the mood with lighting. I tend to write at nighttime when everyone else is asleep; I just feel this pure silence. I’ve got my planets that I’ve got hanging down on the wall, my coloured lights, and I just immerse myself in this world.”
As an artist that has impressively self-produced a sizable chunk of her work, including her Tonic EP released in 2018 and subsequent releases, Jetta is uniquely equipped with the freedom and experimental drive that total creative control affords. She offers a thoughtful response when I ask about her penchant for exploring an array of sounds of genres with her evolving musical tastes: “For me, I like what I like—it’s on a song-by-song basis, but there are obviously albums that I just love from beginning to end. With The xx and London Grammar, I could listen to their whole body of work. But I find that there are different moods within my album. I love listening to instrumental music, like Aphex Twin—and because it’s mainly sound design, it tells a story in a way,” she relays enthusiastically. “I start a song with its soundscape, reflecting how I’m feeling, and I guess you just figure out your own way of tapping into stuff. The beauty of doing it myself is that it’s a free-for-all, I can just go any way I want in terms of the dynamics of each song and do whatever I feel like.” Speaking to Jetta, it’s clear that her self-inspired and adventurous approach when it comes to experimentation has strongly pioneered her independence: “Being in my own space is where I’m really comfortable. I feel safe in my own imagination. And there’s no limit so it’s like time doesn’t even exist. I’m so grateful that I’m able to have the space and time to do that,” she muses appreciatively. “I surprise myself everyday with some things that come out, like ‘Did I do that?’” she laughs. “I guess it’s quite nice for people to know that I don’t have loads of fancy equipment and stuff—I just have my keyboards, my laptop, my voice, and that is enough. It’s all you need, and your imagination.” Jetta’s voice grows animated as she relays an anecdote from her last EP production: “There was one time I actually dreamt a song! I have a voice note of when I woke up at like 5 am and tried to sing all the parts because I was still half-asleep; I just ran to the studio that I was using at the time,” she laughs. The melody drawn from her deep subconsciousness would later develop into the ensuing song Enemy in Me: a powerful, soulful track driven by gospel-inspired harmonies.
So far this year, the accomplished songstress has released a cluster of singles: the synth-laden piece I Wanna Know, which is visually accompanied by the sci-fi, game-inspired universe of an animated avatar, and the effortlessly cool track Livin’, set over 90s garage-inspired beats. “I wanted to challenge myself by doing a dancey song because I’ve got a lot of mid-tempo and intimate ballads. I wanted to have some fun and I feel like I could dance to it with friends. The 90s felt like a happy time—everyone was just raving and feeling good—and obviously garage has a very British stamp,” she comments. Its music video serves as an homage to the sartorial styles of the era and has a distinctly vintage feel throughout—Jetta switches between a crimson vinyl coat, Y2K mini-shades, and shaggy hair to a metallic corset and vintage victory rolls-slash-elephant trunk in her signature blonde. “There’s elements and moments from the late 80s and 90s, with people like Madonna and her videos that I pull from,” she speculates as we discuss her style heroes. “But sometimes I like a more laddy style, like the swag of someone like Liam Gallagher,” she giggles. “I enjoy deciding how I want to dress on the day and I really love accessorising and layering. You end up getting the most use out of everything—I definitely wear everything until it’s got holes in it!” There is a mesmerising glamour to Jetta’s aesthetic and appearance, which only amplifies the magnetic quality of her performances. Her hair, which has cycled through various shades of blonde over the past few years, is inspired by “the 1940s and 50s movie starlet world”. She smiles charmingly, “I’ve always loved blonde hair—I think it’s the contrast. Aesthetically, it makes me happy to see and it just elevates everything for me.”
For her latest release Taste, Jetta explores a new artistic direction in the form of a self-described “modern day Adam and Eve story, Renaissance painting brought to life”. The music video, which accompanies a catchy, dreamy track brimming with reverb and cascading synths, follows Jetta as she assumes a bewitching temptress persona. “It’s a story of temptation and love. I kind of look like Eve, but also like a sea witch or goddess at the same time,” she describes. “The whole message is like the push and pull of your feelings and what you’re going to decide to do.” The result is a spellbinding work of art directed by Jade Jackman; a thoughtful iteration of modern Romanticism filled with lush imagery and symbolism. As Jetta lounges and writhes upon an ornate bed, she lifts and serenades a white snake close to her face: an overt reference to temptation in its most iconic form. “It turns out that one of Jade’s very close friends has a perfect snake, which she brought down on the day,” Jetta relays with a wide smile. “We were basically aware of each other and so I told her how I envisioned the song. Together we came up with this metaphorical visual video, and it was really fun to collaborate with her and bring it to life—I got to play with a snake!” she beams with glee.
Keen to bring about a mystical feel to the project whilst also avoiding overt “nightmare” aspects of the origin story, there are visible elements of Jetta’s unmistakable artistry that make an appearance here: namely her expressive dances and infallible striking style. “The dress that I’m wearing on the bed was custom made for me by Jessica Au,” Jetta reveals. “She worked with me on the general styling on the video, and she makes these amazing clothes so I was really fortunate to have my own thing made by her.” For her chaise longue shots, Jetta dons a Swarovski crystal halter top designed by Clio Peppiatt, completed with metallic ombré nails and a bold dark lip coated with diamond embellishments. “It took like two hours to put them all on individually!” Jetta laughs. Such minute details are testament to her visual appeal and polished ensemble, where the darker and more gothic-leaning looks contrast sharply against the light airiness of her song. “There’s a forward thinking positivity to the sound—it has a stark balance between dark and light. And you get the sense that the apple of the story is there,” she twinkles and pulls out her phone, referring to some behind-the-scenes photos of her posing coyly with the fruit. For the song’s inception, Jetta reveals, “I basically had a bunch of different title ideas written down in my notes, and Taste was just one of the words that I had for a while. I started all the production first and I made the drums from scratch using 16 layers of percussion.” She continues, “It was really fun to do. I layered lots of different synthpads—harmonies and melodic layers in the music, and once it was all finished I improvised some melodies as I played it back. I looked at my phone and the word ‘Taste’ just stood out for me, and that’s when the whole template of the song came about. It was just inspired by the way the music made me feel.”
Despite an upcoming booked show in November postponed to next year, Jetta’s momentum is not slowing down. “I’m already thinking about the video for my next single later this year!” she shares with a hearty laugh, “–I have to have a visual!” With her debut album set to be released between March and April, the range of Jetta’s musical offerings this year are just a hint of what to expect: earnest, emotive and vivacious songs coupled with dazzling and arresting optics. In the face of reschedulements, Jetta’s unwavering hopefulness and optimism—and the promise of new music—feel like a welcome breath of fresh air. “Moving my show so that it’s alongside my album just makes sense, as it’ll essentially be a proper launch next year. I’m super excited about it; I can’t believe it’ll be my first album!” she exclaims. “In some ways, it’s been quite bittersweet. Knowing that everybody was in the same situation was quite comforting—and living alone became less scary. Some things didn’t change, like working from home, but that was before it became a choice and so it felt different,” she offers candidly. “It really became a test of mental strength, but I was able to still create. And I think what was beautiful was that other people were paying attention to things more, and they wanted the comfort of creativity. I feel like there’s more room to connect and reconnect and it’s made people appreciate each other and things a little more—having the chance to miss things.” She laughs charismatically and continues in her warm Scouse accent, “Fingers crossed we can get back to seeing friends, going to live shows and festivals in the summer because then that’ll be manic!” It strikes me then, seeing Jetta beam under her silver stars, that there is a fitting magic to her silver lining.