June 1, 2020 Interview – JJ Wilde
It is one thing to have the tools to sing, but it is another to have the soul to do it right. Coming out of Ontario, Canada, JJ Wilde is a young lady with a rawness and sincerity in her voice that you cannot only hear, but feel too. See her musical dreams through, she released her debut EP Wilde Eyes, Steady Hands in 2019, and has since toured with everyone from Jimmy Eat World to Glorious Sons.
Turning heads with her diverse sound that is a mix of Blues, Rock, Folk, and Pop, Wilde is an artist on the precipitous of very big things. Excited for what the future holds, she recently sat down to talk about her music, her plans for her debut full-length album, Ruthless, the passion she put into her recently released single “Funeral For a Lover,” plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – Music has been an intricate part of your life for many years. Through the ups and downs, you have followed through with your dreams. First, tell us, what has kept you inspired to continue along your musical journey?
JJ Wilde – I think mostly it was the understanding that I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. I tried working various jobs. At some point in my life I got into what looked like it could be a promising career, but I was always doing music throughout it. It is what kept me going, it was always there no matter what job I was working or what was going on. It was always a constant in my life and something I loved to do… I never questioned that.
For me, there was a defining moment where I said, “Okay, it’s time to decide. Can I have this just be a hobby? Will I be happy doing that?” The answer was no. I also think what drove me to continue was the fear of missing out. I never wanted to look back and think, “What if I just tried harder?” I didn’t want to be in that career that was very promising thinking, “What if I just stuck with it?” I had to find out for myself.
Cryptic Rock – Fortunately, your persistence has paid off and, in 2019, you release a fantastic EP, Wilde Eyes, Steady Hands. Four tracks in total, to many this was a first introduction to your music. What was it like selecting and putting the EP together?
JJ Wilde – It was a ton of fun. It was such a great experience and good memory. It was my first time going to LA, ever; I definitely had that starstruck moment of, “Oh my god, this is happening!” Before I took that trip, I had cataloged quite a few songs. My producer and I went through that massive list and I picked my short list of songs that I thought would really be something, and he picked his. We then started with both of our lists to see if any were the same.
We took a look at that and it flowed really naturally, surprisingly, with how many songs we had to pick. There wasn’t that much difficulty deciding. We felt, since we have all these songs, and there is no pressure, we can listen through and go with whatever feels right and flows the best. By doing that, we ended up creating the EP in around eight days. It was a really great experience. It was very different, every writing trip is very different. It was a lot of fun!
Cryptic Rock – That is great to hear. Your music can lay within a variety of styles ranging from Rock to Pop, and beyond. How do you see yourself as an artist?
JJ Wilde – I just try to be authentic to myself. I’ve never really tried to fit into any genre or designed my music to fit any genre. Growing up, there was a wide variety of music that I was listening to; I pull from those inspirations constantly when I’m writing. That could be why the music crosses genres sometimes. I have a lot of Folk, Rock, and definitely some Pop influence.
I think, as an artist, I just try to say what I want to say; it comes out however it comes out. I never create it with something in mind.
Cryptic Rock – Right, that is the best way to create. Since the release of your EP, you have continued to release new songs, with one of your most recent being the striking “Funeral For a Lover.” A song which is stunningly powerful, what is the backstory behind it?
JJ Wilde – That song comes from a personal experience for me. Essentially, it is about my struggle trying to be in a relationship, help, and be the sole support for somebody that struggles terribly with mental illness; bi-polar, anxiety, and depression almost in a crippling manor. That song is an expression of the frustration of realizing that maybe you’re not enough to single-handily help pull this person from their dark hole.
It is the plead of, “I wish you could see yourself the way I see you.” It became something bigger than that though, which I’m glad that it did. Although it started as this very personal, “this happened in my life,” it has become something bigger in a sense. First of all, it shows it is okay to not be enough. You have this expectation, especially when you love somebody, that you could help them and do anything for them… sometimes that’s just not true. That doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you or that person, that’s just the situation. In my situation he needed more than I could give him.
It is a sentiment that it’s okay to feel like your not enough, it’s okay to ask for help. Eventually he did get better, he asked for help, and he is now doing a lot better. It’s not like it has a sad ending. Sometimes people need more help than they think they do, you shouldn’t ever be afraid to ask for it. The other thing I wanted to bring across is it shouldn’t be something we can’t talk about either. This song was really painful for me to write. The first tour that I sang it on was really hard because I had never put myself out there in such a vulnerable way. Then there was this reaction that I was getting from people afterwards; they were telling me their stories, it was amazing. It made me feel, “Wow, this is what this was supposed to do.” It is just supposed to open the door that we can talk about this, it is not something that should be hidden.
Cryptic Rock – That is great so many people connect with the song. It is also good to hear your real life situation had a positive outcome. Part of what makes the song so powerful is the pain you hear in your voice. What is it like to sing a song this vulnerable and raw? Are you reliving all those emotions when singing it?
JJ Wilde – Yes, every time. Even though that particular relationship, and when I first wrote this song, has been almost a year ago. Even though time has gone past, I’m not in that relationship, and he is doing a lot better… it’s very easy for me to go back to that place of where I wrote it. It was such a real thing for me and consumed my life for so long, it’s not something you just forget.
Even now, when I sing the song, sometimes it takes on different meanings. I can relate it to how I’m feeling on any given day or I could see someone reactions in the crowd. It’s impossible not to feel a mix of emotions when I sing that song, (Laughs) but I love it. It is also very freeing for me. At first it was really hard to sing it, then it got easier, and now it feels empowering because it’s still helping me work through all that stuff. It means a lot.
Cryptic Rock – Many people can relate to it, regardless of their situation. You also released a music video for the track with yourself laying in a bath tub where the focus rest on facial expressions. Did you a preconceived idea of what you wanted to visual of the video to look like?
JJ Wilde – Yes. My manager and I had a lot of discussions about what we wanted to do with this. We kept going back and forth with the idea of, that’s exactly what it’s about, it’s about the rare, real emotions. I was then thinking, when are you most vulnerable and uncomfortable? It’s absolutely a little uncomfortable to film… being naked in a bathtub. (Laughs) That’s not just, “Let’s do a music video;” it was very hard even filming the video. It was the idea of setting that vulnerable, uncomfortable feeling. It’s not just a girl in a tub; it’s vulnerable and naked. I don’t remember how we came up with the concept at the start, but we kept twirling around ideas of, “This is what the song means, so how do we portray that?”
Cryptic Rock – It came out well and is quite effective. Now you have the new track “Cold Shoulder” out too! You had been out on the road with bands like Jimmy Eat World and were set to be out right now with Rival Sons. Unfortunately the world has changed and that tour was halted. That said, for the time you were out on the road, how were crowd reactions to your music?
JJ Wilde – It has been amazing. Touring is my favorite thing, it’s my bread and butter, I live for it. It’s very interesting to see the different reactions. For example, my first tour was with The Glorious Sons, and I would say our music goes together quite nicely. With that, I wasn’t surprised that the crowd was taking a shining to me, because it seemed like it fit.
As the tours progress, going out with bands like The Blue Stones, it was more surprising that I kept getting the warmth from the crowd I did; no matter what the band was. I was taken back by that and it was amazing. I found mostly when I hit a crowd for the first time they were surprised by me and I’m surprised by them. (Laughs) We are meeting for the first time, don’t know what to expect, and it’s an awesome first glance. I love surprising a crowd.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. Let’s hope your tour with Rival Sons can pick up sooner than later.
JJ Wilde – No kidding. There’s been quite a bit of uncertainty these past couple of months. No one really know what’s going to happen. The music industry is honestly at a pause. It is terrifying, incredible, and it’s a weird time. All we can do is keep moving forward.
I am personally taking the time to reflect on what I do have, what I’m thankful for, as well as the good and bad that is coming from this pandemic. I think now is the time to channel that into something creative. After any major hit in history, there is always a boom of art, because there are so many emotions. There is a lot of pain going on right now, there are a lot of people trying to find silver linings, and I feel like that is what true art is made of. I’m trying to tune into that and hope for the best.
Cryptic Rock – You are absolutely right, some of the best art does come from adversity. With a bunch of new music sprinkled over the last year, can we expect a full-length album soon?
JJ Wilde – Oh yea! I’m excited! I’ve been working on a lot of new music. I’m will be releasing my debut album Ruthless on June 16th! I’ve been non-stop writing. I’m excited to share it!
Cryptic Rock – That is exciting news. We spoke about music flowing naturally for you. That said, does the new music have a certain trajectory?
JJ Wilde – Again, I don’t really have a set objective in mind as far as genres go. There are definitely a few songs that fit a little bit more in the Rock genre. There are also some songs I’m writing that are a bit more Folk. I don’t have a set genre in mind, I think the songs are just going to lay where they lay. People will make up that opinion for themselves. I’m just going to put it out there. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – The anticipation is killing us! You mentioned how you have a broad range of influences. What are some of those influences?
JJ Wilde – When I was younger I was definitely into what my older brother and dad were listening to – Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Pink Floyd. Then my mom’s influences were Paul Simon and Van Morrison. It was more of the older classics. Then as I grew into what I like, I went through this Folk phase like Damien Rice. Then I went more into Pop. Now my influences are everywhere. Amy Winehouse is a favorite, Adele has a beautiful voice, and Janis Joplin is obviously the queen. There are so many artists that I respect and hold highly. That is a hard question to answer. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – You can hear that diversity in your own music. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-Fi films, do you have any favorites?
JJ Wilde – To be honest, I’m a big scaredy-cat when it comes to Horror films. (Laughs) I really like old Horror films though. I like films like The Shining (1980) and The Birds (1963). I also like Psychological Thrillers. For Sci-Fi, I grew up a Star Wars fan, I have the old box set on VHS. (Laughs) My heart definitely lies with the originals.
I can’t do the gory films or people getting possessed, it messes with me. (Laughs) I like a good plot, if there is a really good plot and it makes you think, I can do Horror. If it’s – let’s see how much blood there is – I don’t like those. (Laughs)