In the world of reality shows featuring singers, dancers, comedians, musicians, and so much more, establishing oneself in the entertainment universe can be both an exhilarating and grueling task. All too often, young people with the best of intentions jump into the business and quickly fall away once they realize how much dedication and persistence are required to “make it.” Thankfully, there are gumptious musicians like Jessica Meuse who are willing to invest the time, resources, and energy to make their dreams come true. Recently, I was able to ask Jessica a few questions about how she got started in music, her experiences with two high-profile singing reality shows, and what her future plans and aspirations are within the industry.
RH: Why did you decide to become a musician? What were your earliest musical influences? What kind of training have you received?
JM: I always loved music, and I always sang, but I think I realized I wanted to pursue it on a professional level after my first public performance when I was ten years old. Most of my early musical influences are from 90’s country – Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, Sara Evans, and even Wynonna. I grew up with that and was surrounded by it my entire childhood. I also listened to a lot of classical rock as a kid, so that was an influence as well. As far as training, I’ve never gone to vocal classes. I had professional vocal coaches when I was on The Voice and American Idol in 2012 and 2013/2014, and that taught me how to hear and control my voice from an outsider’s perspective. That has changed my entire way of thinking about my vocals, specifically! There’s so much technique that can be used with breathing and projecting a voice that I could never have understood without the coaching I received on those shows! My other musical training is in violin – my first instrument – and I was trained on that for several years with multiple teachers.
Tell us about the “Stars of Alabama” contest you won.
I was amazed that I won, first of all, even if it was third place! I had just learned “Sound of Silence” and was so paranoid that I would forget the words or jumble up the verses! The contest was early on in my public performance days, right when I started booking shows at bars and cafes in Alabama. My stage presence wasn’t totally up to par, and I was super nervous about the whole thing because I was so young! I just remember how stoked I was when I got third place!
My time on The Voice was very brief. It was my first experience EVER in Hollywood, and they had called me for a private audition. Of course, being young and inexperienced, I thought, “Wow, this is it! I’m going to make it!” Nope. That was when I found out there was so much more to the music and television industries than I could possibly fathom. It was an ideal first experience, but it shattered my heart when nobody turned around during the blind auditions. I definitely learned a lot, though, and I received some vocal coaching that you can’t put a price tag on!
I understand you accomplished something on American Idol that hadn’t been done before. Please tell us about that and your entire time on that show.
I was the first person in the history of the show to perform an original show during the live final rounds! The craziest part of that was I had no idea about that until I discovered I had a wikipedia page and read down to that part! I was genuinely surprised. I had no idea I was the first person to do that, but I was excited to learn of it. The best way to describe my time on the show is immensely educational. It’s what you make it. I took the experience and soaked up every bit of advice and wisdom that I possibly could from my “teachers” – which were stage managers, roadies, sound techs, wardrobe, coordinators, as well as the judges and producers. I think the most interesting aspect of it all, however, was the psychology of the show and watching different people evolve throughout the course of our time on Season XIII. I absolutely loved my time in Hollywood on American Idol, and I wish it had lasted longer! Looking back now, it was so incredibly surreal. There are so many times I reminisce and think, “Wow. That was real. I really DID that.” It’s like a dream.
I am currently working on my debut EP with several brand new original songs! I’m looking at releasing that around April 2017. Right now, I’m arranging for a PledgeMusic to raise the funds for it, so I’ll be working on that up until April’s release! I’m super excited! After completing the American Idol Tour in summer 2014, I flew to Los Angeles and decided to record my first single, “Done.” I rewrote the entire song – which I actually sang on the solo rounds during Hollywood Week – and made it a whole different animal than what it was before! I had a small production group in LA that I worked with, and we made it happen! I released that in 2015 to kick off my independent career post-idol. I wanted my fans to hear MY sound, not overproduced, not under-done. I just wanted them to hear me, my soul, and my story. I think I accomplished that.
In the world of country music, it is sometimes hard to establish yourself. What do you think sets you apart from other artists and makes you stand out?
It’s incredibly hard to establish yourself in any genre of music! I stand out in my country genre, without a doubt. I’ve got the grit, the loud, demanding vocals – but I can hold back when I need to. It’s that country with a little bit of rock n’ roll sneaking in. I’ve got dark hair, tattoos, and I’ve been told a “strong personality.” I know I’m definitely set apart from the typical country girl singer – nothing wrong with that! I just know I’m different. I always have been, from a kid who never fit in throughout my childhood, traveling the United States, to now…I have never truly fit in. It is only until recently that I have become totally okay with not fitting in any one mold.
My #MuseMafia love it! They’re always stoked to hear what I’ve got that’s new. I regularly hold StageIts – online concerts – so I can actually ask for fans’ advice and see what they’re liking in my new tunes…and what they dislike. It’s all important, and I make my music for THEM. It’s fulfilling for me to make my fans happy, and I believe it is what I was made to do.
As far as shows, I have had several across the US throughout the year. 2016 was a rollercoaster ride, and I traveled from New York City to Los Angeles – more than once. I’ve performed in bars in Alaska, a concert hall in Michigan, all the way to West Hollywood, then back to Alabama and then off to Texas. 2017 is going to be more of a focus on myself creating new music and evolving. Promotions will definitely consist of live shows for the new EP I am releasing in early 2017, but the PledgeMusic campaign has a lot of built-in promotion as well. I’ll be doing special merchandise and giveaways, only available for the campaign, to help promote it and get the word out for The Relapse EP. After that, I’ll have new merchandise and promo materials that I will use at shows, and I will be working on all new songs – always writing – during my free time.
PledgeMusic for my brand new EP! It’s going to be called The Relapse EP, and it will have five BRAND NEW tracks, fully-produced on it! The PledgeMusic campaign is yet to be released, but when it is, I’m blasting it all over my socials! I’m looking at releasing the EP around April of 2017!
Any plans to reach beyond country music to other genres and/or fields such as film or TV?
Always! I have a few wheels turning in the background that I’m unable to discuss currently, but I’m definitely pursuing any placements in TV/film. As far as branching out to other genres, I also pursue Alternative music.
What is your main hope and focus in your music career? In other words, what is your mission statement?
My mission is to use my gift of music to make people happy, to let the lonely know they’re not alone, and to transcend all borders – physical and non-physical – to bring people in the world together and make a positive difference in at least one life.
What causes/issues do you feel strongly about?
I have been associated and affiliated with my local humane shelter – the Humane Society of Elmore County – for years now. Most of my pets are actually from there. I feel very strongly about helping animals and saving them from abuse. Another cause that I strongly believe in is the Lone Survivor Foundation – I actually work for them now – as development coordinator.
As stated earlier, finding young singers like Jessica is something of an anomaly in today’s quick-fix, fast-talking, instant-success society. The vast majority of young people don’t even attempt to understand the music business like Jessica does. They figure they’re “good,” so they will achieve overnight success. Unfortunately, “overnight sensation” is a somber misnomer that has set up unreasonable expectations for many a talented, inexperienced performing artist. In Jessica’s case, she has chosen to glean wisdom and knowledge from every experience she has had on the stage or behind the scenes, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. She could be described as the proverbial sponge who has soaked up “stage smarts” that some aspiring musicians don’t even learn in a lifetime of performances. Moreover, she has tapped into her fan base, listened to their praise and criticism, and virtually taken them on this whirlwind tour to reach that distant star which is no longer so far out of reach. I would invite all of you to follow Jessica at the links below so that you can support her endeavors and follow her every step of the way. She is accessible to her fans, but even more so, she actually cares about them and invests time in them. And in the opinion of this interviewer, that is a rare quality which sets her apart from the hustle and bustle of the crowd.
If you’re interested in the causes Jessica mentioned: