Jess Connelly Keeps It Real As She Takes The World Of R&B By Storm



Yes, she’s playing festivals, and sharing her music with the rest of the world, but beneath the surface lies a story of grit and grace that truly sets Jess Connelly apart in her own way.

It is a little after 2:50 A.M. and central Los Angeles is still deep in its slumber. Blanketed by a foreboding dark indigo punctured by very faint beams of light strewn across the night sky, framed of course by the famous lined palm trees that are at this point just mere shadows dancing gently to the chilling command of the 19 °C winds. Save for the handful of cars whirring through at a modest speed at the intersection of Normandie and Mariposa, it is practically a ghost town, where every rustle and crunch is enough to whip one into still submission.

Jetlag has gotten the best of me and no matter how hard I will every fiber of my being to fall asleep, it just won’t give in. Where tossing and turning failed, I figured, taking a walk outside would help, perhaps clear the cache of a little over a 16-hour travel and maybe, just maybe accord me a few good hours of rest before a full day later. Teetering at 2:54 A.M., it felt providential to play Jess Connelly’s track, 2:55am, where I figured, the sensual melodic conversations that caresses the senses in her familiar lilt and cadence would drown out the stillness of city of angels way past its bedtime.

“Hit me when it’s after dark / Only here to please my heart / I don’t try to expect much.”

There is an ease and comfort to the way the tracks of Jess Connelly lay on you, even on this particularly but strangely isolated early morning. Replete of platitudes and clichés, she is straight up smooth talking to you, navigating everything from hubris, hesitation, and heartache. “I worked at this since I was six years old, and so if you think about it, everything that I’ve always done leads up until this moment and up until the future, so I’m grateful, but it’s a lot of hard work,” she says, getting right into the gut of the introspection turned key cornerstone tenets for many of her ardent followers. “Even when I just did like, maybe it was like three weeks ago, I was in a festival weekend in Jakarta and Malaysia, and that just tripped me the f*** out, because everyone was singing, and like, it’s a legit festival. It’s also cool how when I said some things seems normal to me, but if you told me just probably four years ago this would happen, I would trip out of the thought of everything. That’s why everything happens in the time that it’s supposed to happen. Trust timing; you’re ready when you’re ready. I definitely wouldn’t have been mentally ready before but now I’m psyched.”

With a keen sense of awareness, as well as of prime consideration for the time and work it got her to even be taken seriously as a musician, Jess Connelly is really, truly grateful. “I’m very happy with the fact that it’s a lot more accepted now, and it’s not like before where I had to explain every detail like, ‘I don’t sing in a hotel,’ which was really frustrating,” she reveals, further emphasizing how the life of passion isn’t paved with petals of roses or that romantic sort. “The challenges never stop. I’m learning every single day,” she attests. “I think people hear and see that I’m doing all these festivals and these shows, but it’s a lot of hard work. Also, I’m still not signed to a label, and if I was signed to a label, even that’s like a whole other thing people have to deal with. This shit’s not really easy, it’s not as glamorous as you think it is.”

Wherever the compass of her music’s mood shifts at, there remains a sparkling, buoyant quality to it that carries the message and melody all throughout the end, even latching on well after the song’s fade out. “I’m definitely still figuring myself out, and I change constantly,” she says oscillating between her music and her life, both of which exist on a similar plane. “Even if I think about me this time last year, it’s so different. She’s just a nice little girl, who’s tryna get around trying to figure herself out, but I definitely know what I want. I just want to have a long, fulfilling career and take care of my family and keep good people around me.”

The focus is clear and there is no stopping her get to where she wants at a steady, hardworking pace. “I know I have a long way to go. It’s just the fact that I kind of have a pinky in the door, and I’m around with really great people, and things that are normal to me now are not normal to other people. Sometimes it trips me out, but also, it’s like I’m where I’m supposed to be,” she says. “I truly believe in what you put out to the universe comes back to you and like, manifests and stuff, but obviously you have to put in the work and not just sit there every day and think, ‘I’m gonna be this.’ It comes with a lot of work, but it’s worth it.” And boy do we trust in the rhythm of Miss Connelly, music and truth-wise.

“Got my time while I’m here / If you don’t make a move / What do you got to lose?”

At this point, there is definitely a lot going for Jess Connelly, and she knows that. But is she consumed by it? Not even the slightest. If anything she is refocusing her gaze for the work that is set in front of her, especially now that she really wants to make her mark across and transcend “Me right now, definitely like, put yourself first and do whatever you feel, of course, with good intention and everything but we never stop growing especially like, maybe we do stop growing? But I think for me to find what I want in life, I just have to continue following whatever my intuition says is right for me and then I’ll get there.”

The music on shuffle hits a snag and I look up, and suddenly I’m at the corner of the hotel I am billeted at. A necessary refresh and things are back on track, appropriately soundtracked by Awake (“I’ma make sure I’ma get it all right.”) The city is still far from waking up to its spirited, vibrant normal, but hey, it seems that Jess Connelly is assuring me of things yet to come, in song at least.


Photography by Dookie Ducay by New Monarq Creativx
Art direction Jann Pascua
Styling Jeb Fronda and  Lyn Alumno
Makeup Anthea Bueno
Hair Suyen Salazar
N
ails Extraordinails
Sittings Editor Peewee Reyes-Isidro
Shoot coordination Thea Martin
Shoot assistant Joy Almero and Kate Loreno
Shot on location at Mandalay Bar, Makati
Special thanks to Gerard Gotladera of W Talent Management and Stores Specialists, Inc
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