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Jess Connelly on Misconceptions, Viral Stars, and Bittersweet Lessons

Jess Connelly
James Francisco

Jess Connelly is synonymous with the local R&B scene. It’s a name built on high-profile collaborations, international tours, and a consistent discography that churns out music better than the last. 

JCON, fresh from the release of her album “Bittersweet”, makes relevancy look easy. It’s tough to carve out your place, let alone endure in an industry that capitalizes on ever-changing trends and stars. When asked if she’s tapped into the current scene, Jess keeps her answer frank.

“I’m gonna be honest with you, I don’t give a fuck about a viral star,” Jess says with a chuckle. “I really don’t. What matters to me is how good [my] music is.”

That’s not to say that JCON dislikes chasing hype and what’s hot. But unlike in her earlier years, the “Chatter” artist is more self-assured and enjoys the fame that draws in the crowds on recognition alone.

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Jess Connelly – Miko de Jesus

Jess knows such privilege shouldn’t be taken for granted. So for one night at Baked Studios, she held an intimate concert filled with performances with friends, fan meetups, and a revisiting of the songs that made JCON an icon.

Complex Philippines sat down with Jess Connelly for a career retrospective, common misconceptions, and trading virality for a cemented legacy. The interview below has been lightly edited for clarity.

Hi Jess, how are you?

I’ve been really good so far. I wouldn’t say peak happiness ‘cause that sounds bipolar (*laughs*) But yes, I’m in a very good place. Peaceful.

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Jess Connelly – Miko de Jesus

How special is this concert compared to others you’ve headlined in the past?

We produced this one independently. It’s with a full band and we have a musical director. The last one I did was also with a promoter, but it wasn’t a “solo” solo. There was an international person and a bunch of local artists.

This is also something I feel internally as an artist but after the pandemic,I had to jump back in with full force. And this might be imaginary, but it felt like nobody was fucking with me.

How I counteract that now, is if nobody is fucking with me, I’m gonna do it myself. As an independent artist, something I try to push is to not wait for other people to choose you.

As someone relevant for so long, do you tap into what’s viral or trending for longevity?

With all of the Internet numbers and how fast shit goes viral, I think that’s a younger kid’s game. Somebody could have millions of views in TikTok, but can you fill a room?

In reality, music comes down to how many tickets can you sell. Even if you luck into getting in a festival lineup, can you get people to show up at your show?

I’ve always been proud of the fact that I have “support.” I’m not your viral star. I never will be. I’m just trying to put out good music for a long time.

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Jess Connelly – Miko de Jesus

Safe to say we’re not gonna see you on TikTok?

I try to express myself on social media, but I can’t afford to show that much. I’m sensitive, and people can comment about you for things that you don’t even think you are doing.

As someone who writes and sings about relationships, what is the definition of love?

Love is unconditional. I was immature in my 20s. I’ve always been in a relationship. I would think that the other person is my happiness. 

I saw a couple in an airport recently. The girl was tampo (pouting) because the guy liked a girl’s picture or something like that. For me, that’s not love. That’s emotional manipulation. Your partner is not your possession.

You can say “You’re mine, I’m yours”, but they’re their own person. Let somebody be and if you really love them, you’ll take them as they are. 

Of course, there are boundaries; you can’t let someone walk all over you. But as they are, whoever they become, that’s who you’re supposed to love. It’s supposed to be unconditional.

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Jess Connelly – Miko de Jesus

What’s a misconception about you?

Like, about myself or my music?

Let’s go with both.

If it’s about my music, I’ll always get conscious about what song I want somebody to hear. Maybe I haven’t reached the full depths of my musical ability and the songs I want to create. That could be a misconception there.

For myself, I don’t think I’m rude, but I think I can intimidate people. I’m just goofy and awkward. This is not me being “Oh she’s different” “She’s not like the other girls” (*laughs*) I’m firm and tough. I don’t take shit, but I’m lighter than people think. 

I also isolate myself in the sense that I’m not out in functions trying to make new friends. I’m not saying I’m not open to it. Maybe it’s just me getting older, but I have other things to focus on. I would much prefer being in a private residence, chilling with my close friends, rather than hanging out at a party.

What do you have lined up?

“Bittersweet” was a transition of the good and bad, so my next one is a consistent love experience I have in different experiences. That’s a vague description, I know, but it’s about love, and there’s a pattern in things I’ve gone through. Something like that.

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