Between her intro to the stage as a grade schooler with performing ambitions and now, Jessy Wilson has explored and exceled at the techniques and templates of an array of musical styles. For her, the big, demonstrative gestures of musical theater, the sensual, bruised belting of contemporary R&B and the heat and grit of soul-steeped roots rock were all postures to try on and tools to learn on her way to using her voice more fully on her 2019 solo album Phase.
“I’m coming from musical theater,” reminds Wilson. “I’m coming from Muddy Magnolias. I’m coming from the show scene in New York where you are having to show that you have chops all the time. Also, as a background singer, when it’s your turn, they shine that light on you and you’ve got that solo and you better go for it. So all of the context that people had of me as a vocalist was just this big singer. And yeah, that’s totally a part of who I am. But my album Phase gave me an opportunity to get quiet.”
“People underestimate the power in getting quiet,” she goes on. “It wasn’t an accident. I made an intentional decision to never open up my voice past a certain place on my album, because I had been singing full-out my whole life and I wanted to hear the subtleties in my voice on record. I wanted to zone in on my songwriting. I wanted people to hear what I had to say.”
Wilson still listens widely, taking in psychedelic, sophisticated and socially sharp sensibilities alike, and that’s reflected in the playlist that she created for WNXP.
“My listening tastes are truly all over the place,” she writes. “Here’s a snapshot into some of my liked songs on my current ‘Driving’ playlist. These songs take me on a ride of emotions.”