Ottawa-born artist Jessie Simmons is an Afro-Caribbean singer and songwriter with powerhouse vocals and an incredible stage presence.
Jessie started singing at just 3 years old, and was actively involved in her church choir and high school singing programs and musicals growing up. On June 30th, Jessie released her debut album AMONI. The soulful setlist features many collaborations with artists from far and away.
We caught up with Jessie to discuss her journey to music, her creative processes, her biggest supporters and inspirations, and her summer of milestones, including the release of her new album and her first headlining show on July 13th at Club Saw.
You grew up in Ottawa’s Draper neighbourhood. What was your childhood like?
I have the fondest memories of attending a fantastic elementary school, surrounded by friends who made each day exciting and full of laughter. But what made my childhood truly remarkable was the unwavering love and determination of my incredible single mother.
Being raised by such a resilient and supportive figure meant that I never had to worry about having my needs met. My mother went above and beyond to ensure that I had everything I needed to thrive. Looking back, I realize that she saw something in me long before I even recognized my own potential. She enrolled me in dance, music, and singing lessons, nurturing my talents and encouraging me to explore my creative side.
Those lessons and activities became my sanctuary, a place where I could pour my heart and soul into my passion for the arts. I discovered the joy of dancing, the power of music, and the freedom of expressing myself through song. It was through these experiences that I began to realize my own dreams of becoming a singer.
When did you first discover your passion for music, and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?
I first discovered my passion for music at a very young age—I’ve been singing since I was three years old. Music has always held a special place in my heart, and it all started with singing in church. In those early years, I even joined a gospel group called Les Petales, which was a wonderful experience. We had the opportunity to perform at various events and venues in Ottawa, Gatineau, and Montreal.
It wasn’t until I became involved in my high school musical that I began to grow as both an artist and an individual. I started singing at more events within school and even for the school board. Winning a prize at one of the school board festivals further solidified my belief that there was something special within me when it came to music.
After high school, stepping out on my own to pursue music was daunting. However, fate intervened when I met DJ Rocsteady, who gave me my very first performance opportunity outside of school. From that point on, I never looked back. The journey has been filled with trials and tribulations, releasing singles, and striving to make a name for myself in the city. Through it all, though, I held onto my unwavering love for music.
Who were some artists or people (friends/family) that inspired you?
First and foremost, I have to mention my incredible mother. She is a true go-getter, and I owe so much of who I am today to her unwavering support. From enrolling me in singing lessons to attending numerous shows and sharing my music with others, she has always been there for me in my music career.
Another influential figure in my life is my biological father, who was a respected musician in the Haitian community in Ottawa. As an Afro-Caribbean artist with a deep desire to showcase the beauty of Haitian culture, I have gained a lot of respect from industry veterans because of the high regard they held for my father. His legacy has undoubtedly influenced my artistic path and instilled in me a sense of pride in my heritage.
Recently, I have found a deep connection with the story of Haitian singer Rutshelle Guillaume, who is celebrating her tenth year in the music industry. As a Black woman in a music industry that can be male-dominated, her journey resonates with me on a profound level. Her determination and perseverance inspire me to break down barriers and overcome the challenges that come with being a woman in this field.
Furthermore, my friends and my partner are a constant source of inspiration in my life. It’s humbling to hear that they find inspiration in me, but in reality, they are the ones who keep me grounded and motivated. Their unwavering support and love are like the lifeblood flowing through my veins, propelling me forward in my music career.
You recently released the ‘For You’ remix and music video. Tell me about the inspiration behind this song, and the music video.
I recently had the pleasure of releasing the remix and music video for “For You,” the second single from my debut album, AMONI. It was an incredible experience collaborating with talented artists such as Jeff Sanon, Doressa, Erah, and DJ Velvet. The inspiration behind this song came from the creative process with Jeff Sanon, who played a crucial role as my friend and sound engineer. I presented him with the beat and expressed my love for it but was unsure of what to do with it. His suggestion was simple yet profound: “Get in the booth and sing some melodies.” We both recorded takes, and from there, we built the song and wrote the captivating hook.
During the pandemic lockdown, Erah, Doressa, and I connected on FaceTime and wrote the song together in just an hour. It was a testament to our synergy and determination to create despite the challenging circumstances. For the studio session, I invited DJ Velvet to add her talent to the mix, as I wanted to enhance the women’s presence on my album. The studio session turned into an incredible vibe, and the energy we shared was palpable.
The music video was shot in Mexico and expertly directed by 1mofilm, a highly skilled videographer. Filming in such a beautiful location added another layer of visual appeal to the song. The response to “For You” has been overwhelming, exceeding my expectations. People loved it so much that I decided to release a remix featuring the amazing Joe Gez. Collaboration with other artists is truly inspiring to me and contributes significantly to the growth of my career as an artist. I cherish the opportunity to work with talented individuals and create music that resonates with listeners.
Overall, the journey behind “For You” and its remix has been an incredible one. From the initial creation process to the music video shoot and the positive reception from listeners, it has been a pivotal moment in my musical career. I am grateful for the collaboration and the inspiration it brings, as it continuously pushes me to evolve and reach new heights as an artist.
You have a busy schedule this summer performing at events, weddings and parties in Ottawa. What is your favourite part about performing?
I love the fact that my summer schedule is packed with performances at various events, weddings, and parties in Ottawa. It’s an exciting time for me as an artist, and my favorite part about all these performances is the opportunity to connect with the audience. There’s something truly magical about being on stage and witnessing the energy and emotions of the crowd.
What’s next for you?
I am incredibly excited to announce that I will be headlining my very own first show for the release of my album. The show is set to take place on July 13 at Club SAW, and it will be a momentous occasion to celebrate this significant milestone in my musical career. I can’t wait to share the stage with my talented collaborators and bring my music to life in a captivating live performance.
To stay updated on all the latest news and developments, I encourage everyone to follow me on social media. You can find me as jessiesimmonxo across various platforms, and I invite you to visit my website at www.jessiesimmonsmusic.com. By staying connected, you won’t miss a beat when it comes to upcoming shows, exciting collaborations, and, of course, new music.
What’s your best advice for aspiring artists?
One advice I can give to aspiring artists is to stay true to yourself. In the ever-changing music industry, it’s easy to get caught up in trends or compromise your artistic integrity. But remember, your uniqueness is your greatest asset. Embrace your individuality and let it shine through your music.