Jean Watts Covers BELLO

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JEAN WATTS | Music As A Personal Revolution
Words by Brent Lambert
Photography Leslie Alejandro

There are two methods for venturing forth into one’s future. The first is a destiny-based philosophy which holds that a great destiny awaits each one of us, and no work is required — just sit back and let time and life take you to your destination. The second philosophy, however, is far more noble. It’s the empirical philosophy, and holds that destiny is something one creates entirely on his or her own. This journey is made of thousands of small experiments each and every day which constantly deliver results that alter one’s direction in real time. If there’s one person who follows this latter philosophy it’s Jean Watts. Not content to be another product from the music industry’s cookie cutter mold, Jean is the kind of artist who is brave enough to chart her own course. And with a talent as deep and rich as hers, there’s no limit to the heights she will reach. We had the chance to catch up with Jean recently, where she discussed her exciting new music project, what powers her motivation, and why the greatest risk is taking no risk at all.

BELLO: Last December you released your single ‘Spirit Animal’ which has a great Aztec sound. Your next single ‘Blow’ as well as your brand new EP are coming out soon. Will they have a similar sound as ‘Spirit Animal’ or something completely different?
JEAN: ‘Spirit Animal’ was very pop, while the new songs have a much moodier sound to them, almost a pop-a-rythmic sound.

BELLO: Your video for ‘Blow’ is also going to be released soon. How does the experience of performing for the camera compare to performing for a live audience? And how do the preparations for those two different kinds of performances compare or differ?
JEAN: The biggest different is when I do a music video it’s much more of a performance where I get into the visuals and dancing, versus when I’m performing live it’s similar, but I’m more focused on my delivery, and on my breathing and timing — it’s doing a lot of multitasking at once. But there’s such a high when you perform live that you naturally just get into it.

BELLO: Which type of performance — camera or live — tends to have more improvised moments?
JEAN: Well, for ‘Blow’ in particular, we didn’t have a lot of choreography, so it was all improvised. But when I’m performing live I like to know every step I’m doing beforehand and I make sure I practice enough that I know it by heart.

BELLO: Building a successful music career is a huge challenge that spans many years. When you look out across the world of music, who do you admire the most for the career he/she has built and why?
JEAN: Oooh, that’s a good question. There’s always Beyoncé, of course, but I really do like that Lady Gaga fought for it on her own. She didn’t really have her father pushing her toward superstardom. I would say that both of these women kept getting denied, denied, denied — past the point where even I would think about giving up — and it really benefited them for sticking to it. And here they are now.

BELLO: It’s been said that music is beyond language, and has the power to communicate with us in a way that normal language cannot. Can you think of one song that has meant more to you throughout your life, more than any other? And what did you take from it that helped you expand your self discovery?
JEAN: You know, one thing — although it’s not a specific song — but as I get older, one thing I really cling to is classical music. When I was younger I really wanted to do scores of movies. There’s something about classical music and live instruments, especially as I get older, that really hits a certain spot which I feel is universal for everybody. That’s actually something I want to tie into my music. A sound that’s very cinematic and anthemic and timeless, but also modern.

BELLO: So summer is right around the corner. What are your summer plans?
JEAN: Releasing this EP, first of all. But I’m actually going to Coachella for the first time this summer, and I’m really excited about that.

BELLO: Who are you most excited to see?
JEAN: Well, it was Beyoncé, but now she’s having her babies.

BELLO: But now Lady Gaga is filling in.
JEAN: Yes, and we share the same choreographer, so that’s a huge opportunity for him. I also love the XX.

BELLO: What’s your favorite song on XX’s new album?
JEAN: I would say ‘On Hold.’

BELLO: Take a deep breath and think about how far you’ve come since you were a little girl. Now imagine you had the power to write your younger self a letter. What words of wisdom would you share with your 12-year-old self?
JEAN: Whoa, that’s a really good question. Hmmm. I would definitely say to believe in myself and stay strong. And perhaps start getting ready and focused sooner.

BELLO: Right now I’d like to give you the Twitter-Flip-Five where I take five of your Twitter posts and turn them into questions. First up, on March 10th you tweeted: “CRAVING ADVENTURE.” Describe to us the #1 ultimate Bucket List adventure of your dreams?
JEAN: Oh my gosh, there’s so many. Well, I want to travel the entire world, so that’s in general. I really want to skydive. I also really want to go to London. I’ve never been there, and apparently I have a really big following there. So that’s definitely on my Bucket List this year. It’s very simple, but it’s huge for me right now. I also talk to a lot of people on my fan pages, in Italy for example, so it would really mean a lot to me to go over there and meet them in person. When I wrote that tweet in particular we were outdoors — I was actually with my girlfriend — and we were in Hawaii shooting my music video. We hiked, and found secret spots, and it was so amazing, and so spiritual and I absolutely loved it, so now I have this huge travel bug.

BELLO: On March 9th you tweeted, “Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.” When was the last time someone did something for you that made you truly happy?
JEAN: I was with my girlfriends the other night, and we were all taking about my music career, and my next video, and the things we’re collaborating on, and they gave me a lot of support. They were really building me up, and it was more than I could possibly hope for. My friends really see the true side of me.

BELLO: On March 7th you tweeted, “I feel myself changing and I like it.” What was going on with you that day?
JEAN: I realized how much my video for ‘Blow’ really inspired me. You want to make the right choices and you want to be yourself, but at that point I guess I came to a place where I no longer cared about some of the things I should be doing, and I decided I would just continue doing the things that I envisioned, and the things that felt right for me as an artist — and I’m not afraid to say it as much as I was before. I’m more confident about those decisions now.

BELLO: On March 4th you tweeted, “I love people who push me.” As a musician, who has pushed you the most in your discipline and evolution as an artist?
JEAN: I would definitely say my business manager for sure. I like being pushed and having the best pulled out of me. For example, the video for ‘Blow’ has scenes that are insane. They don’t necessarily look like it at first glance, because they are so beautiful and angelic, but the kind of hiking we had to do, or having to swim with a dress on, or being shoved underwater to get those underwater shots. We had to go into a waterfall, and it was ice cold. The shot was so intense, and I would do anything to get shots like that. And even in the studio, there are colleagues who just kind of settle, whereas I want to just keep going harder and harder. I really attach myself to people who push me.

BELLO: On February 7th you tweeted, “Life is all about taking risks. If you never take risks, then you’ll never know what you’re capable of.” What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken that paid off big time?
JEAN: Moving to L.A. for sure. I was in a serious relationship — we dated for four years. It was a toxic relationship, and my friends were very toxic, and there was something that sparked in me that told me I needed to take a bigger chance and separate myself. That’s when I moved to L.A. from Chicago, and I promised myself I would make myself the best person I could possibly be, and give myself a fair chance at doing what I love to do. That was a huge risk because I didn’t know anyone. I decided two weeks in advance, and it was the best decision I ever made.

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photographer LESLIE ALEJANDRO @lesliealejandro
creative director SOSA BRANDON @shotbysosa
stylist PHILLIP T. MORRISON @theabsolutephilliptmorrison
makeup GRACE PHILLIPS using MAC Cosmetics @grace_phillips
hair SIENREE at Celestine agency using American English @sienree

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About The Author

Aleksandar Tomovic
Editor in Chief

French photographer (of Serbian Origins) lives and works in Los Angeles. Known for his celebrity fashion editorials and recognized around the world for his european esthetics and american efficiency.

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