In Elite Daily’s series Early Influences, musicians reflect on the songs and albums that left a lasting impression on them in their formative teen years. Here, Colombian Canadian singer Jessie Reyezshares the artists who inspired her distinctive sound and latest record, YESSIE.
When Jessie Reyez thinks of her childhood, swaying to old-school R&B, salsa, cumbia, and reggae is a core memory. Born and raised in Toronto to a Colombian immigrant family, Reyez’s childhood home was a love letter to Latinx culture. She grew up exclusively speaking Spanish with her parents, playing guitar at home and in her church choir.
These early experiences shaped the perspective of her sophomore album, YESSIE. The record, which dropped on Sept. 16, is her most vulnerable and flows like a touching confessional letter to herself and her Colombian heritage.
Take her vibrant opening track, “Mood.” In the rap-centric number, she sampled Colombian band Los Diablitos’ “Los Caminos de la Vida,” a ‘90s guitar-driven track still popular in Latin America.
“I’m a fan of going backward, which I think is a beautiful thing because you don’t have enough hours in your life to even take in all the music that’s being made,” Reyez tells Elite Daily. “[Old school music] makes me feel more connected, especially when I listen to old cumbia and it makes my blood dance. It just feels right.”
Reyez initially burst onto the scene in 2016 with her hit “Figures,” which later featured on her 2017 debut EP, Kiddo. She’s also tapped into her songwriting bag. In 2018, she helpedpen two of the year’s biggest hits for Calvin Harris: “One Kiss” featuring Dua Lipa and “Promises” featuring Sam Smith. A few years later, the R&B crooner released her debut album, BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US,in 2020.
If Reyez’s YESSIE era makes one thing clear, it’s that the singer is feeling grounded and more in tune with herself. “[This album] is more so sentimentally, emotionally a vibe that I feel like I’ve been able to pull out that I haven’t pulled out from before,” Reyez says.
Below, Reyez tells Elite Daily what artists inspired her emotive storytelling, who her first celebrity crush was, and what fans can expect from her upcoming YESSIE tour.
Reyez is taking all of these influences with her as she sets out on tour this fall. Starting Oct. 13, she’ll play 29 shows across North America and Canada, including stops in Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto, her hometown.
The brutal swing of the pandemic paired with her own journey toward healing has changed Reyez’s appreciation for touring. “I just feel lighter and I feel like I have more bandwidth to be able to actually live, as opposed to ruminate, or as opposed to survive,” she says. “I’m excited. It feels like I got glasses, like I was just living life blurry but I finally got some glasses.”