JJ Rosa are renowned for their high octane performances that draw on old-school soul, funk and rock music. Timeless artists such as Nina Simone, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder are cited as influences. The trio, consisting of Jessica Rose Hancock on guitar and vocals, Mark Lewis on bass and Jimmy Wood on drums, are signed to S-Curve records (Universal) in the States and represented by Warner brothers in the UK. The powerful vocals, catchy melodies and high-energy riffs will be captured in a forthcoming live EP recorded at Manchester's Deaf Institute. Here Jessica talks about her songwriting tips and secrets:
- Do you have a daily songwriting routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? Generally I wait for inspiration to strike. I think that's when the best ideas come out because it's not forced, you're just letting your emotions and thoughts speak for themselves.
- Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? I think watching a good film can trigger good ideas. It opens your mind to different experiences and feelings. I do love a good jam with my band as well. There's nothing better than just going crazy and letting loose and experimenting in rehearsal, whether it sounds like one big fat mess or not it still helps to push you to different areas musically that maybe you wouldn't have done just sat in your living room staring at the wall.
- Do you find you normally start with a melody or lyrics? It really is a combination of both to be honest but perhaps more so melodies because then I'll write the lyrics according to how the melody is making me feel and what it's inspiring me to write about.
- Do you think that melody is the most important aspect of a song? I definitely think it's the first thing you have to get right as a writer even before you think of getting those lyrics flowing. A great hook is what great song writing is about in my opinion and if you can team that with a killer groove and amazing lyrics then you've flippin' nailed it!
- How long does it take you to write a song? It seriously varies because there's been times when I've written a song from start to finish as well as demoed up in a day and then there's been songs that I've developed over the space of months. If something isn't clicking from the get go I sometimes put it on the back burner and move on but then when I come back to it a month or so later I'll have the objectivity to realise why it wasn't quite working initially, so then I'm able to fix it. I love it when that happens!
- Could you explain a little about the writing process behind a few of your songs? There's a song called 'Step Aside' that has quite an interesting/awkward story behind it. Just before we got signed a producer came to work with us, he's talented and very passionate about music but like a lot of people in this industry this person was quite controlling creatively and I found it quite hard to deal with so it inspired me to write this song. Once we were signed though things became easier with him and now I realise that certain things just had to be done in order to get to where we are now, whether I agreed with them at the time or not! It's ironic really because he ended up producing 'Step Aside' with us. When I told him what it was about he just laughed and said something like, "well at least a great song came out of how you felt about me!" The line in the tune that sums part of the song up is, "like a puppet I would dangle in your grasp, controlling what I'd say and how I was to act, but I've cut all ties my strings are now detached..." Another brand new tune also on Soundcloud is 'Cry Out'. It's about the struggle of getting myself and my opinions heard as an artist as well as the constant up hill battle of achieving my dream. It can be quite difficult to fight for what you believe in and what you want, similar to what I'm talking about in Step Aside actually. (I'm sure a lot of artists will relate to this!) I also talk about the support from the people I love and that without them there I don't think I could have pulled through the nightmare ups and downs I've had these past few years. Here's a line from one of the verses... "I try to take a breath, this noose around my neck, is choking me to death, give me strength but I know, yes I know, that I've got you..." 'Redemption' is a tune that I wrote after the death of Amy Winehouse. It was such a shocking and emotionally moving ordeal that I felt I had to write about it. The lyrics talk about the struggles and issues that I think seem to lead to Amy's downfall. I'm obviously just writing it as an outsider looking in and I'm aware that what actually went on with Amy will have been far deeper and more convoluted then I've perhaps expressed in my lyrics. The chorus is a plea to say that what she needed was "Redemption, Salvation!" But that she "befell to addiction." 'Talk To Me' is about a communication breakdown. You often hear that the key to a good relationship is good communication and that it's not good to bottle things up and hold things back from the person you love. More often than not though this happens and you see this becoming the downfall of so many relationships. I've experienced this and have also been witness to a few so it inspired me to write about it.
- Do you have favourite keys to write in? Not really because our keys tend to vary a lot. Although I have noticed we have got a few tunes written in E!
- Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important or does it get in the way? I think a little bit of theory helps to be honest but I sure as hell don't think it makes the difference between whether you're a good writer or a good musician, that's all about having a good ear. This is more to do with people working in popular music though, not so much with classical, you need to know your shizzle in the classical world!
- Do you tend to revisit your songs and rewrite them? I am terrible for this, nothing is ever perfect or finished in my mind! I do think however that this is the benefit of recording your own demos. You get chance to live with something for a bit and then make your improvements and alterations for the album.
- Do you write songs with a view to being commercial and following current trends?No not specifically. I think a really great hooky melody will always have a good shot at fighting its way through to the commercial scene, I don't think you have to 'sell your soul' so much now. Ok maybe if you're a heavy metal band or playing acid jazz it might be a bit trickier but I think the music myself and my band make definitely has the potential to cross over to suit both (hopefully!!) We don't tend to follow current trends, it's good to just go with what your gut tells you musically and stick with it!
- Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? I have done a few co-writes with some pretty big people but it's not my favourite way of working to be honest but it depends who it's with I guess. You can't bounce off someone creatively if you don't click with them or if the vibe just isn't right, it just ends up being far too forced and fake for me. I like music and lyrics to flow naturally rather than sitting in a room with someone you hardly know and being in the mind set of "if we don't write a number one hit by lunch time we're rubbish and this session just isn't working!'My favourite and most recent songwriting situe was with my drummer Jimmy, we work really well writing together, we have really good chemistry! Usually I write the tunes and then the band (Jimmy, drummer and Marky, bassist) and I jam them out and record them as a team, that's worked brilliantly so far!
- Who do you view as great songwriters? Who has inspired you musically/ lyrically?I have a lot of song-writers that I hugely respect and admire... Nina Simone, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, the writers for Motown (Richards/Mizell/Perren) Burt Bacharach, Freddie Mercury... all some of the world's greatest writers, you've gotta learn from the greats!In terms of newer writers though I have a huge amount of respect for people like Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson who co-wrote (with Amy Winehouse) 'Back To Black' as well as Jack White who I think is an awesome writer. Gnarls Barkley AKA Cee-LoGreen and Danger Mouse I also think make an incredible writing team! There are loads of writers out there though that I think are amazing, the list is endless...
- Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better songs?Yes I suppose it does! You tend to be at your most emotional when things are tough so it triggers your creative side much quicker. It also means a predominant amount of minor keys!
- Do you have any idea where you ideas come from? Here, there and absolutely everywhere!
- Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding songwriters out there? Just keep writing those hooky melodies! But remember that it's quality over quantity, but if you can do both then bloody hell you're good!
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