Editor’s Note: If you have seen Lenny Kravitz, Kid Rock, Chic or Duran Duran in concert, chances are that you have seen this woman named Jessie Wagner providing some killer backup vocals for the aforementioned bands and artists. Jessie Wagner started off the year 2020 with a record deal with Wicked Cool Records and has released “Shoes Droppin'” to rave reviews from the likes of American Songwriter, The Big Takeover, The Alternative Root Magazine and Underground Garage. In fact, The Alternative Root Magazine had this to say about Jessie Wagner:
“Ranging from the gritty power of Etta James and Aretha Franklin to the gentle sentimentality of Roberta Flack and Barbara Lewis, Jessie Wagner captures the energy of Stax and the sophistication of Motown.. a stunning debut that celebrates the past and heralds a promising future for Soul music.”- The Alternative Root Magazine
In this mental health conversation with Madness To Creation, Jessie Wagner discusses her favorite memories singing backup for Kid Rock, Lenny Kravitz and Chic, along with mental health, the year 2020 and her album “Shoes Droppin'”. Fans can find Jessie Wagner at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: You released the album “Shoes Droppin” to rave reviews, what’s it like reading critics raving about YOUR work?
Jessie Wagner: It’s encouraging. It’s satisfying. It’s validating. You never know how people are going to react to your music and I’ve been putting out different projects for years with little fanfare. It’s nice to know that people like what you’re doing other than your parents!
Madness To Creation: What were some challenging and rewarding aspects into creating the album?
Jessie Wagner: It was challenging to get it done while being a touring musicians. I had to listen to a lot of mixes in hotel rooms when I couldn’t be in the studio. But the times I could pop in from the road and watch it come to life were very rewarding. I’ll never forget the moment I heard the cello being recorded for Lover’s Lullaby. I broke in to tears. It was beautiful.
Madness To Creation: What’s the toughest part about working in the studio?
Jessie Wagner: Time constraints! Scheduling! Expenses! I only had a day here or a couple hours there. And trying to wrangle musicians is like trying to gather puppies together for a photo shoot. I recorded just about all my vocals in two days before I had to leave and go to Europe. On top of it all, I had to book sessions where it was convenient for my musicians to record. That got really expensive. Fortunately, some of the studios cut me a break. Make sure you’re friends with someone who owns a studio and stay on good terms with them!!!
Madness To Creation: The song “Passin Me By” is a vibe and a half! Take us into the video, and what’s your favorite part of that song? I love how you carry the notes when you sing personally.
Jessie Wagner: Thank you! The video was so fun to shoot. Believe it or not, it was shot in the heart of Brooklyn – right in Shirley Chisholm state park! It was a beautiful day in September. At first, it was a tad overcast, but then the sun came out at the most brilliant times. I was also trying hard not to get in trouble with the keepers of the park. I’m pretty sure we ducked in to a few places that weren’t allowed and then I’d pop out as if nothing had happened. Also, I love that so many people sent me clips of their happy moments with their families. That’s what made the video. I wanted it to be positive and loving. I think it came across. My favorite part of the song is when it starts. I love the horns. I love singing in my lower register. But as the song goes a long, my voice lifts. It’s all about lifting the veil of sadness to see that better days are ahead.
Madness To Creation: How do you train that magnificent voice of yours?
Jessie Wagner: Thank you again! lol I have to say, I don’t warm up like I should. I can get kind of lazy with that. But when I started singing with Lenny, I really wanted to gain some more training. He was a stickler for having the show as close to perfection as he could get it. I felt like I was limited because of my lack of training. When we were home for a bit, I started taking lessons. I also wanted to improve my pitch and control because I was interested in being in musicals. My teacher, Tracey Grimaldi, has been a Godsend. She’s patient and understanding. I don’t feel unworthy with her. Other teachers made me a little uncomfortable, but she helped me be comfortable with me.
Madness To Creation: You’ve sang with some legends such as Lenny Kravitz, Kid Rock and Chic what where some of your favorite memories with those artists?
Jessie Wagner: I got to go around the world and experience so many different cultures. That’s one of the perks of being on tour. Birthdays stand out the most. For one, I was serenaded by a knight in the town square of Talin, Estonia. For another, an entire crowd of 20,000 people sang Happy Birthday to me while I was on stage with Nile Rodgers and Chic. I’ve also gotten to meet and perform with people I respect and admire. With Kid Rock, we shared the stage with Bon Jovi and I did the bump with Jon. When I was with Chic, we were the band for one of Sir Elton John’s birthday celebrations and Patti Labelle stood next to me and wailed to her hearts content. Who else can say they shared the stage with Patti Labelle?? I’ll never forget that! I am fortunate to have several great memories.
Madness To Creation: When you sing backup vocals, what advice do you have to back someone up when you’re singing your part?
Jessie Wagner: Be professional. I’m not the best singer out there. I’ve worked with some absolute vocal beasts! But I have a reputation of giving 100% every night and always being on time. I think that has gotten me as many gigs as my singing. Also, be respectful of those that you’re singing with. You’re a group now. You sink or swim together. I’m so lucky to have worked with the most supportive and loving women on every tour I’ve been a part of.
Madness To Creation: What’s next for Jessie Wagner?
Jessie Wagner: I’m always writing and working on new things. I have ideas for the next Jessie Wagner album. But. I also hope to finally take the leap from singing to acting. I’ve done some extra work, but I’d love to be out front. If I can do it with music, hopefully, I can do it with acting.
Madness To Creation: We advocate for mental health, what are some songs that have carried you through difficult times?
Jessie Wagner: I think one that I turn to a lot is Sun Shower, by Chris Cornell. Another one that I put on repeat is I Know by Jude.
Madness To Creation: We also advocate for working out, do you follow a workout plan, if so what workout plan is it?
Jessie Wagner: This pandemic has been really hard for me because I didn’t realize how much touring kept me in shape. I would work out on tour, but I would also eat chocolate cake everyday. I would have a two hour show to do, where I was dancing and burning calories. Without that, I’ve put on some Covid pounds. It’s been a wake up call. Normally, I would fall in and out of a routine, but now, I’m trying to be more consistent. I like to do a combination of HIIT workouts and pilates. I do 30 minutes every day or every other day if I’m in the studio doing a lot of session work. My favorite site is Popsugar Fitness on YouTube. That way, you don’t need a gym and you can do your workouts anywhere.
Madness To Creation: What’s the first thing you want to do when Covid-19 is over?
Jessie Wagner: TOUR!!!
Madness To Creation: Big plans for Thanksgiving? (If you celebrate it)
Jessie Wagner: I’ll share a small Thanksgiving celebration with my mom, my sister, and my nieces. We want to be together, but keep it safe as well.
Madness To Creation: What else would you like to add?
Jessie Wagner: Thanks for chatting with me! And thanks for listening to Shoes Droppin! That means the world to me. Please check out my social media for updates, new projects, and new music.