Jessica Agombar

Is music something you've always been passionate about?

Definitely. As a kid I was never really into the gimmick children's songs or really pop stuff. That’s how I knew I was serious about it from young. I never quite got the whole boyband thing that all teenage girls went through. I would listen to Aaliyah’s 'One In A Million' when everyone was picking their fave Spice Girl, or I’d listen to Jagged Edge and 112 just because I loved the melodies.

I feel like I really got into music in my early teens when Grime became huge, especially where I live in Bow. We had Rinse FM based around there. Roll Deep were from round there. Tinchy & Ruff Squad. It was sick. I was too young to be in any of the crowds so at school we would play 'Boy In Da Corner' and brag about someone making it from the area. Little did we know then that grime became a whole new genre and the pioneers were the boys from Bow. It was exciting. I then started writing songs and knew it was something I would always want to do as a career.

What are some of your earliest music-related memories?

When Ms Dynamite’s 'A Little Deeper' was released. I suddenly realised she had a voice, she wasn’t just an MC. She had a strong message and still managed to gain mainstream appeal. That album was the reason I wanted to be taken seriously as an artist. She was my main female role model and I would come home from school every day and replay each song studying her timing, melodies, flow and lyrics. This may sound strange for a 12/13 year old but I was obsessed with music and fell In love with 'A Little Deeper'. Even when I listen to that record now I feel the same as I did then.

Where do you draw inspiration or influence from as an artist?

I am influenced massively by my upbringing; where I’m from first and foremost. I feel East London is steeped in so much history and culture. I’m lucky enough that I had a huge influence from my great nan up until I was 15. She was born in 1910 so for 15 years of my life, I was told about my history, cockney heritage/language/slang and why it was originally created (So police wouldn’t understand the conversations had by the poor) All of this, influences my lyricism hugely. My wording, concepts and everything that I write.

Also, all the other boring other stuff like love and personal heartbreak etc. I write a lot about my friends' experiences too, but I don’t tell them. One of my best-friends, her boyfriend was murdered 3 years ago just after she had their baby. I had a conversation with her about whether, in her dreams he’s still alive. So I wrote a song about it last year. I tend not to tell them though as it is close to home and raw heartache hurts, but I hope she would like it.

How difficult would you say it is to get your voice heard in this industry?

It is tough. Everyone’s trying to breakthrough, be seen and get their voice heard. However I do feel if you have something unique and your style, musically, isn’t the same as others, be it underground or commercially you will get recognition.
Pushing through is hard but not impossible if the product is good and your content has meaning. There are so many platforms for independent artists now that your voice can be heard without a major label deal, or a massive marketing spend.

If you could work with anybody going forward, who would you choose and why?

There are so many artists/writers and producers I would love to work with. I would love to work with Diplo because I feel his production is the nuts! Would jump at the chance to write with Sia. I think her melodies and vocal delivery is genius. I would also love to collab with Ghetts and Kano.  Would love to sit down and write with Tanya Stephens who is one of my idols… she’s based in Jamaica so I definitely wouldn’t mind that!

Do you have a definitive aim for your career?

Yep, my aim is to create and deliver an album with enough credibility, yet crossover enough to have commercial success. The best example of this is Ms Dynamite 'A Little Deeper'(can ya tell I’m a fan?!) winning both a Mercury and a Brit! What an amazing woman. It’s hard to get that balance as you want your music to be heard by the masses but you don’t want to compromise yourself artistically. I have in the past but won’t this time round. My aim is to create an honest and completely individual record, filled with my musical influences.

How important is it for you to have creative control over the work you produce?

THE most important thing. Recently I shot a video... I didn't feel it was up to scratch and the quality wasn't what I had envisioned so me and my manager decided to scrap it and shoot another. Just kept it moving, we got Bam Bam part 2 premiered as an inbox Fresh on Mistajam’s BBC 1Xtra show and I kept creating and writing.

Creative control is of the utmost importance to me, otherwise I could have signed a deal I was offered at the start of this year and still be trying to figure out my sound and lyrical voice. But I decided to take the long road in order for me to find my direction and individuality in an industry that, let’s be honest has a lot of female artists coming through. I just hope I’m standing out from the pack!

Where do you hope to be this time next year?

This time next year I’m hoping I will have galvanised a core fanbase, have a strong following, and a body of work that is unique to anything that’s previously been released!
I will also have sold out my first venue (whether it be an intimate or huge venue). I just want to see progression from hard graft and good music. Also to have some absolute bangers under my belt!

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