Images by Daniel Regan
Other than maybe Sean Lennon and Jakob Dylan, Jesse Jo Stark grew up with surely the most inspirational people a future musician could possibly hope for. Indeed, her parents Richard Stark and Laurie Lynn Stark are the founders of rock & roll jewelry studio-turned-empire Chrome Hearts—whose clientele includes the likes of Bono, Elton John and Slash. And her Godmother is none other than the goddess of stage, screen and song Cher, who has been a continuing influence on her very talented niece.
Not just that, but she was sort of mentored from the start of her music career by Sex Pistol Steve Jones, who hosts the now legendary radio show Jonesy’s Jukebox in Los Angeles, where Jesse Jo also resides. And most recently, she appeared in the video for Brit punker YUNGBLUD’s new single “Strawberry Lipstick,” while corona had stranded him in LA.
But for all they may have rubbed off on her, the young Ms. Stark makes music that surely comes from somewhere deep within herself. Each song seems a little piece of her that she allows out into the world, revealing the inner intensity and intimacy that belie a very public persona.
Her previous single, a cover of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” was a languid, fuzzed-out country gem of a ballad. But new track “Tangerine” is a mini-masterpiece of sorts, exhibiting her ease with crossing genres and weaving them seamlessly together. The twangy guitars are back, but there’s a little Beatles, a little widescreen Britpop, and just a hint of retro Cali dreaming as well. With its lush strings, and Stark’s haunted voice so full of longing, it vividly evokes so many life memories of love’s powerful pull.
For the video, she reached out to fans to create their own vision for the visual accompaniment to the song, and they were then edited together—a way of crossing the quarantine divide via the power of art. She describes it thusly:
“What I’ve missed most in this new way of livin’ has been the live shows and hanging out with everyone every night. So along with the ‘Tangerine’ track release, we thought it would be super sweet to get everyone involved in the video, so it’s almost like we’re all having this one big party together, no matter where we are in the world, physically we are together in heart. i’ve been at home watching everyone’s videos in full tears with the biggest smile wrapped around my face. everyone’s creativity and love for this song has been overwhelming. It makes my heart beat knowing that they can take away a little piece of ‘Tangerine’ and make it their own. it’s fucking beautiful. it’s art. “
We hit Jesse Jo with ten questions about all of the above, and as it turned out, even her answers were uniquely stylish.
Your influences are distinctly 1960s + ’70s. Do you feel a bit out of place in the current musical zeitgeist of hip-hop preeminence and so much over-glossed pop?
my influences are not only 60’s and 70’s
and the thing about the current state of music right now is that there is nothing out of place. hip hop artists pull samples from old soul, country, and r&b records and it’s all turning into a place you can do anything you want. the only thing that pisses me off is when people chase chart positions by making the same shit over and over.
there is a difference between being out of place and making a place for yourself. so to answer. no i do not feel out of place. i feel like i’m right where i should be
What was some of the music you grew up listening to?
my dad was always my go-to with music. he always played the clash, merle, john lennon, brian eno, david bowie on the way to school. with the occasional britney n christina.
i remember this one time,i think i was about 7 years old, he picked me up at my friend sasha’s house and i was throwing a fit because i didn’t want to leave. as we pulled out of the drive way he turned on “should i stay or should i go” by the clash. i had never heard it before. he looked at me and smiled and i felt my bad mood melt away. i remember thinking, as i tried my best to keep scowling at him, “i wanna make something this cool” . n i’m still tryin
What was it like growing up with rocker parents? Did that imprint on your personal aesthetic?
are they rocker !? i mean i know they are pretty damn cool. everything about them has left a huge beautiful mark all over me. they are my favorite legends and they inspire me completely and truly .
On “Tangerine,” one can detect references to the The Beatles, Oasis, Patsy Cline, Mazzy Star…what has been your musical state of mind of late?
what a major line up i wanna go to that show.
my musical state of mind has been to make more.
Image by Laurie Lynn Stark
Your music is very raw and seemingly unfussed over. Does inspiration find you in a mostly spontaneous fashion?
oh it’s fussed . i am fussy . music for me is never just one thing. sometimes a song comes easy like it was layin on my night stand when i woke up. other times i feel like i have to cut my body open, drown in my tears and claw at the floor just to get one word out. inspiration is endless when you show up for it.
How did you come to work with YUNGBLUD?
he called me n asked for me to be in his video . he said there’d be lips n latex. and so…
Cher is your godmother – has she been a mentor and influence?
in every single way. i am in awe of her.
As opposed to those with batteries of stylists, you seem to really own your sense of style. Who are your fashion inspirations?
my brother n sister, the cramps, cher, audrey hepburn, hands, animal print, love n london. i want to dress up like my favorite singers voices.
just like in every medium, i have people i’ve worked with forever. they’re my family. we understand each other. challenge each other and force each other to be brutally honest in the things we make.
i also love fresh eyes and ears and people that find new ways to look at the same things.
Is a full Jesse Jo Stark album on the horizon?
it is n soon
Rock & roll as we know it seems to be on life support. What do you think is left for it?
only if you aren’t lookin. there are so many insane bands in the world. some of my favorite bands now are kids my age. it isn’t dead. you just gotta find it.