If the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in anything beneficial, it’s been increased self-reflection as we isolate ourselves from loved ones to prevent the spread of the deadly disease. Fortunately, things appear to be getting better. But that’s if “better” encompasses a trend toward embracing authenticity and vulnerability, and has encouraged us to reconcile past traumas to allow healing. With that, we might just be entering into a time of renaissance, or an era where we take our power back.
That notion likely rings true for JJ Wilde, Canadian rock singer who hails from Kitchener, Ontario. In her latest EP, Wilde recalls trials and tribulations from her life, but with raspy vocals, delicious guitar chords and a rebellious spirit that holds true throughout her discography.
Wilde, which was released May 14, 2021, features songs like “Mercy,” “Best Boy” and a collaboration with Brett from The Glorious Sons covering “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” as well as three brand new tracks. “Mercy” in particular is a grunge-esque anthem about Wilde confronting a stalker, which was a time she felt robbed of her sense of self and security. There’s also “Bushweed” which is literally about losing yourself in a field of cannabis plants.
Overall, Wilde is an evolution of Wilde’s Juno-nominated first album Ruthless (2020), she tells House of Solo. That’s because the album “pushes the limits,” Wilde says, with tracks that mix elements of contemporary rock with hip hop beats.
A few weeks after the release of Wilde’s EP, she sat down with House of Solo to chat over the phone about her background, her inspirations, upcoming performances and all things music.
Can you tell me about how you grew up? Where do you come from?
I’m from Kitchener, Ontario in Canada. I was pretty much born and raised here my whole life. I left a few times but always found my way back. I was the oldest of three siblings, (including a) brother and sister.
Do you remember when you were initially drawn to music? What made you decide to become a musician?
I don’t know if I remember how old I was, necessarily. My parents and brother had a big influence on my early days of the type of music I listen to. It was always in the family. Having get togethers and singing and jamming … that’s something I grew up with. That’s what sparked my interest.
Tell me how your artistry has evolved over the years, especially since those early days.
I’m not sure how I got into the rock space to be honest. (Rock artists) all start from a similar place (…) me hanging out and jamming on my acoustic guitar. They almost sound like folk songs in the beginning. We would be in the studios and building instrumentation together. It literally gravitated toward those bounds. (I went toward) what tickled my ears. (She laughs.) Before that when I was doing more solo sut, I always enjoyed the songs that were a bit harder that I could thrash around to. From the beginning, rock music could be an interest of mine. It evolved pretty organically in that sense.
Who have been some of your biggest inspirations in music?
There’s quite a few in the female space. I always thought that Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Adele (…) those are big names for me. Quite a few of them have that low, raspy voice that you typically don’t see a lot of. For me, that was really relatable. If really big artists have that sound and are finding success, maybe it’s okay (for me). Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin (are more inspirations). Bob Dylan and his way of telling stories with his lyrics. I went through a massive phase with Bob Dylan. I could go on and on with that question.
Now that we’ve discussed your roots, let’s talk about your latest EP. How does it differ from Ruthless?
Everything about this album is different. Some of the songs like “Off the Rails” are more contemporary. (The EP) is an ode to The Beatles with the guitar. It’s about trying to expand the sound and trying to evolve (…) seeing where the songwriting has taken me. I didn’t want the EP to be a Ruthless 2.0. But like all my songs, it holds true there are personal (tracks). The most personal one is “Mercy.” That song is about not letting people that try and destroy you have an impact on your life. For victims, it (demonstrates) you’re not the only person who has gone through that. (During that time) I felt ashamed and alone and had victim’s guilt. I felt like I did something wrong. So this song is about taking your power back.
How do you want your audience to feel listening to Wilde? What message do you want to send listeners?
I don’t think there’s just one message. If my music makes people feel anything, I’ve done what I wanna do. It’s all pretty personal stuff, and it’s helped me get through (tough times). Music has always been a soundtrack to my life. Whatever I’m going through, whether I’m celebrating or crying, (music) is always there for me.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the music industry, but some venues are fortunately allowing concerts again. Are there any upcoming performances or events you would like to mention?
There’s some I can’t say. But there’s BottleRock in Napa, California, United States. We were supposed to play that last year but it got canceled. I wasn’t even sure if it was going to happen this year. I’m so, so excited as next summer we are going to be in Europe at Download Fest. I’m looking forward to getting back on the road.
Listen to the EP here