Stuart Local JessLee Talks To Us About Competing On ‘The Voice,’ Preparing To Release New Music And More
When you think of country music, you probably don’t think of South Florida. But, that might change once local artist JessLee is on your radar.
JessLee, who grew up in Loxahatchee and now resides in Stuart, competed on the current season (season 14) of NBC’s “The Voice,” as a member of Blake Shelton’s team. “The Voice” is a TV singing competition featuring celebrity coaches who choose a group of singers from blind auditions, and then mentor them as they compete for the ultimate prize of a record contract.
During the blind auditions, decisions from the celebrity coaches are based solely on a singer’s voice, not on appearances. The coaches hear the performer blindly—with the help of rotating chairs—and if a coach is impressed by the artist’s voice, he/she will press a button to select that artist and the chair rotates to face the artist. All of the judges have the ability to turn around. If none turn around, the performer is eliminated, and if more than one judge turns around, the performer gets to select the coach he/she wants.
For JessLee, Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton turned. JessLee chose to be on Team Blake and advanced to the battle round, in which she was eliminated.
We talked with JessLee about her Florida roots, being a contestant on both “American Idol” and “The Voice,” body positivity and more.
On the surface, it looks like an obvious choice why you picked Team Blake since he is a country music artist, and you have country roots. Is there any other reason why you went Team Blake?
I had Blake in my mind for a long time because of the obvious reason you stated, but when they had actually turned, Kelly almost swayed me. She had some great points about her experience in country music, so when it actually happened the way it did, it was a lot harder of a decision than I thought it would be. There was a certain point where she was just saying these great things and she was so complimentary of my voice, my style and what I chose to do. Although I am a country artist and that’s in the roots of my music, my songs are very guitar-driven. Especially the new stuff that’s coming out, it is going to be very innovative. It almost has kind of a punk-rock feel to it but will still keep those Southern roots. I’m all about innovative music and I think the thing that swayed me back to Blake was that he was embracing the fact that I was country-rock and not trying to do a traditional sound.
Is that the reason you chose to sing an Avril Lavigne song on the blind audition?
Absolutely. It was because she inspired a lot of my writing and a lot of her music is more of that punk-pop sound. My newest releases that are coming out after the duration of the show are going to be very punk-rock inspired, but will still have that roots/country music instrumentation on it. It’s crazy because all of my stuff sounds really country but you can still hear how punk-, guitar- and rock-driven it really is. It definitely inspired the song choice and it opens people up to where my music is going when I start releasing stuff again.
You were previously on season 13 of “American Idol” as well. What’s the main difference between “American Idol” and “The Voice?”
I would say the biggest difference is on “The Voice” they’re not judges, they’re coaches. I think naturally when you’re practicing, practice makes perfect and you’re going to grow regardless. That’s what we do; we’re human and ever-evolving beings. We’re always wanting more, we’re always striving to grow. The biggest difference between the two shows is that I really feel like “The Voice” is giving me more of that assistance to grow. That’s part of what the whole show—your audience and the people watching you kind of grow with you. They watch the process of it happening, because they’re not judges, they’re coaches. They are a little more hands-on.
Your catchphrase is “Music & Muscles.” Tell me about what that means to you.
I grew up in a situation where I had an abusive father. I spent so much of my life being very insecure from the things that I went through with him. It led me to become a bit of a binge eater. I turned to food in the most negative way. Over a long period of time with many events happening in between, I got a boyfriend and he was the definitive factor, the pivotal moment of me deciding that I wanted more for myself because we had a really bad breakup. He told me that I was never going to get anything better than him and I refused to let him have that on me. Something in that moment, for whatever reason, I was done. I wanted to have this revenge body. I wanted to show him and prove him wrong.
I went out and I started getting into fitness. I started falling in love with lifting weights. It eventually led into someone convincing me to do a figure show. In my very first figure show I took the title for first place for novice, first place for women’s figure and then because I took the first place title for women’s figure I was eligible to compete for the overall winner. I ended up winning the overall as well, which means I won everything. I hit the stage at eight percent body fat. I legitimately had a full-on eight-pack. It was insane.
The “Music & Muscles” came in because as these moments and successes started happening in my life, I naturally became more confident. I exceeded what I thought I was going to do. It became an “anything is possible” attitude. It became my little saying, “Music & Muscles,” because I was one of the only artists, especially in country music, out there promoting body positivity in a different way. It’s more so health-conscious, but also about women not being afraid to be strong. A lot of people will promote health or they’ll kind of push being skinny. A lot of people in the industry always want to hold this image of being skinny and I promote being healthy and being you.
When you’re at home in Stuart, where can we find you hanging out?
Definitely the gym in the mornings. If I’m not doing interviews or concerts while I’m home, you can find me at the beach. When I’m in Florida I love taking day trips with my friends to Miami and South Beach. We always go down there and eat really good food, hang out, go to muscle beach and tan and get doughnuts from Honeybee Doughnuts. Whenever I get the opportunity to go mudding or go shooting, I do. I’m very into that. That’s my country side. I love the gun range. I love going out mudding and hitting the dirt.
To find out more about JessLee, or to listen to her music, visit jessleemusic.com.
Photos courtesy of NBC and JessLee