‘love is just a word’ with Jasmine Thompson

The story of Jasmine Thompson is one for the books. The 19-year-old London singer/songwriter has far more experience than her other peers, including getting signed at 13 and touring with Robin Schulz and Felix Jaehn. Today, Thompson unveils ‘love is just a word,’ featuring Calum Scott as the latest out of a series of singles. 

“I thank my lucky stars every day,” Thompson stays humble as she talks about her features on ‘Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better)’ and ‘Sun Goes Down.’ Remembering the days of Youtube covers and car karaokes, she won the jackpot by getting signed as only 13-years-old. With that success came an overwhelming lifestyle and new insecurities. 

In our conversation, Thompson reveals she felt the need to take a step back and decided to work in a restaurant for a period of time to stop overthinking her career. When she was ready to come back, the world was hit with a global pandemic, and she still had to put things on hold. 

This year, Thompson has been able to put out the music she’s been sitting on for so long. Including singles like ‘already there’ and ‘after goodbye,’ she is back on her feet and taking the pop charts by storm: “I feel like I’m awake for the first time in four years.” 

What have you been up to in the last couple of days?

Recently, I’ve been spending a lot time just writing. After a year of Zoom sessions, it’s been really nice to get back into studios, and seeing people face to face. I’ve been trying to see my friends more and get out of the house.

What is your first memory of music?

I remember being obsessed with Britney Spears’ ‘Piece of Me’. My mum wasn’t hugely into music, she loved Westlife and Eva Cassidy, that’s pretty much all I remember. But as a family, I remember me and my older brother, sitting in the backseat of the car, listening to albums by Florence + the Machine, Noah and the Whale and Paolo Nutini. Doing car karaoke is probably what made me love music.

How did you get into music?

Again, I copied my older brother. He was singing a lot when he was younger, doing school choirs and outside lessons, so I wanted to copy him. My mum helped me to start posting cover songs on YouTube when I was about 10. I just kept uploading songs, and found a really lovely community on the platform and it took a good three years before I had any huge numbers. I got signed to Atlantic when I was 13, and I guess just kept going. I’m really grateful for the success and attention that I got from such a young age. It really helped me believe that I could do music, and it could actually be a career as well as a passion. I dropped out of school when I was 15 and started doing music full time.

What were the first topics you were excited to write about?

I loved writing about fairy tales. The first few songs I ever wrote were based on stories by Hans Christian Anderson. They were just so magical, and I loved reimagining them. I still do get a lot of inspiration from stories or books.

How do you go about writing a song?

I know this is an annoying thing to say, but sometimes it just happens. Maybe someone will say something, or I think something in my head, that rings a bell like ‘hey, that’s a really fun concept’ and then you start trying to fit it into a melody. Or it’s the other way round, sometimes a melody can naturally trigger you to think of a certain phrase or emotion, and then you go from there. For me, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. You normally know what it looks like, but it can take ages to find all the pieces and put them together.

How did it change from when you were a child to today?

Just grew up I guess, I think I felt like I didn’t really know who I was or wanted to be. I had a rough idea, but I think that always made me a bit confused. Now, I feel like I have more confidence and something that I actually want to say and write about as an artist. 

As a London based singer/songwriter, what do you love the most about London? 

I grew up in London, and I love it so much. I know I am biased, but I think it’s got so much going on all the time. There’s an area that suits everyone, and you can really find your community here. It’s so big and small at the same time. I spend most of my time around Soho/Chinatown because that’s where me and my mates would go hang out after school, so it’s where I feel most at home.

How would you describe your journey so far?

It’s had its ups and downs, but most of it has been pretty smooth. I think starting at a young age gave me so many incredible experiences, but it had some weird situations as well. Even in the safest and most supportive environments, you can still feel pressure and insecurities, so sometimes touring was a bit of a battle. When I got to around 16/17 I felt quite overwhelmed and lost, so I decided to take a step away from the industry, and just worked in a restaurant in Soho for a year. I just needed some time to myself to not think about my career and who I was as an artist, because it really started to weigh me down. After having some me time, I was ready to come back, and then lockdown happened. So, there were quite a few highs and lows over the last four years in particular. I feel like I’m coming out of a cocoon, with a lot of music to share.

What is your favourite moment from recording a song and why?

I just love the process of recording a song after it’s just been written. I love diving into the harmonies and how you and the other writers or producers want it to sound, like what emotion you should deliver a verse in and how soft or loud a word should be. I think my favourite memory or the recording process was sitting in on the mixes for my last EP Colour. It was done by Ben Baptie in Strongroom Studio, and I went there for a few days, just watching and listening to him. I can’t mix at all, and it really reminded me how many people it can take to finish a song, and I’m very grateful for the bits of magic people have added to my project over the years.

How was ‘love is just a word’ born?

I was working in Wales with a producer called Jon Maguire. We’d worked with each other before, so it felt really easy going in and we just spent the first day talking. I had this idea which was based on dancing around my kitchen during lockdown and just listening to classic love songs. I found a lot of comfort in listening to songs like ‘Hallelujah’ because it was so familiar and it felt like a friendly hug whenever lockdown got a bit too lonely. I had the lyric “love, there’s nothing more to say, every word already been written”. Jon and I just spent the next two days writing the song, and figuring out how to explain the feeling you have when you can listen to these songs and picture a person that you love, and they make the song more complete. I remember we spent so much time just thinking out loud, that we barely had time to record the song before I needed to get the train back to London. I think we just did two or three takes of the piano and vocal live for the demo.

How did the collaboration with Calum Scott come about?

Jon’s worked with Calum for a long time. He asked if he could send it to Cal and obviously I said yes. He recorded verse two and the chorus harmonies, and I just felt like he was the missing piece. Also, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that he wanted to be a part of a song that I’ve written. We went to Jon’s studio together, to hang and finish writing the song and try some more vocals. We had such a laugh, for a slow love song, we laughed way too much during the session, Jon had to stick us in separate rooms cause we couldn’t stay serious for more than two minutes.

What does love mean to you? How would you describe it?

My dad always explains it as how much time and energy you want to share and take from someone. I think for me, it’s about feeling safe and comfortable to be yourself and express your inner thoughts.

What’s your favourite cover you’ve done and why?

I like my version of ‘You are my Sunshine’. It’s such a beautiful song, and it was so nice and easy song to sing because it’s just so wonderful. A lot of people use it to play to their children, and there’s some heart-breaking stories in the comment section of the video where they have played it while their loved one has passed away. I can’t explain how grateful I am, that some people can have such a connection to my version.

How did you respond to the success of your collaboration with Felix Jaehn ‘Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better) and Robin Schulz ‘Sun Goes Down’?

I thank my lucky stars every day. I felt so welcomed by EDM producers and also the listeners. It was such a crazy experience, ‘Ain’t Nobody’ was Number 1 in Germany for nine weeks, and it just didn’t seem real. I toured with Robin and Felix which was so much fun because I was still only around 15 at the time, so playing at clubs and festivals every week or so started to feel normal, even though I couldn’t even go there if I wasn’t working. I’m so grateful that those collaborations happened.

How old were you when these songs were released? How was knowing that level of success at such a young age? 

I was about 14/15. I didn’t really get along with school, so when I started touring, I just did homeschool instead. I had a great team around me, my mum came on the road with me and made sure I stayed focused but still had fun, and my MD was like my best mate who made sure that everyone in the band and team were good role models to be around.

Could you elaborate on your singles ‘already there’, ‘after goodbye’, ‘happy for you’?

They represent the story of finding love and losing it. ‘already there’ was based on when I spent a year working in the restaurant in Soho, and seeing all of the couples on a date or meeting strangers, and it’s so easy to imagine their future. ‘after goodbye’ and ‘happy for you’, is about the pain of seeing them with someone else and learning how to deal with those feelings. It was such a fun project to work on during lockdown.

What are you working on at the moment?

There’s a lot of music that I’ve been saving up for the right time, so hopefully that will be finished and released soon. I’m just writing a lot at the moment, I feel like life is good again and I’m awake for the first time in four years.

What could we expect from you in the future?

My plan is to put out a lot of music over the next few years and tour as much as possible. I feel like I’ve just been building a huge ball of energy the last two years and I’m very excited to be putting out more music.

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Words: Karolina Kramplova