Exploding onto the R&B/Pop scene, singer songwriter and producer Jessie Hillel takes on her alter ego as Jhm. Presenting an adventurous mix of classical vocal techniques, layered harmonies, hip hop rhythms and orchestral flavours, Jhm creates her own world of lush tropical beats with a contemporary flare. Drawing inspirations from Griff, Solange and Nina Simone, Jhm combines jazz, soul, R&B, pop and classical forms while injecting them into modern productions, delivering songs which immediately feel like old friends with new shoes.
Jhm's latest release 'Santorini' showcases her unique sonic palette, blending rich horns and colourful synths alongside live percussion and MSO strings to create bright rays of sunshine that capture the infatuating feeling of romance and freedom one has while in love. As an ode to her parents' 25 years of marriage, Jhm says: "Santorini is for love and the way it can put a glow around any situation if you choose to let it - to me this song is for my parents and the anniversary they shared in the middle of a pandemic. It was written in my bedroom and demoed in the space that is now my dad's makeshift office. I hope it feels like laughing and being warm and drinking juice."
Question: How would you describe your music?
Jessie Hillel: To me my songs are like timestamps - each of them represents a time in either my own life or someone else's and what happened and what it felt like and what was important. I try to make each song its own world so that when people listen to them they can go somewhere.
Question: Can you tell us about Santorini?
Jessie Hillel: Santorini was written mid-lockdown last year for my parents 25th wedding anniversary - we wanted to try go on holiday for the occasion but being in lockdown didn't really allow for that, so this song was meant to be some kind of a replacement.
Santorini was made in my room and I played the demo to my parents for the first time on the actual day of their anniversary, and for it to have come so far from then is so surreal - I was able to work with Push Records on developing the track further to where it now has musicians from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra playing strings on it and real percussion and horns and just to have had the experience of working with so many people I respect and look up to on something that was literally created while sitting in a bed is incredible! Whenever I listen to the song it makes me feel warm and I hope it feels that way for other people too :))
Question: What inspired the music video?
Jessie Hillel: The director Brooke Kymberley and I had a super long zoom call just throwing a bunch of ideas around and we eventually reined it in as much as we could to try to convey the main message of the song - a story of two people in love who only need each other to feel like they are on holiday. We were so lucky to be able to work with Mami Ikeda and Ian Carpenter who played our leads and made the video come to life - the whole process was such a good time and we were filming in places where we would just show up and ask if we would be allowed to film in - so a huge thank you to Le Manna Fresh and Soap In The City in Brunswick!!
Question: Is there a particular message you hope listeners take from your music?
Jessie Hillel: Nothing specifically, I more just hope that it takes people somewhere when they listen.
Question: What motivates you most when writing music?
Jessie Hillel: It used to be to make everything sound natural and like it belongs, but now I try and be honest first.
Question: What has been your favourite part of becoming a music artist?
Jessie Hillel: I don't know if I'm quite there yet, but working with people and performing have always been the best part of music to me - I think music without other people is less good in every way and I cannot wait for restrictions to lift so we can go back to sharing it with each other in person.
Question: What or who was your inspiration to go into the music industry?
Jessie Hillel: I've been singing since I was super young and it's kind of all I've ever known so it's hard to say what a specific inspiration would be, but I think my parents would be the biggest reason for introducing me to CD's and encouraging and supporting me even when I wasn't in tune.
Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Jessie Hillel: There are soooo many people and the list grows every time I check the writing credits of a song I like - at the moment Jerome Farrah!
Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?
Jessie Hillel: Do it or you'll regret it.
Question: What's a typical day like?
Jessie Hillel: 34789472893479238479238 emails.
Question: What's next, for you?
Jessie Hillel: I've been sitting on a whole bunch of demos that were made over this year and last year and I'm so keen to share them! My next release is scheduled for early next year, and it's another track that I hope feels like summer and dancing outside.
In the meantime though I want to play gigs as soon as I can so hopefully see you soooooon <33
Question: Can you share your socials? (links please)
Jessie Hillel: Instagram
Interview by Gwen van Montfort