Fresh from the gym and beaming, Bristol University’s very own rising starlet Cassa Jackson sat down to talk about breaking into the scene with her debut single Prisoner. Originally from London, Cassa has built her singer/songwriter career based on her own enthusiastic personality as she strives for authenticity in the popular music world.
So how are you finding the Bristol music scene compared to London, any favourite venues?
I’m loving it! Definitely a much younger, student filled area compared to London, which is really exciting and makes for a great atmosphere when performing – I prefer Bristol as a city. I put together a band when I first came to Bristol from the LiveSoc day, which has been really cool, they’re all great musicians, so we’ve become Cassa & The Novas and we perform my own music and covers. We played a gig together at The Fleece the other day which I really enjoyed, it’s a great venue! I’ve had some lively crowds in Bristol so far.
How would you describe your musical style?
I would say it’s soul/pop, kind of mainstream, but I always want people to tell that it’s my voice. I always want to be original and strive for that own personal voice. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what my style is, a lot of the tracks on my upcoming ep have a strong soul vibe rather than the pop aspect of Prisoner.
Tell us all about your debut single Prisoner! How did you come to decide what to release first?
I honestly wrote it about two years ago and now feel it’s the right moment to start properly releasing all my material. My first song release was a toss-up between Prisoner and Luke Warm. I co-wrote both songs with Jessica Sharman, who suggested I release my second favourite track first, with the hope that if people like it then they’ll hopefully love the second one, Luke Warm, and not be a let-down after the first song. So, I followed her wise suggestion.
What was your inspiration for Prisoner and how did that feed into your writing process?
All of my writing is very autobiographical, and at that time I went through a bit of a bad relationship patch – classic – and I just poured out how I felt, so there’s quite a lonely, misunderstanding within the song which is explained through the lyrics. To be fair I’m still with the same guy! And he actually loves the song.
With that personal relationship in mind, does the song make you feel vulnerable in anyway? As the raw emotion is portrayed, especially in the music video, was that intended for a mainly female audience?
Yeah a bit, but I didn’t want to look like a girl who was just crying, I wanted the whole ‘girl power’ feeling to come through. So, the video was created to present my own huge world, which by the end of the video I’m loving, and owning my own space, like I’m owning my relationship. I wanted there to be a sense of female ownership within the song but still think Prisoner has a universal message, relationship issues can affect guys and girls equally. But I do think that the vulnerability of a young relationship might make the song resonate with a younger audience. Either way, I love how it can have so many different reactions for different people!
How do you feel the video for Prisoner presents you as an artist and the image behind Cassa Jackson?
Filming the video was honestly the coldest day of my life! We couldn’t use half the shots because my nipples were frozen and poking out!! But I survived.
In this day and age, it’s kind of annoying that you have to look somewhat enticing, so in the lip-sync the idea was to look very female and all sexy; but in the woods, it was all me, just bare and free in my own space. I was very happy with the overall video! But in terms of the next music video for Luke Warm, I’d love to produce a visual which is a bit happier and fun and full of colour which will hopefully represent me as a person a bit better, and will juxtapose with the raw vibe of Prisoner.
I think the video for Prisoner changes the impact of the song a lot as the focus is often on the visual of me which can distract. My plan in the next couple of weeks is to release a lyric video for Prisoner as so many people have said that they love the lyrics, so to let them be heard and interpreted without the visual will be interesting.
How has personally putting yourself out there in an autobiographical way been like as a young female trying to break into the pop world?
It’s been an exciting challenge. I’ve always wanted to embrace my own emotions and write my own material so both myself and my audience can connect with the honesty in the songs – and just be me! I hope that the tone and feeling within my voice will be what’s noticed and that will be picked up through the authenticity of my lyrics, which to me are the main part.
I’ve also been doing a lot of collaborations with DJs, which has been an interesting new venture for breaking in as there’s often quite direct criticism which pushes me to produce my best work and not settle for the first idea which isn’t always the best. It’s so cliché but I always work off the Ed Sheeran quote ‘I’m so happy when I write a bad song’ because it means I’m one step closer to that hit.
In the push to try and make it, how have you found the impact of social media on your career? Especially the difference between presenting yourself personally on stage and in chats like this vs. the presentation on Instagram and alike?
In real life, I really hope my personality comes through, and that’s why sometimes I really hate social media – it’s such a drag! You always have to think of the wider picture, or theme, and sometimes I just want to post a day-to-day picture. But then when I post a picture where I look more ‘sexy’ I get so many more follows – it’s such a joke! But I guess you just have to go with it sometimes, whilst keeping a bit of a boundary, I don’t want to be known for half naked photos. I feel like you can’t come into the music industry now without a social media following, which I’m trying to build up now.
You’ve mentioned the release of new music, but what can we expect for the future? Any exciting Bristol gigs planned?
I’m working on lots of covers which I’ll release on my YouTube, I’m also working on a colab with Hazel Haze which is very exciting. I’m also working on the DJ stuff with KLYMVX which is super cool, I used my French to message him and he actually replied and now we’ve got a track together. For gigs in Bristol, I’ll be doing the FUZE 2018 weekend 10th-11th of March which is set to be super fun!
To discover more, find Cassa here!