As the highest-grossing festival for several years running, Coachella can play a crucial role in many artists’ journeys, particularly those just starting out.
Two years ago, Ryn Weaver, Kiesza and Jess Glynne were all unknowns still finding their voice as artists and songwriters. Weaver, a California native and regular Coachella-goer, took playing the Indio Valley festival so seriously that she told her best friend in 2013, “I’m not coming back to Coachella until I’ve played it.” When her debut single “OctaHate” lit up the Twittersphere a little over a year later, Weaver signed label and management deals and suddenly found herself on a path to fulfilling her dream.
“I figured that would take a lot longer,” Weaver recalls on Day 3 of Coachella’s first weekend, sitting poolside at the former Palm Springs home of famed entertainer Dinah Shore. “But we were here just in the car with our arms up, classic rock in the desert and I was just sobbing. I’m from San Diego, and my grandfather moved from Europe to Coachella to Indio and lived in the same house for so long. He was the coolest guy, I just have the coolest memories here.”
Weaver is one of four artists teaming with American Express this month for “My Coachella Journey,” a social-media campaign that pairs Weaver, Kiesza, Jess Glynne and Fitz and The Tantrums with Instagram photographers Koury Angelo (@KouryAngelo) and Bryant Elsava (@Bryant) to capture exclusive moments throughout their Coachella journeys for AmEx card members and music fans alike. The campaign is part of AmEx’s “The Journey Never Stops” program, which debuted during the Academy Awards with a series of commercials that included Aretha Franklin and Mindy Kaling. In March, AmEx announced a multi-year deal with Goldenvoice to become the official payment provider of Coachella, marking AmEx’s first festival sponsorship in the process.
Billboard caught up with Weaver, Kiesza and Glynne to learn more about their road to their first Coachella, and what’s in store for Weekend 2 and beyond.
Billboard: What was it like playing your first Coachella?
Ryn Weaver: I think it went really well. It’s the biggest thing I’ve done so far, so every time you do the biggest thing you’ve done you go into a state of shock. It was like a blackout, so I can’t really comment on the performance. But I kept seeing people walk in, and I was proud that I kept the audience. They didn’t know half my songs, because I was basically playing my whole record, so I was just proud to play my whole record. It was my first time ever playing a festival as well.
Kiesza: It was really, really fun, and it was really fun to have Joey Bada$$ there. That was completely last minute, he flew in, landed at I don’t know 10am and took an Uber out to Coachella, and I met him there. It was quite dusty, actually – I’m gonna bring a bandanna next week to put over my nose. But I also got a chance to see Steely Dan and AC/DC, so I got to be a bit of a chance to be an audience member as well. I see why people enjoy it so much.
Jess Glynne: I’d never been before, it was a really amazing festival. Nothing can really prepare you for how pretty it was. I didn’t have much time to prepare for it, I was staying here in L.A. and then got over day-of for my performance. It was a bit of a mad rush, to be honest. But the reaction was amazing, people jumped up and just went crazy. I didn’t make it out for Clean Bandit, though – it was so annoying. Our schedules clashed. I was at one end of Palm Springs when their set started doing promo and some other things, it was a bit insane that I missed it. But I’m gonna be seeing them soon back in the UK and then we’re coming back to do “Today” show and “Seth Meyers.”
Describe your career journey. How did you get to where you are today?
Ryn Weaver: Everything happened so quickly for me, that whenever anything hits me it’s later it’s six things at once. It’s just a dream come true. I’ve been homeless technically for years, because after I got out of school I was living on friends’ couches. I’m a nomad. The journey never stops on that level. Traveling through the States. Pretty soon I’m going to the UK. It’s all like too much, it’s too cool I don’t know how to comprehend it yet.
Kiesza: I was a ballerina from the ages of three to 15, when I got an injury that prevented me from going on and pursuing that as a dream. That’s when I got myself into sailing, and I spent a few years teaching, racing and sailing tall ships — I sailed to Hawaii. I dive into things 100% when I do them. I’ve always been passionate about music, but I saw myself as a writer at first for other people. I could never choose a direction for myself as an artist, so my plan was to have these fun side projects. I was in a funk band, in a rock band, in a death metal band for a very short amount of time. But I took my writing career very seriously, and when I came up with “Hideaway” that was the first time I wrote a song that I couldn’t give away. Then I came up with this whole concept for an album, that I still thought would just be a side project only my Facebook friends would hear.
Glynne: I’d been writing for years, and two years ago now I was in the studio with a girl called Janee [Bennett], and we wrote the most amazing song together, and suddenly I had all this publishing interest. I get this link online to this guy called Joe [Gossa] at Black Butter, one of the main guys over there and he went mental. He introduced me to all the right people – lawyers, managers, I signed a deal for publishing and then Atlantic came along and I signed with them and started recording for the new album. It’s been an insane journey, the song with Clean Bandit took my career a lot faster in the public eye than I thought it ever would. So it’s already been this insane rollercoaster, but I’m just now starting my own campaign.
After your career accelerated in the last year, who or what keeps you grounded as you travel from city to city?
Ryn Weaver: I haven’t learned how to be grounded yet. [laughs] That takes a while. I’m always half off a bridge and half in the dirt. I think the number one thing you can do wrong as an artist is think no one knows what I’m dealing with. But being able to all my friends and listen to their problems really helps.
Kiesza: I think my family keeps me grounded a lot. They’re constantly in my life and not afraid to be brutally honest with me sometimes. It’s not hard to stay grounded, especially when you’re grounded, because you’re in a lot of confined spaces and you really have to learn to respect one another. Everybody sees the pictures and the performances, but behind the scenes it’s not as glamorous as it looks. It really is about treating everybody equally. I try to appreciate what everybody does every single day.
Jess Glynne: I used to sit in my room with a tape recorder and listen to Mariah and Whitney over and over and record myself singing their songs, room for room night after night. So I’ll think back to that sometimes. I’ve got an older sister called Rachel and my parents who’ve always been there behind me with my music. But I also make sure to have good people with me, too – one of my really good friends is always kind of where I am, she’s my creative director as well.
What’s next from you musically?
Ryn Weaver: My album The Fool is out June 16. And it’s a complete body of work about the experiences of a modern woman, which I guess to me as time goes on are more and more like the experiences of a modern man. I worked with Benny Blanco and Michael Angelakos, as well as Cashmere Cat on one song and Ryan Tedder on another. I’ve learned so much more this past year than I have my whole career. I’ve been trying to teach myself how to produce for three years and I’ve already learned more from being with Benny for six months. It’s like a super group and they’re too busy to come on the road with me.
Kiesza: I’m on tour with Betty Who right now, who’s the sweetest, most down-to-earth human being ever. We’re hoping to do some collaborations at some of the shows if possible – maybe toward the end of the tour. I’ve also got a song coming out soon with Duran Duran. Simon [LeBon] the lead singer was running on a treadmill and saw the “Hideaway” video in the gym. He and I had a mutual friend Ron Perry at SONGS, and he put us in touch and Simon had a song he’d written already that he thought would make for a great duet. It was really fun, they’re so incredible to work with. John [Taylor] even came to my Coachella show.
Jess Glynne: My album’s finished, and the U.S. EP is coming in July. I’m so excited for people to hear it. Everything I’ve put together has been inspired from what I’ve been influenced with growing up with writing and recording. The album and the EP are very soul infused, and they’re very exciting. They’re upbeat – it’s quite a happy record. It’s the story of my experiences of the past few years.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing during Weekend 2?
Ryn Weaver: Perfume Genius. Now at every photo shoot I do I have them play that song [sings] “don’t you know your queen…yet.” It’s so sassy and biting and it gets you going. He actually Twittered me, he was like, “We’re on at the same time!” But he actually starts a little later, so I can rush over and see him next weekend.
Kiesza: Everyone! I had to fly out for a show in Phoenix Saturday morning, so I feel like I missed a lot of it.
Glynne: I only got to see Jack White last weekend, so I’m hoping to see a lot of new people this time.