As if Jessie J weren’t busy enough this year between taking her R.O.S.E. tour to China and then the U.S. — her first-ever North American trek — the singer-songwriter squeezed in time to record her first holiday album.
While recording This Christmas Day, Jessie J also achieved another milestone: working for the first time with Grammy Award-winning producers David Foster, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Rodney Jerkins and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. “I made a wish list of producers and they all said yes,” recalls Jessie J. “It was such a great experience.”
The resulting 11-track album presents holiday classics such as “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” “Let It Snow,” “Winter Wonderland” featuring Boyz II Men and “The Christmas Song” featuring Babyface. “This Christmas Day,” the title track and lone original song, was co-written by Jessie J and Jerkins.
On the eve of wrapping up the European leg of the R.O.S.E. tour on Wednesday in Cologne, Germany, Jessie J talks about getting into the holiday spirit in July and looking ahead to her next music project.
How did you go about making a Christmas album in 14 days while touring?
I’d always wanted to make a Christmas album. Or I thought maybe an EP as a thank-you to fans for their support and to celebrate how great this year has been. But it can be a hard thing to fit into your schedule when you’re stupid busy. I was on tour doing summer shows and festivals, but at the beginning of July it’s like, “I’m going to make a Christmas album.” I called my label [Republic] and the response was, “You have six days off this year. When are you going to do it?” And I said I was going to find the time.
I had three days off between shows in the U.K., and for the first session I went in with Rodney Jerkins. We recorded six songs. Then I spent a day and a half with David Foster and two more songs were done. After that I spent two days with Terry and Jimmy and a couple days with Babyface in Los Angeles while rehearsing for my arena tour in China. It was crazy. I’d be in the studio at 8 a.m. until midday, go to rehearsal from noon to 8 p.m. and then return to the studio. It was really fun; I didn’t put any crazy pressure on myself. It was like, if I don’t get it done, I can put it out next year — which I didn’t want to do.
Besides being legends, what one quality did all of the producers on your wish list share?
Just that they are classic producers. I wanted to work with people who’d produced some of my favorite singers, like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. Rodney Jerkins said to me at one point that “the only other people I’ve seen do that many takes are Michael Jackson and Beyoncé.” And I was like, “Yes, that’s what I want to know.” I want to be pushed and challenged, and these producers all did that.
What inspired the album’s original song, which Jerkins also produced?
A friend of mine lost her brother. Watching her be so strong in that moment is where the inspiration came from. I really wanted to give hope and love to her — and to anyone else that has lost somebody. I wanted to do something to help celebrate the people that aren’t there that they wish were.
What are you most looking forward to doing after the tour ends?
I never want to wear a gold catsuit ever again. [Laughs] Honestly, I’m just looking forward to not setting my alarm and eating three meals a day of whatever I want because I can do it in my kitchen. And just being with friends and family and being able to talk for as long as I want without being terrified I’m going to lose my voice.
Is it too soon to talk about a next album?
Oh no. I want to get straight back into the studio at the top end of next year. I’ve pushed certain places in myself emotionally and musically and with my fanbase too. My fanbase showed up for me this year; there was a lot of momentum. It was like training for the Olympics musically. I don’t want to say specifically what my next album will be. But I definitely want to make something that will be a challenge to [what I’ve already done] in my career. Who knows if I can do it? However, that’s the challenge I’m giving myself. But if it’s the same melody with different lyrics, don’t tell anyone. [Laughs]