Jessie Wagner ~ Envy

Jessie Wagner

Jessie Wagner

I don’t think I can describe the talented Jessie Wagner in a single word, but I can do it in two: Beautiful energy. Jessie Wagner is lead singer with the hot new band Envy, and she’s the backup singer for Kid Rock.

Envy’s new video of the hit single Stuck in My Own Way from their Army of the Underdog project is rocking the indie charts. Jessie shared the project’s origin with me: “The EP Army of the Underdog came from a lot of different people telling me that I should stick to one thing. I kept hearing: ‘You shouldn’t be a rock singer. You look a certain way, so you should be like Beyoncé. You should do this; you should do that.’ The Army of the Underdog came from me saying that I like rock-n-roll and I like how I blend in the other genres and I want my music to be free from constraints. Anybody who feels they can be free from constraints and be themselves and not have to worry about people telling them ‘You can’t,’ then they can be part of the Army too.”

When I listen to Envy’s music, I hear pop, blues and country. As Jessie Wagner describes it, “Our music is the combination of so many different genres, it’s kind of schizophrenic. I’d probably say I’m a rock, soul singer with pop influences here and there. Envy is like a mish mosh of genres coming together to create the sound. Everyone in my band has a unique background.”

Dave Diamond, the drummer, is more of a jam band guy. My guitarist, Kieran Sullivan (who also produced the album) gives that laid back, island guy feel. My bassist, Steve Bonacio has this alternative rock thing. To round it all out is my other guitarist, James Lewis, who has more of a blues and R&B background.

Jessie loves many different kinds of music: “I want to be able to put it all in my sound. I’m comfortable that way. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in one kind of genre because that’s not who I am. I embody so many different things, and it comes out in my music.”

Jessie Wagner in Chic

Jessie Wagner in Chic

Jessie Wagner has played with many music greats. She was a member of the group Chic, and she has sung with Pattie Labelle, Sir Elton John, Peter Gabriel, Sister Sledge, Musiq and the Pointer Sisters. “When I was with Chic, I was blessed to be able to perform with all these different artists. Nile Rodgers is such an influential artist himself. Through working with Chic, I was able to expand my repertoire and my ability to work with different artists. I’m so grateful to Nile Rodgers for giving me that opportunity.”

When I asked Jessie Wagner about her music influences, she responded: “I’m drawn to exciting performers who have big voices, like Tina Turner. You watch her, and she’s amazing to watch. She’s so vibrant and exciting. Then, on top of that, she has such a huge voice. That’s what I want to present when I go out on stage. I want to give you everything, be wild and crazy and vibrant and exciting; and I want to deliver it with big powerful vocals.”

It’s crazy that Jessie Wagner does not have a formal music background: “I grew up singing in the church. My mom pushed me out there, because I was shy when I was younger. That’s where I learned harmonies and how to blend. Anything else I’ve learned over the years is from working with other singers. I glean information from them on how to control my voice or how to use a microphone or about stage presence. I learned a lot from Sylver Logan Sharp, the other singer I was working with when I was in Chic.”

Jessie Wagner looks for other artists who are crazy and nutty like she is. “I like to first sit down and have a good conversation with them. I love so many different kinds of music, so I’m not drawn to one particular thing. If I can sit down and we can talk and have a good exchange of knowledge and information and ideas, then you’re the perfect person for me to work with. If I’ve listened to your music and I like your sound and how you write, then I’d be happy to work with you, if you’d be happy to work with me. If we have that chemistry in our conversation, then I know we’ll make beautiful music together.”

Jessie has some great business advice for other artists: “Make sure you have your whole package together. With the last album I put out, I just put it up there and I didn’t have my CDs ready. I think the project suffered, because I wasn’t prepared. It makes sense to have a plan for how you’re going to release your music, distribute it and market it. It’s so hard being an independent artist. I know that we’re all going through the same kind of struggles. If your first initial push is a strong one, it can help propel your project and take it to the next level.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m now a member of the Army of the Underdog. Join us!

Watch the complete video interview on the Amused Now YouTube channel: http://youtu.be/0-MH9CtG_R0

Amused Now Featured Artist Series

Jessie Wagner and Envy

Jessie Wagner and Envy

Jessie Wagner
www.jessiewagner.net
@Jessie_Wagner
Facebook
Instagram
YouTube

Cynthia Kahn, Founder of Amused Now
@Amused_Now
Facebook
Google+
YouTube

Photographs provided by Grayson Dantzic, Manzell Lyles, and John McGall