Chicago native Jessica Betts is back on the scene with a rejuvenated passion for music, plus a groundbreaking single video, "Holding On” which promises to leave fans in awe. We first heard from Betts via her appearance on Missy Elliott’s “Road to Stardom” television series, where she was the big winner. However, after undergoing a few personal and professional setbacks, Jessica was unable to capitalize on her momentum following the show.
This time around, the singer is out to prove that with a little perseverance, your dream can manifest itself. Jessica sat with EBONY to discuss her trials, tribulations and what keeps her "Holding On."
EBONY: For those unfamiliar, who is Jessica Betts?
JB: The best way I can describe [myself] in a nutshell: a soulful artist with a story to tell. I have many strong messages that I want to convey through my music. I want people to relate to my struggles and tribulations as well as some of the greatest moments in a person’s life. I want to wrap everything up emotionally and professionally within my album. I want to be known as someone who’s trying to bring it raw and real, and not conform. I’m out to make a name for myself.
EBONY: What are your greatest inspirations for your music?
JB: I have so many, but I’d have to say gospel music and growing up singing in church. That’s pretty much where it all started. My music encompasses all genres. Rock, soul, R&B, pop…There are no boundaries with my music. I like to go with what feels good.
EBONY: What prevented you from capitalizing on your momentum from the Missy Elliott show in 2005?
JB: It was easily one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I think after the realization of winning the show, I had to take time to find myself. I like to view it as making what was once incomplete, complete. I took the time to work on myself personally, professionally and in order to be successful; I knew I had to get my sh*t together!
I think you have to mentally be prepared if you want to attain success in this business. Now, I’m embarking on something so incredible, ground-breaking and so amazing. I have a great team behind me, and they’ve kinda re-sparked the flame in me that I thought had died. But, my break was basically to find Jessica first. I needed to build a shield to protect myself and get to a point where I felt strong enough to embark on this incredible journey.
I want to achieve greatness and make good music. I want to become a household name and create music that feels good.
EBONY: If you could put together an album wish list, who would you like to work with?
JB: Wow! Honestly, I’d like to work with a lot of artists that represent what I represent. India.Arie and Lauryn Hill are definitely two artists that come to mind. At the same time, I’d love to have Rick Ross jump on one of my joints and get that Cash Money feel with a Lil' Wayne feature. Brandy and Monica are also inspirations and I’d love to work with them as well. I just wanna put hip-Hop, R&B and pop in a bottle and shake things up. A dream situation is honestly working with artists that wanna work with me. Artists that like to work together usually make great music.
EBONY: Talk to me about “Holding On."
JB: It’s kind of a rebirth of sorts. It represents a new direction that I’m taking my career, which I felt was missing in the beginning. Now, I’m able to be myself and the video represents my struggle and growth personally and professionally. It deals with two worlds that exist for me, along with the past, present and future. There’s a pivotal point in the video that I’m really excited for everyone to see!
It can be viewed as a love story for couples, but it’s also telling my story. I can promise you that it’ll be awesome and will shock a lot of people.
EBONY: With regards to your personal struggle, how important is the support of an artist like Lady Gaga or Frank Ocean’s open letter, to an artist like yourself?
JB: Very important! Although I’m not an advocate, it helps people to deal with their internal struggle. It allows people to be who they are, when many of us are often covered and shelled. It definitely shows that people can and should, love themselves more. We’re always so worried about what others think of us, but the love that each of those artists gets just proves that there are real souls out there and people are accepted for who they are.
I think the industry is evolving as a whole. People are now more understanding and free to embrace everyone for the free spirits [that] they are.
EBONY: What can we look for from you in the coming months?
JB: I’m going to be releasing two singles. The first will be “Holding On” and the next will be announced. I’m shooting a video for a more urban, up-tempo record which should be really fun. I’m going to take this time with the fall and winter to really get the music out there and get people amped about the project. I’m going to take my time with it and release the full album when the time is right.
In the meantime, people can definitely catch me online at JessicaBettsMusic.com, and of course all of the social media outlets. Everyone can download “Holding On” on iTunes, Amazon music, Rhapsody and all of those types of sites. I’m out here and I’m coming for you!
Steve Rivers has contributed to The Source, ESPN Rise and a host of other online publications. Follow him on Twitter: @TheKidSkoob.