David Friend

Takes a look at Jessie Reyez — the soul­ful voice lead­ing the Juno nom­i­nees.

Ottawa Citizen - - YOU -

1 Fam­ily is a bedrock

Reyez was born in Toronto to par­ents who im­mi­grated from Colom­bia, but that doesn’t mean her cul­tural roots aren’t in­tact. The singer pays trib­ute to her fam­ily’s ori­gins in the mu­sic video for Great One, which trails her as she vis­its their home­land. It’s a spir­i­tual re­flec­tion cre­ated af­ter the deaths of her un­cle and a child­hood friend. Reyez walks among the marked graves of locals while seem­ingly chas­ing the ghost of a child and her jour­ney winds up at a river where she’s bap­tized by some wel­com­ing fig­ures.

2 It’s Yessie, not Jessie

Al­though she was born Jes­sica, she prefers peo­ple call her Yessie, es­chew­ing the hard J sound. She says this is how her fam­ily says her name.

3 Cheer squad

Reyez was a cheer­leader for the Toronto Arg­onauts be­fore she started pur­su­ing mu­sic. Jorie Brown, her for­mer cheer coach, re­mem­bers her as spunky per­former with rough edges. “If you watch the old re­hearsals, ev­ery­one’s in their shorts and halftop and Jessie’s in bas­ket­ball shorts,” Brown said in a pro­mo­tional video for the singer pro­duced by Vevo. Cheer­lead­ing and Reyez weren’t meant to be for­ever, as she even­tu­ally de­cided to ditch the gig to chase a mu­sic ca­reer.

4 Calvin con­nec­tion

Start­ing out with big dreams, Reyez pounded the pave­ment with a hard sell. She of­ten tells the story of walk­ing into the now de­funct Toronto night­club The Gu­vern­ment and hand­ing out her mix­tape to DJs while they were per­form­ing a live set. One of those DJs turned out to be pro­ducer ex­traor­di­naire Calvin Har­ris, known for craft­ing hits with Katy Perry and Ri­hanna. Sev­eral years later, Reyez of­fi­cially re­u­nited with Har­ris for a col­lab­o­ra­tion on his 2017 al­bum Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 called Hard to Love.

5 Meet­ing per­chance

Reyez counts Gram­my­win­ning artist Chance the Rap­per among her pals. She made con­nec­tions with him a few years ago through fel­low rap artist King Louie, who was con­vinced they’d get along. Af­ter many con­ver­sa­tions, they wound up work­ing in a Chicago stu­dio to­gether and have been friends ever since.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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