UK's grime community isn't known for its pop sensibilities, but following its recent waves and movements, its siege of the mainstream and crossover arenas has allowed for all spectrums of sound. Like modern-day hip-hop, there's a place for every artist. Enter Jessica Agombar, a singer-songwriter with pop and crossover sensibilities who could as easily be a talented songstress as a model. She can also spit bars alongside the best of them as well. Whether it's a songwriting session or a freestyle cypher, she can probably hold her own.
Connecting with the undeniably-skilled sound architect Levi Lennox -- who is probably best known for his work alongside Zayn Malik ("Pillowtalk") and M.I.A. ("Borders") -- Jessica Agombar delivered one of her strongest efforts yet, "Cookie Cutter." The song is a call to arms to fight against everything that's not intrinsically you. The track, and Agombar, proudly bear the banner for individuality. To open up the next chapter in Agombar's movement, we linked up with the multi-talented talent to speak on her career up until this point and premiere her new video for her "Cookie Cutter" single. Check out the video above and Q&A below.
If you had to, how would you explain your sound and the type of music you make to someone not familiar? You have a somewhat untraditional sound that seems to vary from song to song, sometimes from section to section.
I feel my music overall is a melting pot of different genre's that inspire me blended into a pop record. My music is every sound that has ever evoked emotion in me. I could never write to fit a template or exact sound because my influences are so diverse and when I write a song whatever 'Im inspired by is created. Overall my music is pop inspired by grime and dancehall but it's new age pop!
Your influences appear to jump from grime to pop to R&B to rap. Why do you think it is that you have such a diverse, eclectic style?
My influence has always been grime, I couldn't get away from grime growing up in East London Bow. When I was 12 and Roll Deep, So Solid, More Fire Crew were doing well that's what every kid in my school would listen to. I still love it now with a passion. My other main influence is dancehall/bashment just because when I was in school too it was what the older lot would listen to going raving and we wanted to be like them. Dancehall makes me feel something the lyrics and the production on dancehall tunes are emotive and the melodies on say a Capleton or Tanya Stephens tune are as strong as say a Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran track in my humble opinion. I love pop melodies I think there's a science behind writing a pop tune.
How could I only love one genre of music when as a person each day I feel different emotions in completely different environments. I couldn't listen to the same genre everyday of my life just like I would hate to live the same day like groundhog day every day of my life.
Growing up, what artists and styles of music motivated you to want to become a musician as your career?
Without a doubt Ms Dynamite was the artist I looked up to. I was completely in awe of her as a kid. I would listen to her album, understand her message she was trying to put across and then sing the lyrics over and over. She looked like a kid that hadn't gone to drama school like me as I previously believed you could only do well if you were trained at a private theatre school and come from money I had no idea how to be heard but she inspired me to do so.
Also So Solid, when I see them on the BRIT Awards performing 21 Seconds they all just looked like they could be from my area and it made me think this is definitely do-able.
What's the story behind "Cookie Cutter"?
For me a Cookie Cutter is a mass product all of the same shape and look I feel I was previously expected to do and say as the label told me. I wrote the lyric "Stop rallying round me I don't need your help" because I feel too many cooks spoil the broth - especially in music, and sometimes you need to trust an artist and allow them to follow there own creative process. You could say it's a bit of a F*ck you to anyone expecting a certain type of sound from me because it's what is fashionable or on radio or on trend in the industry at the moment...I'm just going to do what comes naturally to me.
How did the video for "Cookie Cutter" come about and what messages do you want the visual to convey to the viewer? Were there any particular themes you wanted to explore?
Cookie Cutter video was easy, I worked with directors Emmie Bednal and Charlie Hamil and the three of us directed it together I created a video treatment a long time ago of a girl sitting in front of a mirror being completely unhappy with the reflection looking back at her and a makeup artist and hairstylist obviously carrying on regardless of her sadness.
Emmie and Charlie came with the idea to do a one take video where the camera is treated as the mirror and I was the girl they made it easy as they are so creative and I loved all of the ideas they brought to the table about this girl who is getting prodded and pulled and in the midst of it she just wants to take everything off and be her.
The theme is clear it's me taking every scrap of makeup and false eyelashes off as I will not be conforming to any part of peoples expectation or want from me as an artist. I was previously signed to Atlantic records and was part of top 10 girl band Parade. Did I have to water myself down artistically...Yes! I won't be now and that is the whole theme of the vid I will no longer be a mass produced cookie cutter artist.
Explain how you initially linked up with Levi Lennox, who has worked with the likes of Zayn Malik and MIA. Who are some of the other producers you're working with right now?
I work a lot with the producers at F Block in Ealing studios as they all have some real magic when it comes to styles and flavors of music. Levi and myself were introduced to and we naturally set up a session. He's one of the most talented people I have worked with, I find the creative process easy with Levi. He lets me go quiet so I can sit and write and I never feel pressured to come up with anything other than what Im feeling at the time.
I have also wrote a sick tune with Diztortion and writing with Tough Love has been amazing. I write with so many producers and musicians I feel so lucky for that.
Any dream collaborations you want to work on some day?
My dream producer collab would be Salaam Remi or Diplo. Artist wise someone like Miguel as I loved how his last album 'Wildheart; was a little more experimental and the message was rebellious and wild. Also I would love to collab with Krept and Konan as I think they are amazing.
After this video, what's next as far as new music is concerned? Any particular projects or songs you're excited about?
I have been writing an EP for the last year and I feel I have put every bit of my emotions and passion into the lyrics so I'm looking forward to the release of that this spring/summer.
I am looking forward to everyone hearing the remixes of Cookie Cutter too as one of my grime favorite artists has blessed it with a feature so stay tuned.