What’s in your bag? is a recurring feature where we ask people to tell us a bit more about their everyday gadgets by opening their bags and hearts to us. This week, we’re featuring British singer and songwriter Jess Glynne.
Jess Glynne oozes cool. The chart-topping artist rolls into The Verge with a casual vibe, despite being accompanied by a deep entourage and styled not with a look, but a lewk. Sporting head to toe pastel athleisure with a bright green Gucci crossbody bag that pops against her signature orange curls, one can’t help but notice Glynne as she walks into the room. You know she’s an artist. There is an intangible radiance that comes from her.
You are probably already familiar with Glynne’s soulful-leaning songs and her strong, husky voice. She was a featured artist on Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” and her debut studio album, I Cry When I Laugh, debuted at number one on the UK Albums chart. This year, she became the first British female solo artist to have seven number-one singles on the UK Singles chart. As if that all wasn’t enough, her most recent album, Always In Between, just delivered enough first-week units to become her second UK number one album.
It’s been a bumper year for Glynne, but despite the accolades, in some ways she feels like it’s just the beginning. “I still feel like there’s so much more that I want to do,” Glynne tells The Verge while unpacking her bag. “I feel so early in my career.” Find out more about Glynne through her things, below, including the vocal cords surgery she underwent in 2015, and how she uses her iPhone in the songwriting process.
I love your bag.
I’d thought that it was going to be in a video, but it actually wasn’t in the video. So, it kind of sat in this box for about eight months, because there were only a few of them. My stylist was like, “Let’s just buy it.” And then we forgot about it. We tried to put it in certain things, and it just wasn’t right by that point in time. I don’t know, sometimes branding’s a bit much. And then it ended up just being my bag.
What video was it supposed to be for?
It was supposed to be for “I’ll Be There,” my new single. But then it kind of got to a thing where the video was supernatural and it was just unnecessary. But we just liked the bag. So now it’s my personal little thing, which is cool.
Alright, so what’s inside?
This is basically every day really. Other than my passport — I don’t carry that every day. But I’m traveling at the moment so that’s just chilling in there, hah.
We all love a passport picture. I look like a criminal. Hundred percent. We were all in rehearsals two years ago, in this production warehouse in this massive building, and everyone was crazy. My tour manager came up to us and was like, “Guys just come here, just take a quick picture. It’s for your passport.” Cool. [Imitates a camera click] And then all of us got these pictures back and we genuinely… look like criminals [laughs]. Everything’s just a bit of a mess.
This is my wallet that my management got me... I think for my birthday. Nice little leather thing. And then money, that’s just important, right? I need to have money, in case I need a drink. And a pen, ‘cause you always have to have something to take notes when your phone dies. I actually love this pen. When I was in Miami, I went to that famous hotel with the Damien Hirst things outside. Anyway, that’s where I got the pen from.
So first thing is gonna be my perfume. It’s by Comme Des Garçons. I feel like it’s quite important, when you’re doing a lot of promo, that you always smell good. I feel like I always remember someone’s smell.
Alright, the next thing I have in my bag is — this [holds up lip balm]. I’m kind of obsessed with having no dry lips. It’s called Papaw. I got it in Australia when I was there, and it’s nearly dead. I stocked up when I was there. This is my third.
What else have we got in here… well my tube. This is a kind of important thing, actually. So this tube, I do carry it around with me quite a lot, because I use it for when I warm up, when I sing. So what I’ll do is I’ll put it in water, and I’ll do exercises by, like, blowing through it. It’s kind of weird, but when I had an operation on my voice, I learned about straws and tubes. I had to do therapy after, and this is one of the things that I used to warm my voice up.
How often do you do that?
Quite often, even if I’m talking. Like, I’ve been talking a lot today, so I constantly have to exercise my voice, ‘cause it’s still the same amount of straining, do you know what I mean? Overusing your voice is quite common. So yeah, I do carry that around with me no matter what I’m doing — promo or singing. First thing in the morning and last thing at night are the most important times. You’ve got to stretch after you run a marathon, right? So if you’ve been using your voice, you’ve just gotta… stretch it out. Heh!
So next in here we have hand sanitizer. It’s one of the most important things to carry around. I’m a bit OCD as well. I like to be clean. My dad’s got this thing wherever he goes, he has to wash his hands. So we go out to a restaurant, the first thing he’ll do will be… go to the bathroom and wash his hands. And I think he’s passed it on to me. So wherever I go, I have to wash my hands. But if I can’t… then I kill it with antibacterial spray. It’s got a really nice smell. It’s quite potent, but it makes me feel like it’s done a good job.
I’d read that you spent a week in the country just to create and it was a really rich period.
Yeah! Rich, that’s a… really good word. So I’d gone to LA for two months at the beginning of last year. I wrote so much stuff. I probably came back with near to 100 songs. But I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with everything. I think the story and the sound got a bit lost and I felt like I needed to take a step back. So when I had time off last year, I did take a step back. I lived, and chilled, and did my thing. And then, it got to the end of summer, and I’d been through a lot emotionally, through relationships, through life, and coming to terms with a lot had changed.
I was in a space where I just really wanted to write, and I knew I had a lot to give. I called the guys at my label and I said, “Please can we just do one last thing for this?” I just wanted to go away, into the middle of nowhere with everybody that I’d wrote the first record with — people who I love, people who I connect with — in a space that’s not a studio, that’s not pressured, that’s not near anything or anyone, that’s not going to make me feel uncomfortable, like I’m doing something wrong.
And they were like, “Right, we’re got this house. It’s in the middle of Sussex, in the middle of nowhere.” They suggested some new people who I was totally open to, and then we got caterers and set up a living space. There was a cinema room downstairs, bedrooms, all these different random rooms... just little setups where we could jam.
I put together a little schedule of two or three people in a room each day, and it was the most organic process. It was so amazing to chill, to eat, to sing, to write, and just to have that moment in creating the whole record.
What did you bring with you?
I took really comfy clothes. I didn’t need to impress anybody. I wasn’t going out anywhere. Just like, a “look after you” kind of suitcase, you know? It’s so nice to be able to get up in the morning, put on a tracksuit, feel fresh, chill, and not feel like you have to do yourself up, for anything or anyone.
What else is in this bag, then?
Hairbands. This is probably one of my most important things, because I lose them all the time and my hair is... a lot. I get really hot, and I hate having my hair down, so I always bring a lot of hairbands with me. What else... I’ve got sunglasses, because I have really sensitive eyes. Blue eyes are really sensitive, in case you didn’t know. Plus, I do feel like they add to a look, you know? My thing is sunglasses because obviously if I wore clear ones it would be an issue. I don’t need them, and I’d look like one of those people that’s... not cool [laughs].
I have this hand cream. It’s so battered. This has been around, obviously, a lot. I’ve got a really big thing about keeping my skin moisturized. I hate dry skin.
What kind is it?
This is Aesop! It’s got like something in it that takes off the dead skin. It’s amazing. I always use coconut oil on my skin, but I couldn’t bring it because it kept leaking every time. So I went to Whole Foods yesterday, and bought this cream for my skin.
So this lip stuff... I’m into a nude lip. I don’t really like wearing makeup that much, but I always feel like if I’m not wearing makeup, and I put on a lip, it’s enough. Oh, I’ve got more lip stuff! I’ve actually got a lot of lip stuff. I like options. This is a really matte one and goes on top. It’s kind of a shimmery thing when I’m trying to be a little bit extra. And I’ve got concealer, in case a spot pops up and I don’t want it to be seen. As a girl, you get a bit shameful of your spots. You shouldn’t, really, because we all have them.
Headphones. An adaptor thing, because the new iPhone is so annoying. If I keep it on here I don’t lose it. These are really just cheap [headphones]. They’re not exciting. I find it difficult with headphones. I don’t really like big ones, because they’re just too heavy and they get in the way, and quite a lot of the expensive ones that are all meant to be fancy don’t really work in my ear. I think I’ve got weird ear canals [laughs].
And I feel like the majority of people will listen on your average headphone. I’ve been finishing my album recently and it’s quite good to listen to the songs through here, because it kind of gives you an idea of what people are going to hear, and then you can judge what you need more and less of. I’ll listen to stuff through my headphones, and then I’ll listen through my speakers at home, and always in my car. Those are the three most important places.
Which iPhone do you have?
The X. That guy’s everywhere with me. I do really like the fact that it doesn’t have a button. At first I was really upset about it because it’s hard to get used to, but I actually quite like the cleanness of it. I’m not really like, “Oh I love phones,” I do what I need to do on it and that’s that. I’m not one of these technology freaks. I’m not very good at technology [laughs]. It’s not my thing.
Do you use the phone at all for writing songs?
Yeah. I use the voice note thing. How many voice notes are on here? Probably hundreds. Say I’m out and I get an idea, or if I’m with someone and we’re not in a space where we’re creating, I’ll just kind of sing into it and I’ll title it with a lyric or something of that moment in time. And then I’ll go back to it if I’m in the studio. It’s really helpful. And notes as well. I always write down quotes or lyrics that I like.
Do you have a notebook?
I don’t have a notebook. I should get a little one, innit. And then it would make more sense to have a pen.
These are tablets that I take, but I don’t take them often. My heart’s irregular, so sometimes it loses its beat. And so, if it loses its beat, I take one of these. I suffer with anxiety and so when things are quite stressful, my heart goes a bit mad. I carry these around, just in case, and they kind of help neutralize me.
I’ve got my room key for my hotel. I’m staying at this hotel called the Refinery Hotel in New York, which is actually quite nice. I’ve never stayed there before. It’s easy to get to everywhere. I feel like I’m giving everyone advice [laughs]. It’s a really great place, check it out!
I’m not gonna lie, the contents of my bag, are like, cool. It looks quite good, doesn’t it? I didn’t plan it, I promise.
It really does. It looks really good. So, congratulations on being the first British female solo artist to reach seven number-one singles on the UK Singles Chart!
Thank you so much! I was at home, and everyone was like, “Jess, I think you’re gonna be number one.” I was like, “Look, it’s been number two for ages,” and I was happy with that. And then it got to Friday and I got a message from my publisher going, “You’ve done it!” I was like [makes sobbing noise]. I just started crying.
So what’s the big goal now?
A lot of my focus now is to come over [to the US] a lot and make a mark over here, I think. And also, for the album to be as successful as it can be. Even though I’ve achieved a lot, I still feel like there’s so much more that I want to do. I feel so early in my career. It’s so insane.
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