You might not know J Sutta's name, but you almost certainly know her songs. Since her big break came in the form of The Pussycat Dolls, the burlesque troupe turned recording sensation which dominated the 2000s music scene with hits like 'Don't Cha', 'Buttons', 'Stickwitu', 'When I Grow Up' and 'Jai Ho!', Sutta - then known simply as Jessica - has travelled around the world spreading her particular brand of self-identity, confidence and love. Her solo career in music started in 2007, when she featured on two #1 dance hits - Paul Van Dyk's 'White Lies' and Dave Audé's 'Make It Last' - but after scatterings of label conflicts and occasional bops such as the hits 'I Wanna Be Bad', 'Show Me' and 'Again', she only truly came into herself last year when she relaunched herself as J Sutta and released the free mixtape Feline Resurrection for her fans. Composed of offcuts from her debut album, Feline Resurrection turned out to be merely the prelude to the main event, I Say Yes, which was released earlier this month to huge levels of hype and excitement from her fans. Backed by her biggest single yet, 'Forever', I Say Yes is a form of self affirmation for Sutta, who describes the album in two words: "determination and faith".
Unsurprisingly for a woman who's spent almost two decades in the entertainment industry, Sutta is a master of her craft, something she proves not only on I Say Yes but also during her live shows, where she struts, shimmies and sings her way through a plethora of dancefloor ready hits. More unexpectedly for a girl who once appeared on stage every night singing "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" she's also a total sweetheart, going out of her way to express her gratitude towards her longtime fans and her devotion to fulfilling the promises she made them ever since we first reached out for an interview. In fact, the party girl persona that Sutta's explored in songs such as PCD diss track 'Feline Resurrection' and the breakthrough hit 'Forever' is offset quite beautifully in her responses which are particularly thoughtful, optimistic and kind-hearted, and backed by a sense of spiritual certainty uncommon in Hollywood. Read on to see exactly what we mean.
Hey J! How are you today? Where are you chatting to us from?
Hey! Thanks so much for having me. I'm here in sunny L.A! Doing great, thanks for asking.
Let's start at the beginning. Most of our readers first came to know about you through your involvement in The Pussycat Dolls, one of the best-selling and most popular girl groups of all time. A few years ago, some of the Dolls started posting photos together on their Instagrams and talking about the possibility of a reunion. Is this something you'd be open to? What would have to change for the group to be functional again?
It was such a blessing to be part of such a hugely successful movement. I learned so much from all of the experiences. Right now I am super focused on my solo career and establishing myself as an artist and my goal is to keep growing and getting better as an artist with every release so I can connect with more and more people through my music. It's a really fun process. I'm happy doing what I love and want to stay true to my artistry no matter what. That is what makes me the most happy so I must honor that.
Following the disbandment of The Pussycat Dolls, you began working on your first solo album Sutta Pop under Interscope Records, releasing singles such as 'I Wanna Be Bad' and 'Show Me'. A few of our readers want to know what happened with the album, and were wondering if you would ever release it for your fans to enjoy?
I'm humbled by the fans everyday. I hugely appreciate the fans who have stuck it out with me from all the way back then. They have witnessed my journey and I love them for their loyalty. They walk with me in every step we take together.
The problem is that most of those tracks don't have complete versions and they are dated. They don't represent my best. I have grown so much and I have worked hard to improve my voice and range everyday since then so I wouldn't want anything being released that is not the best representation of who I am today, you know? I also hate letting them down so it's a conundrum! Right now, I hope that they are understanding and enjoy I Say Yes enough to keep them satisfied. I am not where I want to be yet and releasing songs that are not the best of me could create stumbling blocks in my path. I will keep my promise though...one day we will figure it out.
You next moved onto Feline Resurrection, a mixtape you released for free online made up of leftover tracks from your debut album. What inspired you to release the album for your fans? Which track was the hardest to leave off the album?
I love my fans! I love them for real. Not just in a Hollywood bogus kind of way. I care about them and think about them and want to give to them as much as possible. Making Feline Resurrection was such a self discovery process for me. My team wanted to scrap everything I did and start over right after we recorded 'Forever' but I fought against it and wanted to share my experiences and the experimental sounds of Feline Resurrection with them. To me it was important that they got to know me better and it hurt me that I had to keep delaying the album release so I wanted to at least give them as much music as I could while they continued to support me patiently.
After seven years of hard work, your debut album I Say Yes was released earlier this month to rave reviews from your fans. How do you feel now that it's finally out in the world?
I am grateful, proud and excited. I know that we took our time to craft something that I can always stand by proudly. There were no compromises and no short cuts. I really wanted to create a narrative of relatable storytelling that makes you feel and makes you dance.
Most artists rely on major labels to release albums, and even independent artists often use sites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo to crowdfund their work. Why was it important to you to do this on your own? What was the most challenging part of releasing the album on a smaller label like Premier League Music?
I have freedom and faith (two of my favorite George Michael songs - R.I.P.!) but I am open to partnerships as long as they in no way compromise my integrity. Maintaining that is more important to me than fame or fortune.
Being on a small label with a tiny budget means that we can not market the album in the way it deserves. We can not compete with the big machines but we have a product that I believe can compete sonically and artistically. "If you build it, they will come," is one of my favorite quotes. When you do your very best and let go of things beyond your control sometimes you create a space for miracles to happen - people talk and share enough that you might not need the money to push and promote on a big scale. Whatever happens, we are having fun together and doing what we love...the rest is in God's hands.
What does the album title and concept represent to you? What would you say is your favourite track on the project?
The album title I Say Yes represents never ever quitting. Even when things knock you down, you keep getting up. When doors close you get up and knock again. Once you eventually get through that door it is that much more rewarding and tastes that much more sweet when you get to the other side knowing what you have been through to get there. Determination and faith is what I would sum that title up into in two words. My favorite track changes daily depending on my mood. Honestly, every single one has a special meaning to me.
As well as your singing, you're also well known for your amazing choreography which you're very hands on for. Which song from the album are you most looking forward to choreographing and performing live?
I can't wait to perform 'Inches Away' with just me and a piano. I've been practicing and learning piano and I'm excited for that as it is new to me. I also can't wait to perform 'Pushed Me'. I think it's going to be a lot of fun with my amazing dancers.
The new album has collaborations with the likes of Pitbull, Rico Love and Liam Horne. Who do you feel you had the best artistic chemistry with when recording in the studio? Who would be your dream artist to collaborate with and why?
Well Rico and I really got to know one another through this process and I have immense respect for his talent and his principles. He is undeniably a genius. I love Will [Peters] too as we spent a lot of time together and he is a great artist that you should watch out for. Liam is super authentic and has great energy - he is a musical wiz kid! I can't wait to see him put out some great music also. Fuse ODG is already very established as an artist and I love his very positive music. I love the things he stands for too. Of course I was a fan of both Pitbull and Hopsin beforehand so it was amazing to have them guest feature on the album.
What can fans expect from you for the rest of the year? Will more singles be released from I Say Yes?
Yes. We are working on a repackage with new songs right now so follow my socials for updates!
Now that you've ticked releasing your album off your bucket list, what's next for J Sutta? Do you plan on releasing another album anytime soon? An early big break for you came in the form of Ocean Ave., a Swedish soap opera - is acting something you'd want to return to?
Anything that I feel nourishes the artist in me and inspires me is on the table. I just want to connect through love and music and art.
Are there any last words you'd like to say to your fans?
I love each and everyone of you and you mean everything to me. YOU! You keep me going and have made me so strong. I hope I do the same and together we keep rising on this journey in life and keep spreading love.
J, thank you so much for a great interview! We're loving your album and can't wait to see what's next in store for you!
Thank you so much for having me and for all of your kind support. x