“Music has always been my diary,” says Jessie Clement. “I love taking the time to be introspective, and then to turn that introspection into honest poetry and melodies. In this day and age, there’s nothing I value more than being real.”
On her gorgeous new album, ‘Slow Motion Philosophies,’ Clement bares her heart like never before, chronicling the joy and wonder and heartbreak of her journey into adulthood with extraordinary insight and remarkable maturity. Written during a time of enormous transition, the record finds Clement living on her own for the first time, discovering a whole new world of freedom and responsibility as she gains a greater understanding of herself and her strength in the process. The resulting music is as infectious as it is heartfelt, blending singer/songwriter intimacy with vintage R&B grooves and a loose jazz swagger that’s all tied together with stunning, crystalline vocals. It might not be the sound you’d expect to hear from a quiet 20-year-old living in Murfreesboro, TN, but it’s 100% Jessie.
“I think that this record is uniquely me,” says Clement. “I got more involved with the production side of things for the first time here, which really enabled me to bring the music to life exactly the way I always envisioned it.”
It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that Clement was born for this stuff. Adopted by a family that her biological mother had chosen in part for their musicality, Clement grew up surrounded by songs and instruments. After a few false starts with formal lessons as a youngster, she began teaching herself the piano, and at the age of nine, she got a ukulele and wrote her first song on the way home from the store.
“I’m Italian and I like to make noise, so four strings just wasn’t enough,” laughs Clement. “After the ukulele, I picked up guitar and mandolin, and then I played violin for a while, too. I just love all stringed instruments.”
Clement grew up listening to James Taylor and the Doobie Brothers, but as she began penning more of her own material, she found herself reaching farther back in time, falling in love with older tunes from the 50’s and even going so far as to transform her bedroom into a vintage diner. That influence bled through into her writing, which caught the ear of Russell Terrell, a legendary first-call session vocalist who’s recorded on countless albums, from classic records by Johnny Mathis and Kenny Rogers to current hits by Kane Brown and Thomas Rhett. Terrell would go on to become both a producer and a mentor for Clement, helping her navigate the music business and grow into her sound as she racked up more than 100,000 streams on Spotify alone by the age of 19.
Recorded at Nashville’s famed Sound Emporium studio, ‘Slow Motion Philosophies’ marks Clement’s fourth collaboration with Terrell—and her second with fellow producer Brad Hill (Maren Morris, Brothers Osborne)—and it finds her backed by an all-star band, including guitarist Mark Trussell (Maren Morris, Blake Shelton), bassist Rich Brinsfield (Brothers Osborne, Drew Holcomb), and drummer Evan Hutchings (Kelsea Ballerini, Rascal Flatts). The group’s deft musicianship proved to be a perfect match for Clement’s arresting vocals, which seem to flow effortlessly from a deep well of emotion and experience that belies her young age. Much of the material was captured live in the studio, and the raw electricity of it all courses through the album’s veins.
“There’s something so exciting and special about the energy of playing together live,” says Clement. “You end up with a little less polish, but the feeling you get is incredibly beautiful and real.”
The album opens with the laid back groove of “Borrowed and Blue,” a simmering meditation on lost love that showcases both Clement’s mesmerizing vocals and her sophisticated lyrical touch. It’s a powerful performance, one that crescendos from a spare introduction into a soaring maelstrom at its peak, and it sets the stage for a collection marked by its broad range and versatility. The hypnotic guitar on “Let It All Fall” mirrors circular thoughts of an anxious mind, while the bouncing mandolin and horns of “Sentimental Ghosts” face off against a nagging fear of the unknown, and the bare, elegant piano on “Roses” pulls you close as Clement explores the power of unrequited love.
“To love someone with everything you are—all the while knowing that they either won’t or can’t reciprocate—can make you feel so helpless,” Clement explains. “Heartbreaking or not, though, I wouldn’t change my story at all, because to look the lie of unworthiness in the face and overcome everything you let yourself believe is to truly realize your strength and ability to grow.”
At the end of the day, those sorts of revelations are the reason Clement writes. The slow-burning “What’s A Girl Gotta Do” finds strength in learning to let go, while the breezy “I Don’t Know” embraces the search for the self, and the funky title track breaks free of the damaging cycles we all too often find ourselves trapped in. Throughout it all, Clement is unyielding in her search for understanding and universal in her acceptance of her emotions. Her songs are proof that there’s no shame in opening up or in breaking down, because experiencing those moments of utter vulnerability is the only way in which we can ever truly reckon with our most honest selves.
“I think there’s such value in raw emotion,” Clement concludes. “Everywhere I go, I meet people that are feeling broken but don’t want to admit that they’re feeling broken. There’s no reason to suppress that. My battle cry is ‘FEEL THINGS!’”
Listening to Jessie Clement, it’s impossible not to.