Jesse Jo Stark
Will MacNab | 31/12/2023
“I get to flirt with the sun and dance with the cold. It’s like a fantasy land!” confesses rock’n’roll star Jesse Jo Stark, in her sun-soaked home of LA. Her words unveil a love for the allure of splitting her time between London and the city of angels, “They’re my two different worlds—the two sides of myself. I really adore them both.”
With tales, dreams, and fantasies, Jesse Jo Stark has become one of the most bewitching and exciting female rock voices of her generation. “I love fantasy. I love to dream. If I have an idea or a sound in my head and I don’t do anything about it, I go insane,” she admits. Her ascent to rock royalty is slowly becoming etched in stone and foretells the passing down of a crown from the likes of Patti Smith, Joan Jett, Poly Styrene, and Kim Gordon.
Stark states that for her, “Writing is visual; I see everything first. I’m not always good with words, but I dream of an entire world, and then I enter it.” This visual approach has felt evident from the very beginning, even in her 2014 debut EP, ‘Down On Your Drain’, a Frankensteinian creation made up of pop, rock, horror, and love—crafted under the guidance of Sex Pistol’s Steve Jones. Stark reappeared in 2018, releasing her second EP, ‘Dandelion’, and then her third, ‘A Pretty Place to Fall Apart’, in 2021.
Last year was arguably where it really began taking momentum when Stark released her debut full-length album, ‘DOOMED’. “Things fell into place [with ‘DOOMED’], and I didn’t battle it; it was born at the perfect time,” she reflects. Produced by Jesse Rutherford (The Neighbourhood) and Michael Harris, it slithered through veiled alleys, oscillating between haunting echoes of dark pop-rock and the chilling nostalgia of late-‘80s horror. Blurring the edges of her fantasy and truth with its in-depth exploration of desire, surrender, and newfound self-possession.
“This idea of perfection is not correct,” she asserts, breaking through a silence around mental health. She continues, “I find it strange that we weren’t allowed to suffer openly without feeling like we were wrong, lame, boring, or crazy.” Stark’s music unfolds with intricate layers, unravelling the depths of her thoughts and mind, as epitomised in her latest soul-crushing single, ‘Fallout’.
Her intimate understanding of her own mind catalyses the crafting of these sweeping, beautiful swells of emotion. Stark reflects on her journey with anxiety, “I’ve had anxiety since I was 18. I remember my first panic attack, and I really didn’t know what it was.” For Jesse, anxiety isn’t a weakness but a superpower. “Sensitivity means feeling your body, and this vessel we’ve been given is undeniably unreliable,” she contemplates.
Stark highlights the importance of open conversations, “It’s so important to talk and to know that we are all there for each other. Otherwise, we live inside our heads, and sometimes that isn’t the place to be. I want to be able to find the balance between discussing it and relying on it.” All the while recognising the influential role that one’s environment can play, “I like to be comfy. I overthink everything, so I think it’s important to remember to push through that discomfort, and your environment can play a big part in that.”
Returning to the notion of realms of fantasy, it becomes clear that music acts as a vessel of escape for Stark, allowing her relief from the weight of these anxieties. “I like the humour that comes out of darkness—to look at something scary in its face, to create another world for yourself, and then to find others who also dig the same vibe,” she muses. It extends beyond herself, becoming an invitation for fans to be a part of this vulnerability. “When I see someone play or they come to see me, we leave our egos at the door, press mute on the world, and let go of anything we want. We get to be free for one second. We get to enjoy something we love.”
Reflecting on the experience of watching her fans immerse themselves in these enchanting worlds, Stark shares, “I hadn’t toured in so long. This last run had me in tears every night. When I see people singing my songs—songs I had written for me that now belong to them—it’s pretty wild. I feel a responsibility to show up for them. Music is so powerful. It connects us all.”
In addition to her musical pursuits, Stark has ventured into the world of fashion by establishing her own clothing brand. Drawing from her insights gained through her connection with esteemed brand Chrome Hearts, she has created her own label, DEADLY DOLL. Recounting its origins, she shares, “It started when I needed some merch for my tour, so I decided to create something more. Designing and curating worlds has always been a part of me because I grew up in a very creative environment. I knew I wanted the art to be colourful but dark, with nods to old Italian artists and comics. I wanted it to take each song to another place and also amplify other artists and collaborators.”
With her own brand now in full swing and gaining the momentum it has built up, what’s next for Jesse? Well, for one, “writing new tunes. I want to rent an RV, drive somewhere far away, and make a country record.” It’s only been a year since the release of ‘DOOMED’, but fans are already desperate for new music. Having already supported the likes of Guns & Roses, The Vaccines, and The Heavy, Stark excitedly reveals, “I’m supporting Post Malone on New Year’s Eve, which I'm losing my mind over! I’m also supporting The Veronicas on tour in April.”
Overall, her mantra for the new year belongs to “Thinking, learning, and growing. I wholeheartedly want to continue to be myself with no apologies. Watching the world in pain has my heart hurting, and I’m trying to offer nothing but love,” she shares earnestly. “I want to love the way I love. Learn. Inspire. Tour. Put my feet in the grass, and I meet a dragon.”
Jesse Jo Stark wears MISBHV
Words Will Macnab
Creative Alice Gee
Styling Lana Jay Lackey
Hair Antoine Martinez
Partnerships The Haze Agency