“YOU KNOW, I LOVE HARD”

She’s the woman who’s worked with Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses, has Cher as her godmother, her parents as the founders of Chrome Hearts and is friend with Bella Hadid. But forget about all those names, she is Jesse Jo Stark, a super talented young woman with the soul of an old lady.

As a singer and songwriter she sings about themes like death and love and she calls her style ‘Horrific Hillbilly’. On 9th May she had her very first gig in Berlin as a support act for The Coathangers at Berlin’s Club Maze, in the cellar of a brick building in Kreuzberg. The gig went on for about 30 minutes and was filled with a lot of energy, Rock ‘n Roll and sex appeal. You could say the stage belonged to her.

The next day we met at the Hotel de Rome, in the centre of Berlin. Surrounded by her cousin, the guitarist of her band and her manager we had some coffee and croissants and chatted about love, life and the successful end to her tour.

LUCAS AVID HÜBNER Thanks for your performances yesterday and thanks for having us!

JESSE JO STARK Thank you!

LAH You said once in an interview that you are always nervous before a concert. How did you feel at your gig yesterday?

JJS I think it was nerve-wracking simply because we had been on tour. So I’m so jet lagged, but which also lends to it, it’s kind of nice to be a little tired, but yeah, I was nervous of course, I was not sure who was coming so I was very excited and it was cool to be opening up for this band. The minute I get on stage I’m fine, it’s just it gets dark so late here I was like ‘I’m all dolled up and it’s bright outside’ so this was kind of funny.

LAH So yesterday was basically your first gig in Berlin?

JJS I’ve been in Berlin once before and I played in a mall, but I only played like 4 songs and I was 19 so I’m counting this as my first time. Do you know what I mean?

LAH Which mall was it?

JJS Ellen von Unwerth was shooting and it was for either MIU MIU or MARNI, I can’t remember. I don’t remember which mall it was and I also didn’t now where to go. Afterwards we went to a couple of pubs and got really drunk and didn’t see anything and we ended up in this random night club but this is the first time that I’ve gotten to explore the city. We had ramen last night and than we walked through Berlin and today we went to the spa. I’ve gotten to live it a little bit more here and so far I’m just fascinated I wanna stay longer.

LAH How did it happen that you decided to come to Berlin actually?

JJS Well, we had some meetings that I had to attend and I was like ‘If I’m gonna be out there I’d love to play. Can we try to find a show?’ And The Coathangers were looking for support acts so we just booked that show, and we happened to be in London so it seems to be like an easy hop and it’s the way we ended our tour so it’s been just pretty lovely to end on this now.

LAH I remember that you covered the song ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ by Kim Carnes at your gig yesterday why did you choose that song to play?

JJS Well, I love that song and we covered it and I just love to throw a cover here and there, songs that I love and respect and make them my own and then also it gets the audience going because they can related and ‘Bette Davis’ is just such a good song and I feel like singing that for me is just like I make it my own and it’s fun, it’s just good so we put it in the set. I changed up the covers a lot, I did a Rolling Stones cover last week, but ‘Bette Davis’ is just so fun.

LAH It’s actually more like a pop song isn’t it?

JJS I feel like we rock it out a little bit, I mean I love a good dance tune you know.

LAH So let’s talk a little bit about your background. You grew up in an environment that was shaped by many creative people like your parents Richard and Laurie Lynn Stark, founders of the jewellery label Chrome Hearts, and your godmother Cher. When you think back what kind of impact did they have on your career and your personality in general?

JJS I think that your environment when you grow up is so … you’re like a sponge, you know, you either take a lot from it or you run away from the family, right? But my family was so inspiring to me and I was around a lot of adults growing up and a lot creatives and a lot of music, around fashion, a lot of Rock ‘n’ Roll and I think that it just kind of stuck with me. My parents always drew me into their environment, they never like kept me away from it so I was always in the factory when they were creating things and fitting people, making garments for different people that happen to be musicians and my dad played tons of music for me on the way to school, so it just stuck in me.

LAH So it seems that you were surrounded by a lot of adults during your childhood, did you also hang out with friends of your age?

JJS Yeah I had friends, but I always felt a little misunderstood. You know, I love hard! I really waned to have this like crew of people that I could hang with, but I always felt really misunderstood and I was kind of angry, like I just never fit in anywhere. And so to be kind of expected so little and be around adults and my parents would let me hang with them I just felt that I absorbed more from that than from the kids my age, you know. Now I have peers and I am growing into myself and I have some really cool friends, but when I was younger it was just I felt like I was surrounded way more by adults.

LAH What about your siblings?

JJS They didn’t come til I was 13. So I got to be the only child for 13 years. When they were born I had a little more freedom.

LAH How is your relationship with them?

JJS Amazing. They are little entrepreneurs, my sister has a bikini line, my brother has a line where its about being active. My parents raise them the same way where you know there it’s just a different respect level they don’t treat them like they are little, we all communicate. And my brother and sister, I would say I couldn’t love anything more unless I guess I had a baby because they’re just magnificent.

“I don’t fucking know why he didn’t like me!”

LAH Let’s talk a little bit more about your music. How did you know you wanted to pursue music?

JJS I just feel that I’ve always been fascinated with it and being able to create and write. And when I was little I just asked my dad like “Can I take piano or guitar lessons?” So they put me in lessons for different instruments, guitar, piano and some vocal lessons, so that was when I started writing my own poetry and wrote my first song I was really young.

LAH At the age of?

JJS I was like 9 or something. And it just became this thing that didn’t go away and I started recording covers because I thought my writing wasn’t good enough to record so I did random covers, like a pop cover, country cover I have like 50 covers recorded I swear and then I sought out to find a band.

LAH So you wrote your first song when you were 9? What was it about?

JJS ‘My heart’s on fire’. And it’s about a boy. It’s actually about this one boy from high school that didn’t like me, his name was Chase.

LAH Why didn’t he like you?

JJS I don’t fucking know why he didn’t like me! I still don’t know why. I remember writing that song, I was with my vocal teacher and she said “What are you gonna write about?” and I was like “I just feel…I just feel my heart is on fire.” And she was like “That is a song name.” And it was very short and had my best friend in the background doing vocals, it was very pop. And then I recently wrote a song called “Fire of Love” so I feel like it’s a full circle for me.

LAH So you said you did a lot of covers when you were young. If you could choose an artist to work with who would it be and why?

JJS I would say Merle Haggard, but he passed. Um …Oh, wait Stevie Nicks would be insane and Rhye, I love Rhye. I’ve been really embracing new bands lately because I’m usually only listening to old music. And some of the greats that are sadly passed like Lux from the Cramps or like Elvis. Just to name a few.

LAH So your musical background is also quite huge. You’ve worked with people like Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols for your first record, Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses and Cher. How have all these musicians influenced you in your music?

JJS I just think that one think they all have in common is they never bullshit me, they’re not gonna just tell me I’m good, they’re not gonna tell me it’s easy, you know. They challenged, me they challenged my creativity, being honest and like if i’m showing them a song they’ll be like so Steve one day the reason I worked with Steve was, well, I’ve known him forever but I played him a song and said “What do you think about this song?” and he said: “Well, love, I think it’s shit.” That was what he said. But it was actually really amazing it was during my time recording my first EP in my early 20’s.

 

“I want to look like a lady, but a little bit like fucked up as well!”

 

LAH So it actually helped you that he was so direct with his opinion.

JJS It helped. And I said well “If you think that it’s shit why are you even producing a record for me? Don’t just say that.” But he did and in the end we did like 5 songs together and now it’s the first body of work that was really important to me. He really pushed me in the studio and it was really cool to work with him and have his ear with my stuff. It’s important to meet that there is honesty and being challenged constantly. ‘Cause there are a million bands and there are a million artists and a lot of them are great, but a lot of them suck, so you gotta be yourself and you gotta push, push, push!

LAH We already talked a little bit about it, but besides music you are also interested in fashion. You did a collaboration with vans in 2011.

JJS I think I was like 19 they just came to me and “Wanna to do something?”

LAH How did this happen?

JJS I have no idea! There was this girl that was really cool actually this was when blogs where everything. What was it called… it was called like ‘Bleach Black’. Have you heard of it? It was really cool. And she loved me and she worked at vans, but then she left and she was just like “I want you to work with this girl Melissa” and they did this huge thing and I said I only wanna do it if we incorporate my music. And they did. And it was so fucking fun and then they rented out the Troubadour for me and I had a show and that was my first real show. They really incorporated and embodied me with fashion and with my music.

 

“I think I can honestly say right now in my life love is the scariest thing!”

 

LAH You also worked together with your parents for their label Chrome Hearts and also helped work on Bella Hadid’s gown for the Met Gala last year right?

JJS Well, you know we did a collaboration with Gareth Pugh a while ago and Bella is a dear family friend of mine and she is so involved with Chrome Hearts. She’s such a supporter we grew up together and we where just hanging and she was like “I’m wearing that to the MET” and then we decided she needed a veil and then we made this amazing veil and I was placing gold on it. It was just a really nice family project and she just rocked it and that was amazing, so things like that just happen when you are at the factory.

LAH How would you describe your style in terms of fashion?

JJS First of all, I have to be comfortable for the most part, it’s rare that I won’t be. I like to be warm and, I don’t know, I want to look like a lady, but a little bit like fucked up as well, and not always pristine ’cause I have a lot of vintage on, then probably add some crazy big earrings. I think it’s always changing, I like to dress up. It’s just an extension of my mood like anyone’s, if I am in a bad mood I probably wearing creepers this big and stomping around in them.

LAH Your look yesterday on stage was a mix of sexy and comfortable.

JJS My friend owns this line Tigra Tigra and it’s brilliant and she gave me that zebra dress. But then I go buy all of these fabrics and I just make a bunch of them and that’s my stage outfit. And than I costum-made those boots, they are really like my second feet, I feel so naked without them. I love them. It took a while to make them.

LAH What are your fears in life?

JJS Life.

LAH Well okay true, life in general is very scary.

JJS No. Okay, well, i can’t tell you my actual fear because I don’t want anybody to know that. Fear! … In the end I guess being loved is like the coolest thing and loving someone else so i guess…

LAH Not being loved?

JJS Like love, not not being loved, but love .. Love is kind of scary right? But i’m not scared of anything with my career, I think we manifest and we create what we wanna see for ourselves and that’s up to us. No one’s gonna do that.

LAH Yeah it’s the same over here, with love.

JJS Love right? I think I can honestly say right now in my life love is the scariest thing!

LAH What has been the proudest moment of your career?

JJS I think it’s all been really cool. I mean fuck i’m here right now, like this is amazing and I get to talk to you in Berlin, I played a show and I got delicious ramen and I was naked all day walking around the spa. It’s not bad. But I think one of my goals that I’ve wanted to make was going on tour. My next goal’s to play festivals. One of my proudest moments was the vans collaboration because I did that separate to my family and I made my own money and I killed it and I designed and I performed and I felt really satisfied and happy that I got to do that at a young age, you know?

LAH So now you are in Berlin sitting with me on this couch. What’s next for you? Flying back to L.A.?

JJS I will go to Paris to meet my mother and then have some meetings, but then I’m going back to L.A. to write an album. I’m gonna put out my first album.

LAH Awesome news. So are you planning to do that this summer?

JJS Yes, I’m planning to release it before next year.

LAH So in summary, there is a new album in planning, you want to play on festivals, more touring..

JJS Yes, more touring, come back to Berlin, maybe this September (winks).

 

And then we clinked our cups for her successful tour (mine filled with black coffee and her’s with milk tea).

 

Interview LUCAS AVID HÜBNER
Photography LUCAS CAQLAR