Songtrust Spotlight: Jess Benko

19-year-old JESS BENKO’s music is a raw, yet mature and eloquently sewn together stream-of-consciousness that’s sparked the makings of a core fan base and 4+ million streams a month from her bedroom. After a well-received impromptu performance for Billie Eilish at a fan event in New York, 16-year-old Jess finally wrote and put out her first song “2002” in April 2019.  She proceeded to self-release her album “Do You Love Me, Or Are You Just Lonely?,” which has accumulated 50+ million streams and landed her on Spotify’s “Indie-Pop Chillout” and “idk.” playlists. She credits music for saving her life and hopes her songs can impact others in the same way - she says “music has gotten me through some very dark times and once I started writing, I found my reason to stay, my purpose.”


WHAT OR WHO INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO MUSIC?

I’ve always loved being around music. Whether it was choir, band, or dance I wanted to be around it. I started writing and making music when I was 16 and going through a really difficult time and needed an outlet to find a sense of relief. It wasn’t like I told myself “I’m going to write a song to feel better.” I saw my guitar and my mind said “you NEED to write,” and I haven’t stopped (and I don't plan on it either).

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE OF MUSIC AND PERFORMANCE? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PHILOSOPHY AND STYLE AS AN ARTIST?

Sonically speaking, it’s changed a lot but my roots will always be set in creating music that makes you feel something. I’d say my philosophy is to be genuine, but don't let that stop you from growing.

WHAT DRIVES YOU TO CREATE, AND HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS FOR YOURSELF IN MUSIC?

I’ve been through some crazy shit and not too long ago I thought it’s what I deserved. So many people deserve better and if my music can make someone feel heard, worth more than they realize and not feel so alone, then I feel like that’s success.

THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER, WHO WERE THE MOST BENEFICIAL PEOPLE IN GETTING YOU TO WHERE YOU WANTED? WAS IT MANAGEMENT, ASSISTANTS, A&RS? HOW DID THEY HELP?

I’ve met some of the most supportive people and that ranges from producers/writers/artists to my management. Not only do they believe in me and are helping me bring my artistic vision to life, but they guide me on a personal level and treat me like family :’)

SOMETIMES BEING IN THIS BUSINESS CAN BE REALLY OVERWHELMING. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR MAINTAINING PERSPECTIVE AND NOT SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF?

It’s difficult, I’m pretty well versed in the world of overthinking. Push yourself to be the greatest you can be, but don’t ignore your well-being if you’re not in the best place. It’s all about balance and having outlets/people you trust.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS JUST STARTING THEIR CAREERS, BASED ON WHAT YOU'VE EXPERIENCED?

Follow your gut and stay authentic to you! Listen to advice but If something doesn’t feel right, speak up because no one can read your mind.

WHAT WAS THE CATALYST MOMENT THAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BE A MUSICIAN FULL-TIME? WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU WISH YOU KNEW BEFORE AND/OR THAT YOU'VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?

It was April of 2020 and I was halfway through my senior year of high school when we went into lockdown. I was so over school and a couple of weeks after I stopped attending online classes, I got connected with Connor Lawrence who works at Indify and he helped me find management. I already knew I wanted to do music full-time a year prior to being connected but didn’t know who to reach out to. When everything fell into place, I took the opportunity and never looked back.

WHO OR WHAT IS A CONSTANT SOURCE OF INSPIRATION FOR YOU WHEN WRITING A NEW SONG?

Honestly, my brain and the (mostly negative) communication I have with it. I also like to analyze the person I was in the past and relate that to who I am now.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU? ANY UPCOMING PROJECTS OR PLANS FOR 2021-2022?

The past couple of months I’ve been working on a new sound and I’ll be releasing a bunch of new music once the new year rolls around. I’m soooo excited to share what’s been in the works!!!

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