Published November 15, 2010
PHOTO COURTESY OF NEON GOLD RECORDS
British songstress Spark, born Jess Sparkle Morgan, is the latest in Neon Gold Records’ impressive lineup of young chanteuses, including Marina and the Diamonds, Ellie Goulding, and Mr. Little Jeans. Already remixed by Monsieur Adi, Spark’s cheery, synth-soaked beats reflect the bubbly personality of an 18-year-old thrilled to be generating pop starlet buzz. We trans-atlantically chatted with Jess on the eve of the release of her single “Revolving,” out today on Neon Gold.
HOMETOWN: Walthamstow. It’s on the East side of London town.
HER SOUND: Edgy pop—it’s not straight pop, but it’s pop.
IS YOUR MIDDLE NAME REALLY SPARKLE? It’s such a soppy story. I was born in water, and my dad said that when I was born, I sparkled. He wanted that to be my name, so he and my mum settled on that as a middle name. When I was deciding on a stage name, it kind of seemed appropriate—but not Sparkle because that’s too young, sparkly.MUSICAL HISTORY: I’ve been singing forever, but I taught myself how to play the guitar and wrote my first song when I was 12. I started writing and never really stopped. When I was at school, I was asked to sing a song by Kate Bush called “Wuthering Heights.” I was really against it because I was like, “No, I can’t sing that high, that song’s too big,” then I tried it and it worked. When I was performing, I had a bit of an epiphany where I was like, “What am I doing? Why am I sitting with a guitar? I want to sing high and loud and just perform more.” That was about this time last year, and I wrote “Shut Out the Moon,” the first single, and then “Revolving.”
ON TOURING WITH MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS: I had only had one gig ever before the tour started, and that was for ten people so it didn’t really count. [LAUGHS] My first actual gig was to a packed audience in Birmingham. I was learning on the job, figuring out how I would move and how I would sing, what I would say. It was just full improvisation. That was the best way to do it. Instead of having all this practice and this plan and people telling you what to do, it was all left to me to figure out, and that’s why it worked so well and was completely natural and completely me.
WHAT SPARK HAS LEARNED FROM MARINA: As well as being an amazing performer, she’s an incredible person and her support has been priceless. We speak often, we text all the time. More than her giving me loads of advice about the industry, it’s just the support, having someone who’s been in the exact same position, having her be like, it’s going to be okay, you deserve it.
HOW SHE REACTS TO ALL THE ATTENTION: It’s very overwhelming, but it all seems like one big dream. I feel like I’m going to wake up soon and have to go to school. Nothing is too big just yet. I have a couple of people recognize me, some people sing along at my gigs; looking out and seeing one person miming the words is crazy. It’s all new, but it’s in the stage where it’s all just amazing. My feet are firmly on the ground. I just see it and feel it and appreciate it rather than let it get to me. It is very different being 18 and having a career rather than still figuring it out, but I’m still maybe kind of normal, I think!
PLAN B: I’d still be in music in some way. Being an artist, you realize that you have a team formed around you. You get to see all the different parts of the industry, so if I wasn’t performing I’d definitely be doing one of the other jobs involved in supporting an artist.
ON WORKING WITH A YOUNG LABEL: It’s such an honor to be releasing with Neon Gold. They’re incredible. Professionally, everything they’ve done has been top of the game and personally, they’re such great, lovely people. It’s an honor to work with them. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing something or how much experience you have, it’s about what you do in the amount of time that you’ve been doing it. Derek [Davies] and Lizzy [Plapinger, co-founders of Neon Gold] are killing it.
UP NEXT: I’m finishing up a tour with Diana Vickers and just getting the album finished, which will be out next year. That’s the immediate plan.