Jesse Jo Stark Transforms Into Horrific HillbillyEXPAND
Alaina O'Herlihy

Jesse Jo Stark Transforms Into Horrific Hillbilly

If you’ve heard about Jesse Jo Stark at this point, it might be because she’s the daughter of Richard and Laurie Stark, the husband-and-wife team behind the successful jewelry and furniture company Chrome Hearts. It might be because she’s Cher’s goddaughter, or because she’s model Bella Hadid’s best friend and known as a bit of a party girl. It probably isn’t because of her music. But it fucking should be.

Here’s the thing — Stark’s family is very, very financially stable. Not that her parents haven’t worked their asses off to get where they are, but it all means that Stark has lived a life most blossoming musicians don’t get to live. As a result, she has contacts other people won’t have. There are advantages.

On the flipside, none of that would help if her music was terrible. And let’s face it, history isn’t on her side. Remember Paris Hilton’s music? Stark probably will hate that comparison, as well she should. Because, in fact, putting all of the other bullshit to one side, Stark is an extremely exciting, ambitious and captivating performer, singer and songwriter.

Stark describes her style as “horrific hillbilly,” tongue firmly in cheek, of course.

“I don’t know what genre to place me in, but I’m really influenced by punk rock, country, the blues, so I try to have all those oldie influences incorporated into my music,” she says.

You can hear it, too; Stark is a contemporary chanteuse with an ever-so-slight Lana Del Rey vibe, blended with elements of Wanda Jackson and Poison Ivy (of The Cramps) in their career pomp. She’s also a clearly natural talent, and says that music has always been inside her.

“I’ve been singing since I could, and I started writing when I was little, and playing,” Stark says. “Taking guitar and music lessons. So I don’t think it just started one day. But I think over time it evolved, and then you create changes. I feel like it’s always been in my life, it’s always been inside of me, but every year I get more and more comfortable, and there’s no way away from it. It’s what I want to do.”

Stark released her EP Dandelion in June, and has released two singles since then. She has enough material recorded to release a full-length album should she want to, but she prefers to release music more frequently, in short bursts. “Constant content” is the message from her publicist. However she chooses to unleash it, Stark feels that her music has been evolving over the course of her short career thus far.

“I think that my music feels so right, right now,” she says. “Over the past two years I would say, I’ve really loved what I’m putting out into the world. I think that my sound has evolved a lot, in a good way for me. I don’t know if it’s growing up, because my influences have always been the same.”

Those influences include blues, country and soul. Genre be damned — it’s the life behind the song that’s important to her.

“Writing my songs is really important to me, and the collaborations that come with that,” she says. “I feel like the last two years, I’ve really met people who get me and we’ve been able to create really good things.”

Those collabs include a particularly fruitful one with Dan Taylor of British alt-punk group The Heavy, which led to Stark traveling to Bath, in the southwest of England, for a songwriting session. Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols played on the title track to Dandelion, and her guitarist Thomas Hunter is also a valuable songwriting partner.

As for those songs, Stark says she gets inspiration from love, death and color. Those are prevalent themes on her most recent single, “Rot Away.”

“It’s about, are we ready to go into this decay of love?” she says. “We don’t know where we’re going but it’s gonna be pretty sickly.”

Next month Stark hits the road with British power-pop band The Vaccines, and she can’t wait, promising a sexy show with “a lot of guitar, a lot of hip and big hair.”

After that, of course, there’ll be more singles, followed by a U.K. tour with New York rockers Sunflower Bean. This thrilling artist is on a roll, and her ascent is a delight to observe.

Jesse Jo Stark plays with The Vaccines at 9 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 1, at the Teragram Ballroom.

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send: