Croatia is set to begin their Eurovision selection Dora on February 19th from Opatija, Croatia and we were lucky enough to sit down with JESSA before it all begins! Together we talked about her origin story, how she balances a musical career with university, and how her Dora song “My Next Mistake” was written.
Hello JESSA – thank you for taking some time out of your day to speak with me! Why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers and share a bit about yourself?
Thank you for this opportunity and for having me. I am Jessa, singer songwriter and music producer from Croatia. I come from an Irish/Croatian mixed family (Father Irish and Mother Croatian) so naturally I use both languages in my lyrics. When I was 17, I won the RTL television talent show “Zvijezde” (“Stars”) and subsequently signed a recording contract with Dallas Records. In 2020 after I finished my first Croatian language album “Dobar je osjećaj” (“It’s a good feeling”) I continued writing my music but in English. Since then, I chose to be an independent allowing me as an artist freedom, and I subsequently released 2 further singles in English.
This year has started with preparations for Dora 2022, Eurovision Song Contest Croatia. “My Next Mistake” is the song I authored, lyrics and music and was primarily produced by Silvio Pasarić. Eventually, these songs will be on my upcoming album which I call the “Irish period”. Due to my Celtic connections and the fact I wrote them whilst studying in Dublin.
Thank you for that info, and I’ll make sure I’m on the watch for your new album when it’s released! Now I have to ask, since you were revealed as a participant in Dora what has life been like?
It’s been a lot of things but if I must choose one word that word would be hectic! All of my time is consumed in running from rehearsal to rehearsal, dress fitting, interviews from one radio station to another TV station. I am excited though. There is a lot to do, a lot to prepare, a lot to think about. I have a great team around me that undertakes the majority of the logistics. It’s a bit difficult to coordinate all of that from a distance considering that, as I mentioned, I am currently in Dublin, Ireland studying. So, Zoom and other online platforms are our best friends at the moment.
You had mentioned to me earlier that you are very busy between Dora preparations, your music career, and attending university. How are you handling all these things at once?
In life to succeed you do what you have to do. For now, and hopefully that will continue, I am juggling many balls in the air and haven’t dropped one so far. Easy does it and one step at a time, without any major stress. In between Eurovision Dora, there are university lectures, more song writing which is my passion, and remembering to take care of myself in a healthy manner. When I figure out how I do all of that I will write a book haha. It will be a bestseller!
You’re very right, taking care of yourself comes first!!! And I noticed that when you decided to become an independent artist in 2021, you also started to release music exclusively in English. What made you decide to make this switch?
As I said, I come from multi-national family. I am fluent in both languages, but when it comes to writing lyrics it is easier for me to express my feelings in English. I understand that a great melody can speak to a wider audience, but if you add a language that almost everyone speaks, I believe I am adding something extra to the song. A few years ago, when I started my musical journey in Croatia it wasn’t common to hear Croatian artists singing in English on the radio. I am glad to notice that that has been changing.
I also noticed that you leave a lot of references to the Dalai Lama on your channel and website. What is it about his teachings that resonate with you so much?
I truly believe that if you don’t have anything nice to say about something or someone, you should rather keep your peace. I don’t like sensational drama or confrontation and would rather choose tranquility and peace. The world is hectic enough. “We are all just walking each other home” ~ Ram Dass.
So, focusing back over to Dora, I believe this will be your first time participating in the national selection. What made you decide to submit an entry this year?
Completely by a chance, the song was ready and sitting on the desk for a while when a few days before the end of the competition tender and my producer called me and said, “Hey Jessa, how about we enter your song “My next mistake” for Dora the preliminary competition?”.
He believed in the song, obviously more than me. Haha. I am glad that he called me now and I am completely enjoying the rollercoaster ride. This will be another adventure on my journey. At the beginning of my career my father told me that the journey is more important than the destination. If you don’t enjoy the journey, you’ll never enjoy the destination! And I truly believe that.
You had mentioned that your song was written by yourself and co-produced by Silvio Pasaric who you’ve worked with before on other releases. How did this song come about, and what was the songwriting process like?
This song came about in the first Covid 19 lockdown whilst I was in Dublin. After a while, watching TV, playing board games with my roommates became monotonous. And so I decided to be more productive and so during those hours of “my time” I was nonstop writing songs. One of them was “My Next Mistake”. In a way, I was doing something that I love at the same time I was doing assignments for my college. It was me, my guitar and an Apple Mac.
Thinking about Dora itself, you mentioned you have some past experience working with TV because of your participation on RTL’s “Zvijezde” show in 2017. Do you feel like this experience might be helpful to you during the Dora process?
It will definitely help me the way I compose myself on stage. There is always some form of stage nervousness, but not so much a fright. To have a butterfly tummy means I care deeply about what I do. The moment I get on the stage and hear the first notes of my song it always disappears and I go to work. At the end of day, this is supposed to be fun. It’s just another magical adventure on your journey, enjoy it!
As we both know, the winner of Dora would go on to Eurovision, which is a whole different experience on its own. Are you a big fan of the contest?
Watching the Eurovision Song Contest in my house was always an annual event. Popcorn, drinks, neighbors and friends invited over. We had our own scoreboard and judging system… I will always have fantastic memories of the times we shared and the hundreds of songs from all over Europe. And now I will be able to say to my grandkids one day, “Hey at least I tried!” In a way for years and years I was doing my research.
Now for those who want to connect with you ahead of or after Dora, where can they find you and your music?
Alright, one final question for you – is there any message you’d like to share with our readers?
I would firstly like to thank you once again for this opportunity to have the interview.
To your readers and everybody out there, I have just a little story. It’s a true story about me, – From the age of 6 years old, I simply loved mathematics, I went to mathematics club every Saturday and studied hard, I subsequently entered a prestigious specialized mathematics high school. During this time mathematics was my life and music was my hobby. Writing songs and learning the guitar and piano, offered a great escape from the pressures of life. It offered a release valve when the teenage years began.
At the age of 16, whilst sitting and studying in my bedroom, a TV advertisement popped up asking for contestants for a TV show. And for no reason in particular apart from a gut feeling I entered. The rest you know from my interview above. The point is that we never really know what window of opportunity will open next. Forest Gump said “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what ya gonna get”. So, my advice is always go with your gut, follow your heart and choose whatever chocolate makes you happy.
Well JESSA, I want to thank you again for your time, and we wish you the best of luck in Dora!