Jess Pillay is a singer-songwriter from Seattle, Washington. Influenced by artists like Rachael Yamagata, Missy Higgins, and Norah Jones, Jess seeks to write honest, introspective songs that provide her listeners with a sense of hope.
“I write about doubt and loss and the sad, dark stuff but ultimately, I want people to walk away feeling like things can and hopefully will get better,” she says. “There’s enough heartbreak music out there. I’m interested in telling a different story.”
Her musical journey began at a young age. If you talk to her kindergarten teacher, she’ll be the first to tell you that Jess sang almost every day in the classroom. “Thankfully, this teacher had the good sense not to stop me,” she recalls. “My mom was concerned that perhaps I was distracting the rest of my classmates, but the teacher insisted that it was just my way of learning and expressing myself.”
Jess has been singing and learning and expressing herself through music ever since.
At age six, she began tinkering around on a keyboard her family owned, making up her own melodies and plunking out other people’s songs by ear. When her parents realized her ability to hear and replicate melodies, they decided formal piano lessons were in order.
Jess spent the majority of her middle school, high school, and early college years playing and singing in a variety of settings – everything from a small a cappella group to a five-piece rock n’ roll worship band to a 120-person gospel choir. She continued her formal music education at Northwest University, earning a minor in music, where she focused on classical piano and sacred music. In 2016, she moved away from the church music scene and rebranded her musical style by picking up the acoustic guitar and redirecting her piano focus to jazz/pop/songwriting. Her new songs, like “Stained Glass,” use an abundance of seventh-chords, mellow minor melodies, and ask tough, honest questions about faith and life.
“I went through a very dark period starting in 2007, which lasted, on and off, for several years. I dealt with severe depression at one point and during that time asked a lot of existential questions about my identity, my understanding of faith/religion, and where my art fit into all of that,” she confesses. “Ten years later, I’m still working through some of those issues and questions. But the experience has given me a lot of great material for my music and this new direction I’m taking as an artist. I feel like my music finally has a sense of authenticity that it previously lacked, and it’s been really fun to write and tell stories that are coming straight from the heart.”
To see what Jess is up to on a regular basis, check out her Instagram.