Jesse Jo Stark Releases "Tangerine"

Jesse Jo Stark Releases "Tangerine"

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Jesse Jo Stark Releases "Tangerine"

In an exclusive interview Stark talks about her new single and collaborative fan music video.

In an exclusive interview Stark talks about her new single and collaborative fan music video.

Photography: Daniel Regan

Photography: Tom Pallant

Photography: Laurie Lynn Stark

Text: Cullen Ormond

When Jesse Jo Stark speaks her words slip out intentionally yet languidly, her sentiments flitting and twirling like a lone airborne feather. Talking with the singer-songwriter is like listening to a lullaby. And her new single “Tangerine” isn’t much different, the Malibu native is known for her evocative voice and haunting melodies that transcend multiple genres. 

“I like to complicate everything and I don’t like to classify what genre I am and that’s simply because I don’t really even know what genre I am and I say that with all honesty,” Stark says. 

Stark can’t (and probably doesn’t want to) categorize her new single, preferring instead to call it “dreamy” and “happy like the sun.” But she does acknowledge that it’s a departure from her previous work, which she sometimes calls “horrific hillbilly,” a term she coined to describe her darker and rockabilly songs like “Down Your Drain” and “Fire of Love.”

Her ambiguity towards the genre of her music bleeds into other facets of her life. She typically self-identifies as a “no-person” but the long list of creative endeavors disagrees. She’s designed collections for Chrome Hearts and recently, starred alongside Yungblud in his ragey-punk music video for “Strawberry Lipstick.” However, when Stark crafts a melody or song, typically in a smaller space and when she’s not actually intending on writing a song, she is in her true element.

In just over four minutes, “Tangerine” packs sweeping string instrumentals, hints of Western melodies, and lyrics that inspire emotional sharing. It differs in sound, but also in the songwriting process, “it’s about a complex character,” Stark disclosed. “It was fun for me because usually I write love songs about myself, but I felt I had a lot of friends in mind for this song, how we all have different layers and how it takes more than just a moment to fully take in somebody.” 

Stark’s voice rises above the whispery reverb of the steel guitar and the far-away echoes of the string arrangement as she promises, “I’ll be your tangerine / You can peel me with your teeth / And I’m so sweet / I taste so sweet.” And the 12-piece string section holds great sentiment to her, “Recording “Tangerine” was the last time I was in the studio before the chaos erupted,” Stark says. “It’s chilling looking at where we are in the world now and remembering the days when I recorded this song in the studio back in March, surrounded by a dreamy 12-piece string section.”

The single was supposed to release mid-June but as the Black Lives Matter movement gained traction, she felt the timing was off. Instead, she chose to focus her energy on the movement and to educate herself on how to be a better ally. But even now, there’s still a part of her is unsure about the timing of the release, but acknowledges that art has the power to heal. 

“I think that as long as we aren’t forgetting what is going on in the world and we’re making changes, I think that we still have to do things that make us feel complete because even in the saddest times, art inspires,” Stark says. “In the darkest times of my life music has brought me back, it makes me feel like I’m not alone when I can latch onto someone else’s words or someone else's melody.”

As our social interactions have become relegated to video calls and cultivating new relationships sometimes seems out of reach, Stark hopes that the song will encourage listeners to plunge deeper into the people we share our lives with. "'Tangerine’ is a transformation. Different moods, characters and complex layers. Once you peel back that skin you get the sweetness,” she says. The loss of human connection that accompanies live shows led her to create a collaborative music video in which fans were able to share their take on the song. An official music video, based on her upbringing in Malibu, is slated to release next week. 

“We thought it would be super sweet to get everyone involved in the video so it's almost like we're all having this one big party together, no matter where we are in the world physically we are together in heart,” Stark added. “Everyone's creativity and love for this song has been overwhelming. It makes my heart beat knowing that they can take away a little piece of "Tangerine" and make it their own." 

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