Kaamaakshi Bhat, Zirakpur, Punjab
Jessica Pierpoint is a Platinum Selling K-pop songwriter, topliner, and vocalist from Liverpool, UK who has worked with artists such as ITZY, FIFTY FIFTY, and PURPLE KISS. She is 24 years old and currently based in Seoul, South Korea where she works with her team and new publishing company, INHOUSE Music Group. We would like to thank Jessica for taking out her time for this interview with Hallyuism. Take a look here at her musical journey and experiences here!
How did you discover K-pop and how did you start songwriting in the K-pop industry? Please give an insight into how your journey has been so far.
This is a bit of a long story! But a very lovely one. I graduated from and studied at a popular performing arts university in my hometown of Liverpool called LIPA (The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts), which was co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney of The Beatles. I came to learn during my first year there that the school is pretty well known worldwide for this reason, making I would say about 80% of the student body international. There were many students from countries such as the United States, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, and even South Korea – so I made a lot of friends from a variety of different ethnical backgrounds and cultures, which helped me to open my eyes to new experiences within music.
My degree major was in Songwriting and Performance, so we all had chances to collaborate and network with each other during tasks and assignment submissions. This made my friendship with certain students grow quite quickly, so I decided to ask 2 of the Korean students I was friends with to come and spend Christmas with me and my family back in 2017 since they were unable to travel back home to Korea. At this stage, I was already quite familiar with the K-Pop genre, but my knowledge only went so far in terms of what groups I had listened to or was aware of. It was then during Christmas dinner that these friends introduced me to more of BTS’ music, alongside the likes of BLACKPINK and Red Velvet. It very quickly turned into me spending hours and hours getting lost in the K-Pop rabbit hole of YouTube, and it wasn’t long before I became a huge fan and obsessed with the genre, trying to incorporate some of the sounds into my own music and artist project.
Fast forward about 2 years later, I met my first publisher during a seminar in my 3rd year of study. He had come into my school to listen to our given task submissions for the songwriting class, which at the time was Eurovision. My first publisher – Greig Watts of DWB Music – was someone I had met briefly just 6 months before when he did a workshop for a friend of mine’s Master’s degree class in one of Liverpool’s other universities. She told me I should come and meet him as his publishing company had some hit songs with the likes of SHINee and EXO, but I was so nervous that I didn’t say anything to him or even get his contact details. But during my seminar, we knew that we recognised each other, and after listening to my task submission, he remembered that I was a K-Pop fan who was interested in working for the industry. We exchanged our emails, and the rest is history really – shortly after I attended my first in-person K-Pop writing camp in January of 2020, and signed my first publishing deal with DWB 9 months later in November, when I began being mentored by Anna Timgren (written for TWICE, Chung Ha, LOONA, etc.). Anna was someone I looked up to for years, and one of the only K-Pop writers I knew of in the industry at the time, so being able to learn from and work with her so closely was a dream come true.
I’ve come a long way since then and I still have a long way to go! But when I think back to my story of how it all began, I realised it was truly serendipity that I ended up in this position and I couldn’t be more grateful.
You recently co-wrote Log in for FIFTY FIFTY which is a B-side track in their debut album. How did the song come into existence? What were your thoughts and emotions when this song was released?
“Log in” was a song that I knew very early on was going to be one of my favourites to have worked on. I wrote this song with 5 other friends (Laura Amos, Adile, OLIVE, Suhyppy, and Tea Belle) who are all incredibly talented in their own right. It started off being a very stressful, last-minute submission for an aespa lead, funnily enough. We decided to just work on it as best we could with the time that we had, so we thought the more of us on it, the better for getting it finished before the deadline. OLIVE and Adile started working on the beat and already had an idea in mind for the “click click, log in” hook – which I thought was just so catchy and super fun! We all bounced back and forth with ideas until we got the final melody sketch down. It was great having 3 other female vocalists on the demo too, as it really felt like we were a girl group of our own! Although we originally wrote this with aespa in mind, we were so happy that it had found a home with the FIFTY FIFTY girls for their debut EP, and we were in love with what they did to it. The dance video for it is so amazing too, and it feels really special to have been part of FIFTY FIFTY’s journey early on – especially because they’ve been so successful since!
You co-wrote the title track Sneakers by ITZY for their 5th mini album “Checkmate.” The album also reached #8 on Billboard 200. This song was your first cut as a songwriter. How did it feel that the song you wrote was doing so well on the charts and was also liked by the fans?
SNEAKERS was my first K-Pop cut, which is still so unbelievable to me knowing that I went from having just a few small releases in China, to then having the title track with my favourite girl group released in Korea. You can’t really comprehend the feeling it gives you when you get the chance to work with any artists that you’ve always loved as a fan, so I’m honestly so grateful to them for making a song that I worked on over Zoom from my little bedroom in the UK, into one they wanted to release in general – never-mind the single to a Billboard charting album! It’s really the stuff of dreams. I got to work on it with 2 absolute legends too (Sebastian & Didrik Thott), whose other work I’ve admired for so long, so it was great!
While I was so excited to finally have the song released, I was also super nervous about the response from the fans. As a fan myself, I understand the audience in a way that I think others may not, so I always try to take certain things into consideration. Though it’s our job as songwriters and producers to deliver whatever it is that we are asked of from A&Rs and labels when they have a vision in mind for their artists, we were so happy to make SNEAKERS one that fits ITZY’s aesthetic and cute style so well – and they certainly did an amazing job! The fans are the ones who made all of the Billboard charting and numbers possible, so we owe it all to them for supporting the girls through and through. Doing so also helped us to spread the positive message that we set out to give in the song – being unapologetically yourself!
You co-wrote Can’t stop dreamin’ by Purple Kiss for their 4th mini album. How was your experience writing this song?
“Can’t stop dreamin’” came around very fast and is another one of my favourite projects to have been involved in. I’m a big fan of their music, so getting to write for them too was awesome. It was during my first long trip in Korea, around the end of May/June time in 2022 that I was asked to work on this song. Of course, many Purple Kiss fans will know this song was one of the pre-debut member songs (Ireh) and so they were familiar with it before, as it was first written by Yoo Jooyi, also known as Cosmic Girl. I got asked by the producer Cosmic Sound to help finish writing it so that they could have it as a b-side on the upcoming album “Nerdy.” I already loved the song in its early stages, so it was very easy for me to feel inspired. I came up with some ideas for the first verse and bridge and then asked one of my best friends and fellow writers in Korea, Boran (Kep1er, LOONA, Jo Yuri, etc.) to come and help me with the rest. We did it all on the same day and by the end of the next week, we were in the studio with Purple Kiss themselves, helping them to record it! I was also anxious about the fans’ response to this one given that they already loved the song pre-debut, so I imagine that they understandably had high expectations. I was thrilled to know that they fell in love with the full version when it was released with all of the members instead of just 1 this time because I felt like we’d accomplished something that was so important to many people!
You have worked with artists such as ITZY, Purple Kiss, and FIFTY FIFTY. Do you have any memorable experiences with any of these K-pop artists that you would like to share?
So far I’ve only gotten the chance to work with Purple Kiss as closely, so I only really have one story about that. It was my first time meeting any idols in person, so the experience as a whole was very memorable. It was also my first time witnessing and being part of a vocal directing session, so I was honoured for that opportunity but also very nervous! But seeing the girls come in being so polite and positive, just with messy buns, jogger pants, and no makeup – was just so lovely and made me feel so at ease. It was delightful to see them just as they are – normal, young girls living their dream. They are all so sweet and friendly, not to mention some of the best vocalists and rappers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
How and where do you find the inspiration to write your songs? Are there any artists that inspire you to write?
For me it really all depends on the track I am working on and writing to. If the track is really dope and has a lot of cool elements within the production and more importantly the right structure, then it’s usually super easy for me to feel inspired to come up with melodies and concept ideas. I prefer to topline to tracks that are already finished than ones that need adaption or tweaking later on, just because it makes the process a lot more simple and faster, but sometimes producers will add or enhance some parts afterward to fit best to what I have written melody wise – which is always really cool to hear! In terms of artists that inspire me to write, for K-Pop specifically, I will usually just listen to the groups or artists that I am aiming at writing for at that moment to help familiarise myself with their particular sounds and quirks. Sometimes I will also listen to groups with a similar style or concept so that I’m not limiting myself to just one construct. Collaborating with other writers is also something I take pride in a lot, as I always think that two heads are better than one! You get to bounce off ideas and inspire each other which I’ve learned makes all the difference. You also start to come up with stuff you know you wouldn’t have otherwise, so that makes it exciting every time!
Is there any music style/genre that you haven’t tried yet but would like to try in the future?
I definitely have a few that I would like to explore more or expand my knowledge in, as it can be too easy to just stick to my strengths a lot. I grew up listening to various types of music because of my parents, everything from rock to 80s synth pop! So I have my favourites for sure, but I love how the K-Pop industry as a whole is forever changing and evolving with sounds because it keeps me on my toes as a writer, and I do enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone from time to time if the track feels right in that moment. I would say I’d like to try some more of the laid-back, RnB type of songs that I’m hearing a bit more of lately, such as “Priority” from the SMTOWN Winter 2022 show with Taeyeon, Winter, and Max Changmin. I also really love the reggaeton vibe of “Tinnitus (Wanna be a rock)” on TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s latest album! That was a really refreshing style to hear and one that I think would be super cool to try.
Is there any artist you would like to work with, whether it be a K-pop artist or any other Western artist?
There are so many artists I would love to work with! My tops for girls would probably be groups like Billlie, Kep1er, or IVE, and boys would be any of the NCT units, SHINee, or ATEEZ. The list is endless, but honestly, I’m always happy to work with anyone – I will take whatever I can get because it’s all a great experience for me! I would say this year in particular though I would love the chance to work with a boy group or male artist, as I’m so used to writing just for girls – as much as I enjoy it, writing for boys is definitely a different ball game altogether and can sometimes be more fun! However, if I had to pick my absolute dream artists to work with, then I’d have to say Taemin (SHINee) and Jung Kook from BTS, or any member of BTS for a solo project actually. But those two would mean a lot to me because they have both played such a huge part in my journey as a K-Pop songwriter and as a fan! It would be a full-circle moment for sure. Western artists I would like to work with are also on a long list, but I’m just keeping my focus on K-Pop for now.
How do you usually spend your day when working on any song?
A standard working day for me is just dropping an instrumental I have into Logic (a digital audio workstation), connecting my mic, and then literally just recording random stuff over the top to try out some different melody ideas. I tend to go back and redo some stuff or chop parts up until I’m happy with how it sounds. Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes – 2 hours to lay down a rough sketch, other times it can take me days, it all depends on how creative I’m feeling. It’s definitely better when collaborating as I said before, because this can help with finding inspiration. Once the full sketch/melody idea and structure are down, I can start writing lyrics. Usually, the lyrics don’t need to be anything too deep or intricate because they will be rewritten and translated later if the song gets cut, but I always try to at least have a cool concept or title idea in mind so that it can help the Korean writers get the overall vision. When the lyrics are finished, I’m ready to record!
Sometimes I will write the lyrics as I’m going along with recording just for speed, and it can feel more natural this way – but having them already done is easier for saving time when you have to record before a deadline. These days I will usually separate the time I spend writing the song from the time I’m recording it to stop me from getting burnt out, so I’ll spend at least 1 or 2 days just focusing on recording and editing the vocals so that they are finished and ready to send to the producer for a mix!
If you could recommend one of your songs to a new listener which one it would be and why?
I think “Can’t stop dreamin’” is one that I would recommend just because of how beautifully it came together. I think anyone would enjoy listening to this song whether they are a K-Pop fan/listener or not, because it’s also really easy on the ears and one I think you can connect with no matter what type of music you’re into. The lyrics have a really lovely message, and the EDM style of the track makes you feel good! It also makes me so happy when people tell me that they think it’s one of Purple Kiss’ best b-sides.
What would your advice be to those who want to pursue the same career as you?
I know it sounds really cliché, but I really strongly believe that you should never give up on your dreams, no matter how big they may seem to you or other people! I can say from my own experience and what I have learned so far, that if you are truly dedicated and passionate enough about something to actually want to put the work in, then absolutely anything is possible. I went from being a K-Pop fan who was just writing and making demos in her bedroom in Liverpool to then watching them being performed live on Korean Music shows by the artists I loved – something I didn’t ever think could happen. Even living in Korea, moving to the other side of the world all by myself at the age of 23 was a terrifying idea and a huge risk to take after not having any previous releases in K-Pop before. Still, it was all so worth it – and it just shows that sometimes doing what you’re afraid of the most and making that leap is exactly what you need to do to progress. We can’t grow if we don’t push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Also, never compare your journey to someone else’s. Everyone is on their own path and there is always room for improvement for us all, no matter how little or how much more experienced other people are. As I like to say: “To be creative is to be free, so be whoever you want to be!”
If not in the music industry, what would you be doing right now?
The place that my mind always takes me whenever I am asked this question is quite scary because I genuinely don’t know what else I could do! Being involved with music and the arts, in general, is all I’ve ever known since I was a little girl. I don’t think I’ve ever been good at or interested enough in anything else, so I’m not really sure. I have thought about it a lot though, and I think if I wasn’t doing music and I didn’t have any knowledge of Korean culture at all, then I’d probably be trying to work in Astronomy. I honestly don’t believe I’d ever be smart or academic enough, but working for somewhere like NASA would be so incredible. I’ve always had such a fixation/fascination with space and planets, so that would be perfect for me!
What dreams do you want to achieve in the near future?
A lot of my dreams have already come true, so for me, it’s just about keeping up the momentum now. I’d love to achieve more of what I already have all over again but with other artists. As I mentioned earlier, I’d be honoured to work with any of the people I listed but overall I’d just like to get more cuts! I want to keep learning and experiencing as much as possible so that I can continue to grow as a songwriter and a professional. There are a lot of other writers in the industry who I aspire to be as successful as and eventually get the chance to work with, too! Like I said before I still have a long way to go, it’s a never-ending journey. But I’m most looking forward to my next life chapter whilst living in Korea – sometimes the thought of not really knowing what’s coming next is exciting for me!
Could you please elaborate a bit on your upcoming projects in 2023? What can the fans expect?
There’s not a lot I can say about future projects I have coming out, but I do have so many amazing things in store. My Instagram page is the best place for any updates on my life and my work, so you can always find me there (@thelightiswithinme & @jesswritessongs). I still feel like this is only the beginning for me! I’m in my studio every day though and always working on something new with my team, so definitely keep your eyes out for us.
Hallyu Wave/Korean Wave is growing rapidly in India and there are many fans who love listening to your songs. Do you have something you want to share with your Indian fans?
Thank you all so much for the endless support on any of the projects I have had the pleasure of being involved in! Without your constant outpour of love for these artists, we couldn’t achieve what we have been able to. You’ve definitely helped to make my dreams come true as a songwriter, and it means the world to me. I will continue to work hard and do my best to create more amazing songs for you and your favourite artists in the future. Stay tuned!
Once again, thank you so much for your time. Best wishes for all your future endeavours from our entire team!