- 01 Jul 20
Hot off the release of her debut single, 'Ugly,' Belfast pop singer Jessica Hammond holds onto her DIY attitude.
Jessica Hammond describes her new single as “a big, massive pop song.” And she’s right: With its belted choruses and unrelenting build-ups, ‘Ugly’ is an unabashedly maximalist production in the tradition of 2000s stars such as Ke$ha and P!nk. It’s the kind of song that wants wild choreography, bright lights and a filled arena.
But that’s not what Jessica Hammond wants. In an interview with Hot Press, the 26-year-old Belfast singer styled herself as a pop star with a DIY attitude. “You’ll just find me in a tracksuit and a snapback on stage,” she said, joking that her new label, Paragon Records, might be disappointed to find out she’s not a fan of big, theatrical costumes.
This down-to-earth mindset is refreshing, given how long Hammond has lived on stage. At age 15, Hammond played alongside Demi Lovato as a finalist on My Camp Rock, the Disney channel’s UK talent search. Then, at 17, Hammond was the youngest contestant on the first British series of The Voice, advancing to the battle rounds as a member of Jessie J’s team.
But this early exposure didn’t make Hammond crave attention—just the opposite. She said that though the TV shows brought her “fame overnight,” she always knew that fame would “slow down, maybe after a year or two, and then you’re back to normality.” What kept her going was never celebrity, she said, but “the root of what I love, which is music; it’s always been the driving force.”
Today Hammond is a studio engineer and vocal coach, the owner of Black Studios in Belfast. She freely admits to being a music nerd: “I'm very, very particular,” she said, “especially on my own vocals, in terms of kind of using different resonation chambers and different textures and different tones to try and get as much color and as much passion and detail into the vocals as we can—that's very, very important to me.”
Though she’s back to performing under her own name, Hammond remains exacting. Full of complicated relationships, her pop anthems refuse to accept beauty standards and romantic ideals. ‘Ugly,’ she said, is about someone she was dating who was “really, really good looking in person. But once I got to know them, and went on a few more dates, it turned out that their personality was quite a bit uglier.”
Neither does Hammond accept rigid gender roles. Her upcoming single, which she describes as more “clubby and upbeat” than ‘Ugly,’ tells the story of a girl refusing to act feminine to please her boyfriend. Hammond named the track after a label she embraces: ‘Tomboy.’ “Growing up I was always a kid playing football and boxing, kickboxing and playing guitars,” she said. “I was just always kind of doing the non-stereotypical stuff a girl should be doing, you know, and I've always kind of been that way.”
Look out for ‘Tomboy’ and Hammond’s other forthcoming single, ‘Strangers,’ next month. For now, listen to ‘Ugly’ below and on all major streaming services.