Interview: Jess Debenham

Jul 04 2022

Jess Debenham is an emerging Christian singer/songwriter based in Brighton, UK. Following the release of her debut single and music video, 'Come To Me', Louder Than The Music caught up with her to find out what inspires her music and the story behind her single.

Tell us about your recent single 'Come To Me' and what the inspiration behind it was?

The inspiration behind ‘Come to Me’ is my own personal journey of discovering grace. I’ve struggled with knowing God’s grace for me for a long time. I knew it in my head but struggled to believe it in my heart. I remember being struck by the invitation in Matthew 11:28-30 as I was reading my bible one morning and jumping on the piano to sing. I felt burdened by my sin and my own efforts to ‘be good enough’ so I just wrote from where I was at. However, because I was in the midst of it all in my own journey, I couldn’t get past the first verses. I remember telling my friend, Larissa, “I don’t know what else to say because I don’t know what to do, I’m stuck where the first verses end.” I took it to some friends (who are also great songwriters and leaders, go check them out on Spotify: Simon Brading and Anna Brading) who helped move it on. Anna sang the pre and chorus melody and they gave me an idea of where I could go. And then I sat with Rachel, Luke (the producer of the tracks) and Larissa on multiple separate times and they helped me find and refine the lyrics. And these wonderful people were, at the same time as helping with the song, helping me process stuff in my own journey of discovering grace and knowing Jesus’ heart towards me.

This song is birthed from and completed through my own journey of me learning to come to Jesus. Learning to surrender my own efforts to please God, and be ‘perfect’ because Jesus has done everything required. I can come with all my burdens, in a mess, with all my failed attempts, with my weariness and not-togetherness and that’s what He wants me to do: to come to Him. Not to clean myself up, pull-myself together, or wait til I feel ‘good enough’. I can come to Jesus right now as I am.

There is quite a hard-hitting video that accompanies that song, what message would you like people to take from that?

I love the power of storytelling. I am also an actor and performer and so it feels like part of my calling to use these gifts in a way to further communicate the Gospel and the truth of the Bible. I was so excited about the creation of this music video. I wanted people to see themselves and for it to tell the story of Jesus meeting burdened people. I am so grateful for the gifted actor-dancers who presented their character so truthfully. The heart behind the music video is the same for the song: it is another medium to communicate the heart of Jesus. I pray that people would have a revelation of Jesus’ heart and grace towards them, that as they watch the character’s meet with Jesus that they would know Him meeting with them and know the deep, eternal, life-giving rest of coming to Him. No matter your story, your past, your struggles, Jesus’ invitation to come to Him is for you and He promises you rest for your soul. Whether you are a Christian or whether this is the first time hearing of Jesus, I pray His rest, grace, and peace would be revealed to each person as they watch it.

Do you have any plans to release more music in the near future?

I do indeed… in fact single number 2 is out 29th July! Head over to my socials and follow me on Spotify so you are updated and don’t miss out!

How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?

Contemporary Christian, Singer-songwriter, Pop. Some of my songs are more poppy and others have more of a corporate worship setting in mind. As a child my Dad loved Delirious? and so I grew up listening to them and loving their music. I remember getting my parents to blast ‘Shout to the North’ in the car and downloading their albums to my little pink mp3 player! I also listened to (and still do listen to) Lou Fellingham, Matt Redman, LZ7, Kari Jobe, Phil Wickham. Input is output, so just sharing with you guys my input as a young’un, since they will have shaped my sound now! I remember being so inspired when I went to a Big Church Day In event that Kari Jobe was leading at. The way the Holy Spirit moved in the room. She is such an anointed leader. I remember that evening and it inspires me now. She knows her Saviour and she knows His voice. When I listen to her albums it sparks something in me that goes “Yeah I wanna do this”. I was also inspired by Lou Fellingham and sung ‘There is a Day’ for my GCSE piece! And now, being in the same church, getting to know Lou as a friend and woman of God has only inspired me more. Her humility is what struck me the first time I saw her. And the way her and Nathan love Jesus, love people, know the voice of Spirit and obey where He leads inspires me. So there ya go! A little bit of Jess history! Coming back to the input-output thing though, as I’ve been wanting to push my sound and write more poppy stuff, I’ve been enjoying listening to more secular pop music to hear what they’re doing, and what the music industry is doing. I’m enjoying Harry Styles' new album a lot, especially ‘Late Night Talking’!

If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?

Ooo that’s a hard one! So many! How to choose! In my experience it’s so much to do with who you get on with and click with personally and who you fit with songwriting style wise, so it’s hard to choose someone I don’t know… But I’d love to sit with the guys from Cageless Birds and see their process. And I’ve always been so impacted by Kari Jobe’s songs and leading, and her sharing some of her process of writing ‘The Blessing’, so that would also be really cool.

How would you define success in your career as an artist?

Great question! To be obedient to what God lays before me. To keep loving and seeking Him first. If I have listened and obeyed Him that is success. Maybe that feels like a ‘Christian’ answer but genuinely, though, it’s true and good to keep reminding myself! I have desires and dreams, things that I feel God has called me to. But it’s so easy to get caught up in what the world would class as success, right?! If I get a certain number of plays on Spotify, or if I was able to lead a bunch of people in worship at events like Big Church Festival, etc. But at the end of the day whatever my career looks like I will have been ‘successful’ if I have followed my Father. Sometimes I mess up and lose perspective, but that is why I need Jesus and praise Him for His grace! He is so good and will keep me. So yeah, going forward, by His grace and in His grace I want to live my life doing what I see my Father doing.

What is your favorite album of all time?

Ooo tough one! I’m really bad with picking favourites (unless I really, really have a favourite!). But right now my two go-to albums are either Lion by Elevation Worship or Harry’s House by Harry Styles. Ooo but then Steffany Gretzinger’s album Faith of my Father… Man, that is one anointed album! If you haven’t listened to it go and do it now!

You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?

Right now the answer to that question would be ‘This is the Kingdom’ by Elevation Worship.

What does the next year hold for you?

More singles, more music videos, and more surprises!

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