Jillian Rossi is here to display her strong, powerful vocals for the world to see and hear. Hailing from Long Island, New York but now based in Los Angeles, the singer-songwriter is the definition of a music-lover, standing for body positivity in hopes of changing the standard of what a “pop girl” looks like. As a member of Gen-Z, Jillian uses the internet and social media to her advantage, going viral time and time again with each release—which has gotten her in heavy discussions with record labels.
In describing herself, Jillian states, “My big thing is putting the emphasis back on the vocalist in pop music. I am currently releasing ballads, anthems, and something I like to call ‘banthems’ which is a mix of the two—combined together into one common sound. I love being able to show my range in my music and creating ‘banthems’ has really helped me discover my sound by being able to do epic sounding, arena sounding records—as well as modern takes on the classic emotional ballad
In fact, Jillian stands as the first independent pop artist ever to have over 100K pre-saves on back to back songs, starting with her critically-acclaimed, viral breakout single “Fever Dream.” From performing a cover of Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” in front of a sold-out crowd of 37K people at a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park to performing her own original song for the legendary Billy Joel (who went on to compare Jillian to Taylor Swift), Jillian capitalizes off the momentum by releasing her newest song titled “Give Me A Reason.”
Flaunt caught up with Jillian via Zoom to discuss her roots on the East Coast, biggest influences, singing in front of Billy Joel, going viral on TikTok, the inspo behind “Give Me A Reason,” celebrity co-signs, achievements as an independent artist, fashion sense, and more!
What was a young Jillian like growing up in Long Island?
I was definitely an interesting kid growing up [laughs]. I didn’t really fit in anywhere but that kind of pushed me to be myself and independent at a very young age. I clearly didn’t care what anyone thought of me because I would write a lot of songs about food and put them on the internet. I think a lot of people from my hometown remember that about me. They either know me from that or that I got hot dogs banned from my elementary school for eternity. I choked on a hotdog in 2nd grade and to this day they are no longer being served, wild times [laughs]. I also wrote my school song in 6th grade with a friend. I was always writing music or singing for as long as I can remember. I was always in theater and chorus, then I went to an arts high school. I wasn’t super popular but most people did know who I was mostly because of music.
Biggest influences coming up?
I love Taylor Swift a lot. She is the first artist that I really related to and wanted to be like. All of her songs are very specific and authentic and you can tell they began on a guitar in her bedroom. This made me feel like I could do that too: write about my experiences on my guitar in my bedroom. I began songwriting at a young age that exact way. I’m also a huge fan of Billy Joel being from Long Island, and I even got to meet & perform for him.
How was that whole experience?
It was really crazy, I was 16 when it happened. A lot of people don't know that about me. He said some nice things about my song. I listened to all of his music growing up. My family, they're all big fans of Billy Joel too so that was a really crazy moment. The first moment in my life where I did something that not a lot of people do. [laughs] It was really cool.
Jillian Rossi is your real name, were there any contenders for an artist name?
I had one, but nobody really liked it because it was pretty generic. I’m a songwriter at heart, but my voice helps me stand out as an artist. I wanted to go by Vox, which is a music producer term that is short for “vocals” but that was for a hot minute. Everyone said "Just use your name,” I said "yeah, you’re probably right."
How’d it feel to have “Fever Dream” go viral on TikTok?
It was awesome. When I posted the first video, I expected it to do something, because the video I posted before that went viral. It was me singing a Demi Lovato high note from their song “Heart Attack” and it did really well. I thought, “Alright, I'm going viral currently. Let's see if I can put my song out here and see if people like this of me too.” I got in my car, and made a video. The first one went viral, but what really shocked me was that the second or third video went the most viral and really contributed to the amount of pre-saves we got. The third “Fever Dream” post of me singing the song in a car went the most viral; it got around 1.5 million views in the first day. I gained so many fans and had so many people reaching out to me saying how much they love me and the song. They also made it clear how excited they were for new music. I'm really happy to see people continuing to love my music. My song “Give Me A Reason” came out about 2 months after “Fever Dream” and it also went viral on the platform and got 100,000 pre-saves.
Who or what inspired “Give Me A Reason”? I know it's a broken relationship.
I was in a long distance situation at one point. I like to think back to past experiences that I've been through being that in Covid, I'm not really living like I was before the pandemic. I thought about how I needed someone to give me a reason to stay with them, and a lot of people relate to that and the song.
Does he know it's about him?
No, I don't think so. I still talk to a lot of the guys I write songs about, but I don't think this one knows anything. “Fever Dream” guy definitely knows it’s about him though. [laughs]
How does it feel to get the type of reception it's getting? I know Shaq, Paris Hilton, Skai Jackson all cosigned it.
When Shaq first commented on my TikTok, I was with my boyfriend and his family and friends in Ocean City, Maryland. One of the older guys asked “oh, so what does Jillian do for work?” His daughter said “well dad, Shaq commented on her posts so this is what she does. She makes music and it's legit.” I laughed and still to this day have to process that Shaquille O’Neal liked my song. I grew up watching Skai on the show Jessie. That show came out when I was a bit old for Disney channel, but I watched it anyway. That was awesome, and Paris Hilton is an icon in so many ways. Getting recognition from all of these people was amazing.
How does it feel to be the first independent pop artist to have back to back songs with over a 100K pre-saves? That's a really dope statistic.
Thank you, I don't really know how to process that. It's so wild. I knew that getting 100K pre-saves as an independent artist was crazy, but doing it twice in a row is something I can’t even comprehend! Hopefully I am able to again and again and again, I'm not trying to stop any time soon. It feels really good. I wish there was a plaque for that, a gold record type thing I could hang on my wall. Maybe it’ll happen one day. [laughs]
How did TikTok change your life? How often are you on the platform?
When I first started using TikTok I didn’t post much at all, I just watched videos on the for you page. I’m a big internet junkie, I'm on the Internet pretty much 24/7 and I'm always on my phone. Sometimes not responding to people right away, but always on Instagram or TikTok. I'm a big fan of YouTube and YouTubers. I really grew up using the Internet probably more than most kids. My dad is a technology guy, he loves computers and even had one of the first ever computers i’m pretty sure. Growing up, I watched more YouTube and stuff on the Internet than I did TV. To see me becoming one of the people that other young people look up to on the Internet is really crazy. It has definitely changed my life. TikTok's such a useful platform for artists trying to be heard. If you keep trying and posting, something will come.
Why is body positivity important for you?
I grew up around low-rise jeans and tight Abercrombie shirt advertisements. I looked more shapely earlier in my life, like I've always had boobs and a butt. I was always self-conscious because what I saw on TV was not what I saw in the mirror. I now want to be an example for young girls to see that somebody can still be healthy, even if they’re not super, super, super skinny. You know, I'm not super skinny and that’s okay! I'm at a really great point in my career for an independent artist. I know that my confidence is helping a lot of people. There's a missing place for somebody that girls in the middle could look up to, I know I can be that person. To some people, I already am!
Can we expect a visual for “Give Me A Reason”?
I don't think so for “Give Me A Reason.” We have the lyric video, and it's been doing pretty well. For my next two songs, we're thinking about doing a lot more visual stuff. There might be a surprise coming for the fans sometime soon.
3 things you need in the studio at all times?
In the studio at all times? Definitely water, it sounds so boring but, water. I sometimes bring snacks. I did have a friend who I wrote with a lot in college who always brought Hi-Chews to sessions which was pretty iconic. I don't know if I have a signature thing that I bring though! I bring myself, my voice, some tea with honey maybe. I went to the studio the other day and they had a whole fruit platter, so maybe some fruit.
How would you describe your fashion?
Oh wow. Right now, I'm still trying to figure out my fashion sense completely. I like to dress comfy most of the time. When it's time to get onstage or have a photoshoot, it's more glamorous, elegant, but still youthful. I also like all-black, that’s a big thing of mine. Call me emo but I love all black.
What do you like to do when you're not working?
This is such a hard question. Everyone asks “What are your hobbies?” I’m like “nothing, I literally make music every single day” [laughs]. I guess other than music all I really do is binge watch reality tv shows and Netflix! Some of my favorite shows are Love Island UK (has to be UK, the accents make the whole show), The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, Outer Banks, You, and DAVE. I also like to go out to dinner, very fun [laughs], Sometimes I hang out with friends, maybe go out to drink. Sometimes I could party, but not too crazy. I like to go for walks, the pandemic made me a walker.
Who do you like to listen to on your walks?
Recently I have been listening to a lot of indie pop rock bands. I’ve been especially into lovelytheband’s first album. My favorite song of theirs is “coachella”. This group Magic Man is awesome too. I don't think they're a band anymore but I listen to a lot of their music. I have been obsessed with their song “Paris” for years. It is truly one of my all time top songs. Other bands I love are The 1975, 5 Seconds of Summer, Smallpools, Walk The Moon and of course some good female pop queens like Ariana Grande and Lizzo. So basically pop queens, indie pop-rock dude bands, and cool stuff on New Music Friday.
Any goals for yourself?
To stay healthy and become the best version of myself and to make sure I'm a good example for young women all over the world.