Jess “Biig Piig” Smyth is a half-Irish, half-Spanish singer-songwriter based in Hammersmith. At just the age of 20 she exudes soul, confidence and writes with a certain conversational poetry. Creating tunes with London’s cutting-edge Nine8 collective, a group of underground musicians, artists, and designers. Collaborating on projects spanning music, filmmaking, and clothing design, Biig Piig – whose name comes from a pizza menu – the multi-talented artists been on a trajectory since releasing her first single ‘Crush’n’ in 2017, with no sign of slowing down.
Jess’s first EP, Big Fan of the Sesh, Vol 1 revolves around the character of Fran, an alter-ego created by Jess as Biig Piig, who was a hard partier coming out of a toxic relationship and finding it hard to cope in the city alone. On using a narrative, Jess reflects, “I feel like when I’m doing tunes, I’m not very open about myself a lot of the time, and so I think it’s the easiest way to be open and tell stories about my history and my life. So I put them into characters so it doesn’t feel so personal and I don’t feel hurt.” Adding, “I’m thinking about doing three parts of stories, each with a different character, each with different people that I was at certain parts of my life.”
“I feel like when I’m doing tunes, I’m not very open about myself a lot of the time, and so I think it’s the easiest way to be open and tell stories about my history and my life. So I put them into characters so it doesn’t feel so personal and I don’t feel hurt.
This then allows her to create any world or storyline she chooses as she expresses, she can then comment on social issues and subjects with our restriction. As Big Fan of the Sesh, Vol. 1 does. When asked what her style was, Jess responds, “I think it’s still developing, I’ve noticed in myself that without realising it matures the older I get. Listening to the stuff I made last year, ‘Crush’n’ and ‘Vice City’ are very different to ‘Peridida’ and the stuff on Big Fan of the Sesh at the end of it so, I don’t know. I think for now it’s very much like a conversation when you hear it, it’s like you’re listening to someone talk to you.”
Inspired by artists who incorporate stories and conversation into their work, Jess finds herself listening to artists like Irish rapper Kojaque, as well as Apex and Ava from Nine8 who she considers friends, saying their engaging lyricism is something she aims to deliver in her own music. It all started after coming to London aged 14, Jess had a period of time where she was in a new city, too young to go out and without a network of friends. Cooped up in her room, she discovered Youtube and started uploading tunes, quickly deleting them once her nerves set in. Luckily her confidence grew as she joined the Nine8 collective and started taking part in open mic nights, throwing herself into the capital’s bubbling underground scene.
“I met Ava, the founder of Nine 8, at college in 2015, I was like 16 years old,” she laughs, “I was a fucking bum, I was not good at all.” However, it was only a year later that Jess found herself showing off her musical prowess while drunk at Ava’s Christmas party, “She had a cypher going on in the next room and I’d never seen one before. I thought ‘this is sick!’, so I just grabbed the mic without thinking about it and did some stuff I’ve written and she was like ‘Jess we need to start doing this.’”
“She had a cypher going on in the next room and I’d never seen one before. I thought ‘this is sick!’, so I just grabbed the mic without thinking about it and did some stuff I’ve written and she was like ‘Jess we need to start doing this.’”
She then reflects on the support system she has found with Nine8, “It’s like finding your place and finding a home, or finding somewhere that you don’t feel so isolated. It’s a weird thing, so I feel like collectives are kind of like homegrown communities,” she reflects. This year has been a big one for Nine8, which even lead to them ghosting a pop-up for London Fashion Week. “It’s well good supporting artists like that. It was sick man.”
Speaking from Glasgow, Jess has started working on the second part of her EP, with festivals on the horizon, she’s taking some time to herself before everything kicks back off. “You know what I feel like London, I still love loads, but I just need to get away every 2 weeks. I just need to fucking leave, get some air. So I’m writing the second EP now, which I’m really excited about, but I need to get out and have some experiences. There’s a Jazz festival [in Glasgow] that I went to years ago and it’s happening today, so yeah I’m really having little flashbacks and having little experiences.”
With regard to where she’s at with the writing process, Jess said, “I’ve had a session already and it went really really well and I’m really chuffed about that too.” She adds, “You’ve got a standard people expect you to live up to, and I’ve just got to wipe that from my brain and do what I love actually. I’ve got the whole concept written and stuff which I’m really excited about, the video’s really mad I think as well so, it’s just about feeling it out and seeing what happens. You just can’t try to recreate things or it’ll just end up like a second hand version of the first thing.”
“You’ve got a standard people expect you to live up to, and I’ve just got to wipe that from my brain and do what I love actually”
For the last release, Jess created a short film accompanying the EP, which she’s hoping to do for the next, armed with a mood board, script and clear vision of where she wants to take it. “I want like three videos for the three ones,” she says. “I feel like that last one wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, I dunno I’m really excited for the one. The concept of it is time, so I think it’ll go well. I’m working with Jay Green who is in Nine8 as well actually, he did the 24k video and he’s insane.”
With no set date in mind for the next release, Jess doesn’t want to put too much pressure on herself by creating deadlines. “This is it like don’t rush it, it’s like having a baby. You just gotta give it time but if you give me a date I’m gonna freak out and if it comes to early or too late I’m gonna be like shit that wasn’t right. I just need to let it be a natural progression.”
Words : Gina Tonic