Jessica Sanchez never really thought of herself as a songwriter.
In her younger years, she competed in talent searches, performing and honing her own takes on songs by her idols like Whitney Houston and Jazmine Sullivan. After her first runner-up finish in “American Idol” in 2012, the Filipino-American singer put out music crafted for her by other people and continued doing covers on YouTube.
But as the years went by, the more comfortable she got about expressing her thoughts and feelings. And in hopes of showing sides to her she has long kept, mustered the courage to finally put pen to paper.
“I was 16 when I did ‘Idol,’ and people knew me for doing covers. And I loved that. But everything was happening very fast and I didn’t get to digest and take in what was happening around me. I didn’t know who I was. It took time to figure out who I am as a woman and as a person.”
“But now, I feel more comfortable speaking about who I am and being more vulnerable through my music,” she said at a Zoom conference for her first self-written single, “Baddie.” “I didn’t think I was capable of writing… It’s still intimidating. But I’m still growing. I just had to shake the nerves off and tell myself that, ‘You know what, you can do this.’”
The 27-year-old artist now has a number of songs stashed away that she plans to develop and refine for future projects.
“It has been a long time coming for my writing. I have been doing it for a couple of years now. I have a lot of music in the vault, about my experiences and feelings, about the different sides of Jessica. I’m shy and quiet most of the time, and I don’t really get to express myself much on social media. But music has become a release,” she said.
As such, “Baddie”—which is slang for a confident woman who can hold her own—fittingly encapsulates Jessica’s journey. “I don’t think anyone expected me to release a song like this, but this is part of who I am. The song is about telling yourself that, ‘I’m that girl. I know what I want. I know who I am. I know what I’m worth,” she said of the pop-R&B dance track.
Jessica is quite the perfectionist. A single bum note in a live performance can send her wallowing in self-doubt, which inevitably breeds insecurities. Before long, she’s comparing herself to others.
“It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to other people. But I have to stop that—I have to stop thinking that I’m not good enough. I have to remind myself that, ‘You got this, you’re a baddie!’ As a perfectionist, you tend to overthink or dwell on a lot of things. Then, you realize that you have a lot to be thankful for.”
Jessica, who’s born to a Filipino mother and a Mexican-American father, hopes to improve her Tagalog to a level that will allow her to confidently write songs in the language. “I would love to show my love and support for the community in that way,” she said.
Like most music artists, Jessica’s career has been affected by the pandemic, which robbed her of opportunities to travel and hold shows. “It took a toll on a lot of artists because we depend a lot on traveling, meeting with producers… But all of that came to a halt,” pointed out Jessica, who last visited the Philippines in 2019 for a series of shows. With the easing of travel restrictions, Jessica hopes to return to her “second home” soon to do shows and promote her new music. “It’s always an honor to represent the Filipino community. I didn’t realize how crazy the support for me there was until I set foot in the Philippines [after ‘Idol’],” she said.
“There was so much love. That’s why I love going back to the Philippines. I love how people have embraced me in my journey,” she added. “I’m trying to get there really soon—maybe later this year or next year—and do some shows, be with the community or work with local artists.” INQ