Introduced as a normal, good girl falling for a fellow contestant, Jes Hudak rose to the Top Four as a seriously competitive songwriter on Bravo’s newest competition show Platinum Hit. A fairly consistent second/third place winner of the Hook Challenges, Jes’ songs are known for its large-ranging vocals and piano bits. Quirky and sincere, she describes her experience on Platinum Hit as helping her hone her craft. Here, Jes discusses the weirdness of seeing her romantic life recorded, how her songwriting has developed, her opinions on breaking into the industry, and her upcoming projects.
How did you become a contestant on Platinum Hit? What do you think made you stand out among the songwriters?
The first time I read the audition listing for the show, I knew that I was made for this show, could win this show, and was going to be on it. When I went up to audition, I was so confident and so excited to be there, and I played my two strongest songs: “National Holiday” and “Dirty Filthy Liar.” Then I kindly informed them that this show was made for me and I for it and wouldn’t you know it, I just kept getting called back!
Cool. You cut your first album at 14 and sang backup to popular artists like Enrique Inglesias. You have a long career in performing. Why choose songwriting for other artists as the next way to break into the industry?
I definitely am a performing artist but I am also a songwriter. I write all of my songs. So, I didn’t choose songwriting to break into the industry–songwriting is in my soul. I write all of the time and only so many of those songs work for me as an artist so writing for others just makes sense. It makes it possible for me to find a home for music that would otherwise be homeless. I see myself as an artist like Ryan Tedder or Bruno Mars–writing for other artists and in other genres as well as recording and touring myself. Breaking into the industry is challenging, especially since there is so much opportunity now for an artist that isn’t represented by a record or publishing company. So the playing field is huge. Opportunities like Platinum Hit make it possible for me to get my music out to the world.
You were on American Idol‘s fifth season and Platinum Hit‘s first season. How do you view reality TV’s role in helping artists break into the music industry?
With reality TV, it’s all about exposure. It is so hard to get your music heard by the world, and now we have TV shows like these that millions of people who have never heard of you before get to hear your music–that’s huge! That kind of exposure is invaluable to an independent or unknown artist, and can make someone a star overnight. Reality TV isn’t right for every artist, but it’s definitely worth auditioning for in order to get that platform and get your music out to the world! I loved working with Amber on the road trip challenge, she’s my homegirl for life! Also, Jackie Tohn happens to be one of my BFF’s and we have a cover band together called Powerfox and Ponymane. We have a youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/powerfoxandponymane. The fact that they picked 12 cast members out of almost 40,000 and we both made it is pretty crazy and amazing!
After Johnny was eliminated from the competition, the audience was introduced to a different side of you–a girl absolutely determined to win. Without Johnny there, your personality really seemed to shine and you fought to stay. What kicked up your competitive spirit?
Being in a competitive reality show is really quite stressful, exhausting, and can wear a girl down! I think I just realized that the competition was getting super intense, and that the songwriters remaining could all hold their own, and I had some ass-kicking to do. Also, getting so close to the prize made me fight that much harder. All I wanted was to win so I focused all my energy on writing the best songs of my life.
Also in the ‘Kiss the Flame’ challenge you disclosed to being a victim of assault and wrote some of your best lyrics. Tell me about your decision to reveal this.
I always hoped that something positive could come of something so awful, so I decided to reveal this if only to raise awareness and perhaps let someone out there know who is suffering silently from being assaulted that they are not alone and that it does get better. When this incident happened, everyone close to me knew about it and supported me and showed me so much love, so I felt ok sharing it knowing that my family was behind me.
The description Bravo gives of your style is pop soul. Is that how you would describe your songwriting or has it evolved over the course of the show?
My songwriting has changed completely because of the show. I got the best, most blunt feedback from some of the biggest names in the industry, and it helped me hone my craft into a laser-beam of soulful edginess. My lyrics are so much more interesting and conceptual now, and my writing is much messier– I’m not afraid to edit until every word means something. Yes, I think as singer, it would be fair to say that my music has a pop-soul feel. But, what’s cool about being a songwriter is that I get to write for all different genres.
Unlike other reality shows, the success of contestants on Platinum Hit relies almost purely on collaboration. Is there any collaboration that stands out as nearly perfect?
My favorite session of the season was probably writing “Free” with Amber and Melissa.Yes, we were in a disgusting roach motel which may or may not be inhabited by murderers, but I loved the lyrics that we came up with. We ended up getting one of the biggest compliments of our lives when Natasha Bedingfield said she could hear herself singing our song.
What is in the works for you as a performer and songwriter?
I have been writing and collaborating non-stop since we shot the show, and I am working on my new record. I’m also playing a bunch of shows, a few in LA including August 9th at Hotel Cafe and August 21st at the Ford Amphitheatre, and I’m making it back home to NYC for a show at Rockwood Music Hall on August 30th. I am really excited to get back on stage…and hope everyone can make it out to the August 9th Hotel CafÃ© Show because some of my awesome music friends will be joining me on stage including, WAX (www.waxdotcom.com) who recently was signed to Def Jam and Quickie Mart (djquickiemart.com), renown New Orleans Hip Hop producer. Jackie Tohn and Brian Judah will be joining me to sing “My Ridiculous.” It’s gonna be great. I will always be singing and writing, no matter what.
Emily E. Steck
(Image courtesy of Jes Hudak)