Although local indie R&B singer Jessica Rollins, aka LITTLE FISH, is a relatively young artist, she already sounds a little jaded. She released her debut EP Know ME Aug. 3.
The 27-year-old Arizona native did stints in both Los Angeles and Nashville trying to make it as a singer and songwriter, including an exploratory deal with Capitol Records, a spot in a music mastery program with label impresario Charlie Walk and a spot in a fledgling EDM group.
She found her footing when she landed here in Charleston June 2021 and gave up her ambitions for global success.
“Staying in Charleston opened up this whole different world of music for me, honestly,” she said.
Weary of the lifestyle and image pressures of a commercially successful music career and feeling the impact of the Covid-19 shutdown on the larger industry, Rollins said stepping away from the hustle of the game allowed her to finally envision for herself what she wanted to do artistically.
“It gave me an opportunity to focus on what I wanted to put out,” she told City Paper. “I started writing freestyles, doing more R&B and soul music.”
As the songs came together, she reached out to local rapper/producer Hirow after seeing him perform at the Tin Roof, and he quickly became a sympatico collaborator and the main producer on her new EP.
“He told me he produced his own stuff, and I was like, ‘I have these songs that I want to make. And I feel like we could make them really great together,’ ” she recalled. The resulting five songs dance across genres with a kind of graceful idiosyncrasy, from the trap beat freestyle of opener “BULLSHIT” to the downtempo trip-hop of “Silly Girl” to the sultry R&B of “Dreamland.”
Throughout the EP, Rollins showcases a lithe vocal presence that takes cues from both big, soulful singers like Amy Winehouse and Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, but also brings that edgy, formless sense of pop that artists ranging from Tierra Whack to Billie Eilish are forging new ground with.
Those edges of experimentation are part of what drew Rollins to Hirow, who favors a cerebral, often intense production style.
“I wanted it to be really playful, so I told him we should just make it as crazy as you can,” she said. “I wanted it to be a little uncomfortable, to be music that moves you as well as be a little weird.”
For all of the obvious catchiness and poise of the EP, Rollins says LITTLE FISH isn’t a commercially driven project. She’s enjoying more casual performing opportunities, like singing at a recent Purple Buffalo pop-up burlesque performance.
“I might do a small release party, but I just wanted to put it out there,” she said. She has a few promotional opportunities coming up, including an upcoming appearance on the podcast Mormons on Mushrooms.
“I don’t want to think about an audience — I just want people to connect to my music, it doesn’t matter whether it’s 10 people or 1 million,” she said. “I’m an artist for me, not for anybody else.”
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