Opportunity didn't come knocking for Jessica Lee, it blew the door in.
"Basically, two years ago, I was at school at Ottawa U and they were having this YouTube contest to sing with Marianas Trench at Massey Hall in Toronto," she explains. Because her roommate dared her to, Lee entered herself, "kind of as a joke." And then she forgot about it. And then she won.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The 21 year-old Ottawa native wasn't an absolute novice when Josh Ramsay winnowed down all those contest entries and invited Jessica Lee to duet "Good to You" on arguably the most venerable stage in Canada. "I used to dress up as a Disney princess and sing at birthday parties," Lee offers, with a giggle. "And I did some singing at church." Still, "Oh gosh, I was so shocked," she recalls. "To go from doing science all the time to, suddenly, 'Oh, I'm going to be singing in front of 3,000 people.' It was a little unexpected. It's one of those things where you've gotta pull yourself together and just do it."
Lee actually surprised herself a little at Massey Hall, discovering that she felt perfectly comfortable on stage. She also realized she was putting a powerful instrument on ice when the night ended and she went back to her studies. "I'd had my 15 seconds of fame," she says. "It was always, 'School first.' My mentality was, 'Okay, I'll never see these people again in my life.'" She was wrong, of course. One month after the revelations of Massey Hall, Lee was in Vancouver recording a fresh version of "Good to You" and flexing her front-of-camera chops in the epic video that went with it. From there, Ramsay and 604 Records honcho Jonathan Simkin proposed a co-management deal for the self-possessed and apparently fearless young talent, telling her, "Go home and think about it."
The rest is history in the making. Cruising on the same ready confidence she brought to Massey Hall, Lee accepted the offer and set about writing and recording a debut album with a small team of collaborators. "I would not feel comfortable singing somebody else's lyrics, or somebody else's songs," Lee says of the subsequent two years she spent commuting between Ottawa and a Vancouver recording studio. Ramsay and Simkin eagerly demonstrated the extent of their confidence by encouraging Lee to follow her own muse, while introducing her to people who would help see the project through; Fake Shark's Kevvy Maher, Tino Zolfo and Marten Tromm