Jaira Burns on Songwriting, Dream Collabs, Playing Her First Festivals, and a Broken Foot.
Interview by Amanda Cosenza and Alyssa DiCaterino
Jaira Burns is the fiery, blue-haired, 21-year-old who is ready to take over the music world. Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Jaira started her career by uploadpiing covers to YouTube. At just 20 years old, her song, “Ugly,” was released and featured in a Beats Headphones commercial featuring Kylie Jenner. Almost a year later, the singer is hitting some of the biggest music festivals of the summer (while in a cast and riding a scooter), and is just getting started. We had a chance to sit down with her at Firefly Music Festival minutes after her performance on the Treehouse.
FS: Hey! Thanks for sitting down with us today. How’s your Firefly been? Today got crazy hot, right?
J: Yeah, man. Oh my god.
FS: I don’t know how you did it on stage. It seemed like there was shade everywhere around you, except on you.
J: No, literally! Everybody else was in shade except for me. It was cool though. I powered through it. It feels like every time I get on stage and I start to perform, everything else just goes away. You know what I mean? Like no matter what I feel like, or even if I’m sick, the second I get on stage, I just can’t think about that stuff.
FS: There’s too much going on.
J: Exactly! It’s just too busy living in that moment.
FS: That’s awesome! That’s kinda how you know that you’re in the right spot when you feel like that.
J: Yep, I must be doing the right shit.
FS: Do you have any pre-show routines that you do?
J: Yeah! So, I’ll wake up. I’m always by myself for the first hour or two of my day. Just because I like to center and chill out for a second. I get ready, which I usually do all myself. So, I’ll do that, and then I’ll start my vocal warm ups. It’s like that “Weeewooweewooo,” kinda stuff.
FS: Do you do it like in the mirror to yourself?
J: No! I don’t like to see myself look crazy like that. I usually just sit, and do that, and then I’ll run through my whole set.
FS: Oh wow!
J: Yeah, that’s my pregame pretty much. Then I’ll just talk to my squad, laugh, and have a good time, and then I’ll just go on stage and kill the shit.
FS: Cool. You have a DJ and a drummer with you, right?
FS: How did you connect with them?
J: So, Upscale Music Group, which is also who I’m signed to, the CEO, they’re his good friends from back in the day. They all pretty much knew each other from little up. So, he brought them in and we all just became such good friends so quickly, which was really cool. Just instantly vibed.
FS: Yeah you can definitely see the chemistry on stage. It makes it a lot easier, I’m sure.
J: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. We all just have such a blast together. It’s amazing.
FS: That’s awesome. And you’ve been busy with festivals lately, huh? At least the last week or so.
J: So actually, Bonnaroo was my first festival. Ever.
J: Yeah! So that was so cool. It was the coolest thing I think I’ve ever done, honestly.
FS: That’s so cool. Did you get to enjoy it at all, or did you just have enough time to perform?
J: I did! I definitely got to enjoy it a little bit the day before. The whole night I just went out and saw people. Went around the tents. Got to see all these little things set up like that Christmas themed place. It was like snowing. It was so crazy.
FS: Yeah! I love the Christmas barn!
J: It was so crazy. So yeah, Bonnaroo was my first festival, and now Firefly is my second.
FS: That’s so exciting!
J: But I do have to say, this is my favorite vibe I’ve ever felt. The festivals. Just in general. Just festivals, man. It’s so happy. Like everybody jumping around.
FS: High fiving each other.
J: Exactly!! Everybody is just vibing out and having a good time. I think that’s just exactly what it’s here for.
FS: So do you think you like it better than doing a concert?
J: I can’t say that. I can’t say that because I enjoy all of it. Like I enjoy just being able to be present with my fans. With people. And to just give them the vibes, and then throw the vibes right back at me. Just to be together with everyone in a room is just, really, really awesome. So, I think any show is just as lit.
FS: So do you come at it differently at all? Like how you approached Bonnaroo and Firefly, is it any different than how you’ve approached your own concerts?
J: Not really! Honestly, for everything, I try to be obviously very high energy because that’s just me in general. But no. Nothing is really different, other than times. Like if they want me to go longer or shorter at festivals, I’ll obviously be playing more songs or less. Everywhere I go, I just try to keep it exciting, and fun. I try to include everybody in the crowd. Make people feel like they’re a part of the show.
photo taken from the Official Jaira Burns Facebook page
FS: I loved the Bonnaroo set because there was like an inflatable T-Rex and bubbles.
J: Oh my god! Yeah, and they were like throwing balloons up to me. It was insane. It was so beautiful.
FS: This one at Firefly was cool for the location though. That Treehouse Stage is neat.
J: Oh yeah. And this was actually not too far from where I grew up in Pittsburgh.
FS: So does it feel like a little bit of a hometown kind show?
J: It definitely reminds me of home. Like the trees, the wilderness, the woods. Like that’s what I grew up on, so it’s just really cool to be around that again. Because, although California is lit too, we got the palm trees and stuff, but you don’t get the woods and the bugs. Oh my god the bugs! Literally, today, I was like… Ok, so I’m terrified of bees, right? And I’m seeing like three wasps flying around. I jet. I’m like… I’m out. I haven’t seen bugs like this in so long. Or grass like this, you know? It’s so pretty.
FS: Ugh the bugs. Our tent is filled. We have so many spiders and moths.
J: Oh stop. No. I don’t do spiders.
FS: We were just so tired. I was like, “I’m just gonna pretend I didn’t see any of those right now.”
J: I don’t mind any bug… well, fuck mosquitoes too… but I don’t mind any bug except wasps, spiders and mosquitoes.
FS: I just don’t like things that bite me.
J: Yeah, exactly! That’s mad funny.
FS: Alright, so what’s next? Where are you off to after this.
J: **Asks her manager** Milwaukee! We’re going to Milwaukee.
FS: She doesn’t even know where she’s off to next. I love it. That’s awesome.
J: Literally. I’m just like here. But yeah. It’s with Betty Who. It’s like a mini couple of dates with her.
FS: Oh cool!
J: Yeah it’s gonna be fun. And she’s a dope ass artist.
FS: She is.
J: I’ve heard nothing but nice things about her as a person, as well.
FS: She’s performing in a few minutes isn’t she?
J: I know! I was gonna go see her. Hopefully maybe I can catch the tail end. But she’s lit though. I’m excited to meet her.
FS: Are you guys working on any music together or just doing the shows?
J: Um not right now. It’s never been discussed. But I’d be down to collab for sure.
FS: If you could pick your top collab, who would it be.
J: Hands down.
FS: I like how easy that was. That was awesome.
J: Hands down. Or Drake. Rihanna or Drake. But I feel like that’s so like typical. I’m sorry.
FS: No! I actually don’t think we’ve ever gotten that answer before.
J: Really? Hell yeah.
FS: But I like it.
J: Yeah. Rihanna’s the one. She will forever be my one.
FS: Love it. Do you have a dream location you would like to play someday?
J: Wembley Stadium. Overseas. It’s like the biggest stadium, or one of the biggest. And there’s only ever been like a handful of artists to ever sell it out for days in a row. Ones like Ed Sheeran, Beyonce, Taylor Swift. I remember the first time I saw it, and I was like that is where I wanna be. That is where I’m going. For sure.
FS: Awesome! We’ll I will definitely buy tickets for when you play there.
J: Please do!!
FS: So you write your own music, right?
J: I do! Yes. I like to collaborate as well. I’m always down to work with new people. I like to bounce ideas off of people because it’s just like easier to come up with the best thing that you can when it’s more than one. But, yes I do write. Right now, I’m really trying to be a student and learn more than anything. Constantly learning new things, but writing is something… To be a great writer, you have to study the people who were amazing at it. So, I think, in my own personal opinion of myself, I’m a good writer. Right? And I’m aspiring to be an amazing writer. So I’m just trying to learn those ins and outs of things. I’m getting pretty good at it.
FS: Who do you look to for inspiration?
J: STARA is definitely one of my faves. Skyler Stonestreet is lit. I don’t know if you know who that is, but she’s lit.
FS: I’m gonna go look up all of these names, now I’m like super intrigued.
J: Yeah. Michelle Buzz is another one that I like a lot. She’s great. But yeah. There’s so many different people that I’ve looked up to. Like I’d love to work with Julia Michaels as a writer. Like I know she’s doing the artist thing, but she’s an incredible writer. I don’t know. There’s just so many talented people.
FS: For sure. And so are you working on an album?
J: I actually have a body of work coming out. An EP.
FS: Oh that’s exciting!
J: Yeah and it will be dropping next month. July 20th.
FS: Can you give us the name of it?
J: It’s the Burn Slow EP. To give ya a little something. But yeah, we’re doing that. And then, yeah. I do have an album in full that I’m ready to drop at the end of the year.
FS: That’s awesome.
J: Yeah, don’t tell no one.
FS: We’ll keep it vague. We’ll keep it vague.
J: No! No, I’m just kidding. Shout that shit. Let them know what’s coming.
FS: So one of the people we’re camping with is a huge fan of yours.
J: Where she at?
FS: She’s back in the festival I think.
J: If she’s around, I’ll meet her.
FS: She’d die.
J: I’d totally meet anybody.
FS: So she wanted me to ask if you’re really a mermaid?
J: Am I really a mermaid? So first of all, I was born with blue hair. Just to put that on record. So… I might be a little bit of a mermaid.
FS: Just a little bit.
J: Just a little bit! In my free time. But none of y’all will ever see that. That’s my private time.
FS: Alright so I gotta ask. How’d you end up with that cast on your leg? Having to zoom around these festivals on a little leg scooter.
J: Six Flags! This happened at Six Flags. I went with my boyfriend, and we were there for like eight and a half hours. So we were there all day. We went in.
FS: Was this the one is SoCal?
J: Yeah SoCal! And so, I’m such a rollercoaster junkie. I’m literally crazy all on adrenaline and stuff like that. So, we got season passes, and this was the first time we had gone with our season passes. We get there. We get everything going. And we are literally sprinting to everything. We were there for over eight hours and did not sit down. Once. We had eaten before we went. So…
FS: So you guys were ready. Rollercoasters only.
J: Yeah! So we were doing all of that, and I was fine. By like the seventh hour, I would say, I was getting a little sore. My hips were hurtin’ and I was like oh my knees hurt. My feet are sore. Whatever. And then it got worse as the day went on, and so we left. We were walking back to the car, and as I was walking, I started having a hard time putting pressure on my foot. And I thought, “Oh that’s weird. But I’m just sore. I’m just sore. I’m fine.” So we went home, and I sat in the car ride, which was like 45 minutes. And when I got out of that car, to go into our house, I literally took a step out, and I almost fell. I couldn’t but any pressure on it.
FS: Oh no.
J: I was like man I’m sore. Like I went hard today. So I went to bed. Next day, got a little worse. Next day, little worse. It just kept getting worse and worse, and so I was like. Okay. Doctors it is. And personally, I just thought it was like a nerve or tendon that’s irritated. So I go in, and was like “Yeah, if I could just get like a boot, that way I could walk around and just not put so much pressure on it.” He was like, “Okay, well we’re gonna just take some X-rays.” So he takes the X-rays, and he comes back. And he tells me I have a fractured metatarsal, and a heel spur. And so I was like, “I came in here because I was feeling a little bit of pain. I didn’t come in here for you to tell me I’m broken.” And so I asked, “Well can we still do the boot? Like I can still do the boot, right?” And he’s like, “Well we could do the boot, but you’d be in it for like 6-8 weeks. And it could be permanently damaged because you’re still walking on it.” And so I was like, “What are you tellin me right now, doc?” And he said, “You need a cast.” And I was like there’s no way. I had a show like four days later. His advice was to not do the show. And I was definitely doing that show, so I told him to cast me up. So yeah. That was like two weeks ago, and I only have to have it on for like three and a half weeks.
FS: But of course it’s like the three weeks you’re doing two festivals.
J: Yeah! And I have another three shows after this. And one that I’m headlining in my hometown in Pittsburgh. The day after. The 23rd is when I can get it off. My last show is the 22nd. I was like… Oh, of course.
FS: That’s just the way life is sometimes.
J: It’s okay though. I’m still rocking it and having fun.
FS: And you have your scooter. And you looks badass doing it.
J: Thank you girl. I appreciate it.
Keep up with Jaira Burns on her Facebook, Official Page, and Spotify.