BIG INTERVIEW Jerry Williams: ‘Every time Victorious comes around it feels like Christmas’

Jerry Williams. Picture by Shotbyphox
Jerry Williams. Picture by Shotbyphox
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If anyone can lay claim to being the poster-girl for the Victorious Festival, it would definitely have to be Portsmouth’s own indie-pop princess Jerry Williams.

The 21-year-old has played at the festival every year since it was in the Historic Dockyard – at 2014’s event she performed no less than five times. This year she’s making a rather more modest brace of appearances - on the Castle Stage on Saturday at 2pm, and at 5.25pm the next day on the Rhino AV Acoustic Stage.

‘Every time Victorious comes around it feels like Christmas,’ she tells The Guide. ‘I buy a new outfit for it, I shine all my shoes up - I get so excited to go to Victorious.

‘Everyone supports each other and to still see so many local acts on the bill as it gets bigger and bigger is important.’

Her songs have now racked up north of 6m plays on Spotify (thanks in no small part to her single Mother getting put on one of the streaming giant’s prestigious playlists), and they’ve popped up on hit shows including The Only Way is Essex, Made in Chelsea, Sunday Brunch and more.

She’s come a long way since winning The News’s inaugural Instant Star competition back in 2013.

And there are more highlights to squeeze in before Victorious. This weekend she makes her V Festival debut, in Essex on Saturday, before hot-footing it to the Shropshire leg for Sunday. Not only that, she makes her TV performance debut on ITV’s Weekend. Filmed on Wednesday, it’s broadcast at 8.30am tomorrow.

Speaking the day before the filming, she says: ‘I’m going to be playing a couple of songs live on Aled Jones’ TV show, which is crazy. It’s filmed but my vocals are live and the band will be playing - it’s one take - it’s nerve-racking. I’m really excited but I can’t wait - this is all a new experience for me.

‘You do one original and one cover, so we’ll be doing Mother and then (The Cure’s) Boys Don’t Cry. I’m not sure how they came across me, but they got in touch with my people, and then the next thing I know, I’m doing this.’

And back in June she was BBC Radio1 Introducing Artist of the Week, which saw her song I’m Not In Love With You played every day to the station’s millions of listeners. And it was a direct result of that that she was tapped up for V Festival.

Jerry Williams playing at the Beating Heart Festival at Portsmouth's Guildhall''March 18, 2017. ''Picture: Paul Windsor

Jerry Williams playing at the Beating Heart Festival at Portsmouth's Guildhall''March 18, 2017. ''Picture: Paul Windsor

‘That was the most exciting week ever, it was so surreal, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I often go driving down by the beach in my car with the radio on, and a couple of times it was just at the right time - the sun was shining and my song was on the radio, it was like, yes, all of the hard work is paying off! It’s been really good for my confidence as well to know that people are listening.

‘I get people saying things like: “I heard your song in a petrol station in Sheffield”, and I have no idea how it got there, but it’s really nice that your music is getting heard.’

But that’s not to say it’s all been plain-sailing - there have been shows elsewhere in the UK to the proverbial one-man-and-his-dog.

‘I’ve played so many shows now where there’s only one person there, but you have to do those to get your name out there, you never know who’s going to see you, and if you make one person a fan then it’s worth the trip. Or you might meet new promoters who like you and will want to put you on at their festival or something like that. It important to spread your wings and try new places even though you might not have a fanbase there yet.’

Last month Jerry released a new single, Babe, a low-key acoustic number. It was her first new music since last October’s award-winning Let’s Just Forget It EP.

‘I wrote it earlier this year in January, and then I recorded it by myself,’ she explains. ‘I was feeling kind of confused about what I was doing, we’d recently lost a family friend, it was all a bit like I don’t know what to say, and what I should do, babe? I was feeling pretty sad when I wrote it. It’s nice to have that kind of side of my songwriting out there as most of my songs are quite produced and poppy and happy, so to show that side is quite nice.’

She put on a packed out gig to launch the song at Albert Road pub Little Johnny Russell’s. It was recently announced that the pub, which regularly puts on live music, is to close after owner Ei Group decided not to renew the current tenants’ lease. The pub has played a key role in Jerry’s development as an act.

‘I couldn’t believe that it’s closing, it did make me sad. I was really shocked - I can’t imagine it not being there, I’ve played so many gigs there. It’s going to be a shame for up-and-coming musicians to not have that sort of venue to play in.’

Jerry is currently writing and recording more new material, with long-standing collaborator Dan Brown and James Earp in Maida Vale, in London. She’s hoping to get something out next month, before releasing her debut album next year.

‘There’s lots of new music in the can that I want people to hear, but it’s getting it all ready. I’ll probably be playing one or two of the new ones at Victorious.’

She’s also getting ready to tour again in the autumn, including a headline date at The Wedgewood Rooms on October 21.

Victorious Festival takes place Southsea seafront from August 25 to 27, with Madness, The Sterophonics and Elbow headlining. Friday tickets cost £35, Saturday and Sunday are £42. Go to