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Free Speech

Jess Cornelius on Why It’s Important That Artists Use Free Speech

Jess Cornelius performs at Bootleg Theater on April 19, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

Singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius has been passionately outspoken about social issues throughout her career. Sitting with SPIN backstage at SXSW, Cornelius discusses the challenges of navigating artistic expression as a musician. She also implores artists to be true to themselves and not be afraid to speak their minds.

“I do feel like anyone, artist or not an artist, should always act in line with their values and their principles,” Cornelius says. “It can be difficult for artists when you have a bigger platform than some other people—that you’re kind of expected to then be the sort of poster person or a spokesperson for a cause.”

Cornelius empathizes with independent artists, who may have to travel and spend their own funds to perform, as she acknowledges that they may have more to lose if they choose to speak on their views.

“I understand that artists are afraid of getting some kind of backlash,” Cornelius says, “or when you’re already up against all the other things that you’re up against as an independent artist, I understand that people might not want to sort of speak out, but I do really appreciate the ones that are speaking out.”