Mary-Jess first started singing when she was nine years old; she was accepted as a member of the Gloucester Cathedral Youth Choir even though she was two years too young. Her grandmother was a semi-professional classical singer and her mother is a powerful rock, pop and country singer and so she was always encouraged by their musical example.
Growing up, Mary-Jess was a member of the National Youth Southern Girls Choir of Great Britain, loved karaoke competitions, and made the most of every opportunity to sing.
Mary-Jess began studying Chinese at the age of 13 when it was offered as an extra-curricular GCSE at St. Peters RC High School in Gloucester. At the age of 15, Mary-Jess travelled to China for the first time with the school and whilst there she sang at the opening ceremony the summer school that she was attending. Her performance was credited by a lot of local press coverage. During this trip she fell in love with China and knew that she would continue to study Mandarin Chinese.
In 2008 Mary-Jess won The Door Youth Project’s Undiscovered Youth Talent Contest. This was the first time that she had ever sang classical music rather than popular music for a performance and so Mary-Jess is very grateful to The Door Youth Project for helping build her confidence. She is now a patron of the charity and visits regularly to work with the young people there.
In 2009 she flew to Nanjing, China as part of her degree in Music and Chinese Studies at the University of Sheffield. It was there that she entered 民星唱翻天 (Min Xing Chang Fan Tian) ‘I want to sing to the stars’. With her unique voice and grasp of the Chinese language, Mary-Jess took the competition by storm and the 70 million viewers took her to their hearts. Though out the show, Mary-Jess sang a huge range of repertoire, from O Mio Babbino Caro, to Stop by Sam Brown and Chinese songs like Yue Guang Ai Ren. Her performance of ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ in the live final stormed her to victory and cemented her position as a serious singer in the Chinese community.
After returning home for Christmas, her story sparked a media frenzy leading Mary-Jess in to the centre of a bidding war from all the major record companies, she eventually signed a recording contract with Decca Records, Universal. 2010 saw Mary-Jess write and record her debut album ‘Shine’ with filmic textures and a contemporary flare; she recorded the string section from The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road and worked with some of China’s most accomplished musicians to add a touch of the orient. Seven out of the 12 songs on Shine were co-written by Mary-Jess.