Releasing your own music is just as nerve-wracking as it is rewarding. I’m so excited to put out this EP, but I worked incredibly hard on it, and the music itself is incredibly personal. I didn’t recognize at first the kind of bravery it would require to put a body of work like this out into the world, and I think it’s something I’m still working on.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jayelle.
Jayelle was raised in Denver, Colorado, where she was introduced to a large range of artists and bands of various genres. Currently an L.A.-based performer and songwriter, Jayelle has been using the time she’s spent since she moved to Los Angeles learning and growing as a musician. Interested in music and literature from a young age, Jayelle was drawn to songwriting as a way to unify her passions.
Jayelle’s musical style could be described as lyric-driven, alternative pop. A short-list of her influences include Anna Nalick, Halestorm, Joan Jett, Paramore, Taylor Swift, and ZZ Ward. As a writer and performer, her aim is to convey popular themes in new and clever ways that are captivating from a listening standpoint but also complex lyrically. She is currently working on writing and recording songs for her own projects as well as to pitch to other artists.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in the suburbs of Denver, so I love the mountains and the city. I’m the oldest of four and the only girl, which meant lots of mother-daughter bonding over 80’s rom coms and the peculiarities of the male species. Music in our house was always eclectic, meaningful, and playing as loudly as possible, so it’s no surprise to anyone in my family that I chose to pursue a career in this industry. There’s a lot I wish I could go back and change about my childhood and not a lot I’d like to relive — subject matter which I touch on in my debut release “My Father’s Daughter” — but I am incredibly proud of how I’ve grown from it and what it taught me!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I took a creative writing class in high school my junior year. Like every seventeen year old I was struggling to make decisions about where I wanted to go to college and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Music was, of course, always what I really wanted to do, but I had convinced myself that it wasn’t practical and that I should pursue a career in book editing because I also loved literature. In this creative writing class, students were required to both write our own material and edit each other’s. I very quickly learned that I hate editing, and my “foolproof” backup plan was shot to hell. I started researching music schools in California that semester.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I think a career in the arts can’t help but be interesting, mainly because it’s exactly what you make of it, nothing more and nothing less. Interesting is obviously relative, but I guess for me what comes to mind is the transition period I went through back in March. At the time, I was about to graduate with my associate’s in songwriting from the Los Angeles College of Music. I had turned twenty-one a few months prior, and I was just starting to build my network as a musician in LA — playing in jams at The Viper Room and The Satellite, getting involved with organizations like Gritty in Pink, and booking songwriting sessions with working producers and artists. A lot of those opportunities either shifted or disappeared when quarantine began, so I had to reevaluate and adapt. That resulted in me deciding to record an EP with my best — and very talented — friend, Drew Louis. Working on the EP was my solution to productivity during a time of stress and uncertainty, and consequently it became a sort of mental time capsule for reflections about my life — what I’ve learned from my past, how I feel about my present, and what I want from my future. I’ve had a lot of interesting revelations in the process of creating this body of work, and I feel a lot more connected to myself as an artist and as a human being.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My first few sessions recording vocals for various projects were incredibly difficult. Singing live is very different from singing in the studio and there was definitely an adjustment period. I kept trying to back away from the microphone to adjust for increases in volume and moving around too much when I got into the song. I learned that it is possible to just sing and not perform, but I’m definitely still working on it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m super excited to announce that my debut EP comes out on November 13th. The lead single and title track of the EP “My Father’s Daughter” is already out, as well as the music video for it, which was directed by the incredible Kelsie Adams. The video is a metaphor for attempting to outrun the cycle of abuse in relationships, and Kelsie did a brilliant job communicating the concept in a subtle but powerful way.
The EP itself is very personal to me as well. I wrote all of the songs on it by myself, so it’s very representative of where I’m at in my journey as an artist and as a songwriter. The tracklist is an eclectic but complementary mix; I like to think there’s a little something for everyone’s taste.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Diversity is so important in the entertainment industry because entertainment is both a representation of our culture and simultaneously the means by which it progresses. Diversity allows for people of all backgrounds to see themselves represented and to find voices that they relate to. My favorite movies, books, and tv shows are ones that I feel attached to because of characters I believe to be kindred spirits; everyone deserves to have that experience.
Furthermore, entertainment with diversity allows for people to see and learn from perspectives that are different from their own, which builds compassion and empathy. In my opinion, progress happens when people attempt to bridge gaps in understanding; representation in entertainment is critical to this process.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I wish someone told me when I first started
1 — that releasing your own music is just as nerve-wracking as it is rewarding. I’m so excited to put out this EP, but I worked incredibly hard on it, and the music itself is incredibly personal. I didn’t recognize at first the kind of bravery it would require to put a body of work like this out into the world, and I think it’s something I’m still working on.
2 — that there is no such thing as perfect when it comes to art. I love the music I’m releasing and I think it’s ready, but it’s impossible to ever really be finished with it. As a perfectionist, I really had to come to terms with the simple truth that nothing I create is ever going to be perfect. However, that simple truth also gives my music character and humanity — both of which are worth more.
3 — that sexism definitely still exists in the music industry. I’ve experienced plenty of sexism as a musician and a songwriter in the very short amount of time that I’ve begun to build myself a career in this industry. Usually exhibited in microaggressions, the sexism I’ve experienced in this industry is rarely overt but still incredibly discouraging and dehumanizing. It shows up in assumptions that I don’t contribute as much in the songwriting process as my male co-writers, in professional opportunities that end up being cleverly disguised ploys for men to pursue me romantically, and in the constant anxiety that comes with representing myself and my brand in a society where everyone has an opinion about the way women should look, dress, speak, and exist.
4 — that there is a happy medium between taking criticism and trusting your instincts. Musical taste is subjective and not everyone is going to like what you do. Being receptive to criticism is a huge strength and really important to growing as an artist, but that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your authenticity. I’ve had the hardest time with this because I have a tendency to overcorrect. I used to obsess over every critique I would get, sometimes completely rewriting songs I was proud of to make just one person happy only to show it to someone else and have them tell me that they loved the song the way it was before. You can make revisions without losing sight of the song, and not every suggestion is a change you need to make. Knowing when to trust your own judgment is a necessary skill.
5 — that there is no such thing as overnight success. There is always a story to success, and it’s usually a long one. As easy as it is to believe that luck is the defining factor, I’ve come to learn from everyone that’s mentored me in the music business that hard work and dedication usually matter so much more. Of course there is luck involved, but people give it entirely too much credit.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I love songwriting because no song is ever written the same way, which makes it easy to be excited about new ideas and new projects. Getting out of your comfort zone and approaching the songwriting process differently is a great way to get inspired again if you’ve been feeling burnt out. If you usually start with a chord progression, try starting with a lyric. If you usually write lyrics first, try starting with a melody and finding words to match it. Another option is to mix up the concepts you write about. If you usually write in a specific mood or about a particular subject, pick something wildly different and see how that changes the way you write. You might find yourself falling in love with the creative process all over again.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Most people are aware that COVID has had a massively negative effect on the music industry. Touring is a major source of revenue for most musicians and artists, especially now that streaming has largely decimated album sales. However, because of Coronavirus, venues are shutting down, festivals are going out of business, and so many creative people are now unable to make a living. If I could inspire a movement, it would be a movement to protect this industry. COVID hopefully won’t exist forever, but its repercussions — especially in entertainment — will be tragic and substantial. All people love art in some form, but not all people respect it or recognize its importance. Given the opportunity, I would like to change that.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve called my mom crying about a million times since moving to Los Angeles, saying I want to come home and that my dreams are impossible, and she has never once let me take the easy way out. This year has brought on so many unprecedented challenges; even putting together this EP has been a difficult process that brought up a lot of emotional trauma I’d buried deep. All my friends and family have been so incredibly supportive, but my mom is the person I’d really like to thank. She’s been there for me through every single one of my failures and missteps and mental breakdowns, and I’m so excited to be able to stand on top of a mountain of success one day with her beside me knowing that she was always climbing up right by my side.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Kelsie Adams, the director of my music video, recently introduced me to a quote by Russian poet Anna Akhmatova that says “As the future ripens in the past, so the past rots in the future — a terrible festival of dead leaves.” This came up in conversation about the video for “My Father’s Daughter” and that idea of trying to outrun your past. My past haunts me during the holidays, on second dates, at street fairs and rock concerts, when I’m on top, and when I’m at my lowest. It’s easy to feel like my life is autumn; I always seem to be raking up those dead leaves. This EP I’m about to release is very tied to that issue — coming to terms with your past as you build your future and exist in your present.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
My favorite songwriter of all time is Anna Nalick. Her music has always been the soundtrack to my life, somehow always aligning with where I’m at and what I’m feeling. I’m incredibly inspired by her as a writer, as a musician, and as a woman. I met her once after a show she played at The Rose in Pasadena a couple years ago and she was really kind. I think if I could have a private breakfast or lunch with anyone, it would be her, just to let her know the positive effect that her music has had on me and to get to know her as a person separate from her work as well.
How can our readers follow you online?
Please feel free to follow me on: Instagram: @musicbyjayelle
Facebook: facebook.com/officialjayelle Youtube: youtube.com/user/songwriterjay
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!