Jessica Jolia talks musical influences, motivation, individuality & her latest release ‘No Question'
Jessica Jolia, widely known for her versatility and multi-octave vocal range, is an American recording artist, songwriter, producer and humanitarian. Her debut single “Sometimes” was independently released and featured in the critically acclaimed film Sister Code, and went on to accumulate 1+ million streams. She has since performed on The Ellen Show and The Late Late Show, and has been featured in The Source, This Is RnB, The A&R Report, Rolling Soul Brazil and many other publications around the world.
What inspired you to begin a career in music?
I’ve had a love for music for as long as I can remember. Before I was even born, my father exposed me to a variety of genres by placing headphones on my mother’s stomach while I was still developing. From Classical to Contemporary, I was able to hear a bit of everything and those listening habits continued into my childhood.
When I was eight years old, I began studying and playing various instruments, including the alto and tenor saxophone, in the school band. At 12, my parents surprised me with a keyboard for my birthday. As it happened, my Dad was listening to “Flashlight” by Parliament that afternoon, so I walked over to my new instrument to see if I could figure out how to play the song on my own. Within minutes, I was jamming right along and a new excitement for music was born. It was so cool to me to be able to hear something and duplicate it, with no explanation of how I was doing it. My Dad always seemed especially impressed, and I definitely got a kick out of it.
By the time I was in high school, I belonged to five musical performance groups: Jazz Band, Marching Band, Orchestra, Choir and Vocal Ensemble. I worked very diligently to refine my sound as an instrumentalist and vocalist, always very passionate about performing, and eventually earned a scholarship to both Berklee College of Music and Oklahoma Christian University. Ultimately, I chose to attend Oklahoma Christian University as a student of the Classical Vocal Performance Bachelor of Arts program. There, I performed in various productions including “Porgy and Bess”, “Oklahoma!”, and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”. The program was very rigorous and time-consuming, but on the weekends I made time to catch up on all of the newest Pop and R&B music.
I also enjoyed listening to a lot of the music that my parents listened to, which included many songs by Stevie Wonder, The Gap Band, Chaka Khan, Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston, Chicago, and Journey. After college, I returned home not entirely sold on the idea of being on Broadway or joining an opera company. Sure, I appreciated both forms of art, but there was a part of me that wanted to further explore other genres of music through performance, writing and recording. So, I auditioned for a local cover band as one of four front vocalists. I made the cut, and jumped right into a whole new world. It was fun, filled with rehearsals and traveling, and certainly kept me busy.
On one occasion, a wedding perhaps, I remember one of the guests approaching me to say that she really enjoyed our group and was having a great time. She asked for a business card, which I was happy to provide, then seemed as if she was going to return to the festivities. But instead, she paused and then said, “You know, you really have something special. I was talking with my friends about how much we love this band, but everyone agreed that there’s something different about you. We can’t help but watch you. Your singing, your smiling…you have it all. You’re gonna do great things.” Most times, I’d been programmed to take compliments with a grain of salt. But that day, the statement resonated loudly because I knew that doing great things in music was something I felt destined to do.
So, I think the collection of my experiences and education, the encouragement of my family and friends, and that one brief exchange contributed to fully igniting my determination to make a positive, lasting contribution to the world we live in by choosing to fully pursue a career in the music industry.
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