With a sultry and powerful vocal, JAKLYN is an artist you can’t help but sit up and take notice of. Currently preparing to release her new collection, the Syrup Remixes EP, the San Francisco based singer-songwriter is looking to make 2017 her most successful year to date and kindly agreed to this interview to talk musical influences, dream shows and her highlights of 2016.
TITL: Please introduce yourself.
JAKLYN: Hi! My name is JAKLYN, and I’m a soul/pop singer & songwriter currently living in San Francisco, California. I recently launched my solo project and released my debut album, That One Girl, and it’s been an exciting ride so far!
TITL: When did you first realise you wanted to be a performer and prior to that, did you have any other career ambitions?
J: I actually have 2 careers, or “personas” as I like to call them. Besides being a musician, I’m also a product designer for a tech company. I’ve accepted that I’m a “slash person” by nature – a music-slash-designer – but it doesn’t mean that I’m less serious about music. Some weeks are a bit low on sleep, but I feel super blessed that I’m doing what I love all the time, while staying afloat.
Funny enough, my career in design first started with an early rejection in music. In high school, I tried out for an elite choir in high school, but I didn’t make the cut. And I thought that was it — that my dreams of singing at a serious level were over. Instead of choir, I took a Yearbook class as my elective in my Senior year, and that is where I learned I had a knack for design. I studied graphic design in college, but I couldn’t stay away from singing for long! While I was in college in a small town in Colorado, I got invited to sing in a hip hop/funk band. I started writing songs at that time, too, and then I knew music was going to be a huge part of my life.
TITL: Can you recall the first concert you attended and album you bought?
J: My mom raised me in a conservative Christian church, and the first concert I went to was a Christian concert with my youth group: Steven Curtis Chapman and the Newsboys. She encouraged me to listen to exclusively Christian music, but I think it was inevitable that I would go exploring beyond those very narrow boundaries. My dad, on the other hand, wasn’t religious, and he exposed me to a lot of different things.
TITL: Which bands and artists are you most influenced by and why?
J: I have a million influences, but there are 2 key artists that I credit with putting a fire under my bum to get up and make an album.
The first is a production duo out of the UK by the name of 4hero. They are super innovative, and they were pioneers in the drum n bass music sub-genre. Later on, though, they switched it up and composed some beautiful nu-jazz music as well. You can just count on them to make good, soulful music, no matter what it is – it’s beyond definition. I, too, am perfectly happy with being an artist that is difficult to pin down.
The second is the soul singer Bilal. His first 2 albums meant a lot to me, but his album A Love Surreal came out during a time when I was at a critical juncture in my life, getting over a failed relationship and trying to figure out how to get my solo music project off the ground. A Love Surreal is very personal, and it was also a bit different from Bilal’s previous projects in the styles he explored. Bilal is an artist that expresses what’s in his heart and continues to evolve, without regard for boxes others try to put him in. That inspiration was helpful to me when I began putting one foot in front of the other.
TITL: Is there a band or artist you might say you sound similar to?
J: I think my influences come through in my music, but I am not totally sure I sound like one person in particular – which is cool, because I’m not trying to sound like anyone else. I could see myself somewhere nestled among Emily King, Sinead Harnett, Janelle Monae, Coco O. from Quadron, and Esthero. If those 5 women were at the same party, I would definitely love to be invited.
TITL: Who or what most inspires your song-writing?
J: My songs are all autobiographical, and so far I’ve written mostly about navigating through society and reflecting on failed relationships. Sometime soon in the future, I’d love to write songs for other artists. Two of my favorite songwriters are Sia and Diane Warren.
TITL: In your opinion, which is the greatest song ever written and why?
J: Woo, that’s a hard one. I’m just going to throw out Stevie Wonder’s song “As” because it touches something really deep in me. I mean it when I say the album Songs in the Key of Life, has the keys to life embedded in it! A lot of songs out there describe ego-driven love, but Stevie’s song “As” describes unconditional love – universal love, oneness.
TITL: Tell me about your latest track, the “Syrup (TRKRNR Remix).”
J: It’s a hard-hitting, dark–yet danceable–electro-R&B track. The original version of “Syrup” was released on my debut album, That One Girl. The song was inspired by a time at former job when I felt like I was being trained to act in a particular way according to specific gender norms. Writing the song was my way of rejecting all that stuff. More than ever, women need to redefine ourselves outside of predefined norms and expectations.
For the remix, I worked with TRKRNR, a really talented producer duo based out of the Bay Area. They make really good music, and they also just recently released an album called Morning After. They’ll also be in an upcoming video for the song.
TITL: The track is from your upcoming “Syrup Remixes” EP. How would you sum it up in a few words?
J: The EP will include 4 creative remixes on my original song “Syrup.” In terms of genre, they’ll be all over the map. You’ll see!
TITL: What were your highlights of 2016 and why?
J: Releasing my debut album and playing an album release show were my two biggest music highlights so far. It was definitely a dream come true for me to record my original music and perform it with a stellar band.
TITL: If you could play any venue in the world with four artists who can be living or dead, where would it be and who would you pick?
J: I’d love to see the producer of my album, Erik Rico — a super creative and talented indie soul artist – play with other alt soul artists J*Davey, The Internet, and Thundercat. I’d be thrilled to be an opening act for that crowd.
TITL: How do you feel about social media and to what extent has it helped, or hindered, your career?
J: Something I’ve always loved about social media is being able to connect with artists who have inspired me, even if it’s in a surface way. For example, an incredible singer from Philadelphia, Lady Alma – one of the artists who originally inspired me to make my own music – told me on Twitter she really liked my music and asked me to send me her album when it was done. I was having a rough day when I got her message, and it snapped me right out of my funk. That is the kind of thing that keeps me going as an artist.
TITL: What are your views on social media and would you agree that it’s a necessity for bands and artists today?
J: Of course, social media is an absolute must for any independent music artist. I don’t love the narcissistic, “look-at-me” element of it. It’s also a bit overwhelming. There’s also a ton of “noise” flying around social media, and it can be hard to cut through it as an independent artist and put out a strong signal! But, it’s amazing for the way it enables artists to connect directly with their fans and build a fan-base from around the world.
I’m often thinking about how music intersects with technology. I think artists need a better way to connect with key “influencers,” and influential circles. I used a new app called “Fluence” recently, which is kind of a “pay-for-attention” app. I’m going to be keeping an eye on that one. I also especially like platforms that encourage established artists to shine a spotlight on emerging artists.
TITL: Finally, what else does 2017 have in store for you?
J: 2017 is going to be exciting. I’ll be releasing the “Syrup Remixes” EP in the early part of the year, and then working on a video for the TRKRNR Remix. I’ll also be putting together some shows and working hard on my next album. Stay tuned!