Ja’Shayla blends sass, soul on journey to RandB stardom
For singer/songwriter Ja’Shayla, who opens for RandB quartet 112 this Friday at the Wonderland Ballroom, music has always been part of her life, but it wasn’t always part of her career path.
“I came out of the womb humming, so I’ve been singing for my entire life, but started to focus on it more since I was 7,” the Ohio native explains. “Originally, I didn’t think singing could be done as a career; it was a hobby.”
The self-trained singer blends her love of gospel and the influence of personal favorites like Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Mariah Carey and Teena Marie to craft her upbeat pop/RandB sound. Even though she has built a buzz through viral videos and live performances, Ja’Shayla isn’t just about writing and performing music. She counts modeling and sound engineering amongst her talents as well.
This week, she dropped her sophomore mixtape, “From HER Perspective,” a collaboration with DJ Blazita that includes original songs and remixes. It will be available at Friday’s show and online at Jashayla.com and livemixtapes.com.
The Banner sat with the up-and-coming artist to discuss her love of performance, her musical style and why she decided to put down a law degree and pick up a microphone.
You’ve been singing since you were 7 years old. Was there ever anything else that you wanted to do?
I wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice. I went to college and got degrees in law and stuff like that. I guess I didn’t really change my mind; I was doing things simultaneously. But then I began to feel like I couldn’t live without music. I felt like I was suppressing it, but I couldn’t let it go.
Does your family support your career?
My mom and stepdad are very into education, the lawyer-doctor route. On the other side, my dad and stepmom are very artsy people who wanted to put me in “Star Search” when I was like 5. So half is like “yeah yeah yeah” and the other side is “ok.” I was always in a talent show or something, and one day a deal was on the table to go to New York. I was in school, and with the deal, I was going to walk away from school for it. That didn’t sit well with [my mom], so because of that, and other things about the deal, it didn’t go through.
So when finished my education, I was like, “OK, now I’m done. Here you go — here’s my degree, and now I’m going to do a bit more for myself.” Finally, as of this year, mom is coming around to the idea. It has taken her a long time to come around, but she has seen how much I invest in it, and how hard I work. Both sides of my family have found ways to be involved. Now it is a family business.
What inspires the songs that you write?
Most of my music comes from the theme of love. Some of them stem from reality. If it didn’t occur in my life, I draw from people in my life that are all really close to home.
I come from a background of choir from church and soul singing, so no matter [if it’s a] pop song or a soul song, I will put that “mmmhhh” in it. As far as for an album, if it speaks to me vocally and lyrically, I will fight for it. But I try to get a collective understanding from the people around me, and I also send it to a couple DJ’s to get their response.
With all the female artists out there, what makes you different?
When I watch the award shows and concerts, I can still see missing pieces. I still feel I have my own something I can put into the mix. I am kind of a blend of a bunch of people, which allows more people to connect to [me]. I’d like to bring more of the Latin and American [music] together. There are women that are out there by manipulation and are trying to be hot all the time. [I want to show that] you can be sexy and classy, and still be honest.
How do you express sexy and classy in your style?
I’m comfortable in my skin and feel sexy without showing it all off. I can still wear something tight, but represent myself in a way where someone wouldn’t dare disrespect me. So maybe Chanel meets Betsy Johnson, because I like classy and a little bit of flair, a little bit of crazy. I’m a Gemini, so I’m a ball of two things that contrast each other.
If you got the chance, who would you like to work with in the future?
I have worked with a lot of people great people, but I would love to work with Kanye [West]; we’re both Geminis. I love him as far as production and as a rapper. Tamia is my dream mentor, because I have always kind of related myself to her. I don’t even have to sing with her, just be in her presence.
What can we expect from your show?
I will actually be performing a new song that I am really, really excited about. It is produced by Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated producer Bob “Bassy Bob” Brockmann called “Show Me.” The message of the song is women empowerment. It’s very passionate and has an energy, spark and fire.
As for the performance, Boston will get that sass, that fire and overall experience. [The audience] should plan to get it really hype. I like to get people involved in what is happening on stage. Expect some real talent and some real fun.