Jayna Jennings: Hardworking Creative
Jayna Jennings is a young singer/songwriter from the greater Atlanta area. I first met her last fall when we went hiking with some mutual friends, and since then, I’ve really enjoyed talking to her and learning about her career. Now you can learn about it too!
Tell us in one sentence what you do and why you do it.
I make music because I have this crazy desire to be the soundtrack to people’s lives and to communicate hope by sharing pieces of my heart.
When, how, and why did you start singing and playing instruments?
Singing has always been my absolute favorite thing to do. When I was a little kid I loved to sing in church, and while playing with my friends, and just make up songs for whatever I was doing. After I came to know Jesus when I was 6, I started to sing more in church and I would perform on random vacant stages or pavilions in parks. I started writing songs and realized that I needed to learn how to play some music behind it, and in music class at school, I discovered these awesome instruments called the autoharp, and got one for my birthday. I played my first gig ever with it and then I started taking guitar lessons and piano lessons and things just kind of sprang off from there.
How old were you when you began your music career? Was it difficult to be so young in the music industry? Do you feel like you were looked down on and not taken seriously?
The first time I really dived in to the music business was when I was 13 and I was playing before or after adult musicians at almost every gig. Even now, people assume that my music is the stereotype for my age group. People are always really surprised and I think a little confused when I say that my genre is Americana. I feel like being a young woman in the music business is such an awesome but difficult profession because people tend to think of you as a joke, which is such a shame. It’s something that I am so passionate about and I am striving to make the path easier for other young ladies who have something to say.
What was something that surprised you about the process of producing your music—something you didn’t expect, whether good or bad?
Producing my songs was the coolest experience I had ever had with my music. It was awesome to have the sounds I was hearing in my head finally come out and be something that other people could hear, too. It was surprising how much the songs grew through the process. The production process birthed new harmonies, new bass lines, and of course awesome shredders through the instrumentals that I never saw coming and it was so cool to watch each song take shape like that.
What does a typical day in your life look like? How do you balance school and your career?
A typical day in my life is writing essays and playing music. Every chance I get I’m at the piano and nights that don’t have gigs are spent promoting myself, writing songs, or finishing up homework. It can get hard to balance school and my career but it just takes careful planning and diligence. It’s easy for me because I have an excellent support system and Jesus always gives me the strength I need to keep going. It can get messy, but I always try to prioritize.
What is your music’s sound, and who or what is it influenced by? What is your best tip for young musicians trying to find their niche?
My music is always evolving and it is always inspired by something and someone new. I’m always listening to new (to me) music to learn more about production possibilities and new styles to explore. I call my music Americana but I listen to almost every kind of music that I can get my hands on. I would say to any young musician to just let your music be what it is. Don’t try to just write a hit, try to write a song that you are proud of and the more songs you write will get progressively better. Try to create something authentically you!
What gets the creative process kick-started for you?
Sometimes people give me lyric ideas without even knowing it. When someone says something poetic or something that just sticks with me it will probably come out a little paraphrased in a rhyme in a song. I usually can hear the song finished and produced before I start writing it and then I sit down with my guitar or at the piano and I make what I hear in my head become a reality.
Have you ever had a job besides music? If so, tell us about it—specifically, how it helped or hurt your music.
I have always had artsy jobs. I have worked as a model and an actress and both jobs helped me further myself and my career. Music has always been my focus and I have always tried to find good jobs that will help me bring more attention to my songs.
What’s the most effective way that you have advertised yourself?
Gigs! Playing music live is so important. I love to talk with my audience and get to know them as friends. At every gig I meet new friends and they tell their friends and the audience keeps growing. Pinterest has also been a wonderful tool and twitter hours such as #MusicHourUK have been an awesome help in getting my music to new people. I am the host of a new twitter hour called #UnsignedChat where musicians can share their art and network with other musicians, radio stations, blogs, vlogs, and venues.
What’s a question that you always wish someone would ask you about your music, but that no one ever does? Answer it for us.
I just wish that someone would ask me if I wanted $1,000,000,000. The answer is, “sure!”
How important do you think it is to have a mentor figure to help you along the way? Do you have this figure, and if so, where did you find them?
Yes! It is so important to surround yourself with people who have done what you are doing and who care about your wellbeing. I have so many mentor figures in the religious, musical, and educational, aspects of my life. These were all God-sent people. I have known many times when I met someone that God put them in my life for a reason. If you are looking for a mentor in some department in your life, pray for someone, don’t go out and look on your own. The people that God sends to you will be there for your good and will support you in ways you couldn’t imagine.
What does it mean to you to be a hardworking creative?
Being a hardworking creative, to me, means following your heart and doing what you were made to do. It means living out your passion, seeing the art and beauty in everyday and changing the world by simply delivering something that will make it a little bit brighter and more colorful.
What advice do you have for young creatives, specifically musicians, who want to do something with their music but just can’t seem to get off the ground?
It takes a lot of hard work to get your music off the ground, but the advice I would give to musicians is to stop waiting to be discovered. You don’t have to work with the most famous producer and have a record deal to build a fanbase. There are so many independent artists that you would never know didn’t have a record deal. Work with people who have a clear vision of your goal, find a place to record and start being your own label. If your goal is to have a record deal someday, the only way to get one is to build your own fanbase first.
Do you have any exciting projects in the works that you can tease about?
I have just finished writing for a new album, and I am so excited to be working with my awesome team that I have. I am so exciting for everyone to hear these new songs and for you all to see the next chapter of Courtyards & Aviaries. It’s going to be epic!
What are your long-term and short-term goals with music (and with life in general)?
My long-term goal with my music and my life is to spread the love of Jesus and to send a message of hope to everyone I meet or anyone who hears my music. My short-term goal is to do what I can to make my long-term goal reach as many people as possible and broaden my audience.
Hey fellow hardworking creatives, what aspect of Jayna’s career can you relate to? What’s one thing you learned from her interview that can help you with your creative work? Any other singer/songwriters out there?