Jada: Making Waves In Pop Music
By Susan Frances [07-08-2007]
Life has been sweet for the all-girl vocal group Jada whose members Jacyn Tremblay, Lauren O’Keefe, Elle Wine, and April Forrest just signed a record deal with Universal Motown Records. The group has been busy recording material for their debut album and working with record producers in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, Massachusetts, where the members all currently reside. They came together at Bristol Recording & Vocal Studios in Boston under the tutelage of the studio’s owners Ric and Laura Poulin.
Elle explains, “It was all through an audition at Bristol Studios in Boston. None of us knew each other before we got into the group. Jacyn, April, and I studied voice at Bristol and Lauren responded to the audition call.”
The husband and wife team of Ric and Laura Poulin have been instrumental in guiding Jada’s path and their musical direction, first introducing Jada to music fans at Disney Radio alongside Fan 3 and Aaron Carter. Steadily, Jada’s fan base has expanded and now the group is ready to burst onto the pop music scene with the likes of JoJo, Hilary Duff, The Pussycat Dolls, and some of their own musical influences like Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera.
Lauren cites her musical influences as, “En Vogue’s album Funky Divas really inspired me. I also love Boyz II Men, Mariah, Whitney, Aretha, Stevie, D’Angelo, Maxwell, Brian McKnight, the list goes on and on. These people pioneered what R&B music is today.”
Elle admits, “I love the soul/R&B stuff. My influences are Mariah, Christina, Aretha, and I love the harmonies of Boyz II Men, 112, Jagged Edge, etc.”
“I listened to Christina, Mariah, Celine Dion, Jewel, Alanis Morrisette, N’Sync, and Backstreet Boys,” tells April.
Jacyn’s influences stem from her background in theatre. “I came from a Broadway show tunes kind of background. My ultimate dream was to be on Broadway someday so I would naturally feel at home doing plays. It wasn’t until I was like 17 or so that I actually listened to Top 40 radio.”
The members of Jada each began vocal training and dance classes in their pre-teens and continued all through their adolescence. They parlayed their lessons into Jada.
April shares, “I went to The Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts where I majored in Dance and minored in Theatre and Music. In my last year of high school, I started studying voice at Bristol Voice Studios in Boston.”
Jacyn lists, “Choir in school, plays, musicals, voice lessons, you name it, I did it. I also started working with Ric Poulin, our vocal coach at Bristol Studios and discovered the missing pieces to my singing technique.”
Lauren recalls, “I have been taking voice lessons since I was 13. I was taught the classical theatre method first and then the pop/gospel method later on with our vocal coach and producer Ric Poulin at Bristol Studios. I was in all the choirs, plays, musicals, and recitals in school.”
Elle notes, “I was involved with every aspect of music in my school - chorus, the musicals, etc. I had lessons all growing up as a kid. I had piano, three types of voice lessons - classical, theatre, and then the pop method at Bristol Studios.”
Jada’s vocal harmonies range from R&B/soul to pop/rock and acoustic blues, but being in Jada does not only require them to be singers, they are also songwriters with an instinct for setting up their vocal melodies and song lyrics.
“Anything in any one of our lives can be inspiration for a song,” claims Elle. “Sometimes we record the lyrics in pieces as we write and then sit down to write more. Other times we just concentrate on banging out all the lyrics and melody and only then do we start recording. Sometimes we record the choruses first and then all the verses, leads, harmonies, and ad-libs. But other times, we record the song in sequence. Every producer likes to work differently and we’ve gotten accustomed to just going with the flow.”
April agrees, “Yeah, we usually start recording before we even finish writing the song. I keep a journal and write down my thoughts for the day and sometimes these end up in songs. The other girls keep song ideas, too, and then we just bring them all to the table when we sit down to write. We have so many different sides, and I want everyone to see them and see our ideas and views on life. Depending on the day, they range from inspirational to heart wrenching to downright goofy, girly and fun.”
For Jada’s debut album the group has not only worked with their executive producer and vocal coach, Ric Poulin, but also with several pop record producers like Swizz Beatz, JK, Kay Gee, Toby Gad, Taj, Akon, and JR Rotem. The group also received a special invitation to meet pop rap star Missy Elliott after her show with American Idol’s third season winner Fantasia in New York City.
[Susan Frances] What was it like meeting Missy Elliott?
Lauren O’Keefe We actually haven’t worked with her yet, but we met up to discuss her working on our album. When we met up with her manager a few weeks back, we ran into Busta Rhymes in her office. It was awesome. That night, we got invited to go to Missy and Fantasia’s show in New York City at the Spy Lounge. It was such a great show! Fantasia is an amazing performer. After the concert, we were escorted to the VIP room to meet Missy. She was really cool. We took a picture with her and everything. Right now she is working on her own album, but we hope to work with her soon.
[Susan Frances] Who are some of the other musicians and producers who have worked with in the studio for Jada’s debut album?
Lauren O’Keefe We have worked with Swizz Beatz, JK, Kay Gee, Toby Gad, Ric Poulin, Taj, and the Trackmaster’s so far. How it usually works is that the producer creates a beat for us and we all write to it - lyrics and melody together. It has been really fun working with so many talented people. Next we have plans to work with JR Rotem in LA. We can’t wait. He is working on Britney’s new album.
[Susan Frances] What studio did you use to record the tracks for Jada’s debut album?
Lauren O’Keefe With Swizz Beatz, we worked in Wyclef Jean’s studio called Platinum Sound in New York City which we love. The studio is sooo nice. Most of the studios we’ve recorded in were in New York City but we also work out of Bristol Studios in Boston, which is our home base. When we are in the studio it’s time to work, but we have a lot of fun. We are always crazy and excited about the songs we write. It’s great to be able to work so well together too.
[Susan Frances] What kind of songs can people expect to hear on Jada’s debut album?
Lauren O’Keefe We write all kinds of songs. Most of our songs are really fast and fun and great to dance to. We write about whatever is going on in our lives from love to just wanting to chill to being dissed by boyfriends. Some of the newer songs we wrote with New York City based producer Toby Gad are amazing. His beats are so infectious and the songs are really unique, showing how versatile we can be with our lyrics. We can’t wait for you to hear them.
[Susan Frances] How would you describe Jada‘s sound?
Lauren O’Keefe Our sound is actually a mix of En Vogue, Christina Aguilera, and TLC. We are all about lots of harmonies and big vocals. What sets us apart the most is that we all sing on all of our songs and we write most of our songs too. We don’t have that manufactured sound that you hear on other pop productions and you can really hear all four of us singing, somewhat more like the vocal productions of Destiny’s Child.
[Susan Frances] Which song was the most pleasing to record in your opinion?
Lauren O’Keefe So far we’ve loved recording “Me and My Shadow” with Toby Gad. Musically it is pretty amazing - strings, piano , and crazy beat. We love how the music creates so many emotions. We really hope it makes the album.
[Susan Frances] What are some memorable moments from your performances for Radio Disney?
Lauren O’Keefe We’ve had a great time with Radio Disney. Everytime we perform for them, the crowd response is awesome. It’s a great chance for us to expose our music to a large family audience and meet lots of excited new fans. We’ve loved the New Year’s Eve concert on December 31, 2006. We were the act chosen to sing Auld Lang Syne and ring in the New Year with the Mayor of Boston up on stage so we always end up on the noon day news on all the major TV channels. At Disney shows, we performed with acts like B5, Greg Raposo, Jillian Wheller, Aaron Carter, Angel Faith, Skye Sweetnam, Toby Lightman, and Fan 3 to name a few.
[Susan Frances] Do you notice a change in yourself when performing live on stage from recording in the studio?
Lauren O’Keefe Yes, a bit. Only because when you are in the studio your sound vocally is slightly different. You’re in a booth up on a mic with headphones on, the sound levels are just so, so you have to make sure you get the right flow, voice tone and energy. You can record a line as many times as you want which is great. Performing live it’s no holds barred. You have one chance to sing your parts in the moment so you need to be focused in a different way, and you’re concentrating on all the other aspects of a live performance - choreography, keeping the energy level high and keeping the pace and flow of the show seamless, etc. We feed plenty of energy from the audience, so it’s more fun.
[Susan Frances] How was the experience showcasing for record labels?
Lauren O’Keefe Showcasing was a process for sure. We spent several days a week for three weeks in New York City meeting label executives and performing a 3-song audition in front of them. Most people were really cool and excited about us. It was overall a FUN experience.
The first time we showcased was for Epic/Sony Records and we were almost late to the meeting, but we pulled it off! We drove down to New York City that morning after getting NO sleep the night before, and by the time we made it to our hotel to drop our things off, we had about 30 minutes before showcase time. We all had to get ready in no time so I had to shower in another room to save time. I was rushing so much that I ended up running to the elevator to get to my room to change in just my towel, dripping wet! It was so funny. I didn’t even care that someone got in the elevator with me, I was just focused on getting ready. The guy in the elevator with me probably thought I was the biggest weirdo because I was soaking wet in nothing but my towel. He looked kinda freaked, but we made it to the showcase in time and rocked it out big time.
The president of the company came in grinning in mid-song and sat down. He said we were like a siren song. He heard us singing from the other side of the building and we “lured him in.” He said that he just had to come into to see who it was. He was super nice and spent an hour and a half getting to know us, so I guess we did pretty okay considering that it was after a night of NO sleep and 5-hour stressful drive to New York City and 30-minutes to get ready. Any girl knows that 30-minutes is NOT enough time to glam it out right, but somehow we pulled it off.
[Susan Frances] What was the first thing you did when you got the call that Universal Motown offered Jada a record deal?
Lauren O’Keefe Freaked out!! We cried, it was wayyyy dramatic. We found out on Jacyn’s birthday (August 23rd in 2006). What an awesome present! We were all waiting for Jacyn to open her presents and the first one was a letter from our producer and managers Ric and Laura Poulin telling her we got a great deal offer. She opened the letter, read it, and was speechless. We had no idea what the letter said, maybe Josh Groban tickets - she loves him. She was too verklempt to talk so she handed the letter to the rest of us and we freaked out crying and hugging each other. It’s all on video too. It is probably the best day ever in Jada history.
[Susan Frances] How do your family and friends feel about Jada being signed to a major label?
Lauren O’Keefe All of our family and friends are so excited about it, they ask us about what’s going on and what we’re doing with the album almost every day. They are our support system and we all feel so lucky to have such great families behind us.
[Susan Frances] What are Jada’s plans for 2007?
Lauren O’Keefe 2007 is going to be a very busy year for Jada. We are still working on our album right now and shooting to have it done by the summer so that we can do a lot of performing and some touring in that time. A promotional tour will definitely happen with all the major media-print, TV, radio, etc. We’ll probably continue to do stuff with Radio Disney. We love them and have so much fun with them.
[Susan Frances] What would you like to see happen for Jada this year?
Lauren O’Keefe Well, we would love to have our album do really well on the charts. We need to sell 10 million copies. It might be a little high but we can definitely do it. Also, if we could win a Grammy next year that’d be sweet. We’d love to tour the world with Justin Timberlake - per April’s request, Usher, Christina, Missy Elliott, anyone in that realm. We’ll be looking for major endorsements, all that glamorous stuff.
April Forrest We wouldn’t turn down a major movie offer, playing opposite Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom.
[Susan Frances] After meeting so many stars over the years who would you still be star struck by?
Elle Wine I wouldn’t know what to do if Aretha Franklin was even in the same room as I was. She’s amazing!!
Lauren O’Keefe I would be so star struck if I met Stevie Wonder. He is a legend and I love him. I have learned so much from him vocally.
April Forrest Ummmmm… probably Johnny Depp. Haha I admire him so much that if I met him I’d probably completely choke up.
Jacyn Tremblay Johnny Depp man. I don’t know, there’s something about the gleam in his eye.
[Susan Frances] What keeps you centered and feeling confident in yourself?
Lauren O’Keefe We have been working so hard for so long on this project and we’ve seen everything from the worst shows where we’re trying to dance on a stage that all four of us could hardly fit on to performing on a huge stage with well known artists and a sea of people looking at us. We keep each other grounded anyway. We’re good at that.
[Susan Frances] What effect would you like Jada to have on their audiences?
Lauren O’Keefe Basically anything that makes the crowd have a good time while we’re on stage. We want people to just jam out and leave feeling great. As long as we have a positive impact and we see people singing along and dancing in the crowd, we’re happy. We have such a good time when we’re up there so we wanna make sure it’s the same with the crowd.
[Susan Frances] When you aren’t working on Jada’s music or rehearsing or performing, what do you enjoy doing?
Lauren O’Keefe We eat lots of stuff we shouldn’t, sleep for obscene amounts of hours and go searching for friends who thought we fell off the face of the earth and let them know we’re still alive. Getting home, cooked meals is a major bonus! Doing anything with friends and family is a break from the crazy world of Jada. We are always on the go and we don’t get a lot of chill time, so when we do, we take advantage of it.
[Susan Frances] Are any of your siblings or family members inspired by you to play music?
Lauren O’Keefe Yes, my little sister Erin is an amazing singer and wants to pursue singing as a career.
April Forrest Well, my sister Emily has always been really into music and she actually writes the most amazing lyrics and she raps really well. Where we grew up is really urban so you can’t not be into music in some way. My brother is also a great writer. My mom, I’m sure at some point down the road will get involved with the business part because she was always managing me before I got into Jada and doing my resumes, sending me on auditions and whatnot. So yeah.
Jacyn Tremblay My brother is an amazing self-taught drummer. He’s been active in bands over the past few years. I really hope he continues to perform, perhaps join me on tour at some point. I’ve heard him singing here and there in his room and he’s got mad potential, but he’s too self-conscious to let me hear. My dad enjoys playing guitar and singing here and there and believe it or not, he dresses up as Elvis twice a year and makes me want to run the other way and act like I don’t know him. I used to listen to him strumming in the living room all the time, so I think that’s what may have inspired me.
Elle Wine My sister started to sing but she’s more into the acting and dancing side of things. She’s really talented. We might have a new Jessica and Ashlee on our hands.
[Susan Frances] Is anyone in Jada interested in making a cameo appearance on a TV show?
Lauren O’Keefe Yes, actually, we all have previous acting experience between theatre and film work so we all are extremely interested in TV. I would love to be on Scrubs. That show is hilarious. The first celebrity we met on the red carpet at the Grammy’s was Zach Braff. I got so nervous when I first spotted him but I happen to be friends with his personal assistant so that sparked a real conversation and he was really cool.
Jacyn Tremblay Hmmmmm….anything that isn’t really based, preferably a comedy.
April Forrest I would love to be on One Tree Hill or Smallville. OMG that would be soooo amazing, or Prison Break - that guy’s Hotttt.
Elle Wine I would love to make an appearance on any CSI or Law And Order and I have to be on Nip/Tuck.
[Susan Frances] Who would you like Jada to record a duet with some day?
April Forrest I would love to work with Linkin Park. I think that would make an interesting fusion of music.
Lauren O’Keefe I am a huge D’Angelo and Stevie Wonder fan and would love to collaborate with them. I love the way they sing and have learned so much from them. They helped mold the Neo Soul genre of music and I love it. I connect so much with that kind of music.
Elle Wine I would love to do songs with Rascal Flatts and Justin Timberlake. We would make beautiful music together.
Jacyn Tremblay Christina Aguilera would be fun. I would also love to write/perform with Aerosmith and Fall Out Boy - funky rock, I love it.
For more information on JADA please check out at: www.jadamusic.com and www.myspace.com/bostonsjadamusic
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