“I think every encounter with any human being is worth giving your full energy” – Jayanti

I believe I’m going to label 2011 the year of the “check this out” music discovery app. Hundreds of submissions hit the inbox every week, but when someone who you trust their musical sensibilities sends you something with the instructions to “check this out” everything else moves down a notch or two in the queue. Such is the case with Rotterdam based singer/songwriter Jayanti. I’m glad I followed instructions and I hope you will be spurred on to checkout her music, her total artistry from this very candid and thought provoking series of interviews. Make sure to check back for the conclusion that you don’t want to miss coming up this Friday Sept. 30th.

Tell us a little bit about your influences…

Jayanti: My mom and dad separated when I was a year old… but before that when my mom was pregnant my dad would play the drums, cause my dad was a drummer. He would be practicing all day and it would drive my mom nuts. But I liked it, because at a certain point they both told me that we would have sort of a game: He would do something on the drums kind of a rhythm, a simple rhythm on the drums and I would kick back. I would kick the same rhythm back to him. And then he would do it again and I would kick back. So I believe that would be the absolute start of everything.

That’s why at a certain point they thought I must be a boy… cause you know? As a baby my dad would still be practicing his drums and mom has a very vast record collection, my mom is East Indian so she has a record collection consisting of a lot of Soul Music, Reggae Music, she’s a huge MJ fan, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding all that kind of stuff. Then on the other side she has a lot of Indian Music. The Indian Singers, especially the female Indian Singers, they sing with a very, very high pitch so… as a baby with your tiny vocal chords, that sounds like something you can do. So I would sing along with all the Indian singing. I loved to do that. I had two big loves as a baby: Chaka Khan and Michael Jackson. I would lose my mind as soon as Michael Jackson would be on TV as well as with Chaka Khan.

Two of my first words were Chaka Khan. My mom remembers that she had a Chaka Khan record and she was playing her music, I looked interested I guess, well weeks later she was on TV and I lost my mind and crawled to the TV set. I started banging the TV set trying to touch her and saying Chaka Khan and my mom didn’t realize that I remembered her from the record. I’d say it started really early with the influences, I always really responded to music. I started singing really early on.

So here in Holland we have Trams. They’re like subways but they’re above ground not anymore, but the old ones made a lot of noise. It was a high pitched sound especially when they were braking before a stop. My mom tells me that I would really embarrass her on the Tram as a baby, because I would imitate those sounds. Those really high-pitched sounds, turning them into a song and as soon as the Tram would stop I would stop. As soon as it took off again I would go, everyone would cheer me on and my mom would get embarrassed. My mom is shy and I’m not. Little things like that influenced me.

Later on when I was five years old, we were at a wedding and I saw the band. I was like wow. I was really diggin’ it. I told my mom “I wanna sing a song too!” She was like “Really? Are you sure? It’s a big stage a lot of people, are you sure about that?” I was like “Yeah, I wanna sing the song I always sing.” So I got on stage and sang Michael Jackson’s “Ben”. For years my staple song was “Ben”. People went wild and I believe up until this day, that was my best paid performance. Everyone wants to just you know hand money to the kid.

After that, in my early teens it evolved into doing a lot of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey songs. Every female singer out there has been influenced by these two. Later on I started discovering the lower end of my voice. I started listening to a lot of Anita Baker. That was a blast from the past because my dad would listen to Anita Baker a lot. I was a big MJ fan and everything I did was MJ: “Ben”, “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “I Wanna Be Where You Are”. All the talent shows that I would participate in I would sing Jackson 5 Songs and wear an Afro wig.

My dad really wanted me to hear different types of music and he would say “You need to listen to this!” In hindsight, he would purposely play a lot of Anita Baker on my weekends with him. He’d say things like “When you grow up you’re going to be a singer like Anita Baker.” I’d say “No way! I’m going to be a singer like Janet and Michael Jackson.” No way, I didn’t like it, I didn’t like the lower register, the alto sound, I wasn’t diggin’ it at all. The only song I like was “Same ‘Ole Love (365 Days Of The Year)” because it’s kinda of a happy song.

As I started growing older I really started listening to Anita Baker again. I discovered that it was very comfortable for me to sing in those keys. So then I started working on that, singing songs like “Body and Soul” and “Sweet Love”. I still work on songs like “I Apologize” as my go to song to work on my lower notes. These are my main influences vocally.

Melodically and as far as writing goes, Stevie Wonder(Is a big influence). I listened to a lot of Stevie Wonder, the way he writes… it’s just from another planet literally. “Rocket Love” those lyrics, I don’t know… how do you come up with that you know?

Marvin Gaye, is a big influence in the way he’s painting with the vocals. Learned a lot from that. But all in all my biggest idol would be Michael Jackson. I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson as a kid. Headphones on really studying the way he did everything, mainly his voice. I know a lot of people are always harping on his dancing, but his voice is incredible. So my main influence would be Michael Jackson but then all the other people that I mentioned.

GFM: Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind your single “Girl From Mars”

Jayanti: There’s a story behind “Girl From Mars” well the story is… the title is not mine. I’ve been working with this guy Al Mar for a while. We met like ten years ago and we were in like a hip hop musical and he was still singing in a close harmony group. Eventually he left the group and started playing piano and producing.

They way it happened with “Girl From Mars”… they way he produces songs for me, he would really make them with me in mind. So with this song he made a loop and had already named it “Girl From Mars” it’s his title. I’m the person who will always write the lyrics… all the lyrics are mine and all the melodies, if you remove all the music then it’s all me. Everything you hear the vocal melodies, vocal arrangements anything having to do with the vocals I made that.

Usually the title is mine, but this time it was already there, the loop was called “Girl From Mars” he always has very interesting titles for his loops, but this time it kinda stuck. Normally it will be the working title and then I’ll overrule but this time I was feeling it. He’s (Al Mar) known me for such a long time, and yeah this time the title made sense. So he played it for me and I said, “Wow, I’m really feeling this.” I started singing and right away I made that hook. I still have it on my computer somewhere; I just instantly made the hook with the words and everything.

So I said “Yeah I think I’m going to just keep this title.” We were just playing the song and playing the song and I was coming up with different vocal arrangements and I said, “I’m going to take this home and write to it.” When I got home I just started playing the loop and writing.

Basically what the song is about is: whenever I meet new people they will always say something like, “I’ve never met someone like you.” Or “You’re different.” I consider myself just a regular normal person but, if you keep hearing this you figure that you have to do something with that … over the years so many people have told me that you’re too sweet, you’re naïve, you shouldn’t trust everyone the way you do. It’s such a waste of love, not to just give love to whomever, I’m not talking boyfriend and girlfriend love, just love. I’ll walk into a store and I’ll have a nice conversation with the lady in the store and then I leave… I think every encounter with any human being is worth giving your full energy and your full love to them and not everyone agrees, but that’s just the way I feel.

I don’t feel it’s a loss, I don’t feel I’m losing something being nice to someone I don’t know or someone I’ll never see again. I don’t care if I don’t get anything out of it except for the energy. So that’s what the song is about: You can absolutely take the energy I have if you need it and I don’t need anything in return. If you wanna take a little bite, then take a little bite and keep taking that’s fine because I think it’s(love) an infinite source.

I think love just multiplies when you give it so that’s what the song is about and there’s another layer, a fun layer. I don’t know how it happened but I have a lot of guy friends, so that’s another layer, people who know me know that about me. Men are very interesting… I just like the straight-forward nature of men, but then again I also really, really love women. The intricate design of a woman is very interesting to me… I just really love people. But I have no problem interacting with six guys and I’m the only girl. Also, when you’re in music that tends to happen a lot, you need to hold your own with a bunch of men and their jokes… that’s also what the song is about and also I’m a dreamer.

I’m really big on escapism. People will also tell me that I’m in this cocoon or this bubble. I consider myself an extremely social hermit. I’ll be by myself wherever I go, but it’s very easy for me to talk to people, but people will still perceive me to be on some sort of island or something. So that’s what the song is about, I think.

Go here to check out Pt. 2 of the interview.

Checkout the video for Girl From Mars

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.