It is my pleasure and privilege to bring you this special feature today - an interview with Jillaine! You've read about Jillaine here on these pages before. Following her her first two album releases, she gave us "Jazzy Christmas to You!" last year (reviewed here). In 2012 Jillaine released an album of patriotic songs titled "As American As Jazz", as well as two singles, "My World" and "The Moment". Then, bringing joy to our hearts and ears, she released "Jazzy Christmas To You II" last month, her second collection of Christmas songs in two years. I hope you enjoy learning more about his fine vocalist in this Q and A with Jillaine!
A: Thank you! I appreciate the compliment. I am grateful for many wonderful and very talented teachers and coaches over the years. I am grateful for talents God gave me to develop and use. I do play the harp, which can be heard on my single "My World." I played cello before I started harp. At the moment though, I perform and record mostly as a vocalist but I will be working my harp into my vocal performances!
Q: Who are your inspirations and influences as a jazz singer?
A: I really do love Ella Fitzgerald. I love the clarity and brightness in her voice and the way she uniquely uses her vibrato in unexpected ways. I enjoy knowing about her as a dignified, caring professional musician and person. I also appreciate Billie Holiday for pioneering the back beat in vocal jazz. Her tortured life is not only reflected in but poured into her music which is instructive to anyone who listens to her sing.
Q: With two Christmas albums released in two years, it's clear that you love Christmas music. How did this develop? Was Christmas music a big part of your childhood?
A: Actually, I pull out Christmas music by July! With the recordings for these two albums, I have been able to enjoy Christmas music production year round. My family has always included music with Christmas. On Dec. 23 or Christmas Eve, my family carols to our neighbors and people in the community we want to thank for their contributions to making living in our town better. We bring baklava and other family favorites to share. Sometimes my sister brings her soprano sax home and accompanies us. The sparkling quality of the saxophone stops time for a few moments as we carol. When we get home, we get into our nativity costumes to re-enact Luke 2.
When I was four, my sister videotaped me and my younger brother, Erik--the sound engineer who records, mixes, and masters all my music--as we put on a Christmas show. During one segment I'm holding a harp ornament and dancing with no regard to timing to the Beach Boys "Little Saint Nick." So you see, we embrace all sorts of Christmas music!
The day after Thanksgiving is the day we decorate the house. Erik and I have special memories of our favorite Mannheim Steamroller tracks to which we made up specific "dance moves" as we decorated.
Q: What kind of experience do you hope to give the listener of your Christmas albums?
A: I hope to give listeners of my Christmas music vibrant reminders of joyous, meaningful past Christmases as well as a hopeful vision for future ones. I love Christmas and everything it represents. I have a great love for the Savior and even though I sing secular and sacred songs on both albums, I hope to communicate an abiding love and gratitude for God, Jesus Christ, and my family. I think music should be meaningful, connective, personal, and uplifting, even when listening to blues!
Q: Who is one of your favorite traditional Christmas music singers? And who is a favorite contempory performer of holiday tunes?
A: That's a very good question! For traditional Christmas music, believe it or not, I think Elvis Presley is my absolute favorite! I have a lot of memories associated with his Christmas songs. I grew up with the compiled CD of his Christmas music. I cherish the personal emotion he infuses into his songs. When I die, I want to sing a Christmas duet with him on the other side!
For a contemporary performer I think I'd have to say Scott McCreery. His deep voice with all its richness is perfect for Christmas music.
Q: If you had to name one, just *one*, favorite Christmas song, what would it be, and why?
A: I love contemplative Christmas songs. If I had to name just one, I'd say "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." I love the harmonies and the melody. I also love the lyrics which span time and emphasize the relevancy of the Savior today.
Q: Can you recommend any independent musicians that the readers here at Merry and Bright need to check out, but may not have heard of?
A: This may be a stretch for an independent artist, but there is a song that was released in 2008 by Jay Graydon that he and his dad, Joe Graydon, recorded before Joe passed away in 2001. It is called "On This Christmas Eve." It is just the one song but it is stellar.
Joe Graydon was a complete vocalist! He was a lawyer. He was an FBI man. He was a manager. He created shows! He had his own variety talk show. He was immensely talented at including all that is good in big band music. My objective in producing music is to remind listeners of the remarkable quality recordings from the 1950s and 1960s in studios that valued live musicianship--musicianship that Joe and Jay have! They gave a great gift to listeners when "On This Christmas Eve" was released.
Q: Announcing "Jazzy Christmas To You III" was great news! What else is coming from Jillaine?
A: I have a jazz standards CD tracked. It will be out sometime next year!
Q: Last question: Will you please come to Kansas City for a gig?
A: I would LOVE to come to Kansas City for a gig! I'll have to make that happen! I am trying to finish my degree in jazz studies with a vocal emphasis. I do perform when I can. I love performing for charities that benefit children and families, having performed for a foundation that raises money for neonatal and pediatric units for seven years now. I often donate CDs to support organizations that work directly with families in distress. So maybe there is a charity I could help in Kansas City!
A: Thank you for allowing me to share! Merriest of Christmases to you!
Link: Jillaine Records