Jae Franklin is a Dubai based singer, songwriter and producer who considers herself a 'citizen of the world' due to her travels across the globe where she is able to do what she loves, which is to sing Soul music in front of captive audiences. Jae's latest release "Cheers to Life" was released earlier this year and is an EP featuring eight songs, one being 'Higher', which was selected as our DOPE Song of the Week recently.
I connected with Jae for this interview not just because she makes DOPE music, but also because I admire that she is a globe trekker and has performed and/or lived in so many diverse places around the world that I aspire to travel to in the future. In this interview, Jae discusses what initially sparked her interest in music, what motivated her to become a solo artist, what her experience has been like in Dubai since she moved there and much more. After reading this interview, do yourself a favor and stream/download her latest EP "Cheers to Life" below.
When you were younger, what sparked your interest in music? Was there a particular song or artist that inspired you to pick up the pen and pad and start writing music?
First, I wanna thank you for connecting with me. Because your platform supports emerging artists like me, we get a chance to connect with more people. When I was younger, I was into everything. I read a lot. I absorbed literature, music, writing, carpentry, dance, science, you name it. I hated geography and history classes though. What really sparked my interest in music was the moment I realized that music was all I could think about. Hearing, singing, writing, performing, playing, composing, and sharing music were my favorite hobbies. The best song I ever heard as a child was "Holding Back the Years" by Simply Red. That was probably my first real favorite pop songs. I just loved the groove and the tone of the singer's voice. It still is one of my favorite songs. I guess the answer would be Simply Red. Oh, and I can't forget about the Voice. Whitney Houston. She was the reason I began singing around Houston. Her look, voice, physique, and demeanor were refreshing. It was like I was looking in a mirror. She inspired me so much as a child.
You've been a part of several groups, including Laughlin Drive, Mahogany, and Sachet. What motivated you to finally take the solo route?
I sang with my sister, Judith, in girl groups for a long time. We would always get so close to record deals, but then things would go south because of management or people not knowing what to do with us. Judith and I are still really close to this day, but we eventually recognized that time was passing and something had to change. I think every singer that has ever been in a group, at some point, has to decide if they wanna stay in a group or go solo. For me, the choice to pursue a solo career came around the Spring of 2007. I was working a 9-5 at a promotions company in Atlanta. I was jaded and not really singing much at that time. I met my now-husband and told him about my journey in music up to that point. He recognized that I still had the passion for music. Between 2007 and 2008, I finally decided to get in front of an audience again. Solo. This was before all the Twitter and Instagram days. It would have been much easier to just post random videos of me singing. But I started going to open mic nights at Apache Cafe in Atlanta, Georgia. The first time I got on stage after all those years, I was literally shaking. I sang Amel Larrieux's "For Real." The band wasn't as familiar with that song so we muddled through it, but that was alright. Some people in the audience kinda laughed. I even had the words written on a piece of paper. Picture it. My shaking like a leaf with the mic was in my left hand and the piece of paper in my right hand. Some folks in the audience laughed louder, but that was alright. I kept going back sporadically that whole year. Through those experiences, I met people and started collaborating and networking. I had to find my voice again. Not only had my voice become a little weak from not singing for a while, but I also had to mentally prepare for the journey that was ahead of me.
You consider yourself a 'citizen of the world'; tell us about some of the places you have performed or lived?
I have performed in a lot of the US states. My favorite was NYC. There's something about the NYC atmosphere that really draws me in. I've lived in the US, Ethiopia, South Korea, Abu Dhabi, and currently Dubai. Ethiopia is other-worldly. I just feel 'at home' and settled when I'm there. The place makes me calm. I think I must have Habesha roots or something. I lived and performed there off and on for about a year. I can't wait to go back. Seoul, South Korea was like NYC on steroids. I lived there for about 2 years. It's a walking city. There is ALWAYS something to see and do. The people have soul and they are very inquisitive about Black American culture. I currently live in Dubai, but I lived in Abu Dhabi before actually moving to Dubai. Abu Dhabi is what Virginia is to Washington, DC. Dubai is like Washington, DC but with a mix of NYC sprinkled in certain parts. I've been in the United Arab Emirates for 3 years. Since arriving in 2013, I've sang on some cool stages and collaborated with some talented musicians, creatives, producers, songwriters, poets, promoters and agencies. It's really the place where I have refocused and gained the most clarity as it relates to music.
For those who have never been to Dubai, including myself, describe it for us. What do you enjoy the most about it?
Dubai is like this big sandbox filled with luxurious cars, boats, hotels, and malls. Among all that, there is a lot of culture here that may go unnoticed to some. What I love about Dubai is the effort the city's officials have made to be inclusive to all nationalities and cultures. There is a thriving and growing arts scene here. There are museums and exhibitions going up every year. Of course, I enjoy the year-round sunny weather, but what I enjoy most is the opportunity to do what I love in a place that is growing so fast. As far as music goes, there hasn't really been a lot of soul or progressive R&B music represented here. I've been performing as much as I can out here. It's important to introduce people to a new sound that they won't necessarily hear on the radio in this region.
Tell us about your latest album "Cheers to Life". What are you most proud of with this album and where can we go to stream/download it?
Social and global issues greatly affected me while I wrote the songs on Cheers to Life. I was also affected by some deep personal changes in my life that kinda turned my world upside down. In the 3 years it took to complete the album, I was directly affected by loss and unspeakable joy. Like everyone else in the world, I had to deal with the highs and lows of life. Three years ago, I kept getting knocked down. I didn't understand why those things were happening to me. At times, I almost didn't recognize myself. Day after day, I journaled, putting all my random thoughts on paper. It was my therapy and a type of self-examination. I began to gain clarity. As a result, my relationships had more purpose and my purpose became refined. I began to heal. I'm still healing. That was the most beautiful part of the whole album-making process for me. I wrote every lyric from an honest place. Cheers to Life is available to stream on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Anghami. It's available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon.
What's next for you musically for these last few months in 2016?
I plan to release another music video from Cheers to Life. I'm putting the final touches on my new EP, which will be out soon. I am lining up tour dates and bookings for 2017. Feeling blessed is an understatement. I'm happy to be in this creative space. I have no intentions of slowing down. The last thing I wanna say is thank you. Thanks for this opportunity to connect with your audience. Means a lot to have your support.