I have been talking with Jenna Calandra…
about her single, I’ll Be, and what its story is. Calandra reveals the song’s personal background and looks ahead to her self-titled album. I ask what sort of themes and stories will be included on the album; if there is a varied and busy music scene on Long Island, New York; which new/upcoming artist we should get behind – the songwriter talks about her influences and musical tastes.
Calandra talks to me about the ambitions she has for the rest of the year; which musical memory stands in her mind; the advice she would give to artists coming through – she ends the interview by choosing a song that means a lot to her.
Hi, Jenna. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello, Sam! I’ve been absolutely amazing! I’m working on some new music in the studio that I cannot wait to share!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Jenna Calandra. I’m twenty-three-years-old; I’m an independent recording artist and songwriter! I live on Long Island, .N.Y. in the Suffolk County area. Music has been my life ever since I was a little girl.
Talk to me about the single, I’ll Be. Is there a personal story behind the song?
My debut single, I’ll Be, is about my personal experience with bullying. I was bullied in school. Kids in my grade would tease me about how I wanted to be a singer; they would call me the meanest names; they would tease me about how I live and where I came from. The song’s storyline is where I’ve accomplished and overcome my fears of making new friends; how much I’ve grown confidence, improvement and growth.
I have grown so much as an artist and person. My scars may be invisible but they are like battle wounds to me. I feel like this song is my anthem of being independent and strong. While I was recording, I was crying through my takes and that’s why I may sound shaky in my vocals. I was crying while I was singing and between the takes. I felt so emotional throughout the whole song. I want to inspire others who are going through bullying with this song and I love performing this song at my live shows I did in the past.
I understand you are in the midst of making an album. Can you reveal any of the songs and themes that will appear on it? What has it been like putting the songs together?
I am writing this song about my bipolar disorder and having autism. The song I’m writing and recording is about where I was diagnosed with bipolar and autism and I didn’t know who I was at the moment...
But, now, I realized that I am like everyone else - pursuing my dreams and working my butt off. I’m working so hard and these songs changed my life. The themes on the album are about heartbreak, personal struggles; falling in love and being betrayed and judged. I don’t want people to look at me as the autistic girl because I feel judged for who I am every day and I learn to love myself. I look like a typical girl who can get a job and drive a car.
I hate using the word ‘normal’ - so I use ‘typical’. I do have autism and that’s what this album is about: finding myself and loving myself for who I am. These songs are so personal and I can’t wait for someone to say: “I can totally relate to your song”. That would make my day and make my heart happy. I realized I’ve opened up so much on this album and I want people to relate to my songs and lyrics.
Do you recall which song/moment started the album? How did it all get started?
I was writing My Love for You, which is my third single on the album. I was sixteen. It was the first song I wrote for the album. When I was eighteen I wrote Warrior, which is about how much I’ve accomplished and the confidence I’ve found - the album name came about (for these songs) when I was about twenty-years-old. I didn’t start recording professionally until I was twenty-two...and that’s how it all started and came about. I was discussing with my producer about the idea of an E.P. or an album. I told him I wanted to do a self-titled album because there is so much to say in my music and personal stories/struggles. So, then we came up with the title Jenna.
Long Island is your home. What is the music like there? Are there a lot of great local acts coming through?
I have a lot of musician friends on Long Island. My friend, Ali B., is so talented. She travels all over Long Island and New York City to pursue her music career. Music is great here: we have a lot of music festivals for indie artists and musicians like Alive After 5 music festival. There’s so much to do, musically, on Long Island. I feel like I have connected with a lot of talented musicians here.
Which artists did you follow when you were growing up?
Definitely, Demi Lovato! I would watch her as Mitchie on Camp Rock, which is my favorite childhood movie on the Disney Channel! She inspired me to not give up on my dreams and goals. I want to achieve my goals and make them into reality. Demi Lovato is number-one on my list. She seems like a cool person to hang out with - she is sweet, funny; smart and crazy-talented!
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
The goals I want to achieve at the end of 2018 are to go on tour (in 2019) to promote the self-titled record. I’m titling the tour I’ll Be Tour and then, maybe, I will title my world tour 'Jenna' after the album. My producer knows music venues and promoters so we will get that going next year! I love performing so much! So stay tuned for tour dates!
Will there be any tour dates? Where can we see you play?
I mentioned that I will be announcing my I’ll Be Tour sometime next year to promote the album! I’m super-excited. I have to discuss with my producer about the venues I want to play - this has always been a dream, to go on tour. I can’t wait to announce the I’ll Be Tour in 2019!
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Wow; there are so many memories of my time in music...
I would have to say when I stepped my foot into The Loft Sound Studio where I’m recording my self-titled record. I was recording covers in my first session and then I started recording music and vocals for my debut single. It was so much fun and emotional to record this debut single. This single means so much to me and I’m so glad it’s the single off my debut album. I want people to listen to the lyrics carefully and what the lyrics mean because it tells a story. The reason why I am going to The Loft Sound Studio is because of Madison Beer. She inspired me to make my album with Matt and Donnie, who are the producers of the studio. They are amazing, down-to-earth guys and I am so blessed to be working with them!
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
I would have to say Demi by Demi Lovato; Rainbow by Kesha and Confident by Demi Lovato. I’m telling you; Demi is my bad-ass! She is my favorite of all time. But, her self-titled album inspired me for my self-titled debut. Her songs on that album remind me of mine - because I am writing about my own struggles and experiences. Demi the album is so relatable and inspiring, so that’s why I’m making my own self-titled record.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I would support Madison Beer 100%. She is inspired me to go to The Loft Sound Studio where I’m recording for my debut album. She inspired me to be and stay as an independent artist and she inspires me to never give up. I love her song Fools from her new E.P., As She Pleases. I met Madison at the Gramercy Theatre on May 17th, 2018. She was the sweetest and I told her I go to The Loft and I told her she inspired me to go there - which made her feel so flattered and special. She is so special to me and my inspiration.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
I would say just be yourself; keep practicing 24/7, keep taking vocal lessons and just do what you love. Doing what you love makes you the happiest person in the world. My motto is “You are beautifully and wonderfully made”, which is a quote from Demi Lovato from her book, Staying Strong. It hit me and I’m always saying to myself: “I am strong, independent and talented”. That’s what that quote means to me and I always stick to that motto. You are beautifully and wonderfully made; you are talented and God has a plan for you. Don’t ever let anyone get in the way of your potential!
IN THIS PHOTO: Madison Beer
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I think there are a lot of artists you should check out! There is this one artist, Madison Beer. She was discovered by Justin Bieber and she is now independent with First Access Entertainment. She was signed with Def Jam Records. Now I feel like I can be independent because of her and you should check out her recent E.P., As She Pleases!
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I never stop doing music! During my free time, I practice singing so I can get better; I’m songwriting for the album and I’m always in the studio. I can’t wait to share new music!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Fools by Madison Beer (from the As She Pleases E.P.)
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