Friday, May 04, 2012

"I definitely respect Pakistan as a country, as well as the culture it represents" - a chat with singer Jennifer Jandris

cover story

American singer Jennifer Jandris has come to prominence in Pakistan after recording a duet with Junaid Khan. We got a chance to talk to the rising star about her love for music, the success of So Close So Distant, and what she has planned for the future. Here’s what she had to say:

Us: Please tell Us a bit about yourself.
Jennifer Jandris:
I’m 23 years old and I’m currently a fulltime student and working individual. I am studying Environmental Science and Biology, while pursuing music apart from school. I work for a federal agency doing management and policy work for the time being. My family is from Austria; I was actually the first in my family to be born in the United States. My hobbies, other than music, include travelling, dancing, horseback riding, swimming, and spending time with friends, family, and my two beloved cats!

Us: How and when did you discover your musical talents?
I first discovered my love for music when I was seven years old, and had started taking piano lessons. I’ve been playing my whole life; however, I didn’t discover my talent for singing until I was 14. I remember a teacher telling me that she could hear my voice standout from the other students in a spring school concert. I was completely surprised and from then on I haven’t stopped singing.

Us: How many albums have you released so far?
So far, I have released two cover albums: Holiday Dreams, a Christmas/Holiday album, released in 2008, and Crossroads in August 2011, which was a mix of some of my favourite songs.

Us: You have focused on recording covers so far. Why so?
Although I’ve always loved to write music, I never focused on it exclusively until more recently. I think I spent a lot of time focusing on what genres of music I prefer to focus on and now that I’m more familiar with what I want to do, I can start releasing my own compositions.

Us: Please tell Us about the song So Close So Distant.
So Close So Distant is a song about two people in a distant relationship who long to be together; however, they have such a connection that they feel close despite the distance. Eventually, they find their way to one another and sing together to express their feelings.

Us: How did the collaboration with Junaid Khan come about? How do you know Junaid? And how did the idea of collaboration come up?
Junaid and I met a few years back through a mutual friend in the United States and once we discovered we were both musicians, we knew it would lead to a great friendship and hopeful collaborations in the future. When Junaid returned to the U.S. this past October to work on a television episode in New York City, he spent a few days in Washington D.C., working with photographer Girard Peter and me on So Close So Distant. Our ideas for the song sparked a few months earlier when we spoke about how we should write a song related to distant love and thought it would make sense considering, as artists, we are from two different parts of the world.

Us: How was the experience of working with Junaid?
Working with Junaid was overall fun and exciting. We had a great opportunity to express our musical abilities and ideas with one another, so it was also a terrific learning experience. Junaid is a very down to earth and kind individual, so it was a pleasure to work with him.

Us: How was the experience of shooting the video?
The video shooting was a three to four day process and was another terrific experience. We were aware that this wasn’t a large gap of time for filming, but we did as much as possible in that amount of time and I think it really worked out well. My friend and talented photographer, Girard Peter, was responsible for the fantastic footage. Until this video, he focused solely on photography; however, this was a unique and enlightening experience for him as well, so he hopes to continue working on video.

Us: Was this your first video? How did it feel to see the final result?
Yes, this was my first official music video. I anticipated doing something like this for a very long time. I have to admit, I was extremely excited to see the final product; I didn’t expect it to become such a success and I’m so grateful for the new fans and followers.

Us: Have you ever been to Pakistan and do you plan to visit the country any time soon?
I have not been to Pakistan thus far, so I think it’s quite interesting that this video has become so popular without me even being there, but as I said, I’m very thankful for this! As of now, I don’t have any plans to visit in the near future, as I’m focusing on working on a lot of new projects!

Us: What is your perception of Pakistan?
I definitely respect Pakistan as a country, as well as the culture it represents. I love to experience various cultures and learn as much as I can about them. I think working with Junaid was also wonderful because it shows a type of unity between the two cultures.

Us: What kind of music do you usually listen to? Who are your favourite artists?
: When it comes to music, I think I listen to a little of everything! I think it’s important as an artist to get a grasp of many varieties; it gives a broader sense of diversity. A few artists that really inspire me are Sarah Brightman, Hayley Westenra, Adele, Josh Groban, Eva Cassidy, and Lady Antebellum.

Us: Are there any artists you would like to work/collaborate with?
There are far too many artists out there I’d jump at the chance to collaborate with, haha! If I stuck to a classical genre, I would most certainly love to duet with Josh Groban or work on a song with Celtic Women. I think there is a wide variety here; I can’t even name them all!

Us: Do you have any other projects in the pipeline? What can we expect from you in the coming months?
Definitely! I recently went to Nashville, Tennessee, to work on new songwriting/composition projects with some very talented writers and artists who have been inspiring me in this journey. I currently have five songs that I’ll be working on releasing in the coming months. They’re a mix of blues, pop, country, classical, and trance. I’m also going to be working on an entire trance/house/dance album as well, since that has been one of my goals. I’m really looking forward to all the opportunities to come, so be on the look out!

Us: Any message for the readers?
For any aspiring singers/musicians, I would say always, always keep reaching for your goals and dreams. The sky is the limit and you really can accomplish anything with the right attitude. Thank you for your continuous support!


In brief


Junaid Khan comments on...

~ Meeting Jennifer: I met Jennifer through a common friend, Raakin Iqbal, in Washington DC a couple of years back. The three of us went out for dinner and exchanged our thoughts about music. That is when I found out that Jennifer was quite passionate about music and was looking to start off in this field.

~ Deciding to do the duet: Even if you check out Call’s history, I have always been singing English covers since the start, even before I composed Nishaan and Pukaar. So, the thing for singing in English has always been there, just like many rock underground artists that grow up singing rock tunes of their era; therefore, I always wanted to write something in English. Luckily, I was offered a serial for which I had to be in NYC. As I was planning to leave for NY for the shoot of my upcoming play Mata-e-Jaan around October last year, the idea of doing a duet clicked in my mind. And the first person that came in my mind for it was Jennifer. Why? Because she absolutely suited the song that I was planning to write. I wanted to do a romantic duet and Jennifer had the perfect mellow tone for it. Other than the tone, her personality and her sweet looks perfectly matched the concept. Good thing for me when I asked her, she loved it and we decided to materialise it. :)

~ Recording So Close So Distant: I composed the basic guitar progression and wrote a rough vocal melody around it. Then I wrote the basic lyrics and Jennifer made valuable additions to them, hence we finalised the lyrics together, giving us a rough sketch that I could take for audio production. The song was then produced by Sami Khan at Black Mug Productions here in Lahore and he absolutely did a great job arranging the whole song. Then I sent the song to Jennifer online and she recorded her bit there in the US, sent back the track and I finally got it mixed and mastered here at Afzal’s Stylus Studios.

~ Making the video: Well, Jennifer knew a photographer by the name of Girard Peter with whom she previously did a photo shoot as well. When I saw his work, I straight away decided that I would use him as the director of photography because his work was simply amazing. The video was then shot in Old Town Alexandria near Washington DC.

~ Working with Jennifer: Working with her was very convenient and hassle-free. She is quite comfortable to talk to. Also, during our initial conversations about this project, I felt that she has the same drive and passion towards music that I have. Plus, I got to learn a lot from her as an artist, too.

~ Jennifer as a person: Well, Jennifer is a sweetheart. She always has a smile on her face and exudes positive energy all the time. She is a gem of a person to have around.

~ Jennifer as a musician: She is a very talented. It was a great choice working with her on this project. She has a soulful voice and a great sense of melody.

~ Something interesting about Jennifer: People around her tell her that she resembles Miley Cyrus. But I disagree. I believe Jennifer is gorgeous and way more feminine, LOL.

- Sameen Amer

 Us Magazine, The News - 4th May, 2012

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