Atlanta-born, DC-based and One Love Massive Collective member female vocalist Jenna Camille comes from a neo-soul leaning background that is very familiar to many underground-to-mainstream music fanatics. However, it’s when you sit down with the artist who’s also a college senior at UDC, songwriter, producer and general renaissance woman-in-development, that you eventually discover the something more about her that lies beneath the surface. This conversation briefly touches on her music, but moreso digs around and discovers the humanity of Camille that makes her worth listening to and her career worth following. From Carl Jung to classical piano training, and a love of Janet Jackson’s album The Velvet Rope, here’s a glimpse into a terrific artist whose sound is an exciting blend of the expected and unexpected.
Jenna’s performing at our Massive One Love Website Relaunch Block Party on April 20. Tickets are available here!
For someone just getting introduced to your sound, how would you best describe it to them?
Wow. It’s hard to describe. It’s kind of a fusion of different elements. I started out as a jazz performer and classical pianist, so I incorporate a lot of that into my music. Also, I’m a big hip-hop fan, so there’s definitely some hip-hop in there. I’m also an emotionally guided person so there’s a lot of my music that’s very emotional and concerned with the realities of our existence and how we deal with certain situations.
Classical piano? Hmmm…so Kanye’s reinterpreting Beethoven soon. If there was a classical composer that you’d like to combine your sound alongside, who would it be and why?
I’d have to say Rachmaninoff. I just remember in high school that I would get upset that the guys would get to play the Rachmaninoff pieces I wanted to learn! I really just wanted to have that opportunity and I never did, so it would be cool to get to play them in that way.
You’re a senior in college. How’s that work/life balance thing coming along these days? Is it as hard as I suspect it is?
Hahahaha! That’s something I’m still figuring out. It’s hard. I’ve actually started becoming a little bit more of an adult now and organization is my key to everything. I’ve started writing down and whatever I have planned, it’s written in my planner. I can see it, I can visualize it, I can be at the places I need to be at. I’ve gotten a lot better with it. I still get stressed out sometimes when I get called for gigs and I want to be like, “fuck off,” because I have to study for a test! It’s a hard decision to make sometimes, how much you love performing as opposed to how much you love school, and which one is more important to you. I also am worried about getting enough rest, too. I know that rest will come, but at the end of the day, life is about balancing work, performance and rest. I still have goals I need to achieve.
So, when was the last time you had a moment in class that directly affected your songwriting process?
Oh! Shit! I had a writing class and the focus was ethics. Immediately, after I had that class, I became obsessed with ethics and philosophy. My grandfather was a philosophy major in college, so he wrote a lot about life and how to deal with it.
Cool! Who’s your favorite philosopher?
My favorite philosopher is Carl Jung! I’ve read him extensively. He’s very influential on my songwriting right now.
If you were giving advice to someone who was an aspiring singer/songwriter, what would that be?
The have to learn how to say “fuck rules.” Forget about them. Rules will frustrate your writing. Think about the rules after you write. First, write whatever is connecting with you at that moment. It can be about a crumb on the table or a bird in the sky. It can be whatever the fuck you want it to be, just write it down. Then, think about structure. Also, then think about the writers who influence you and how they would structure it, and how can you take that inspiration and incorporate it with what you’ve written. You always have to know who the great songwriters are. If you don’t study lyrics and songwriters, you’re starting from a blank slate and you don’t have a whole bunch to guide you. I’d advise songwriters to seek guidance from everywhere [as well].
Nice. So, from a songwriter’s point of view, what’s your favorite hook from a song, ever and why?
Shit! It’d have to be Janet Jackson’s “What About” from her album The Velvet Rope. It’s just brutal. It’s so fucking brutal. She says, “What about the times you said you didn’t fuck her, and you said she only gave you head?” Like, what?!?!? Who says that in a song?!?!? In a song?!?!? Nobody talks like that. That’s some real shit. That whole album is brutal.
What are the goals that you have coming up that you’re the closest to achieving?
Well, graduation is coming up! Hmmm…past that, I want to be able to expand a bit out of the DC Metropolitan area. I have plans to go to London. I have a cousin that lives there. I want to be able to experience that side of art. I’ve been hearing so many dope things about Europe in general, and I want to be able to either perform or just see it, experience it and take it in.