Best known for her star performance in the hit film Purple Rain and for her breakout featured vocals on the Prince global hit song and video, “1999”, Jill Jones is truly a one-of-a-kind performer with an amazing sound and a keen passion for life and its adventures. She brings her cutting-edge R&B and chart-popping dance music to Stockton and will highlight this year’s 7th Annual LGBT Pride Festival on Saturday, August 25th at the Weber Events Center. Gates are open from 11am to 7pm. Admission is $5.
As a solo artist, Jill Jones has proven equally adept at stripped-down ballads, acoustic narratives, R&B and energetic dance music. Her raw talent and mercurial disposition have enabled her to collaborate as a writer and vocalist with an unparalleled array of fellow artists: Teena Marie, Prince, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards, Ronny Jordan and Chris Bruce and more. Jill never fails to delight—and surprise—her listeners.
From the outset, Jill’s life was unconventional. Her African American/Native American mother was a model and a singer; having worked as a Playboy Bunny, which undoubtedly influenced Jill’s forward thinking attitudes about sex and sensuality. Her Italian father was a jazz drummer. With the latter out of the picture early on, and the former often traveling for work, Jill was raised primarily by her grandparents, amidst her extended family in Lebanon, Ohio (a small town between Dayton and Cleveland). Early on, she recognized that being different had its pros and cons. “I had troubles with teachers at school keeping me separated from my cousins, because they were darker and I was lighter,” she explains.
“Once you start to look at Jill’s background, there’s a commonality with the youth growing up in our own community today.” Mixed race, raised by extended family and yet multi-talented, passionate with a vibrancy for life”, Nicholas Hatten, Pride Center Director explains. “We just knew we had to have her as part of our local pride celebration.”
“Jill, long before the #MeToo Movement, has been championing women’s rights and LGBT+ rights through her social media platform. And it’s not always done in the most PC fashion. It is that fighting tenacity and spirit, much like our community’s own, that we want to spotlight and celebrate at Pride”, Nicholas concludes.
AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE MAGIC THAT MAKES JILL JONES WISE WITH WISDOM, A TECHIE, AND A PERSON FILLED WITH TALENT, PASSION AND LOVE:
Jill was kind enough to take the time to do an exclusive interview with the Caravan News. You’ll be impressed and moved as you get to know Jill a bit better through her music and insights to life. Enjoy!
When did you first recognize that you had a passion and talent for singing?
JJ: I would say that I was a young child growing up in Ohio and used to sing along to my grandmother’s old records. Billie Holiday , Little Miss Cornshucks, Dinah Washington. And I also remembering being totally hooked on the Carole King ‘Tapestry' album.
Who influenced you most in the early years and then later on in life?
JJ: Not sure who influenced me per se. I did work with some pretty amazing talent such as Teena Marie. She was very encouraging and supportive of my music. She gave me my first break. Teena would often come to my high school plays, etc.
What would you say is your driving life message for others?
JJ: To do what you love...How did that come about? People that I grew up around were very entrepreneurial, so finding and having a passion in life was encouraged. A job is one thing but a passion is another.
How does a small town girl from Ohio get to make it on the world stage?
JJ: I think a lot of that is manifestation of dreaming. I think our affinity to things is really established early on in our lives, especially as children, it’s key to tune into it. Otherwise you grow up and away from your dreams. In my case, signs just kept presenting themselves and opportunities arose out of various conditions and situations. Sometimes seemingly tough but inevitably for the greater good. My mother was a performer and I was raised by my grandparents in a very small town in Ohio and ultimately my mother decided to move us to Los Angeles.
How did working with Teena Marie and Prince change your music style and outlook on life?
JJ: My mother managed Teena so I also knew the back end of the business as well as the glitz and the glam for show. I was not easily impressed with just the fame aspect as I was about creating great work and quality work. My stepfather was Fuller Gordy, Berry Gordy's brother and so that involvement with the Motown family fostered a pretty practical no nonsense approach to the business.
How did the death of Prince impact you and your music?
JJ: Losing Prince was devastating. I am still not sure I have processed him not being here on the planet.
What influence did he have on your life?
JJ: He had a tremendous influence. We made an album together that was mind glowingly amazing and still holds up to this day. He was my mentor, my best friend, my everything. He believed in me. It had its rocky moments, but it was a karmic relationship. It had to happen.
What was it like creating your albums via Paisley Park and Warner Brothers studios? How was your experience different or similar?
JJ: Hmm… Once all of the label politics got involved it ceased to be fun anymore. Pressures came with Prince's greater fame and more responsibility. My experience making my first album was great. I c- produced primarily with David Z Rivkin. He was the glue of the project as Prince was back and forth filming 'Under the Cherry Moon' in France. It definitely was a whirlwind that’s for sure. By the time the 2nd album came around there were many different faces in the fold and as I said more responsibilities. The simpler days were gone.
On a recent Facebook post, a friend posted a picture of you writing (painting) on the wall “I’m a lonely painter…” Is painting a hobby or just graffiti!
JJ: I still paint. But in that picture it was my first apartment on my own so I kind of went mad with everything I could think of. Neon lights, I dipped my dogs paws in paint and walked them up the walls, had harlequins all over and crazy lava lamps. It was a fun time.
What would you be doing if you weren’t singing?
JJ: I don't sing as much anymore. I record still but have left the singing up to my daughter, Azusena, who is a recording artist in the UK. But primarily I write and for years I worked in advertising. Now I am into software and new technologies! Still music related.
Can you tell us more about your tech endeavors?
JJ: Yes Qonnexone is a German 4k streaming platform with a few new capabilities that are still being developed; I got involved via my husband who introduced me to its creator in Germany.
Have you always been a techie?
JJ: I do love new technology.
It is apparent that your daughter Zuzu is extremely important to you, how has she influenced your music?
JJ: Oh my, she has influenced my music in the sense that she always keeps me in the loop with new music and new artists. She has perfect pitch. I recognized that early with her. And even though she plays it very cool, her first instrument that she learned to play were the drums. LOL! I think I learned from her, by raising a child who wants to go into this business which is not always sunshine and butterflies; that a parent just has to let their kids take the lead on it. She works extremely hard and reminds me of having the same work ethic that Prince actually had. I do not have that at all. I am a much more whimsical singer. I have things that need to get out and expressed through my music. Zuzu and Prince seem to have a constant communication going with the music. Teena Marie had that too.
Now that she is grown, are you able to help her with her own singing career?
JJ: I try to help in ways I can. But she has good people around her and that is always the KEY.
You also have an inner strength and a sense of survival, where did that come from?
JJ: I think my anger and rage sometimes has gotten me up off the floor. I am a super sensitive person and the world would have eaten me alive had I not been angry enough to get up and fight back.
What message can you depart for other young ladies and women that might find themselves doubting themselves?
JJ: Doubt sometimes disguises itself and is really rooted in fear. I say, feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s a book I have been reading and love it.
You and your music have taken an exciting journey through various styles. What was most meaningful for you and why?
JJ: I would say the “TWO" album meant a lot to me because I was processing loss. Four letters that can rip your world apart. So that album (a collaboration with Chris Bruce) was very cathartic for me. I had lost my marriage, my mother, my record deal and I even think I lost myself.
Any new singles or other collaborations coming out?
JJ: I want to do a mantra album in the future. So i have been studying the carnatic key structure and sanskrit interpretations and pronunciations of certain mantras.
Was there anything special that attracted you to perform at the Stockton Pride Festival? What appealed to you?
JJ: Well, I am moving to the area very soon. So it seemed like perfection when I was asked to perform!! I visited Sacramento a few times for my friend designer Richard Hallmarq's fashion shows and each time I kept saying I feel at home here. And well there you have it! My husband who is from Germany felt a similar connection to the area and we are making that move!! :) I just want to be a part of the community. And I find that up North there is a strong community of creative and artistic expression that I love being around. I am so loving the vibe here and the event is going to be a blast! XOXOXO
For more information regarding the Stockton Pride festival, visit www.StocktonPride.com .