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Jua [November 21st 2007]

Itís a warm autumn night, and locked away in a penthouse in North London is Jua, the amazing singer from Upper Marlboro, Washington DC, who has just released his debut album Anticipation. Born in Chicago Illinois, one score and nine years ago, Jua, which means Ďthe suní in Swahili, has been making his mark in music singing in all state choirs, gaining music scholarships, and singing with the legendary group the Blackbyrds; not bad for the guy who until recently was ready to leave the music world behind. Jua invited JustSoul for an exclusive tÍte-ŗ-tÍte about his past, present and what it really means to push it further.
Ricardito: So what are you doing in London?
Jua: Well Iím in London mainly for a vacation, I havenít been here for 7 years and I had been promising to come back every year. London is a good platform for music; the artists I am into are pretty popular here more than so in America even though they started there like Alexander OíNeil. The level of appreciation is deeper here than in America. Lots of DJís here are playing my music here far more here like on Jazz Syndicate Radio, Solar and Star Point Radio. As I am here, I thought it was a good idea to physically present myself to people that enjoy my music.

Ricardito: How long have you been singing?
Jua: Iíve been singing all my life from about 5 or 6 years old. I am sure my grandfather still has some really embarrassing videos of me singing and dancing. I have done everything from school plays, school choirs, all state choirs, to high school productions.


Ricardito: Cool do you play any instruments?
Jua: I play a little trumpet and euphonium/baritone. I've taken several piano lessons, but I honestly cannot play a lick; oh I did play in the marching band too.

Ricardito: Tell me a little about your musical journey.
Jua: I won a music scholarship from my school choir to go to college, and from that I was also able to audition and join the All Atlanta Choir. Every Christmas theyíd have a joint concert with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, so I got to do that for a couple of years in a row. My mum also joined the choir so we would drive from Alabama to Atlanta for rehearsals. I also did weddings, pageants, whatever was happening I would be there, but that wasnít what I wanted to do, I wanted to be a cardiologist for a long time. After a while I thought about lawyer and being an entertainment attorney for a record label because at least then Iíd still be in the industry. I got to college and got the singing bug again and started singing at sporting events; you know singing the national anthem. The more feedback I received and the more I thought about it I decided the more I really wanted to do this. So I did some open mic events when I was in London in 2000 which went really, really well, but then Iíd go back to saying ďI donít knowĒ.

Ricardito: Really? Why was that?
Jua: Well after college I had a bad situation with the choir I performed with, which led me to not sing for a while. I got down on myself because there was a lot of jealousy and negatively within the choir which I donít deal with. I felt that if this is where my gift is going to bring me to then I donít want to do it, I donít see the point Iíll do something else.

Ricardito: Wow, sorry to hear that. So what did you do next?
Jua: Well I went to Chicago after graduating in a degree in English from Emory University and put off going to law school for two years in a row by working in a law firm in Chicago for some really crappy people instead. Then Bilal came out with his debut album, and I went crazy. I remember listening to his album and thinking I miss music, and it really inspired me. So I found a vocal coach in Chicago (Sandra Davis), she really focussed me and pulled it out of me even when I didnít want to practice that much. She helped me find my voice from not singing at all. We only did about an hour to 90 minutes a week. She introduced me to new songs like Thatís All, to see if I like it, but I never thought of that music for my voice. Sandra helped me strengthen my voice and find my voice as at that point when I was in a state of limbo about what to do. You know a lot of people said I should do gospel music, but I did not want to do it because although I love to listen to it I donít think my voice fits that.

Ricardito: So when did you decide to start the album?
Jua: Well last year it really hit me that I wanted to do music, and that I should undertake it on my own not wait for a label to come for me. I thought to myself ďIím not singing anywhere so who the heck knows who you are?Ē The album took over a year to complete; I started in July 2006, but due to travelling, illness, and just getting myself back together it took a while.

Ricardito: Tell me about some of the themes on the album.
Jua: Well some of songs were about me and how I was feeling at the time, there are some that were dealing with friends, there are some about stuff I saw on tv and I thought were cool.

Ricardito: Well there are lots of songs about love and the different aspects of loveÖ
Jua: Yes I talk about different themes. Well I know you like the song Push it Further but I was uneasy about that song at first. Everything else on my album wasnít as sexual, and itís not explicit or anything but it wasnít till I read the lyrics alongside the music that I thought yes ďthis fits its coolĒ. I was going for a sensual tone, but at first I was like ďerrrrr I donít know about this, and all that stuff about the hipsĒ. Invisible really appealed to me, its one of my favourite tracks in just the way it made me feel. I just picked the topic I knew it would be relatable to some people. Itís like Sade 2007, when I heard the saxophone, the beat and everything. I mean my whole thing was that I wanted to make a quality album and be relatable to people. I didnít want everything to sound the same because that would be boring, but I didnít want to make something that is not me just to be commercial; it had to fit my voice.

Ricardito: How do you feel about your album?
Jua: I am very proud of my album, I feel like I have achieved. I like the mix of the songs, I like that a lot of people have commented on the writing. My perfect trio or formula is excellent lyrics, excellent music then excellent vocals. People have different taste on vocals, some people may not like my voice, but then lyrical content is very important to me as it is a representation of who you are as an artist. [The album] is a journey from when you meet someone to the in between phase when you are into a person but you are not sure, to when you are in love to when itís all over and literally thatís all.

And before I knew it that was literally all the time we had with Jua. Check out Juaís debut CD Anticipation available on itunes and many other musical outlets, and be entranced by this talented young man.

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