From her new single “Checkmate” to making an appearance at NYFW, the artist talk us through her career so far.
Cuban-American, native Texan Independent artist, Jena Rose has gained tremendous momentum across the internet, especially with TikTok and YouTube, finding success without a traditional major label and she’s excitedly continuing down this path. Her last song “Checkmate” inspires listeners to take their power back in relationships/friendships and beyond that, Jena is taking full control over her career as an artist.
The video from “Checkmate” has nearly 5 million views, a massive audience who also voted her into the Top 10 of MTV’s Friday Livestream with Kevan Kenney. Soon she will release her debut EP, “Baby, Maybe.” Jena caught global recognition of over 6 million listeners last summer with her track, “Forever Yours (ft. Casper Magico).” It was also featured on the soundtrack for the Netflix film Work It. In just a few years she’s also toured with Aly & AJ, Echosmith and Why Don’t We, attended NYFW (dressed in Alice+Olivia, Anna Sui, and Tom Ford), and worked on brand partnerships with Tommy Hillfiger, FabFitFun and MAC Cosmetics.
The future is very bright for Jena and we chat with her about her first song, she wrote it at just 9 years old, how The Queens Gambit inspired “Checkmate” and her influences, process and what else we can expect. Her dance music is fresh, soulful and fun, she could be a younger JLO or Dua Lipa, her vision, drive, and talent clearly show she’s destined to become a household name, quite possibly before she’s even at the legal drinking age. We’re excited to see what she does next!
Check out the video below…
Tell us about your experience during the pandemic, what did you learn that surprised you? How did it impact your music?
Luckily I was able to travel back home to Dallas, TX and quarantine with my family. I discovered so many new things about myself including my love of comedy on social media! And it’s been great really connecting with my fans and developing new ones as it all got a lot more personal during the pandemic. I also wrote a lot…and we are producing some of those songs now, which is very exciting.
The Queens Gambit was such a massive hit during lockdown, so many people started buying chess boards and learning to play who previously hadn’t, your new song “Checkmate” was inspired by this show in part right?
I was one of those people! I’ve always loved chess, but it was really inspiring to see feel the girl power in The Queens Gambit. Chess is one of the only sports where men and women are on the exact same playing field. There’s an immense amount of strategy involved and you always have to be 5 moves ahead…so I could see some obvious parallels between the game and other things in my life, particularly when it came to relationships. I don’t think relationships are a game but if someone’s not treating you how you deserve to be treated, you need to check them and stand up for yourself.
Your father is from Cuba and your mother Chicago, how did they influence your art and what got you started creating your own music?
Being Cuban-American is something that I’m so grateful for. I’ve always been a fan of Latin music. My last single, “Forever Yours”, was something born from my Cuban roots and how they instilled my love of music as a core value. My mom being from Chicago has given me a huge dose of 80’s music and the can-do spirit the midwest is known for. I’m lucky that my family has always been 100% supportive of my music career because it’s a total group effort. I started playing piano and guitar when I was only 4 years old. Playing instruments and singing karaoke were my favorite outlets. One day when I was 9 years old, my friend asked me if I wanted to take a singing lesson and that really started the ball rolling to put it all together for me. My first performance was at the House Of Blues in Dallas. The moment I stepped on stage, I knew that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. I started writing my own songs shortly after, when I was 10-years-old, and haven’t looked back since.
Who were you earliest musical influencers? And who are now today
I’m a big audiophile and LOVE 80’s new wave music, modern pop, hip hop, country, classic rock and singer/songwriters from all eras. I have playlists… all kinds of playlist… on repeat but that emo 80’s sound has my heart. Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Echo & the Bunnyman, The Cure, Blondie. I can go on…
What music do you currently have on? How do you consume music mostly now? Where do you go to find new artists? Anyone we should know about that we maybe don’t?
Today I love pretty much all the women in music from Lady Gaga to Shakira to Billie Eilish. Any artist expressing their experiences through songs. Strong women. I also love a lot of what’s coming out in hip hop and parts of country, like Post Malone and Kacey Musgraves. The music is inspiring! I‘m also loving Banks, Marina, Rosalia, too many to name! I primarily consume music on Spotify and YouTube…and get a lot of new artists recommended from my friends and family.
At a very young age you were writing songs of your own, do you remember what made you do that? Do you still resonate with those early day songs?
I wrote my first full song at 9 years old, the day my piano teacher taught me how to improvise on the piano. I came home that night, sat down at my piano as my parents were leaving for dinner and by the time they came back, I had a song. It was called “Summertime Sweetheart” and will always have a special place in my heart, as will all the songs I wrote then.
What is your process for writing and creating now?
Some days I sit down at my piano or guitar, play random chords, start humming melodies, those melodies turn into words which turn into a concept – which often result in a song. Other times, I’ll have a concept going in or a specific melody. I also go into the studio often and work with producers and co-writers. During a studio session, the producer typically starts playing around with a track as the writers and I start throwing out concepts, melodies, and lyrics. I take inspiration from what’s going on in my life or stories I see in the world around me. I also find lots of creative influence by absorbing what other people are making or connecting seemingly disparate ideas that border on fantasy but have some root in things playing out in the world.
Fashion seems to be at the forefront of your latest video, which designers do you love most and what does fashion mean to you?
Yes it is! Fashion means so much to me and goes hand in hand with music. There’s so much creativity and self expression in what you wear and how you wear it. I’m definitely someone who thinks about clothes and the environment a song or album can inhabit. I also like to experiment with setting up the look and feeling of all the elements that make a project come to life. With fashion, I mix and match vintage pieces with designer pieces and the staples I love. I’ve actually gone to NYFW the last few years and worked with a bunch of great designers which has been a dream come true. Some favs are Chanel, Prada, Alice and Olivia, Anna Sui, Cynthia Rowley and many more.
You play many instruments, which is your favorite?
I play piano and guitar. It’s tough to pick a favorite, but I’d have to say piano because of its limitless possibilities…and it’s also my first instrument.
Having been trained formally as a dancer, how does that impact your music?
Dance is a form of expression that can directly reflect the music I make. When I dance, I feel free and that works in direct connection with the melody and rhythm of the song. I carry that mindset with me when I write as well. I think of the music in terms of movement and vice versa.
Who did you collaborate on with this newest music? Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I co-wrote “Checkmate” with Nick Furlong (Machine Gun Kelly, 5 Seconds of Summer) and it was produced by Simon Jay and Luke Shrestha of Chapters. I also collaborated with John Feldmann on my forthcoming EP. I would love to collaborate with writers and producers like Ian Kirkpatrick, Ryan Tedder, Max Martin, and Sarah Hudson. Some artists, I’d love to work Post Malone, Flume, Zedd, Lady Gaga, Chance The Rapper… and probably 1,000 others.
When the world fully opens back where will you go first? Where are you most excited to perform?
I want to go to a concert, of course! I can’t wait to feel that energy again, as well get on the stage myself. I would to play Coachella and the American Airlines Center in my hometown, Dallas, TX, but I love playing clubs too, so looking forward to all of it!
What do you miss most about touring?
I miss connecting face-to-face with fans and other artists, doing what I love to do night after night. Being on stage, surrounded by people who love music as much as you do, is a gift. I also love meeting everyone afterward and checking out new cities, new venues. I just like every part of it.
You are currently working on a debut EP “Baby, Maybe” what can you share with us about it?
It’s a collection of songs that I’m in the studio finishing as we speak. It’s heavily influenced by the 80s new wave and dance culture. I co-wrote all the songs and have been going deep on the mixes to get it to sound exactly like what’s been in my head all year. Each song is special to me and I can’t wait to share it.
Your previous song “Forever Yours (ft. Casper Magico) got 6M streams last summer and earned global fans, as well as a spot on the feature film WORK IT on Netlfix. How did this all happen?
When did you hear about the success of the song and how did you feel? I’m so grateful for all the love and support we received on ‘Forever Yours’. It was a lot of hard work and awesome connecting with a lot of new fans. My managers are tirelessly opening a ton of new doors for me. We agreed on a hands-on pandemic strategy across social media and the DSP’s. I personally interacted with every single fan.
Do you have any aspirations outside of music
Music has always been my #1 but I’m extremely passionate about animals, dogs in particular, and hope to one day open up my very own rescue. I would love to get involved with other charitable organizations, like Best Buddies, who help so much.
What is the best lesson you have learned or advice you have been given?
The best lesson I have learned while on this music journey is to trust your gut. I’ve been told I was too young or that I should write a certain type of song, but it wasn’t until I started doing me that I gained the confidence and experience I need to rise above all that noise.
When you are having a hard day, what or do helps you through it?
Listening to music and writing in my journal. I also spend time with the people I love and who love me. I like to face problems head-on but we all need to process what happens to us as we move through the world.
Please share with us your version of your own Wonderland?
My idea of Wonderland is a life filled with music, where I could spend my days writing songs and playing them for people everywhere I go…and, of course, spending time with the ones I love…and lots and lots of dogs!
Anything you would like your fans or those meeting you for the first time to know?
I would love them to know that I make music for them as much as me. I write songs for the purpose of relating to other people, hoping that it helps them in some way – as an escape or a way to connect to their emotions. Music does the same thing for me. It’s the most important thing, connecting to our humanity.