At 23, singer, songwriter, recording artist Jessica Kaela is a contemporary songster whose commitment to hard work, positivity, doing for others and doing what’s right, in the midst of a …
At 23, singer, songwriter, recording artist Jessica Kaela is a contemporary songster whose commitment to hard work, positivity, doing for others and doing what’s right, in the midst of a business that’s fierce and unforgiving, is old school. But that’s where old ends. She personifies youth, intellect, artistic depth and cutting-edge musical sensibilities.
Kaela has been singing since kindergarten. She started writing lyrics at nine years old, and by thirteen she was writing her own songs, twelve of which are now copyrighted. Two years ago, she signed with Siri Music Group, where she has since been in artist development. She works closely with a team of producers, writers and recording techs who assist to transform her ideas, lyrics and deep emotions into musical reality. Born Jessica Kaela Zeltzer, she and her crew at Siri decided to modify her name, dropping Zeltzer, creating the stage moniker Jessica Kaela, which is now trademarked.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Kaela. Conducted in her manager/father’s large, comfortable office, I found the Barrington resident to be open, engaging and at ease, providing insight and perspective regarding her chosen profession. She spoke of her first time in the studio, her songwriting, her new recording deal and her newly released single, “Crying,” where, she says the astute listener can actually hear her cry.
“My father was and is a musician. He was going to the recording studio quite often and I wanted to see what this cool thing was all about, so I went with him to a session at AlexKProductions in Johnston, R.I.,“ said Kaela. “I was 12 years old and during the session the producer wanted female vocals on a certain track. I hopped in the booth and wanted to give it a try and the producer and everyone ended up loving it so much they kept my vocals on the track. We ended up changing the whole thing. My dad wrote the song as a love song, but when they heard my vocals, we rewrote it and the producers rearranged it more like a father / daughter song. It’s on You tube and it’s called ‘Soft as a Butterfly’.“
Father a musical inspiration
I wondered how her dad has influenced her through his musicality, business acumen and life’s experience.
“He inspires me in a lot of ways. I’d say he’s probably the biggest inspiration in my life as a person. He has go-getter energy, and I aspire to be like that. You know the saying, ‘Boss Bitch Energy’? He has that but like a dad version,“ she laughed . “It’s great, it’s empowering, it’s the mind set of where we can do whatever we want in life as long as we really work hard towards it and go for it.“
Today, the music business is a crowded field with many obstacles and pitfalls. It’s a business not for the faint of heart. I asked Kaela what drives her to fight for her spot on the mountain top.
“I love to help people, I like to think of myself as kind and patient,“ said Kaela. “My friends tell me I have a big heart. I’m a person who wants to help my supporters and fans with music in the same way that I’m helped by it. When I listen to music that I connect with, it can help guide me through a hard time, and I want to do the same for others with my music.“
I questioned exactly how music helps her through these rough patches in her life.
“It depends on the situation. If I’m going through heartbreak, I’ll listen to heartbreak music and realizing that others are going through the same thing or something similar comforts me in a way because I don’t feel so all alone,“ said Kaela. “Sometimes that one song lyric will be the same exact way that I’m feeling.“
Turning emotions into songs
Songwriting is a deeply personal thing and also a business vehicle that can propel an artist’s career. I wanted to know what goes through her mind during the creative process.
“When I write a song, I usually come to a point where I have so much feeling about a situation it’s almost like word vomit, you need to get it out. It can be a sad situation, it can be a happy situation,“ Kaela explained. “I’m a very emotional person, so it’s usually when I’m feeling a lot of emotion that gives me the inspiration to write something. I write my best music when I’m in the bathtub, which is weird.“
“I’d say I’m more inspired by sad moments. I really am an emotional soul. I feel emotion 10 times more than the average person. It’s good and bad, and I think it’s truly one of the reasons I was meant to do what I do, because artists do impact people in certain ways, and my feelings can be so intense it allows me to impact others in that way too.“
“Crying,” her first single for Orchard Sony, was released globally on March 10. It can be found on most major social media platforms, including Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube and Tik Tok. The song begins with a melancholy acoustic guitar intro, after which Kaela immediately dives in with a stinging vocal – an acidic declaration of unrequited love. Her singing voice is a haunting whisper with a mix of angst, agony and a plea for a minimum of respect, something she discovers unattainable in this relationship. Here, she attempts to hold back an emotional flood, but it’s no use.
When she sings, ‘you don’t have a reason to try to be honest’ and ‘cause you don’t have a conscience’, she exposes, to her audience, the bad guy in this movie. Emotionally drained, Kaela reluctantly accepts the dead end she’s faced with, singing ‘I don’t know what getting even is.’
“With the song ‘Crying’ I was going through a really bad heartbreak with a man that I really loved and do love, who didn’t want the relationship at the time, and it caused me a lot of heartbreak,“ said Kaela. “I’d be on the phone with my co-writers, Chauncy Jackson (the president of Siri Music Group), and my team, crying and they ended up saying “come to the studio.“ We want to play you something, and they played me the track they put together for ‘Crying’. I called them crying, pouring my heart out and we wrote it. It was created, written and produced because of how I felt.“
I wondered about her long-range career plans, and her view, if any, of the competition around her.
‘‘You have to be persistent and know what you want. I want to be an inspiration. You can come from a small town like Barrington and accomplish big goals. You just have to be determined because it’s so possible. I manifest positivity and I’ll one day sellout stadiums.“
“As far as competition is concerned, I think it’s important to zone it out and focus on yourself as an artist. For example, I don’t think about am I better than this artist or that artist. I’m thinking, do I feel my music? And if I feel my music, do I feel it could help other people?”
As we wrapped up the interview, the young artist offered the advice of a road savvy veteran.
“Don’t give up. It is hard, and there are struggles and there are things that are going to knock you down, but at the end of the day you are the only person who can pull yourself back up.“
You can find Jessica Kaela on Instagram @iamjessicakaela.
Michael Khouri is a Barrington resident writing occasionally about the Rhode Island music scene. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.