As we made our way into the hotel, a line was already forming for one of the many Christmas radio parties at which Jennifer Paige will perform. We made a call from the front desk to her assistant to let her know that we were in the lobby awaiting our interview with Jennifer. To our surprise, Jennifer answered instead. After a brief phone conversation, we made our way to the VIP lounge to meet with her.
We sat down and waited for her to arrive and talked about the upcoming show with one of the girls who worked at the hotel. A knock fell upon the glass door. Jennifer entered and strode across the room. She was even more beautiful than we had imagined. After an introduction, she sat down and we prepared for the interview. The hotel employee asked Jennifer if she would like something to drink. As the staff member made coffee, she asked, “Are you Jennifer Paige?”
“Yes,” replied Jennifer.
“You sing “Crush”, right?” asked the girl.
“Yes,” Jennifer replied. The female staff member broke into a story about one of their co-workers.
“We have this guy who works in the lobby and he sings your song all the time. What’s so funny about it is that he is from Bosnia, so he sings it like, ‘Ets jest a leetle crush’.”
Jennifer smiled. “That is so cute,” she said. Showing her goodwill, she obtained a piece of paper from us and wrote a note that said, ‘Ets jest a leetle crush. Love, Jennifer Paige,’ and handed it to the girl. She apologized to us for the interruption, although no apology was necessary, and we settled in to hear Jennifer’s story.
Jennifer started by recalling when it was that she first realized she wanted to become a singer. “We didn’t have a lot of money so [my brother and I] would ask for certain albums for Christmas. I got Olivia Newton-John. That was my first album. I would pretend to be her and learn all her lyrics. We had one of these types of machines (she points to our tape recorder). My dad would tape my voice and my brother’s voice. [My brother] was a singer as well and that is what we did for fun.”
“I started singing [in front of an audience] at five,” Jennifer continued. “It kind of started like that. One day my brother was noticed dancing. It’s called clogging. They said, ‘You are so cute. Can you sing?’ and my brother said, ‘I can sing.’ I told them I could sing too because I didn’t want him to get more attention than I did. So, we started like that. Once we learned songs from Air Supply and goofy little songs like that, we started to sing with this band. We started to get attention from people and they’d say, ‘You guys have got to come back.’ So we did.”
“From that point on we just grew and grew.”
Years passed and Jennifer attended a performing arts high school. Her goal was to sing, but it was not until she decided to leave Atlanta that she realized her dream. “After I graduated [from] high school, I went on the road with a top-forty band. I did that for a couple of years and then wound up in [Las] Vegas singing in a lounge. I was spotted by [Crystal Bernard from TV’s ‘Wings’] who said, ‘You’re really good. I live in L. A. and L. A. is the place. You’ve got to go there.’ So I did. I needed a little kick in the rear, so I packed my bags and I went to L. A.,” Jennifer recalled. “I moved to L. A. three and a half years ago. I started to send out the demo tape that I made to everybody and anybody who would listen to it,” Jennifer told us with a grin. “It kind of worked for me because of word of mouth. People started to hire me to sing the songs that they had written and also I started to sing jingles. I basically conned my way into the business. People would say, ‘You’ve done this?’ and I’d say, ‘Oh yeah. I used to do studio work all the time back in Atlanta.’ Since I was fresh in L. A., nobody knew. I would make up people that I worked with and say, ‘I worked with blah blah blah studios.’ I was pretty nervous in the beginning, but I faked my way through it.”
Her perseverance and intelligence impressed us. Jennifer’s big break came when she met Andy Goldmark (who wrote songs for such artists as Elton John, All 4 One, Natalie Cole, Patti LaBelle, Michael Bolton, and Bryan White). It was with Andy’s help that she would land her major label deal.
Working with Andy “was good. He was really hungry. Like I was hungry to become an artist, he was hungry to become a producer. So, we came together. I’d drive an hour to get to his house. I’d work during the day doing jingles and whatever to pay my bills and then I’d drive to his house every night.”
Their dreams were realized in the form of Jennifer’s first record deal. “I did a track and someone heard it and played it for the New York based [record label] Edel which was a fairly new independent label. They flipped. They wanted to sign me right away. I met with other people, but I got a better vibe from [Edel].”
After a deal was made with Edel Records, it was time for Jennifer to record. “I really didn’t have major expectations. I’ve kind of always lived my life from one step to the next. I’ve always followed my gut and that is what took me to L. A. on a whim. I’m very whimsical.” Jennifer continued, “Obviously from the time I was a little girl I dreamed of stardom. [When] all these big dreams and expectations start to happen, it really starts to wig you out because when you are in this position you realize there are not many times in your life that you can say, ‘My dreams just came true.’ It’s really bizarre. You just can’t put your hands around what it is you are dreaming for.” Jennifer was rewarded with more than she had ever dreamed. She soon found her expectations surpassed with the phenomenal chart topping success of her first single, “Crush”.
“We kind of just did [“Crush”]. We were fooling around in the studio. I did all these different things to it and I made it my own. I just thought it was a cool song.” An understatement, but as Jennifer recalled it took a little intervention. “The radio station [KIIS-FM in L. A.] got a hold of it and they really loved it and started playing it before there was a scheduled release date.”
With the release of “Crush”, Jennifer had to finish her solo album in order to cash in on the song’s success.
Jennifer credits many different types of musical styles to the formation of her own. As a child, Jennifer listened to Billie Holiday and the Clark Sisters, but all types of music influenced her along the way. She credits bands ranging from the Beastie Boys to the Counting Crows to Sarah McLachlan. “I really don’t know who has influenced me the most. All my life I’ve gone through changes.” Though Jennifer has gone through many stages in terms of musical taste, she says that gospel had the biggest impact. “I like gospel because of the passion they sing with. There is just such a freedom with the way that gospel singers sing. I’ve always admired that. On the track “Somewhere, Someday” there is a gospel choir that I incorporated into the song. It was always a dream of mine to work with a choir.”
On her positive attitude
“What I found to be so funny is that my music is pretty optimistic and positive. It is definitely not jaded, but what is funny is that people want me to be jaded because they want to read about people who have something to prove. I just love music and love to sing and to share it. I think thatme being so normal throws people off. They’re like, ‘Wow, you’re so normal.'”
On reaching star status
“I think so many people aren’t true to themselves. Like with my album, people said that I should ‘do this or do that’ like Alanis or Fiona Apple who were really hot at the time I was recording my album. So people tried to persuade me to do that, but I said, ‘That has already been done and I’m not trying to do that.’ I knew that if I followed what was hot at the time, I wouldn’t last. People find you out.”
“I’m always interested in other things. I’m interested in acting. I’d like to do a voice over for a Disney cartoon character. I’d like to venture into new fields and take more and more chances.”
interview + charlie craine & sam conjerti
written + charlie craine