The St. Louis native first won acclaim when she hit the music scene in 2007 with the international house music dance tune Remember featuring Osunlade. Since that time, she has amassed quite a following after releasing two albums and two EPs, including last year's the Lower East Side Live EP, where it is just her mellow voice, seducing the piano while captivating a New York audience. Four years ago she was named St. Louis' Best R & B Artist by the Riverfront Times and has performed at festivals like SXSW. Teresajenee says everyone seems to know her music but now she is ready to change some things. It is time to put a face with the sound.
Do you answer by the titles singer and musician? Any others? I'm a “Musician Singer Pen” on the internet, but I consider myself to be a musician first. I sang in talent shows as a little girl, but I got my start playing the organ and piano in church. Singing is a part of me but I would feel incomplete without my instrument.
What upcoming projects are you working on? When might we expect them? I’m working on the second part of my Color Therapy Series. The first one was Electric Yellow (EY), about happiness and light. The second installment is Lavender: The Love Album. It's coming this year.
You mentioned your color series. Is this symbolic of anything? I believe in the connection between mood, sound, and color. I didn't know what synesthesia was as a child, but when I played piano, every note had a color and an emotion attached to it. I practice aromatherapy daily to help me with my moods. My moods have color. Chromotherapy is the formal term for color therapy. Color therapy alters your feelings through hue. I wanted to do an album trilogy with a color as a theme for each album. I'm even working on an aroma collection to go with each color to complete the experience. I want each album to give you a different and amazing feeling.
Where are you based these days? I float around a lot, but now I'm in Atlanta, working on the album.
Why did you leave St. Louis? It was hard, you know. I lost my grandmother in 2008 and my dad in 2012. I lost my two best friends and I just kept working to cope. I was angry and I wasn't dealing with it. Then, I had a breakdown in July 2013. That was it for me.
Did leaving St. Louis help you cope with so much loss? Yeah, I mean, it gave me a fresh space. I needed that space to process everything that happened.
Where is most of your fan base or following? Europe by far. They show me so much love. They really keep me alive. New York, LA, Memphis, DC and Sydney, Australia.
What songs are you most noted for performing? Tahitian Vanilla, In Your Eyes, Cleopatra Love & War. Breathe is a record I've never released. I’ve only performed it live, but it'll be on the next project.
You mentioned that people know your music more than your face. Does this bother you? It didn't bother me then because I didn't want people to see my face. I was in church and doing secular music wasn't acceptable. I was able to hide and it worked for me. Plus, I was scared of fame. I'm still scared. Now my records are being played in all these countries. My name is out there, but no one knows my face. I'm finally ready to step out and change that.
You grew up in a strict Pentecostal family. In some ways did that make you want to rebel or walk the straight and narrow? I rebelled. I rebelled so much, the good kind of rebelling though. I'm sure my parents would've thought otherwise. Too bad they never knew.
Your mom is a popular gospel radio announcer in St. Louis and she works heavily with gospel legend Bobby Jones. Does this feel awkward for you, considering you perform secular music? Um…I think it was more awkward for her because she came from that world. She was a soul singer before she came to church. She accepts what I do, but there’s still hope that I’ll release a gospel album.
The competition is stiff these days in music. Describe your sound. Describe your fashion style. Soultronica and Rock are how I described my old albums, even EY. That's the best way I can say it. My brain goes a mile a minute. I can't stick with any one sound. I can't dress in one particular way. I evolve. My music and style does the same.
What makes Teresajenee stand out from other artists in a sea of clones? I don't know. I don't know if I stand out to be honest. I think it's really about the music with me. I just think I give people music that connects to them and it works. That's all I can do.
Who are some artists that you’ve opened for and/or performed with? Solange (twice), Eric Roberson, Hiatus Kaiyote and Black Spade
You’ve performed in New York. Is England on your radar anytime soon? I'm in New York a lot. They show love. I actually look forward to my first time performing in England after this next album drops.
Finish this sentence. Music is what saved my life.
Finish this sentence. If I didn’t have music, I would’ve died.
How did music save you from possible death? I attempted suicide some years ago. I have a hard time speaking on it which is weird because it's so easy for me to talk about at my shows. You know, I thank God. I can't even imagine being alive without God above and music here to get me through.
Finish this sentence. If I could perform with one person, it would be with my Dad.
Finish this sentence. If I wasn’t a singer, I would be a teacher.
Some say that music has healing powers. Do you agree? Music is powerful because it controls the human spirit. It affects us in ways that is beyond us. Yes, I believe it evokes healing and building. I also believe, in the wrong hands, music can cause destruction. Not all sound is whole. I believe that. I’m very cautious of what I open my spirit to, especially music.
Peace of God is a beautiful song. What inspired you to write it? My father was fighting cancer when I wrote it. I was emotionally dark during that time. It was also a lot going on with my music and people and it was too much. I just remember collapsing back into a chair in my living room after coming back from the hospital. I had nothing. It was silent when I was in the living room when I heard this song. Like, it was the full song, lyrics included. I was crying because it was so beautiful. I don’t take credit for writing that song.
Do you have a ritual or something you do before every show? I need silence. I need to meditate. If I can't get peace and quiet at the venue, I get it at my hotel before the show. And I always pray before I go on stage. That is important to me.
What college did you graduate and what was your major? Tennessee State University. I have a B.A. in Speech, Communication, & Theater with emphasis in Mass Media.
Do you think a college degree is important to be a musician? What made you want to finish school? I do not think a college degree is important to be a musician, especially today when so many musicians are successfully self employed. Finishing college was a big moment for me, but I did it for myself. I also knew that someday I would like to go back to school. I felt like my degree would open those doors for me.
If you were stranded on a deserted island for the rest of your life, what three CDs would you take and why? Okay, this is difficult cause I hate listening to one thing for a long time anyway. Milton Brunson & The Thompson Community Choir is my favorite gospel choir. I would take their “Best Of” CD because I wouldn’t be able to decide. I would take N*E*R*D’s Seeing Sounds even though my favorite album of theirs is Fly or Die. Seeing Sounds has Sooner or Later and I love that song. Erykah Badu Live because that is one of the great live soul music recordings of my generation and I never get tired of it.
Is it a struggle being an indie artist? If so, how and in what ways? It's unstable. You get a lot of e-mails for opportunities. Some work out but many fall through. The ones that fall through, it sucks because those are the really good ones. It's not glamorous in indie land. I've slept on couches in Cali. I rode a Greyhound for 18 hours after a show on the east coast. You need to be a little crazy to be an artist, and grimy, especially if you're a girl. That diva shit won't work.
Do you ever feel the need to work a 9 to 5 while doing your music? I do and I have. Many artists do this until their shows become consistent or they get relevant. We do what we have to.
What kinds of 9-to-5 jobs do you or have you worked? I did retail as a side hustle sometimes. My main job was as a church musician. It kept me close to the music. Plus, I had the freedom to travel 5 days out the week for shows. I've been playing organ/keys for churches since I was 16.
When did you know you could sing and how did you learn this? It was in me. Both of my parents were singers. My parents said I was singing as a baby. I was singing in church. When I was five, I was in my first talent show. It just went from there.
What instruments do you play? Are you a self-taught musician? I taught myself Hammond organ, piano, and drums (a little). I studied all the clarinets and oboe in school.
Who do people compare your sound most? Does it irk you when this happens? I heard Amel Larrieux a lot when I first started. Amel is one of my faves. I haven't heard anyone outside of her and I haven't heard that comparison in a long time.
What is the best advice you ever received as a performer? From whom and how did it change your life? The best advice was a memory I had from when I was in theater at college. I had stage fright as a singer when I first started doing shows. I remembered that I was confident being on stage as an actress and to treat my shows like a play.
You mentioned how your theater training helps with stage fright. How so? In theater, you have to get into character. You have to become this person you're portraying. I separated myself from Teresajenee. I treated Teresajenee as a character, even though Teresajenee is still very much me. That's how I got over the fright. Every now and then I have to go back to that place.
What is music missing today? Authenticity. People who believe in themselves enough to be themselves and not a trend.
How can people find out more about you? My website is teresajenee.com. I’m at facebook.com/teresajenee. My Twitter and Instagram are @stereoteeje. You can stay connected to me via email by joining my elist at teresajenee.tumblr.com/elist
DocM.A.C.'s Top Pick:
Peace of God-If you've ever lost someone or something in your life, this song will help you learn to surrender. It speaks to the letting go and letting God process beautifully. Change is inevitable. Embrace it.
DocM.A.C. signing off. Keep the faith and always trust the process. #OnwardUpward