An Interview With World Renowned Tribute Artist Jass Meagher
We recently caught up with the beautiful and talented Jass Meagher, who is a tribute artist for the likes of Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys and more -as well as being a songwriter and producer herself. Jass recently just signed with one of the top tribute artist agencies in Los Angeles and is also planning on releasing her own album of originals, in the near future. We recently had a chance to catch up with her in between her busy schedule and here is what she had to say:
Hi Jass! Give us a little insight into your career and how you first got into performing:
I am a professional singer, songwriter, producer, Mariah Carey tribute artist and multi-tribute artist. My songwriting skills came before the tribute work and poetry was always my favorite form of expression as a young student. I later trained in music and voice in London and developed my songwriting, singing, performance and music skills . My mum is a Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist so, I had early experiences in music touring and street performing with her throughout Europe -as well as visiting many live music festivals.
I also went to a very alternative school in Scotland where creative arts were the forefront. I was educated in history and art subjects incorporating performance dance, singing and acting -for example; the story of Moulin Rouge. After moving to the capital city at age 11, finishing secondary school and starting at music college, my creative background alongside the natural confidence I learned from harmonizing with my family in my early years -helped motivate me to go into London performing my own music live. I played in a variety of showcases and appeared in many hot spots including the Troubadour, Bar Floripa Shoreditch, The Pheonix Oxford Street, Blagclub Notting Hill and Storm Nightclub Leicester Square -right in the heart of London’s West End.
I also performed my original music and productions at the grand finals of UK-Unsigned held at the famous Hackney Empire, and was nominated for two Exposure Music Awards for my music. Early on, people would often reference my voice to Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, although my songs were unique and I had my own style -I was influenced vocally by these divas and so many of the other greats. I was nicknamed “Little Mariah” at my London school for performing her songs at assembly and in the corridors.
I also identified with Mariah strongly, coming from a similar cultural background, being mixed race, part Scottish, and Black African -as well as trying to fit into a city like New York, like she had to. Moving to London at age 11 was really the start of my journey in becoming a professional singer and finding my voice. I learned so much from singers like Mariah. I didn’t actually attend formal music classes until college, unlike many kids who go through expensive stage schools like Brit School or Sylvia Young, which produces a large majority of UK’s famous pop stars.
After completing music college, I worked several administrative, sales and corporate jobs in central London. I held positions at a pro audio store, an interactive media marketing company and a leading music licensing company whilst establishing myself more as a live performer on the weekends. I also studied a further course at the prestigious Vocal-Tech in Acton, London majoring in vocals. It was then, that I scored my first agency deal in Oxfordshire and started doing a string of live acoustic cover gigs around London and the UK. From this exposure, other agents approached me and asked if I could perform a tribute to other top artists -that’s when I began singing tributes to Leona Lewis and Mariah Carey. My first show as Leona was for Gala Casinos, UK.
To a large extent, the two year BTEC National Diploma in popular music I undertook, also taught me to be a pretty rounded musician, with skills in many areas from composition, songwriting, vocal technique, keyboards, theory, production, sound engineering -and the business side of the music industry, which was even more important! I am a Gemini and enjoy multi-tasking, so I love all aspects of music. I have also collaborated with a couple of London songwriters to produce ‘Songs Sunday Lover’ and FWB ‘Friends With Benefits’, which can be downloaded on iTunes.
Currently, I am also working on producing an original album of songs. Learning to be versatile has allowed me to be able to compose radio jingles, write pop records, arrange all the instruments in my songs, produce a beat or instrumental, sing four part harmonies, vary my vocal and music style -and be able to emulate the greats such as Mariah, Whitney, Alicia and Aretha. As long as I’m singing and being creative I am happy. It’s not about money or the fame for me, although I am grateful to earn a living as a professional singer and to have a very supportive group of followers. I continue to grow as an artist and it’s fantastic to receive further publicity for my work.
What were some of your influences growing up?
Believe it or not I only started listening to Mariah Carey at age 11 when I moved London. I hadn’t heard of her before her ‘Daydream’ album and was so impressed. In the early days I listened to bands like The Pretenders, Everything But The Girl and in London more soul/R&B/pop inspired music like Aaliyah, Gabrielle, Alicia Keys and Brandy. I shared a room with my sister as a young girl and woke up to her music playlists like Michael Jackson, Prince, Patsy Cline,and Barbara Streisand. The school I attended in Scotland had a big love of rock bands and they jammed to bands like Metallica and Nirvana and the area I grew up in, in Scotland had a vibrant live music scene. I would hear a lot of covers by the likes of Bob Marley, Van Morrison, Carole King, David Bowie, Kate Bush and Annie Lennox. My mum being a singer, songwriter, guitarist was also a big influence on me and her music is wonderful. So ultimately I guess you could say I am influenced by great songwriters, artistry and all kinds of music.
Tell us about your training:
I have to be honest in saying the best training any vocalist and musician can get is applying themselves to just learn and be better. I spent years pouring through vocal technique books, watching and learning different skills from teachers, other performers and my own experimental methods. I really enjoyed a book called The Secrets Of Singing by Jeffery Lee Allen. I have studied various styles at Tech Music School ( Vocal Tech) such as Blues, Jazz, Rock, Pop, Gospel, Funk and R&B which has helped me understand the stylistics of a song and be able to interpret it -and to sing in the style of the tributes I perform as today from Alicia to Mariah, Whitney and many other divas.
I also perform another show called ‘The All Star Diva’ where I tribute all the greats such as Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Christina Aguilera. I even sing classical crossover and use my operatic head voice to sing the likes of Katherine Jenkins. I learned this technique from self study after being inspired by the fact that Leona Lewis attended Italia Conti Opera Training School to build some of her technical ability. I watched a lot of opera and listened to classical music. All my experience and training has also allowed me to teach vocals to advanced Level 1 and I have received five star reviews from some of my private vocal students.
I particularly enjoyed performing my ‘All Star Diva Tribute’ at the world’s largest music and arts festival which were both indoors and at the ‘Royal Mile at Edinburgh Festival’ on the Virgin Money stage.
What has been one of the biggest highlights/achievements of your career?
I have had a lot of great moments and successes in my career so far that I am thankful for -so it’s hard to pick just one. Being booked to support famous boy band East 17 this Christmas with my Mariah Carey Tribute is pretty exciting and my cover of her #1 hit ‘My All’ is featured on VH1 Music ( an MTV sister channel) website as part of their blog; ‘Singers Who Sound Exactly Like Music Legends’. I have featured in Heat Celebrity Magazine’s ‘Almost Famous’ article, I’ve been reviewed by Belfast Times Magazine columnist Graine McGarvey and have performed to sold out shows in Japan.
If you had a chance to work alongside anybody who would that be?
Producer and songwriter Ryan Tedder who wrote ‘Bleeding Love’ and Beyonce’s ‘Halo’. Also Timberland -I love his work. A duet with my favorite divas would also be incredible.
What have you learned the most about this business?
It can be corrupt and misleading.There are many sharks looking to only make money out of the talented, so you have to navigate your way through carefully and make the decisions that are right for you as an artist and as a person. I would also advise that if given a contract or offered a deal that artists have a qualified music lawyer look over the documents before signing anything. I have personally almost been fooled into signing a power of attorney form which takes away most of your rights to make your own decisions. Furthermore, management isn’t always needed and you can distribute your own records independently without a label.
However PR is the most important element in promoting yourself. Press can help you sell your music, book more shows, and a strong social media presence is vital in today’s industry. When I worked for a music licensing company I found that most artist and management websites were simply a landing page that led you back to social media platforms. Another important note is that in order to earn big royalties for airplay as an an artist or musician, the music you perform on record has to be played on major radio stations -internet radio isn’t a big royalty earner. Another good idea is to own both the songwriters rights and recording rights to your performances, so forming your own independent label and writing your own music for example is a great way to do this.
You often have to fork out large amounts of cash yourself to set this all up and to be this independent. So, for this reason, often underprivileged but brilliant talent goes undiscovered and cannot make it onto the chart’s. Another pitfall for those without the financial backing, is they risk of being exploited on nasty TV shows and they won’t have the opportunity to be showcased directly to A&R at stage schools either so being signed is less likely.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring artists?
Be as knowledgeable and as educated as you can in your field of work in the entertainment industry -which has always helped me move towards my music goals. Next up, I am going to be recording an original single with platinum producer Corey Oz Simon out in LA. Coreyrey, produced some of Macy Gray’s best work. I will also hopefully be performing my tributes throughout the US and have just signed with a top tribute band agency in LA. All exciting news!
Thanks so much for your time Jass and best of luck with everything!
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