Meet Jovel Johnson
As told to Alecia
Catching up with an old classmate can be as exciting as it is nostalgic. There are tons of questions you can’t wait to ask: Did you get married? What are you doing with your life? Where in the world are you? Thanks to the numerous social media platforms for their uncountable status updates, picture and video uploads, as well as blog posts, you’re never left in the dark. That’s exactly the case with Jovel Johnson. This rhythmic songstress has slowly transformed herself into a self-made entertainment symbol. The "Anywhere But Here" singer has already written and produced her first documentary and short film, and is gradually cementing her presence as a fixture in the entertainment industry. You can find her on YouTube where she breathtakingly belts out the tunes to covers of some popular songs. But that's not all, she records and soulfully delivers her own music too, and has a powerful voice that is sure to transfix. These feats were accomplished while remaining grounded to her core values, constantly telling fear to "kick rocks," while exuding nothing less than sheer feminine star-power with a winning smile to wit. CreativeAjay is thrilled to introduce the world to Jovel Johnson.
In the 8th grade, you were a part of a trio that would frequently lend your vocals during classroom stage performances in devotions and during down time. Did you know that this was a precursor that would one day create a recording artist?
So nice of you to remember. I was terrified. Singing in a group was no problem for me, but the moment I had to go solo was when my heart flew up into my mouth. So no, I didn't know that would one day be a precursor to being a recording artist. I loved singing, and I had the talent, but I was afraid of singing in public by myself. I didn't want to look or sound foolish, and I didn't want people to feel like I was showing off – so I hid it. If I was in a room singing and somebody walked into the room, I would usually stop. It wasn't until 11th grade, the last year of high school, that I got the courage to sing solo in front of a group of people. A lot of that stemmed from the turmoil going on at home. Confidence and self-esteem weren't in abundance. But to tell you the truth, I really wanted to become a doctor, so I didn't have singing as a profession in mind. OK, maybe I actually saw myself as a singer a little bit, but I wanted to be a doctor since I was 3, so I had my eyes on that prize. I even did all the sciences in high school. I did well, but due to certain circumstances, it just didn't pan out. After that performing became my main focus.
FOREIGNER - I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS (JOVEL JOHNSON COVER)
There’s a lot of depth and richness to your voice, somewhat of a soulful, powerful, rhythmic vibrato. Describe your musical style. Is there any singer that you can identify with in terms of having a similar sound/style?
Funny enough, when I was in high school, I used to sound like Mariah Carey - no joke! High notes and everything! But I don’t know what happened, and listening to my voice right now, it may be hard to believe. I grew up on R&B, along with other genres. Even though I was born with the talent, it was Luther Vandross, Rick Astley, and Michael Bolton who taught me how to sing. Yes, I know, that’s a weird mix. But you’re talking to a girl who also grew up on Hall and Oates, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, Whitney Houston, INXS, Michael Jackson, George Benson, Taylor Dane, Madonna, Elton John, Anita Baker, among others. I’ve been compared to Toni Braxton, Anita Baker and Gladys Knight, India Arie, and unbelievably, Patti Labelle. I know, I’m surprised at that one too. In terms of identifying with them, I guess it just boils down to the fact that we have very distinct voices. With Toni Braxton and Anita Baker, it’s definitely the deep voices. And if you listen to my speaking voice, and compare it to my singing, you’ll be left scratching your head. No similarities. People are taken aback by the fact that I’m so soft spoken with a strong Jamaican accent, and able to produce that kind of singing.
At one point, you were deeply immersed in journalism. What prompted your transition to music, film, and the world of entertainment?
As you can deduce from what I said earlier, journalism wasn’t what I really wanted to do. After realizing that becoming a doctor wasn’t going to work out, I really set my sights on jumping into the performing arts. After a year of college in Jamaica, I left and came to the US hoping to attend a college that would provide that. Unfortunately the money wasn’t going to be able to stretch that far. I set my sights on a more affordable college that had something closest to what I really wanted to do, and that turned out to be Radio and Television Broadcasting. I ended up loving it and it helped to cement my storytelling/writing skills. So with that, I went into journalism. The good thing is, I was still able to sing...on the side.
Singer, songwriter, film maker, screen writer. You have pretty much been in the entertainment industry for most of your career, a “dog-eat-dog" world. What are some of the challenges that come with this line of work? How do you stay fresh?
You flatter me by saying I've “been in the entertainment industry...”, because I don’t feel like I’m in it. I don’t think I've even scratched the surface. I still have a lot of work to do. But yes, I have done some significant things so far. The only challenge I can really come up with is balancing all of the mentioned roles. I ALWAYS have ideas in my head of what I want to do in those different arenas all at once, and it’s sometimes hard to deal with just one. And being a perfectionist doesn't help, because I feel like I should be able to do it all...at once. But I HAVE to tackle one at a time (no I don’t...*Chuckling*). My idol is Barbra Streisand because she wears all those hats, and like me, suffers from anxiety issues. I need to ask her how she does it. The only way to stay fresh is to be myself - at all times. There’s no other way. What fans like is what I have to offer, and what I have to offer is myself. That’s all I can give. Oh, and you forgot Blogger. *Chuckling*
As someone who takes great pride in your Jamaican roots, what do you think are some of the richest elements of our Jamaican music, and do you think that it is still competitive on the world stage?
Many cultures and countries have duplicated and somewhat even repurposed Reggae...many times very successfully. But one thing that they won’t be able to change and capture is the attitude, the authenticity, or the backstory. Reggae music is not just about the music itself, it’s also a way of life...a culture, not to mention the dialect. And because of that, it will always be competitive on the world stage. Even in the apparent decline in the quality of reggae music, there are some artists who are keeping it strong. Tarrus Riley, I’m talking to you.
What are some of your greatest accomplishments to date and how would you like your legacy to live on?
My greatest accomplishments? I would have to say having my documentary “MY NAME IS JEVON!” being aired in three different countries (USA, Barbados and Jamaica) was a biggie. My short film, “RECKONING” was an Official Selection in three film festivals in the US and Jamaica. Those accomplishments made me feel like I can actually do it. In terms of music, my fanbase is growing slowly, but surely. I have over 42,800 video views on YouTube. Over 30,000 views are from my cover videos alone. I know that may not be a lot to some people, but I feel good about that.
My legacy? I just want to be known as someone who was great at what she did, and that I did it with humility and grace.
MY NAME IS JEVON! (PART 1)
My Name is Jevon! - Written and Directed by Jovel Johnson