The Light of JerVae

Experimental soulstress JerVae Anthony tests the bounds of creativity and imagination

If imagination is the cornerstone of creativity -- its foundation, the rock that it's built on -- then JerVae Anthony is on her way to constructing a monument.

An experimental soul singer, Anthony makes bits and pieces of songs: part rough-draft recordings, part spur of the moment impulses that she demos on her MacBook. Using GarageBand and a $100 microphone, she's written and recorded nearly 100 of these low-key gems. Some are short, others emotional, and a few sound just plain weird. In them, though, it feels as if Anthony is striving for something. There's a sense she's trying to embrace it all. She can crack a joke, pray, cry, bleed and even sneeze if she feels the need to -- it all makes its way into song. Her music is the result of an active imagination combined with what she calls a "sick sense of humor," and together the two make for an incredibly interesting sound.

Born and raised in southeast San Diego, Anthony started singing in church and admits that television was an early influence. "I would watch a lot of Disney Channel," she says. A life-long student of the arts, she started writing songs in middle school as a form of therapy. After graduating from the School of Creative and Performing Arts in San Diego, she went on to major in vocal performance at the California Institute of the Arts. But creatives have a hard time sitting still -- they get antsy, and they get restless. So in her sophomore year, bored with the strict nature of classical training, Anthony left CalArts and decided to pursue a career in social work.

After she spent a few years in the field, though, that restlessness started wiggling around again. Anthony's imagination was having its way with her as she was dreaming in song and seeing paintings in day visions. She couldn't sit still or ignore the desire to create, so she returned to performing, albeit with a new appreciation for the practice of the arts.

Now she spends time tucked away at home experimenting with melody on her MacBook. She's "evolving", she says, still finding her voice. She wants to "minimize the amount of words I'm using [to] create more space," experimenting with not only songwriting but also technique. It's music in flux.

That leads Anthony into interesting territory, like where she reinterprets the tale of Jack and Jill -- yes, the ones that went up the hill -- into a slow, almost sensual, electronic-soul song. Then there's the reggae-tinged ode to, ahem, a lady's monthly bloat -- "I Got My Period" -- where she repeats, "Boy/I got my period, boy/I got my period/Today," drawing out the final vowel in the last word.

Anthony doesn't stay in any one place very long, emotionally or conceptually, as her collection of works finds her moving through styles and genres quite comfortably. Whether she's singing a cover of Rihanna hit "Stay" or scatting, a la Ella Fitzgerald, through original numbers like "Attention Deficit Disorder" -- it all seems so effortless, so easy.

Then there's that voice: It's charged and soulful, like a gift from Nina Simone herself. Anthony's songs are smart and intuitive, and even though she's still finding her point of view, it sounds like she's having a blast doing it. Donning different styles of music as though outfits in a one-women show. Anthony's writing a screenplay and working on an album in what she calls "an effort towards high poetry and soul." If these snippets are any indication of what she has in store, just imagine what it's all going to sound like.

J. Smith, aka 1019, is a San Diego native, rap fan and one half of the rap duo Parker & the Numberman. You can follow him on Instagram at 1019_the_numberman or on Twitter

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