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KPBS Midday Edition

Influential: Rebecca Jade's Playlist

 Musician Rebecca Jade in an undated photo.
Kristy Walker
Musician Rebecca Jade in an undated photo.

The San Diego Music Award-winning singer reflects on a childhood with a jazz singer mother, the songs that cultivated her love for music and the artists that shaped her style.

Rebecca Jade is winner of multiple San Diego Music Awards, and is a jazz soloist, performs in her own band, Rebecca Jade and the Cold Fact, and as a backup singer with Sheila E. We asked her to reflect on her influences, and she told us about her childhood with a jazz singer for a mother, the songs that made her fall in love with music, and the artists that shaped her style.

Influential is a KPBS music feature in which we ask San Diego musicians to make us a playlist and talk us through the music that shaped their careers. This is a way of sharing music together while we can't quite get out to live music performances and getting to know the artists we love and maybe discover something new.

Rebecca Jade won Artist of the Year in the 2020 San Diego Music Awards and has taken home honors nearly every year since 2014. She plays in her own band, Rebecca Jade & The Cold Fact, has put out a solo jazz album, and performs in the legendary rocker Sheila E's band — with multiple albums and collaborations under her belt. She's also shared a stage with Elton John. We asked her to reflect back on the songs that cultivated her love for music and shaped her style — plus the one song she can't wait to play on a stage for audiences again soon.

Here it is in Rebecca Jade's own words:

For me personally, it was like cancellation after cancellation after cancellation of dates right at the beginning, you know, so it's a bit of like, "Oh boy, OK, what am I going to do? What do we do?"

So, there was a sense of that kind of "Oh, no," a little bit. But then it was like, "OK, so. So now what? This is a reality. What can I do?" So that's really where things kind of shifted for me mentally.

And I think some of it reflected also in song — a lot of the songs I write are also very encouraging. I try to write songs that are uplifting, you know, and so some some of the songs that came out of this pandemic has reflected that as well.

So it's a matter of, you know, we could all be, "Woe is me" or we can be like, "OK, this is our reality. What can we do about it?" What's kept me going through this pandemic has been keeping in mind to just keep myself busy.

So I've been using a lot of this time to kind of work on things I have never had a chance to work on before or, you know, try to sharpen and hone my craft.

So I've been taking site reading classes and I've been taking kind of audio production classes because I've been recording more at home. I've been doing lots of live stream events, which a lot of artists have been doing.

And yes, I've been keeping really busy just in different ways, in ways that I haven't had a chance really to do before.

'Good Morning Heartache," By Billie Holiday

I was really young when I was introduced to Billie Holiday, my mom's a jazz singer — shout out to my beautiful mom — and growing up, she helped expose me to a lot of different musical styles. You know, Billie Holiday was one of the icons, you know. Her voice, there was something just so haunting, and so ... I can't even explain what it is. I couldn't even tell you technically.

But there was something about her voice when I was first hearing her that just drew me to her.

"Good Morning Heartache." You know, she lived a life, you know, there was such sorrow and sadness and yet power and vulnerability. And there's so many layers that I think I hear when I hear her voice, and it just draws me to her.

And so it kind of reflects in my writing. I don't know why, but I just I always tend to write love songs or, yeah, I try to write songs that are encouraging and empowering as well. But I also tend to have a lot of love songs or heartbreak songs.

And I think that being a fan of Billie Holiday almost gave me the permission to be comfortable to do that, you know? And yeah, she was one of the first voices that just really stuck into my ear, my soul and my heart. I love Billie Holiday.

'All At Once' By Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston is definitely a big influence for me. I tried to sing like her. I was trying to learn her runs and she just had this pure voice that it was undeniable.

And so "All At Once" was just one of those songs that I just loved the melody and I just loved her ... the way she sang — I love the way she sang everything. I just remember that being one of the songs that was not really, you know, everybody knew "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," and "Greatest Love of All." But I think this one was just one of those that was not as popular but was such a great song. Whitney Houston was my icon.

When she passed, I remember going, you know, like a lot of people do, I wanted to reminisce. And I was like, gosh, she had so many amazing songs and I knew so many of them.

And she just really, really impacted me to be that voice, to try to be like — I did try to sing like her. I mean, that's how that's how much she meant to me.

'Quimbara' by Celia Cruz

Celia Cruz is one of — gosh, she was just she's kind of more of a representation of the style of music that my mom and I listen to a lot.

I was partly raised in Puerto Rico as a child. And so that salsa, Afro Cuban music was just playing everywhere, so that just — I feel like was part of my — and I like I said, my mom was a jazz singer. She was a jazz singer there in Puerto Rico. So Latin music that, Puerto Rican-Cuban was just flowing and everywhere it was part of it was part of my upbringing.

So when we moved to California, it was just one of those, like, we always still played that music a lot when I was, you know, when it was time to do something, to make dinner to, you know, get ready for something. We were always playing Celia Cruz and Tito Puente, and it was part of the catalog of my upbringing.

'Requiem in D Minor' by Mozart

One of my favorite top five movies is "Amadeus," you know, that's the soundtrack, is Mozart's Requiem.

And I just love it. I just love it so much. And I also grew up listening to Handel's "Messiah" a lot. I don't even know a lot about classical music, but I just know that that was one that was played a lot in the mix of jazz and the Latin. You know, it was just one of those. But we would sit and watch, "Amadeus," and I just loved it.

And so I think when I first heard these, I just loved the — there's such a contrast. You know, you hear this wide array of instrumentation that is just powerful. And I can hear the melodies in my head.

For me, physically, like my head moves when it's like these, like low and big sounds and then the beautiful violins at the top, and then the choir comes in, and then or there's a lead vocalist that is, you know, takes this part. And it's just — there's something that is just so moving and it's incredible to see it and feel it.

To me, it just reaches a different level in the body and the brain that's tied in with music. I can't even really verbalize it exactly. But it's just more of an — it takes on a different emotional and physical feeling than other styles of music, in my opinion.

It kind of covers a wider range because you're hearing the bass and all these wind instruments and then the violin, the higher violins and flutes. And you're just getting such a wide range of instrumentation that you don't really get in many other styles.

'Boy From New York City' By The Manhattan Transfer

My mom really helped me a lot with vocal harmonies, and oftentimes it would be just the two of us singing, you know? As I got a little older, she started to share with me bands like Manhattan Transfer, like Take Six, where vocals are just almost instrumentation. You know, they are almost the main instrument, even though there's also, you know, actual instrumentation also supporting them.

But she really exposed that to me. I love vocal harmonies so much. And I think it really was I can attribute it to listening to Manhattan Transfer any time we would go on car rides, or if I'd go on car rides with my dad.

I remember we drove one time, I think, to Texas and we were listening to Manhattan Transfer.

And it's just, again, a different style that like classical where you just have this wide range of instrumentation.

I love how Take Six, Manhattan Transfer, how they take vocal and put a wide range within that scope, within that style. I'm so blown away by it.

And I love listening to vocal acrobatics, like Take Six and Manhattan Transfer.

I truly believe that the Mozart and Take Six and the Manhattan Transfer that all reflected — reflects still — into the shows that I do either with Sheila E. or my own stuff, The Cold Fact.

And it all relates 100%. So I encourage people to keep at it. If there's any doubts within yourself of, "Oh I don't know how this is going to help or contribute." I truly believe it all contributes in some form or fashion. So to stick with it and at some point it manifests itself to reveal that, that it was part of your evolution as a creative, as an artist, as whatever it is that you do.

I think one of the first songs I'll play when I'm able to get back to it is probably one of my new original songs that is about, you know, "How are you going to approach trials and tribulations that come up?"

The song's called "What's It Gonna Be?" And it's just about encouraging you to — what are you going to do? You can run or you can hide, or you can stand strong and just take it all in stride. And just so what are you going to choose?

And I want to challenge people to continue to push forward. Push through.

— Rebecca Jade, February 2021.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. You can find a playlist of Jade's influences on Spotify here, or check out Rebecca Jade and The Cold Fact's 2019 full-length album, "Running Out of Time."