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Steppin' presents: JELISA

In the rhythm of life, JELISA's journey unfolds ever so authentically. Delving into the nuances of her artistry, her music becomes a mirror reflecting the ebb and flow of human emotion, remaining steady in her commitment to genuine expression. Join us for a heartfelt exploration of vulnerability and resilience, along with an exclusive premiere of a video recorded during the Birdhouse session.

How are you feeling at this moment in time? In your art & in your music, what chapter are you in at the moment?

I feel good. It's a chapter of new beginnings, because a lot of things shifted in the last year. I moved back to Amsterdam, I was in the studio a lot, met a lot of new people that I really connected with, and are kind of like me on a personal level. I can really express myself around them. Life has its ups and downs and sometimes I'm happy, sometimes I'm figuring things out, but that's also what I write about. I also feel really blessed for the many opportunities coming to fruition. I've worked really hard for it. And now people can see it, so it's a whole different experience. 

It's like you're opening up in a way to the world. Like in your song ‘Hiding’, right?

Yeah absolutely! Funny, because when I created that song, I wasn't feeling good. I had an off day, and I went to a new studio with new producers (Noflik & showyou). I wasn’t in a good mood, so I was wondering whether or not to go. I went there, and I was just honest, saying that I’m a little bit low in the moment, but maybe it’s an idea to write about that. 

I was a bit done with hiding myself, and thought it's time for me to glow, to shine and to share what I got with the world. 

Sometimes I don't feel confident, but then I’ll do it anyway, because I'm also really comfortable outside of my comfort zone. I'm just trying to follow my intuition, and learning to trust it. Sometimes I need to have some time for myself, because I like to be alone, but sometimes I also really enjoy being with friends, and being very social. In December, and January, I really needed some time for myself, but now I'm starting to feel new energy coming up. It feels like I’m on the right path. I'm really excited for the opportunities that are coming, and the things I want to create. It's so exciting.

How do you feel like the musical journey has been for you so far up to this moment?

How have you been interacting with music throughout life?

For me it started when I was really young. I used to dance, listen to music, and express myself. At 13 I really started to create my own songs, playing the piano when I was 13. I was writing, and singing, very emotional songs, putting all my feelings on paper. But I just did it secretly in my room, you know? When I was a little bit older, some people knew, and asked me to sing on expo’s, or celebrations, etc. So I would just be out there singing my songs, but they weren't online, or anything. It was just in that moment. 

Shortly before the pandemic, I decided I’m gonna go for it. Because that's the thing that's really burning in my heart. I started to write more, and work with producers, and musicians, just trying to get an idea of what the scene was like, and what I wanted to make. I'm always searching for music, I think it's a big part of my music journey as well. Making playlists for friends, different moods, also creating the sound that I really like in my head.  

So I decided to release an EP, determined to finish these songs. I wrote down everything that bothered me, what failed, stories about me, or my friends, my feelings, my thoughts, and basically, this is how my first EP ‘Season of Vulnerability’ came to be. I was being very vulnerable. People really liked it, and I enjoyed it myself, because it was just what I created in that moment. The story of that moment, and the inspiration from it. I always try to stay true to that. 

It felt right for me. It can always be better, when you grow as a person, and music as well, but it's also nice to share all of that with the audience, with your people. I think it's really inspiring to see the phases of an artist's life in a song or an album or an EP, so I decided to stay true to myself, and just do what I feel. It's a journey. 

How was the live performance shaped? 

That was also a part of the journey. During COVID I wanted to make a video for two of the songs ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Leave Me Be’. It was in the middle of lockdown. We rented a studio and I performed the songs live for the first time, it was just a different process. We decided to film it, and turn it into a small project with my two friends. Something to share online, because everybody was just sitting at home at the time. Bored. I thought it would be nice to share my new music at this time, a live version, which is a bit different from the studio version. A big part of my band was formed at that time, and we had a release party in the Soho House downstairs. It was the first time that I did my EP live, and also performing with a band, because before that I was playing the piano and singing mostly just by myself. It was a new experience. 

I studied performing arts as well, so I have some experience with being on stage, dancing, but also singing, theatre, etc. But it's different, because this is my own music with my own lyrics now. Very personal, but also easy in a way, because it’s really my thing. I was so happy to be there and also quite happy, and a little bit shocked by how different the experience was. I was really proud. And then two years later, Paradiso contacted me to make a video. 


I really wanted to do it because it was like a good opportunity, although many of my band members weren’t available on that date. I had only a week to arrange everything, but it all worked out pretty well, and ended up meeting some other amazing musicians. 

I love to connect with likeminded musicians that really feel my music. To put something together in the studio and get to perform it live on stage, that's something really special. 

Working with people is way more fun than doing everything by yourself, I used to do that a lot. And I think that was important for me, but now I'm really choosing to work together. At the end of the year I got to perform at Supersonic Jazz Festival, and headline my own show at Paradiso Upstairs.

Tijmen de Nooy Photography

How would you describe your sound?

My sound is vulnerable. I never like to pick a genre but I’m Inspired by jazz,  soul, and R&B, funk and more. It’s all my inspiration transformed into me. It's rhythmic. I like drums, percussion, I like that there's a story,

but it has to be soothing. But it's also an experiment. I always try to look for new ways and playing with the structure. I like to get rid of all the boundaries, and just be me at the moment. Creativity without boundaries, tuning in with my intuition. The lyrics reflect what’s going on in my mind on a weekly and daily basis. It always comes out in the studio. It's not always about me. It's quite poetic. I also love reading.

What are you reading right now?

‘Creative Act’ by Rick Rubin right now, it’s always with me. When I started reading it, I really found myself in it. A lot of the things in the book resonated with me, and made me feel less weird in this world. 

Is there a message that you would like to convey in your music?

Mostly daring to be vulnerable. Sharing some personal stories, about growth, accepting yourself and this journey of life, basically. My songs have a lot of messages, and I always try to bring something new that I myself learned by writing it down. Every song is different, but there’s always a meaning behind it. Mostly, I’d like to provide some hope. I hope whoever listens gets the feeling like they're not alone, because I'm also going through the same thing. The message is that it’s okay. Keep going. Because that's real. I like real shit. I like to talk to real people, eat real food, and dare to just try. And be even more vulnerable.

What's coming up for you this year?

Inspiration trips. Planning to go to Brazil, and discover a bit more about Brazilian music such as samba, bossa nova etc. See how that goes. My mom is from Surinam, so South American music is part of my roots. I’m also starting to work on a  Japanese project, hoping to go there as well. We're creating  a small EP. I've always been inspired in many ways by Japan. I made a lot of new music recently, there will be an EP this year, and probably a single before the summer. I'm also a little bit careful with saying it, since I don't want to put too much pressure on myself. 

I like to be very engaged in the process, you know? I'm very specific. Also with how things look, or how they sound, how they make sense, how the mix and the master is, how the instruments play a role… I also like to stay open and flexible as much as possible, and keep my options open. I might release it myself, because I think it’s quite cool, unless I find a label that really brings an added value. I also have some performances in option, but for now, I’m mainly focusing on music, coming up with new ideas. I will surprise you. 

How do you reflect on the Birdhouse session?

I really enjoyed it. It was so nice that we could create the vibe the way we wanted. We really wanted to make it cozy, because it’s the details that matter. Everybody was lovely and it was such an intimate little setting. Something different. I really loved it. Music is sort of like getting high especially when I'm singing. And then with the band, the instruments, the exchange of energy, and the whole vibe, feels like we're flying high together, it always feels magical. 

Tijmen de Nooy Photography

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