Soulful Reflections: Jasmine Cephas Jones on her new album ‘PHOENIX’

Art

May 31, 2024

Kacey Perez

In an era where music often serves as both a reflection and an escape, Jasmine Cephas Jones emerges with “PHOENIX,” a new album that promises to resonate deeply with her audience. Known for her captivating performances in “Hamilton” and “Blindspotting,” as well as her Emmy and Grammy wins, Jasmine has long been a multifaceted artist. Her latest musical endeavor not only showcases her talent but also reveals her personal journey through love, loss, and self-discovery.

In our exclusive interview, Jasmine opens up about the intimate inspirations behind her new single, “Baby I Can’t Give You Up,” a heartfelt tribute to her family and friends. She shares the significance of shooting the music video in London, a place rich with memories and meaning for her, and how the project became a poignant love letter following her father’s passing.

As she discusses the contrasts between “Baby I Can’t Give You Up” and her previous single, “Brighter,” Jasmine delves into the themes of self-discovery and transformation that permeate her work. Her album, aptly named “PHOENIX,” symbolizes a personal and artistic rebirth, capturing the essence of her evolution as an artist.

Navigating the creative process across different mediums, Jasmine speaks candidly about the challenges and joys of balancing her music with her acting career. She reflects on the profound impact of her experiences and the importance of staying true to oneself in a constantly changing industry.

With “PHOENIX,” Jasmine Cephas Jones not only reaffirms her place in the music world but also invites listeners to embark on their own journeys of growth and renewal. Join us as we explore the depths of her artistry and the heartfelt stories behind her latest work.

Your new single, “Baby I Can’t Give You Up,” is described as a classic pop/soul love song dedicated to various forms of love. What personal experiences or inspirations led you to create this intimate and powerful track?

I wrote this album a couple of years ago so a lot of the songs have new meaning to me now. In the video, the song is dedicated to my family and friends who have loved me unconditionally and have supported me throughout the years. I decided to shoot in London because I have a lot of family that lives there and it’s the place where I was born. It’s a place that means a lot to me, where I have a lot of special and important memories. After my father passed away last year, I wanted to include him and my family and friends in the montage. Something I can go back to when I miss him and other members of my family. It’s a beautiful love letter that I’ll always have.

The music video for “Baby I Can’t Give You Up” showcases introspective moments and flashbacks to special memories. How did you approach the visual storytelling for this song, and what significance do these moments hold for you?

I was in the middle of shooting ORIGIN, the Ava Duverney film that came out earlier this year. Before I went to Berlin to wrap the film, I decided to stop in England to visit my family. I had this idea to shoot the video on my break and include my family in it. It just made it even more special to be creative with the people that I love so much. We shot it gorilla style which made it even more intimate.

Your previous single, “Brighter (feat. Kevin Garrett),” emphasized themes of self-discovery and positive relationships. How does this song contrast with “Baby I Can’t Give You Up,” and what overarching messages do you hope listeners take away from both tracks?

I decided to start with Brighter as the first single because I loved it so much. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album. It just has that funky feel to it that makes your head bop immediately when you first hear that rim shot. The video kind of has two parts to it….the first part is this ranch party that basically represents my old life. The second part is me coming to the realization that I have to leave the party which represents me leaving home and starting this journey of healing and finding myself. The running in the street and turning into a Phoenix is a metaphor for going through the hard stuff and coming out better than before. Sometimes you just have to leave everything you know and that comfort zone in order to grow and get a true understanding of who you are.

As a multi-talented artist involved in singing, songwriting, acting, and producing, how do you navigate the creative process across different mediums? Do you find similarities or challenges in expressing yourself through music versus acting?

I think it’s just overcoming the fear of following your dreams. I have so many things that I want to accomplish and I don’t ever want to put myself in a box. It’s more of waking up one day and saying out loud “Okay, this idea that I have had in my head for years, I’m going to start to work on it now and make it happen.” Stop saying “One day I’m going to,” and change it to “I am doing it.” Then carving out the time to actually do it. I love acting and I also love to sing and make music. I think it’s also incredibly important to find your tribe and friends who are also creative to help guide you and to listen to your ideas and to brainstorm with. I can’t do any of this on my own. I’m extremely lucky to have a great support system and friends who are so talented that I look up to and who also believe in me just as much as I believe in them. In terms of expressing myself, I think with my music it’s more personal. It’s mine. With acting, I’m still expressing myself but I’m usually working on someone else’s project.

Your upcoming solo project, PHOENIX, is highly anticipated by your fans. Can you share any insights into the themes or inspirations behind this project, and how it represents your artistic evolution?

I first named this album PHOENIX because it represented a transformation for me musically. It feels like a very elevated version of the album I’ve always wanted to make and then life happened. I sat on it for a while because I was going through a really tough time. I went through a breakup, I moved to a different state, very far away from my family, and then my father passed. I didn’t know how to execute the album because I had changed so much as a person. But I realized that PHOENIX not only represented an evolution in me musically, but also it represented…me. I was the PHOENIX. I am the PHOENIX. It’s pretty incredible the way art can come through for you. Working on this album has also been a big part of my healing journey and all of the songs have shifted and changed for me but it still works and it still speaks to me.

You’ve received acclaim for your roles in various productions, including “Hamilton” and “Blindspotting,” as well as your EMMY® and GRAMMY® wins. How do you balance the demands of your acting career with your pursuits in music, and what unique fulfillment do each of these avenues provide for you creatively?

It’s hard when you have so many ideas and you want to do them all. You just have to prioritize what you want and what’s important in that moment. I love creating new characters and storytelling in theater, film , and TV. There’s nothing like it. Finding a character that speaks to you and hearing feedback from people that were moved by your performance or saying that they feel seen by a character that you played is everything. Telling stories that are important and help with understanding of humanity is why I decided to be an actor. It’s powerful. In terms of writing and making my own music, it’s one of the mediums where I can be the boss and execute with my voice and use different tamber and tones and push myself creatively. Everytime I sing or write, I get to explore who I am as an artist. I get to grow. I’m always trying to grow as an artist.

Reflecting on your journey from your early career to now, what moments or experiences have had the most profound impact on your growth as an artist and as an individual? How do you navigate staying true to yourself while evolving in such a dynamic industry?

Oh, there are so many moments that have impacted me. It’s really hard to say without writing a novel. To keep it short, I think any moment that I have learned from. I want to keep learning. Any moment that I have come out as a better person and artist has impacted me. I also think that when you go through a tough time or when grief hits you, it’s an opportunity to go on a journey to find the light. It’s a hard on but it’s so worth it. I have grown so much and if I think of my younger self, I would say to her, “You know so much more than you think you do. You are extremely capable and you will gain the tools to create art that you didn’t even think was possible.”

Your “Blue Bird” EP received praise from critics and fans alike. How does your solo music venture with PHOENIX differ from your previous releases, and what new elements or themes can listeners expect to hear?

PHOENIX is a music evolution from BLUEBIRD. It was done out of a beautiful collaboration with extremely talented artists. It has more variety and influence from artists that I have listened to throughout the years. It has longer songs with awesome transitions that highlight a lot of musicians that I love. I wanted to make an album that when you hear it, you go, “I can’t wait to hear this live.” That was my goal. PHOENIX just feels so alive to me. It really is the musical rollercoaster of my dreams and it doesn’t sound like anything else. It has the stamp of my sound which makes it unique. I hope when people listen, they can be inspired to stay true to themselves and go on their own phoenix journey.

What’s up next for you? Any upcoming projects you can share details about?

I would tell you about my next project but I did sign an NDA. Hopefully you will know about it sometime this year. For now, I’m working on moving into my new house, staying grounded, and finally celebrating all the hard work that went into PHOENIX.

Listen to PHOENIX.

Credits:

Written by Kacey Perez | @studioblume_

Photography courtesy of Jasmine Cephas Jones