17 November 2018

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INTERVIEW: Jennifer Juan – A Cultural Melting Pot Of An Artist

Jennifer Juan is a cultural melting pot of an artist. She is a writer, a musician, a producer, a film maker and a podcast host, currently residing in the Kent countryside, but dreaming of the ocean. A tornado of darkness and delicacy, Juan creates engaging and powerful projects, using a variety of mediums and platforms, each dripping with her signature playful, yet powerful style of writing. Beginning her journey as an artist as a teenager, Juan graduated from The University of Greenwich in 2013, and began sharing her work on her personal website, as well as through social media, posting written poetry and video projects.

In 2017, Juan began producing a weekly podcast “Sincerely, Jennifer x”, sharing her poetry, insights into her writing techniques, and released several printed volumes of poetry, including the critically acclaimed “Home Wrecker”. 2017 also saw Juan’s first venture into music, with her releasing her debut single “Past Preston”, a haunting instrumental track that would begin the first step into her immersive cross media project “Drowning In Us” that will be unveiled in full in 2018. Juan has also had adventures in professional wrestling. Initially training with Progress Wrestling at their Projo in London, she debuted for IPW:UK as the manager of Earl Jonathan Windsor, in August 2014.

    1.  You’re a writer, a musician, a producer, a film maker and a podcast host. Would you describe your creative calling in exactly that same order? And if by some mischievous destiny you were forced to only pursue one of the above crafts, which would it be?

Jennifer Juan: I think it goes in that order, yes. Pretty much everything I do starts with something I wrote, so it really is the heart and soul of what I do. I think if I had to just do one, I’d be a writer, because it gives you so many endless possibilities.

  1. When did you first discover your creative talents? And have you had any formal training in any of the above skills?

Jennifer Juan: I have to be honest, I was the annoying theatre kid everybody hated at school. I was like Rachel Berry, from Glee. At every opportunity, I wanted to sing, and dance, and be creative. I’m sure people thought I was exhausting, but it came from watching so many old movies and listening to my grandparent’s records when I would stay with them. I became obsessed with the glamour and dramatics of it all, and just decided that I was going to do it for the rest of my life, in some capacity. I began going to dance and acting classes when I was about twelve, after begging my family for months, and that’s where I discovered writing, in a sense. I loved to perform, but I also loved the creation of characters. I’d always come up with really elaborate back stories for everyone I played, or for every song I sang, and so I began just writing my own things. I later went on to study creative writing at The University Of Greenwich.

  1. Do you play any acoustic instruments or is your music electronically based?

Jennifer Juan:  I play a little guitar, but most of what I do is electronically based. I’m a control freak, so doing everything electronically allows me to have a hand in everything.

  1. What types of music and which artists do you currently prefer listening to?

Jennifer Juan: I really enjoy older stuff, like The Beach Boys, Timi Yuro and Bobby Vee. I like a mixture of different things, but it all tends to be old and sentimental.

      5. Are your works predominantly based on real events and personal experiences, or are they drawn from your creative storytelling skills?

Jennifer Juan:  A lot of what I write and create starts as real experiences and events, but the final version will have been built on. I like to imagine different endings to things that have happened, or what could have been if one detail had been different, or if things had gone another way.

  1. What inspired you to write the song “Past Preston”?

Jennifer Juan:  It’s a part of my upcoming project “Drowning In Us”, which will be an immersive media experience across video, music and reading platforms to tell the story of two people who find the right love, at the wrong time. I started writing it when I was sat right by the North Pier in Blackpool. I could hear the ocean all around me, it was about 9PM, but it was May, so it wasn’t dark yet. I thought about the story I’d written, and how I wanted to transform into something bigger than I’d ever created before, and I looked right at the heart of it, to the longing, the despair, and the bittersweet joy, and Past Preston was born.

  1. Do you work totally on your own in all of your endeavors, or do also collaborate with other creatives?

Jennifer Juan: I’ve collaborated with people before, but right now, I’m doing my own thing, and exploring my creativity for a little while. I’d like to work with other people again in the future.

  1. Which key ingredients do you always try and infuse into your music, regardless of style and tempo?

Jennifer Juan:  Drama. I couldn’t tell you why, but I really do live for drama, and I think that reflects in my music. I like to play with dramatic sounds, and transitions. I want everything I create to sound like it could play in the background of Lauren Bacall being swept up in a kiss with Humphrey Bogart, that feels painfully essential.

  1. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music so far?

Jennifer Juan:  I’ve had a lot of struggles with my mind, and she’s not done with me yet. I spent a lot of time when I was growing up, trying to be the strong one, and keeping it all together, so it never occurred to me to ask for help, until it was almost too late. I couldn’t recognise that I needed to reach out, because I’d always tried to be the hand that pulled somebody up, and accepting it, for the first time, was humbling, and terrifying. I try and find things to keep me positive, and my work has been very helpful. I feel like I can write down what hurts, and turn them into something different, and beautiful, and for a moment, it’s like it doesn’t exist for a moment, and for a few seconds, I’m free.

  1. What would you consider a high point or proud moment in your career so far?

Jennifer Juan:  I’m a little embarrassed about this, but it’s also one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I remember my dear friend once jokingly asking William Regal, the wrestler, if he ever read fan fiction about himself, on twitter. He actually responded, and said he didn’t, but he would read something about himself, if he was written to have a monkey sidekick. So me, being me, I wrote it and sent it to him on twitter, and he actually responded. I thought I was going to die of embarrassment, but I also felt weirdly proud of it, and it was a nice moment, as a writer, to be able to have such good feedback for something that I wrote as a joke. Apart from that, I’d say the reception that my book Home Wrecker received meant a lot to me. I felt very vulnerable about that collection, because a lot of it was deeply personal, and so it was nice to see that people enjoyed it, and some people found things they could relate to.

  1. How would you define ‘success’ regarding your craft? Do you feel you have already reached it in some way? If not what do you feel you would still have to achieve to consider yourself ‘successful’?

Jennifer Juan: I think it’s personal to every person, but for me, I think knowing that you’ve created something that made someone happy is success. Over the last year, I’ve been able to connect with a lot more people, and I have been fortunate enough to hear that things I’ve created are being enjoyed, but I want to keep going. There’s a lot more people in the world, and I want to keep doing what I love, and hopefully, they’ll be enjoying that with me.

  1. More than anything else, what is the one thing you desire that people get out of your music or other creative work?

Jennifer Juan: I hope that it makes them feel like someone understands. I always felt that way about music, and poetry when I was younger. I still do now.

  1. Have you always wanted to be a writer and musician? (And was there a particular moment you thought, ‘I can do this!’?

Jennifer Juan: I always wanted to be creative, and it took me a little while to pin down how I would do it, because I had so many ideas and thoughts on what I wanted to do, but the desire to be an artist was always there for me.

  1. If someone has never heard your music, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?

Jennifer Juan:  A little eclectic, and unusual, but full of longing and passion.

  1. Talk to us about your writing routine; what’s a typical writing day for you?

Jennifer Juan: I’m always up early, around 05:30, so I like to get up, and get clean and dressed. Sometimes, I like to feel fancy, and go all out in a proper gown, with jewels and everything, because it just makes everything seem more urgent and sublime. I like to listen to records when I write, so I normally put one on, and just lay down for a while, to soak it in, and relax, while I think of the kind of thing I’m looking to create. It’s really good if I’m having a little writer’s block, because it relaxes my mind and lets me just exist for a little while, so I’m more available for ideas to come to me. That’s also really good for my back, because I have to admit, I have terrible posture. I try and start writing by thinking of the central themes and ideas that I have, and starting off with a stream of consciousness. It helps me to come up with the strongest emotions and images tied to the idea, and gives me an idea on the kind of language I’m going to use. I start trying to piece things together, and figure it out, and I’ll just edit until it’s presentable. Not all my pieces start in such a relaxing way though, because inspiration can hit you at any time, so I’ve written on trains, in the bath, in the middle of the night when I was fast asleep a minute before. You just never know.

  1. Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with the new technology at hand?

Jennifer Juan: Absolutely. It gives you a whole new platform, and a new way to interact with the people who support you. Building a community with the people who support you, and getting to know them can be so much fun, so I’m really enjoying it.

  1. Are your family and loved ones supportive of your creative endeavors, or are you pretty much one of those misunderstood creatives like so many others?

Jennifer Juan: My family are very understanding and supportive of what I do. From when I was performing in school showcases, to what I’m doing now, my family have always been there to encourage me. I’m very fortunate in that regard. I think some of my friends find it a little weird, because the way that social media has become almost an integral part of being involved in entertainment, means that I don’t really have a normal instagram or whatever, because I’m using it for work, so if they add me on social media, it isn’t just them, it’s the people who read my books, or listen to my music, or come to my shows, and I think that can be a little much for them to take in, because they haven’t really connected with it, because to them, I’m still just who they grew up with. It can be frustrating for them when a lot of my posts are about work, because they don’t see social media as a thing for work. I think it will get better over time, as more of them get used to me taking a different path, and doing things a little differently. I think my family were more prepared, because I was with them all the time, and they knew it was where I was working towards.

  1. Describe your route to being published? Do you have an agent, or do you take care of thing s yourself?

Jennifer Juan: Unfortunately, a lot of places won’t take a chance on publishing poetry unless you go super viral, and even then, not really, because it isn’t as big of a money maker as novels and things like that, so I just figured it out myself. The good thing about publishing it with Amazon, was I could keep costs low, making everything more accessible. Literature and culture should be for everyone, so I wanted to keep everything as affordable as possible.

  1. As an artist, do you feel it is sufficient that your music or written works entertain audiences, or do you think it should always educate and enlighten people in some way too?

Jennifer Juan: As long as someone finds something in what I create, that’s enough for me. Entertainment and education are both important.

  1. What’s next on your upcoming agenda? What can fans expect in 2018 from Jennifer Juan?

Jennifer Juan: At the moment, I’m getting ready for the launch of my next single 2AM. It’s going to be a part of the Drowning In Us project, and I’m really excited to share it. I’ve just finished the music video, which was shot in Blackpool, where the project’s story is set, and it will be available on February 23rd. I’m also going to be releasing the entire project in the spring, so there will be an album of songs inspired by the story, a film inspired by the story, and the book to tell the story in greater detail, and I can’t wait to share it, because it’s kind of my magnum opus. I’ve also just launched a monthly poetry competition through my blog JenniferJuan.com, so I’m looking forward to building further relationships with my audience, and seeing what awesome things they can write. It’s going to be a fun year.

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