Jaenna Cali is a Filipina-Canadian singer, songwriter, producer, actress, and director that is currently based out of Canada. On July 30th, Jaenna will release her debut single, "Simply You." Just over a week before the release of Jaenna Cali's debut single, I had the chance to pick her brain and ask Jaenna a slew of questions about her forthcoming single, what led her to release her music, her acting career, and so much more!
Hello Jaenna, how's it going?
J: Hi there! Thank you for having me! It's going amazing. I just wrapped up filming this weekend and excited to take a breather to focus on more music.
What was the defining moment that had you begin writing music and start releasing your own material? J: I've started writing songs since I was about 8 whenever I would feel intense emotion or going through a big moment in life. For example, a transition period, a move, or a heartbreak.
As for releasing my music, a lot happened in the past year: The world had gone into lockdown, conversations on mental health became a thing, and people finally had time to pursue their dreams. I thought it was time to release some positive, hopeful music that people needed to hear. So many people have also urged me to release "Simply You" for the longest time. So I put my foot down and finally did it!
So you're set to release your debut single, "Simply You," on July 30th. What's the song mean to you?
J: This song is incredibly meaningful to me. I initially wrote it as a letter to my younger self when I was feeling shaky on my identity, questioning my own worth, and insecure of where I was in life at the moment. I wanted to tell her -my younger self- not to worry and that even though you don't have everything figured out right now, it will be okay. To simply love, accept, and forgive yourself, and be simply you. "You are enough." The lyrics are words I needed to hear, and I'm sure a lot of people needed to hear too. Especially during a time when the world is being shaken by something like the pandemic.
You hope to inspire "the next generation" with your music? Could you elaborate more on that? J: When I was younger, around age 14, 16, 18, I used to speak on stages at youth conferences, hosting inspirational and motivational talks about anything from leadership, motivation, and even "raising the bar." Nowadays, with the hustle culture being prevalent, I want to shift my focus on the importance of mental health, self-love, and rest.
Music definitely spoke to me and influenced me when I was younger in shaping my identity, and I want to be able to release that type of music that can relate to the "next generation" and impact them positively in a way that doesn't translate through spoken word.
You're currently working on your debut EP. How far along is that collection of music?
J: I'm growing my skills in music production at the moment. I have tons of songs written up and ready to go. It's just a matter of production and making it happen! I'm excited!
How was it recording and self-producing your own music during the COVID-19 pandemic?
J: It was wild! It was the first time I've ever done something like this, especially with all the harmonies and all the vocals I had to do for this track. Making sure that the vocals sounded good as my own audio engineer during the recording sessions and making sure the sounds were how I wanted it to sound.
It was an incredible, fun learning experience, I would say. I'm super grateful as well for Grace Chiang, who also produced, mixed, and mastered this track from a distance in Vancouver! I could not have done it without her and her support!
Have you ever recorded music outside of your bedroom?
J: I am also a voice actor, so I have done voice recordings with different character voices for different productions in a studio! But for music -not yet! I am sure I will, one day!
What's the most satisfying thing for you about making music?
J: The whole process is incredibly rewarding. From figuring out what sounds good, to what makes me feel something, to putting everything together. My favourite part by far is the songwriting and lyrics! I love being able to tell a story and take the listener through a journey, and experience life and emotion through sound.
Do you have any highlights of your journey so far that's helped shape you into the artist you are today? J: Definitely moving around a lot, the constant uprooting, and putting myself outside of my comfort zone.
Experiencing different cultures, joining a beauty pageant, and entering a few music competitions have led me to gigs in the Philippines, Dubai, and Vancouver! I even sang a song at a hockey game during intermission with 15,000 people -so scary but proud I did it! A check on my bucket list!
I definitely learned a lot along the way, both in life and music. Now I am so excited to further my skills in music production and tell those life stories and lessons!
You have several short films in the works, is that correct? Are these all short film music videos for songs off your forthcoming EP?
J: I actually just filmed one for the 48 Hour Film Festival, it is a comedy film under my production company, Cali Creative Productions. I co-wrote it with my sister, who directed it, and I am acting in it as well! I have another short film I'm producing in the works.
But yes, there will definitely be some more short film music videos coming soon. In the meanwhile, check out the music video for "Simply You" coming out on June 30th, 2021!
As someone who has been an extra in a few movies myself, I have to ask, what has been your favourite acting credit to date?
J: I would have to say when I played a character named Jade for a short comedy film called Miss Fortune. It's fun representing a passionate comical female Filipino character as the lead! Representation matters!
My favourite "extra-role" would be when I was in Descendants 3 as an "Auradon Student!" You can see me singing and dancing in a castle! You can say that it was my Disney childhood dream come true. I even got to meet Kenny Ortega -the director of High School Musical.
And of course, music-wise, my music video for "Simply You!"
What are your ambitions with both your music and acting?
J: Oh, good question. I am definitely a big dreamer. I want to keep writing songs, keep making music, keep growing and improving on my craft! I would love to perform in large arenas, go on tour, and have my songs placed in TV shows or films!
With acting, I want to keep writing/producing my own films and be cast in a comedy sitcom or rom-com film -maybe even do an action movie to change it up!
What's next for you?
J: I'll continue writing songs, making music, and doing more live shows once restrictions are lifted! I'll keep pushing for female Filipino representation in music and film to make sure voices are heard! I'm a very ambitious person, so I will also be studying Creative Writing (lyric and screen) and do my Masters in Management at UBC!
Thanks for taking the time, Jaenna! I wish you the best of luck in both your musical and acting endeavours. Is there anything you would like to add before you go?
J: Thank you so much again for having me! Make sure you stream "Simply You" on Spotify / all streaming platforms, and may your ears be blessed! And remember, you're worth all the love in the world!