For this month’s segment of That NJ Ish, Drewski, Marisa, and I put the spotlight on the “Ease The Pain” singer Joella DeVille. The New Jersey native has been described as “the black Katy Perry.” Joella‘s alto voice perfectly blends R&B and soul while having pop influences.
Joella doesn’t just have a great voice, she’s also trained in music. She began playing violin at age three. As she got older, she studied violin, piano, voice, drama, and dance at Newark School of the Arts. Her classical training, stand-out voice, and her song making ability have already taken her far. Her music has been heard on multiple shows on VH1, Bravo!, and Lifetime. Between her musical training, voice, and charisma Joella has all of the proper components to make her a timeless artist.
We spoke to Joella about her influences, her recent move to California, hearing herself being played on radio for the first time,, and more. Check it out below.
Interview by Julie Aly
You started playing instruments at age three and when to an arts high school but when did you start writing music?
As an artist I would say 2009-2010. I did it when I was younger, but it was silly little stuff. As far as seriously writing about 2009.
What inspires your writing?
Things that happen to me. Things that I’m going through. The last song I released, “Ease The Pain”, I actually translated it from a poem that I wrote a few months ago. Everything is always about what I’m experiencing, what’s happening to me, how I’m feeling. It’s about going inside of myself and bringing it out of me into a song.
Who are your musical influences?
Definitely Whitney [Houston]-obviously Jersey! She just has so much vocal control and it’s effortless. I always look to Whitney vocally just because her breath control-everything as far as classically study someone Whitney is one of those people. Beyonce, as well, is someone that I study vocally, but also as entertainment wise. She’s just an entertainer all around. She can do literally anything. I think when I was really wow’d with her was when during the Super Bowl show when she did the fastest songs first and then did a ballad at the end. I don’t know any artist that can do that, dance-you’re out of breath at that point, and then completely do a ballad at the end of your set and it be flawless, there’s no error. She’s definitely another person and as far as like icon and image wise, Rihanna. She just sets her own trends, she’s herself, and she doesn’t care what people think about her. She just does what she’s going to do.
Name three Jersey artist, dead or alive, from any genre that you would like to work with.
Tsu Surf. We were trying to do something together recently, actually, so hopefully that will come to fruition. I don’t generally work with rappers because I feel as if I’m still in a stage where people need to figure out who I am. When you’re always doing features, I feel like people can’t really get a sense of who you are because you’re always including other people. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing, but I think when you’re trying to find yourself and you’re trying to grow as an artist, you need to figure out who you are so you can see who you blend well with, who makes sense. There’s a reason why Rihanna, Beyonce, and those type of artists aren’t doing features with everybody because it doesn’t necessarily work with everybody. I think you do have to take the time to figure that out.
Fetty [Wap], obviously. I think he has a fun way of contributing to hip-hop because it’s not necessarily just rap to me, he’s singing. Obviously Whitney! C’mon, It’s Whitney Houston! Again, she just has so much vocal control and it’s effortless for her. She’s just someone that I’ve always looked up to, someone I’m always singing.
If you could set up your dream collaboration, who would be on it?
Rihanna. Toni Braxton, I call her my musical mommy because I have an alto voice, I’m not high soprano, and I don’t have an airy voice. I look to Toni Braxton for a lot of inspiration as well because she helps me feel comfortable in my voice and in the type of music that I put out. I would include a rapper, probably Kanye.
How has New Jersey influenced your musical style?
I’m Jersey to the core. This project that I’m going to released in a couple of weeks is pretty much a huge Jersey influence. One of the records, “Ease The Pain”, is a house/EDM record and Jersey is known for house music. One of the records, “Make Love”, kind of has Jersey club mixed in it. It’s R&B but in the hook there’s some Jersey club influence. I’m straight Jersey! I don’t like to give myself a genre because I like to be able to step out and do different things that inspire me and things that are true to me. As a Jersey girl I feel there’s hip-hop influences in my music just naturally because this is what we listen to.
You recently moved to California. How has that impacted the project? Do you think it has changed your musical ear?
I don’t think it’s changed my ear. I think it has pushed me. It has helped me to experiment, to see and experience different things. To me this project is fully Jersey. As far as experimenting and going outside of myself lyrically and writing wise, I think California helped me put myself in a different place, just zone out, and write in a different way that I don’t normally.
Last week DJ Drewski played “Submit To Ya” on Hot 97 and your other music has previously been playing on TV shows. What was it like hearing yourself on TV or radio for the first time?
Hearing it being played on Hot 97 was probably the most exciting thing I have ever experienced! Today I found out they also mentioned my name on air. We grow up on Hot 97. This is something I remember listening to as a young kid with my cassette player ready for when they played Biggie. Now to hear myself and my music that I wrote is a dream come true to be living in that, to hear it , and to experience it. Yeah, I’ve had it on TV shows and things like that but Hot 97 is home. That was just everything to me.
It must have been crazy for you to hear your song being played and then to perform at Hot 97’s Whose Next at SOB’s.
It was back-to-back successes that took years to build. People think this just happens and you know somebody that does it. No, you have to build that trust with people as far as what you contribute musically. People aren’t just going to put it up because they know you. It has to actually be good. It has to be something that they are going to play. People don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes in radio. There’s a format and a lot that is going on so for my music to actually be on there-it took years in the making and I’m ecstatic.
You’ve performed at SOB’s, House Of Blues, The Forum in Cali, and more. Which of your live shows has been your favorite thus far?
Being completely honest it was in LA at The Forum in Inglewood. I opened up for Kendrick Lamar, Jeremih, Rae Sremmurd, and others. For some reason, I was the least nervous for that show than any other. I’m not a nervous person but I think any artist regardless of how famous they are, have a little bit of nerves when doing a show. You don’t know these people yet. You’re coming out on the stage and need them to receive you. The audience at The Forum just ate it up. They didn’t know who I was, I’m this Jersey girl who is now performing in front of everybody at a sold out show. That was my first sold out show and it was at The Forum! Who gets to perform at The Forum?! That was definitely my favorite show so far. SOB’s always has a place in my heart This was my fourth time performing at SOBs. They are always going to have a special place in my heart, but for some reason The Forum just felt really good.
Give me five words that describe you as an artist.
Eclectic. Self-reflective. Thoughtful because the things that I say and sing about are coming from a place. They are coming from somewhere not just something someone else has experiences. This is coming from something that Joella has personally dealt with. Classically trained. I started violin and piano at a young age. Those musical influences are always going to be a part of my music and my artistry. Sometimes I just listen to [Johannes] Brahms, Beethoven, or [Johann Sebastian] Bach. You’re always going to hear those influences. The strings, the piano, the bass, all of that is going to be in my music. The fifth one? It sounds cliche but different. There’s no other artist that looks like me, sounds like me or brings what I bring to the table.
If you weren’t singing, what would you be doing?
I would still be working in youth development. I would still be working with at risk youth. I used to work with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, and mentoring. I plan on getting back into that at some point. I love kids and I feel like as adults it is our jobs to help them out of situations. I’ve been fortunate and blessed to be in situations that I am. I have a loving family that supports me to the end of the Earth. A lot of kids are not born like that and so I feel as if it is my duty to help other people, other kids, and help give them a start that they didn’t get to have. That’s really important to me. Even though that is something I’m not able to do right now, it is something that I’m going to incorporate into my artistry and the work that I’m going to do.
Check out Joella DeVille‘s latest video below.