read in: 13 min
Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): Briefly, tell me a little bit about how you got started in music. Who was involved in your start and who was your inspiration at that time?
Desiree Jordan (DJ): I got started with music a very, very long time ago. My mom has always surrounded me with music. We used to always listen to Michael Jackson and Prince records…back when records were really in (laughing). I’m an 80’s baby but they still carried over into that time.
When my mom met my stepdad and they got married…my stepdad’s family is very musically oriented. My inspiration, I would have to say, is my grandmother. She used to be the musical director for my home church. She played the piano and directed all of the choirs. I remember actually standing on the pew during service and directing the choir; mock directing the choir (laughing). I was always getting teased about that. My family would constantly tell me that I was so musically inclined. I look back at that now and I see that it was my inspiration because now I am actually directing the choir at my church and playing the piano like my grandmother. It came full circle.
Everybody in my family sings and there’s always been such a musical direction in the house. We never listened to the urban radio stations growing up. My parents either had on the Jazz or Gospel station or Cds. So having that real music helped to hone and shape me into who I am today.
EM: Yes ma’am. In contrary to how some children grow up, especially today, rap is really all they listen to. I’m learning how that can really have an effect on a person’s upbringing when it comes to being musically inclined, I can definitely tell the difference.
You mentioned the piano being an instrument that you play; do you play any other instruments?
DJ: I actually just learned how to play the guitar this past weekend.
EM: Wow, just this past weekend?
DJ: Yes (laughing). My mom used to work in a middle school and she became friends with a lot of the teachers and building service workers, and it turned out that some of her friends played instruments as well. So the whole family; my mom, pop, and my sister and I would go up to the school on weekends and play the guitar, and someone’s playing the bass and my sister and I would sing. We were really young; ten and five. I remember the guitarist, who was my uncle taught me how to play this one song and I stuck with this one song on the guitar. The guitar is pretty hard for me. The piano for me is sort of like this pattern or big math problem in my face where if you play “this and this” then “this” makes sense. However, with the guitar, there are these four strings and you need to know each bar and what goes in….It’s because I grew up on the guitar that I know it a little more whereas with the guitar it was like learning Spanish. So I’m going to pursue that more. I learned some chords this weekend so I am expanding my knowledge.
EM: Excellent. What is the process like for you in shopping for a music label to sign onto? What are you looking for in a label?
DJ: I am an independent artist, and what I’ve been doing for the past year is studying labels and the trends. I’m studying the type of artists they have on each label and which label has artists with longevity. Labels with a “Mariah Carey” or a “Whitney Houston”…those are the kind of labels I want to be on. As opposed to a label with a couple rappers with one song; one hit wonders. Even women in the industry, I’ve studied some of the trends with that, and you and I can both attest to the fact that there aren’t a whole lot of women out there now that you could say have been in the industry for ten plus years.
So what I expect from a label, first and foremost is creative control and respect. If you look at an artist such as Beyonce’, and I’ll use her because she’s on top of her game right now, she’s pretty much her own boss. I’m sure there are some people working behind the scenes that she has to answer to, but she does the type of music that she wants, she dresses the way she wants and she does what she wants that makes her happy. A lot of other artists that are under other labels they are, what I like to call, employees. It’s just like a job; they get a paycheck and they’re told what to do.
I’m looking at labels for the sake of not being an employee. Nobody owns me but God…and my mom (laughing) but that’s it. I just want to make sure that wherever I go there’s mutual respect and I can do whatever I have passion for as opposed to conforming into a totally different artist having to do something that completely not me.
Many people yearn to the in the industry and yearn to be signed so bad. They may have some small success but really they’re doing nothing close to what they want to do. I’ve heard of people who get signed but they get shelved. They get put on the shelf like toys. They labels say, “Oh we’re so excited about you, and we think you’re going to be the next ‘it’ artist”, and then someone comes out with another gimmick and you get put on the shelf. I want to be very choosey and very careful before really presenting myself to a label that I’ve got my total package together. I’ve got my list of demands so that I don’t get lost in the mix of things.
EM: That’s admirable. People take the flip side of it and try to make that their own when they should already have that established, just as you said beforehand.
You are the CEO of DeseJo Entertainment, LLC. Tell me a little bit about your entertainment company and more about your role there as it relates to what you’re seeking to do ultimately.
DJ: I created DeseJo last year; it’s been incorporated for a year now. I didn’t create it as a label. I created it as more of an entertainment company that could help other artists as far as development. If they need to develop their sound, their image, their marketing plan and package. I’ve got a few artists that I’m working with right now. One is a young lady who is 14 years old. I think that it’s really important for someone so young to definitely get a clear vision and a clear goal of what she wants to do and who she wants to be before she gets out there, because it could be very dangerous for someone so young. So DeseJo is basically that tool that will help someone get from point A to point B and that they can go to the label with confidence…