Artist to Watch: Stephanie Jacques on Healing Pain Through Music
Stephanie Jacques' road to country music has been a winding one. Before her single premiere at CMT for "Because of That," a heart-rending rally cry for justice, she first found her roots in the Bay Area's opera scene, where she began vocal training at the age of eight.
"It just made sense to go the classical route," she explains. Raised by extended family after the tragic death of her mother when she was only two years old, she adds that her aunt was a fellow opera performer, and that she found performance opportunities at a local theatre in her hometown of Pleasanton, Calif.
Jacques' newest single "Suburbia" tackles those complicated family themes head-on. Delving into a fictional story of family trauma behind closed doors, it focuses on the sunny outside picture often presented by people who are struggling, informed by her own experiences of growing up mixed-race and without a relationship with her father. In fact, the single's cover is a picture of her childhood home.
"Sometimes, what people saw on the outside was not a reflection of what went on inside the walls of my home or even myself," she notes.
Prior to leaving the West Coast for Nashville, she got a different feel for performance by making money busking in Santa Monica, a hands-on experience that she says was "a great way to tell if a song worked." Her musical and emotional journeys combined when she and her father reconnected, allowing the two of them to make up for lost time with "the closest relationship ever" before his passing days before her CMT premiere in November.
After their reunion, he got her a pivotal gig performing the national anthem for the Golden State Warriors, which led to more performances with other teams and colleges. Humbly, she's quick to add that "this was before [the Warriors] were doing as great as they are now."
Regardless, the opportunity changed everything. "Once one door opened, I just ran with it before it could close."
Now, Jacques plans to open more doors herself with Miles Jean, a new crowdfunded EP named for both of her parents. If "Suburbia" is the thorny "pre-story" of complex family history, Miles Jean aims to honor her parents' legacy and make peace with their loss. In Jacques' words, the project is "the unfolding and discovering of two relationships that made me but didn't raise me."
"It's my love letter," she confesses. "I'm coming to terms with their no longer being here, and knowing that no more questions can be asked."
This connected scope is why Jacques plans to release Miles Jean as an EP rather than individual singles, and why she chose to take a leap of faith and turn to the public for support in creating it.
"It needs and deserves to live together, as a piece of art," she says of the project, which is accepting donations via KickStarter until Jan. 29. "One thing losing my dad taught me is that it's okay to ask for help -- the art will find a way to be created."