Detroit actress, model, singer, and choreographer Jai Fears has performed alongside the likes of Charlie Wilson, Boyz II Men, John Legend, and the late Queen of Soul herself — Aretha Franklin. After 15 years of back-up dancing and covering tunes by other entertainers, on June 13, Fears drops her first original release: Gemini. Named for Fears’ star sign, the EP is an R&B anthology of ambition and self-love, meant to serve as a musical introduction to the many faces of Jai Fears.
Hour Detroit: Tell us about your musical journey so far.
Jai Fears: I’ve been doing music for a while — since about 2005. When I started off, I wasn’t doing many singles; I was just really big on performing. Then, after I won BET’s 106 and Park competition, I started to focus on putting out my own music. Right after I won, I put out my first single, called “Get it, Girl.”
How would you describe your musical style?
I went through so many different genres. I started doing pop music first. And then I tried a hip pop sound. And more recently, I’ve been focusing on R&B, soul. There’s still a little smidge of pop here and there too, which goes back to my roots. I went to high school in Burbank, California, so I have a big early 2000’s pop background in me.
You’re multi-talented. As someone who works in acting, choreography, modeling, and singing, what would you consider to be your greatest passion?
Music is what I always dreamed about. When I was in middle school, I would make music videos in my basement and I would perform at my stepdad’s Super Bowl parties. I always wanted to be a singer; I just didn’t know that I could be. Then, when I was dancing for Aaron Carter, his mom told me I should become a singer. When she said that, it lit a fire in me. It was one thing for me to think it, but to have somebody else say it — especially somebody of that caliber — it really motivated me.
You’re a Gemini. Why did you decide to make that the title of your first release?
All Geminis say the same thing: every time we tell people our sign, they have something negative to say. Even if they’re just joking, after hearing it so many times, you almost start to feel bad for just being born at a certain time. So, I named it for myself, to feel good about who I am, but also for other Geminis. I think we need something positive.
What’s your favorite track on Gemini?
The title track is definitely my favorite. If I had to pick one track that most represents who I am — especially when I’m on stage with high energy, having a good time and putting out a good message — it would definitely be “Gemini.”
And what do you want fans to feel when they listen to this album?
I want them to feel a breath of fresh air — something different — and I want to inspire them to be different, to know you can be yourself and be proud of it. That’s what I was going through while writing my EP. I was struggling to decide whether I should sound like what’s mainstream, so I won’t have as hard of a time, but I stuck to my guns. I don’t care whether it’s sells one copy. I hope people like it, but if they don’t, I’m proud to know I didn’t go along with everyone else.
Certain parts of the album pay homage to your Detroit roots. Why was this important to you?
I say in my song “Detroit Vibe,” “there’s the places that I’ve seen, nothing compares to the D,” and I mean it. I was born and raised here, and I literally traveled everywhere as a background dancer, but there are just so many things about Detroit that you can’t find anywhere else. People think Detroit is post-apocalyptic or something, just because we’re not as glamorous, but we’re a thriving, hard-working city. I always say, this city is not for out-of-towners. If you don’t live here, you wouldn’t understand, so I just wanted to help uplift my city.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars, Janet Jackson, and Justin Timberlake.
You’ve you performed alongside a lot of big names throughout your career. Who was your favorite artist to work with?
I’d have to say Charlie Wilson, because I’m so grateful to him. The man has literally taken me around the world 18 times. But it’s also been an experience watching him grow and become a great artist over the 15 years I’ve been with him. But I also have to say that, over time, performing with Aretha has become one of my biggest accomplishments. I was so young when I first performed with her. I was only 19, so it was really just a gig to me. But I was blessed to have another chance to perform with her, when I was older. The second time around, I had a much a greater level of appreciation to be performing with the queen of soul, one of the biggest legends of our lifetime.