Jaidene Veda is a Canadian recording artist with five albums under her belt as well as close to 200 collaborations as a feature vocalist over her 20-year career. She is currently working on her sixth album as well as a documentary due to be released in 2021. We sat down virtually to talk about her life and work and the importance of early breast cancer screening.
Tell me a little about your childhood; where you were born and what music you were listening to growing up.
I was born in Calgary, a fairly small city in Canada compared to the West and East Coast where I also lived later in life. I grew up in the “Sub-Pop era,” a Seattle-based grunge music record label that really blossomed in the 1990s. I was obsessed with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine… but in contrast with most of the music I create now, I was really listening to anything but electronica in my youth. Mostly male singers as well, I still hear their influence on me with their raspy, lower voices and a really deep or even abstract sense of prose and story-telling.
When did you first decide that you wanted a career in music? What were your inspirations and influences?
When I eventually discovered Artists like Björk & Me’shell Ndegeocello who were incredibly unique artists, or female lead singers in bands like Everything But The Girl, Mazzy Star, Portishead; the music and their voices really stirred something in me. I can recall it was like the feeling I still find when I watch a good movie. For the duration of the song, similar to the duration of the film, I am in ‘their’ world. That organic sense of escapism was life-changing.
I began trying to find my own voice. As well as my parents, I was also very lucky to have an older brother who introduced me to incredible music all my life, all the way until my first experience with club culture. Now, I’ve spent half of my life producing house music. I pretty much have him to credit for all of it.
What was your first professional gig—that must have been an amazing, if nerve wracking, experience?
I was self-producing and promoting events while performing initially. My first production partner and I created an album and in order to release it. We set up a gig with DJs, a horn section, and myself. It was hard work to create an event, one that we started hosting monthly, but living in a small community and feeling the familiarity with everyone in the room was priceless. That first experience on stage is deeply ingrained in my memory, so I’m thankful for humble beginnings.
Can you talk a bit about your recording career and how that got started, and about some of your most significant collaborations?
House Music is a very underground community overall and we feel like peers—all fans of the music first—but over the last two decades, I became more and more blessed to collaborate with many musical heroes in the genre. Artists like Grammy-nominated Josh Milan, originally signed to Motown Records as “Blaze”; or world-renowned Poet, Ursula Rucker, whom I discovered on an album by The Roots in the early 90s. She also appeared in a film narrated by Maya Angelou.
Further back to my first recordings, an NYC label, “CURVVE RECORDINGS”, introduced me to the dance community right at the beginning of my career. They hired me to cover a Sade song and also a Bobby Caldwell song at different points. Each climbed the top 40 Billboard Club Charts—Justin Timberlake was number one at the time with “Sexyback”, the other time, Christina Aguilera—it felt wild. One song was also remixed by Dave Audé, another Grammy award winner, so I was very lucky to be a part of records with such international reach.
Where are you based now? Can you tell me a bit about the music scene there?
I reside in Vancouver, a stunning coastal city in Canada. While I’m out of my club-going years, small venues with live music are plentiful here, and I adore the intimacy of those dance floors as much as I used to love bigger ones, adorned with disco balls the size of a full skylight in the ceiling. Granted we’re a bigger city, the amount of major concerts and events that take place leaves me feeling spoiled at times. And living by the ocean connects you to nature so effortlessly that inspiration is all around you. The music scenes in New York and London are the ones I’m used to performing for. They are intense, vibrant, so packed there were beads of sweat on the walls, but luckily I’m always happy to come ‘home’ after being on the road.
I just watched the preview for a documentary that you are producing. Can you tell me a little about that and when the final version will be released?
2020 will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, but recollecting it was my 20-year anniversary as an independent recording artist, I was very happy to have a reason to turn the connotation around somewhat. Through the process of collecting video interviews with peers, heroes, and fellow Canadians who pierced through to the international scene, I have now named the film Artist to Artist. I believe the dialogue should speak to up and coming artists from the heart. Honest accounts as to how hard you need to work, how to find confidence, yet maintain the ability to ask for help, and developing a lack of fear to fail—I want to illustrate all the recipes to success. I can’t wait to share it sometime further into 2021.
So looking back on 2020 what was the most significant memory for you?
While I’m only approaching forty now, I went for my first mammogram to assess a very large mass. Advice surrounding screening for women was raised to fifty recently, but multiple ultrasounds detected two more growths that we never would have found otherwise. That all led to preventative bilateral surgeries, as well as the removal of the larger mass which was still in question even after a biopsy. All of them turned out to be benign but I’m lucky to have addressed it so early, and frankly had the access to medical services at all during the pandemic.
Having been an open book with my music community since the start, I shared the whole journey transparently. Vulnerability never fazes me, as my lyrical approach has always been ‘heart on sleeve.’ Every individual we know deals with health issues—changes to our lives and bodies as we age—but this was a rather intimate set of new scars I had to learn to embrace. Considering how many actual cancer survivors I know, and came to know through the process, it was comforting and humbling. Some of the greatest gifts I’ve experienced over my career come from empathy. The more I share, the more people share with me. None of us are alone.
Thanks for sharing that Jaidene, so important! What does 2021 have in store for you?
I really feel the need to preface with the fact that COVID left so many of us at a standstill. I lost a lot of inspiration; my creativity and productivity disappeared for most of 2020. My latest album would have been released last year had it not put all of my recording plans on hold. Personally speaking, I would have felt insensitive to the times by releasing a new project—specifically producing, promoting, and selling an album—sharing music and inspiration in dark times will always be needed, but in precarious times we only needed to think about each other, certainly less about ourselves.
Clearly, we’re all still navigating this new world day by day, so for once I am not being precious about the sentimentality of a specific release date. This new album will come together as organically as it needs to, and because of the brilliant material I’m covering, I know it will touch souls the way the original songs have always moved me. I hope it releases this year because I know we all need an escape, the magic of music, but that’s up to the heavens! I’ll count my blessings until then.
Written by Michael Daks