written by Alice Chiang
Art Direction & Photography | Roberutsu
Styling | Alice Chiang & Iris Woo
Makeup & Hairstyle | Liling Rachel Ong
Couture Design from Atelier Grandi
Surrounded by the typical photography studio chaos, sat Jerrica Santos, poised, in the makeup chair. Her lips painted red, matching the burgundy dress from Atelier Grandi’s autumn-winter 2015 collection. Then, with the final touch of her hair slicked back, she was ready. Ready to have her arm tangled with a microphone cord, of course, for photographic impact. This kind of styling probably doesn’t occur when she performs live in front of thousands on season 2 of Canadian Idol.
Maybe this is the reason she had no hesitation in front of the camera. Lighting up the deliberately grey set up, she sang her new single, Illuminate. A live performance with every outfit, she eased into the session, captivating the studio. The final outfit was the black and white, graphic jacket with plush, fur sleeves from Atelier Grandi. She pulled it off the edgy look beautifully, with the vibe of a rock-and-roll star.
That was a wrap. She gave everyone hugs, high-fives. Then we sat down, coming full circle, back in the makeup chairs. We started talking about the similarity between a fashion collection and an album; neither would happen without the inspiration that fuel every song, every garment.
Where did her inspiration for her new album, Illuminate, come from?
“I co-wrote it with Trevor Hoffman, a producer in the city. And the inspiration was actually living your dream, living your life the way you want it…”
An album is similar to a fashion collection where a fashion collection has many different pieces, and an album is made up of many different song. At the heart, there is always an inspiration. Your newest album, Illuminate, first of all, is it out yet?
It is not out quite yet. We have released the one song. The single Illuminate including the music video as well.
Is it on youtube or itune?
Yes, it’s on youtube.
What is your inspiration behind Illuminate?
I co-wrote it with producer Trevor Hoffman here in the city and the inspiration for the album was actually living your dream, living your life the way that you want it. Before we started working on the album, I was working in the optical department to become an optometrist but I was doing music at the same time. I was in this transition point in my life where I was finding out what I wanted to do and music was really my passion. The three electronic dance songs plus the acoustic versions of them on this album and each one play on the certain parts of experiences of wanting to live your life and the way you dream and the way that makes you happy.
The single Illuminate is [as if] I am talking to either myself or to people who feel this way, wanting to illuminate your life.
I can hear that in the song! And I also interpret it as a love song too.
This is the flipside. Where for me, it was the kind of love-hate of reliving my own life, not necessarily with another person, the way Trevor, he saw it more in a relationship sort of way, in previous relationships. But it is all working towards that same illuminating throughout your life and being happy.
I saw your video and you talked about being asked to give up singing for this life you were about to go into, this career, and then you changed your mind! You decided not to pursue optometry. Was that a tough decision?
It was over the end of my school year, my fourth year, thinking about the optometrist program. I spent time and money with all these applications to schools and every time I went to an interview, I didn’t feel like I was being true to myself. That really helped me reflect. I was in Boston, visiting this school I would likely have gone to, but once I got there and I realized it wasn’t going to work.
You did a lot of cover songs on youtube and collaborated with a lot of [artists], and this is probably really hard to choose but can you tell me the favourite cover that you have done?
Oh…that’s a hard one. Probably Clarity [by Zedd].
Oh! Me too! My favourite cover by you as well. I really like the song and you sang it so beautifully!
And when you were young, did you have any musical inspirations?
Yes, Alicia Keys was the biggest one for me when I was in my teens. This is when she came out with her first album. I saw her on TV and at the time, I was already playing piano and singing. When I saw her, I realized that this is what I want to do and this is what I want to be. I see so much inspiration.
Anyone else you find inspiring?
Oh…there are a lot…. I really like Mariah Carey, she is a very strong vocalist. I like strong vocalists. Especially with Mariah and Alicia Keys, they are strong songwriters, and that is really important to me. Being a songwriter, that’s how I am able to express myself through my art, through my songs.
Let’s talk style for a bit. You were in a fashion shoot just now! Have you done something like this before?
No. Not really.
How’s the experience for you?
It was so much fun! The makeup and the beautiful outfits and just expressing myself in front of the camera…it was really nice. And collaborating with other people, with their arts and their vision and their work. It is just really inspiring.
What is your everyday fashion style?
I guess, simple. Simple classic, I guess.
After Illuminate releases, what are your plans?
I am also working on another project where I am going down to LA to record more songs. We are hoping next year to go to radio with some of the singles that we are planning to launch. I also came back, from Asia on tour, last year. And I am hoping to go back next year with Illuminate. To promote it.
Are you already working on a new album?
Yeah! I am working on a few more songs and I have my EP but right now I am still working on new tracks!
It just never stops, right?
Yeah! No! Exactly!
Jerrica, this has been a pleasure and a real treat talking to you. Thank you for coming out today. We wish you all the best!
Thank you for having me.