Young songstress Jennah Bell is one of those few. A musician since the tender age of 7, the Northern California native has since graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, and has emerged as an artist-to-watch with BET giving her a stamp of approval as one of their Music Matters featured artists in 2012. In between Jennah’s busy schedule of touring and performing, COCOTIQUE sat down with her for a one-on-one about everything from her musical influences to her favorite hair products.
By Christina Brown
Tell us about how you got started in the industry.
I got started when I was 7. But if I had the foresight to know I would do music, I may have picked something else (laughs). I started writing songs when I was really young and I was super shy. I staked my claim in poetry for a while. Later, towards high school, I picked up guitar and married my poetry with music. Then my parents started sending me to summer camps for music and performance and that’s when I really spread my wings.
As what genre would you classify your music?
I don’t think I play genre-specific music--only because I’m an extremist. If I’m into something at the time, that’s what I’m into. It’s really hard, when you have a thirst for music and you love all genres, to classify just one for your sound. So my influences pretty much dictate what genre I’m writing in at the moment.
What would you say inspires your sound? Who are your role models?
I’m extremely inspired by literature and film and musicians naturally. A lot of it is observations of other art forms. Artists can describe their own art but to try to describe something outside of yourself is a little harder. Books inspire me too. Authors like James Baldwin and George Orwell. I’m a nerd so I love to find new people to be inspired by. My parents are my role models.
How would you describe your personal style?
It’s very Northern Californian. I love hoodies and I pretty much dress for San Francisco weather where I am.
Any items in your wardrobe that you can’t live without?
I have a black pair of ripped jeans that if I didn’t have, I don’t know what I’d do! And I’m a boots fanatic. I love leather boots. Riding boots - the ones that you have to flip over your calf. They are like the struggle boots of all boots, but once they’re on, they mold to your leg.
Can you name a few beauty must-haves?
I am definitely a lashes girl. Whether it’s mascara or falsies, I’m down either way. I believe if you’re wearing mascara, you really don’t have to have any other kind of makeup. And I love perfume. I don’t walk out the house without wearing a signature scent. I actually work for a perfume company, so I’m lucky in that I get to switch up my scent every hour if I want to. My go-to scent is one called "AnOther 13" that the company made with AnOther magazine, and then they discontinued it, so I’m one of the lucky few people who got their hands on the scent.
Do you have natural hair? What are some of your favorite hair products?
Back when I had locs, I was huge on this Mango Shea Butter that I found in Atlanta. But now with my hair loose, I’m honestly not too into doing my hair. So I’m really big on protective styles. Second to my locs, I love traditional box braids. Anything that doesn’t make me cry in the morning is my favorite. I change my hair all the time--it’s really a form of expression!
What are your must-have travel essentials?
Perfume for sure. There are these grapefruit makeup remover facial wipes that I live by. They make your entire face smell like you’ve been smothered in grapefruit and they’re really gentle on the skin. Also, there’s a woman on Etsy who makes a Lilac Shea Butter. I live by it. The smell of lilac is amazing. If there was a word for woman other than woman, it would be lilac. It smells divine.
Any favorite restaurants in NYC?
There is a vegan fast food restaurant in Williamsburg that I love because I have cravings for things I can’t eat like nachos, and they have really incredible vegan nachos. From growing up in Cali, vegan means something totally different. It’s not about substitution, it’s about creativity. So it’s really hard to find restaurants in NYC that approach vegan food that way.
What about favorite places to shop?
I’m big on vintage rummaging. There’s a place called Super French in Bed-Stuy. She actually bought a lot of her pieces off of a 1950‘s estate sale. Cody Chestnut filmed his music video in her store. Right down the road, there are some more great vintage spots. There’s one called Shirley & Alice that’s really cool. They helped me right before I went to Europe.
What’s next for Jennah Bell?
Well I’m in the studio right now. I’m recording a record that will hopefully be out by next spring. I’m not really on any kind of time constraint. I just want to make sure I’m proud of it. But I can roughly say that will happen by spring. In the meantime, I’m traveling and doing tours and hopefully that will lead to more opportunities.
Can’t get enough of Miss Bell’s artful Cali vibe? Find and follow her around the web and on social media:
Style blogger, social media specialist and all-around digital media maven Christina S. Brown is a New York native and the founder of fast-growing lifestyle destination LoveBrownSugar.com and her newest bundle of joy BabyBrownSugar.com.