The pursuit of a singing career

Marsha J's story — Part 1

Sunday, October 28, 2018

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Starting a career in the music industry — where jobs range from the technical to the creative; from business and legal to therapy and coaching — can be daunting, but it can also be as fulfilling, awe-inspiring, profitable, and purpose-driven as any other career choice. It requires the same level of commitment, training and investment as does the pursuit of careers in law, medicine, customer care, and any other. It also ledge, work and time.

Gospel artiste Marsha J, who is launching her first album, Favor, this month, sat down with Career & Education to discuss her path into the industry and all things related. She advises that, “Every singer needs a business model if he or she wants to become a recording artiste.” Below is the first part of our conversation with the newly ordained (October 2018) minister, Marsha J.

C&E: Marsha J, your career catapulted when you won the 2016 JCDC Gospel Song Competition, can you give us a little background about who you were before all this happened?

Marsha J: I come from a Christian family, not just a member of the church; I am a PK — pastor's kid. Well, in my case, I am the daughter of a bishop and the oldest of three children. My family has always been nurturing and supportive. However, when I asked to go to music school, my parents thought it was more practical to get another degree first, and if I still wanted to pursue music then I could. Therefore, I obtained a BA in Communication Studies from Northern Caribbean University with a minor in School Counselling. I worked in corporate Jamaica as a Banker and serving in my local church. I then went on to work with a religious radio station and a few other small jobs.

C&E: Did you always want to be a gospel artiste?

Marsha J: No, I did not. I saw myself settling and living a “normal life” working a 9-5, going home to cook dinner, having a good and faithful husband and children; family trips, serving God, and loving people along the way. However, during my internship at a popular television station I was one of the hosts of a youth summer TV series called Da Spot. The song for the montage was just the motivation I needed, and I said to a friend I want to sing and be an international recording artiste.

I remember when I walked into my very first media class at university, I think it was called introduction to media, I came alive when I saw all the lights and stage and cameras. So I sensed that I loved the spotlight. I felt a sense of peace came over me. Nevertheless, I did not know music was going to be the thing that I would do.

C&E: When did you start your journey of becoming a recording artiste?

Marsha J: I had been dabbling prior to doing background vocals for a dub poet named Nana Moses that was my first introduction to studio life, and I am forever grateful. I have developed so much respect for the craft since I realized the work that has to be put into it. Then, as an intern at the TV station, as I told you before, I learnt how to use my voice, as I recorded the song for the montage.

However, my official journey began in 2013. A friend of mine bought me a ticket to visit New York, and I started visiting in the summers. After I attended her church I met their music director, who also owns a studio. He introduced the idea of going professional to me. I would pick up small gigs bring supporting vocalist on different projects for different artistes with their label, Stile Records — who later adopted me as a part of their group of artistes. That was when we began working together.

C&E: Wow, that is a big win I'd say. What was this experience like for you?

Marsha J: I invested a month in New York working with Stile Records. I call it an investment. Just imagine, 30 days of singing, leaning beats, writing, changing music, hitting and missing notes, learning notes. It was so intensive. Singing all background vocals for all my tracks, while doing leads, we would begin working from 6:00 am to 2:00 am taking only one short break in-between to eat. I was in studio with successful and well-known gospel musicians known for their band and hit songs. My producer and instrumentalist, Karl Marrett; songwriters Easton and Keith Marrett; and myself, singer-songwriter, worked together to create some amazing songs, that I know worshipers will definitely enjoy. The result of our commitment and hard work was an entire album recorded.

C&E: How did you become internationally recognised?

Marsha J: When I eventually won the JCDC Gospel Song Competition, after two or three failed attempts in prior years. It was quite the experience, as the competition had a reality series component attached, which challenged me. It was after all that work I put in at the studio that I felt encouraged and confident in giving it another try. I was shocked when I copped eight out of about 10 prizes including Best Performance, Musicianship and Arrangement, and Most Popular on Social Media. On the night of the finals I was invited to an audition by Father Ho Lung. I remember one of the persons on the judging panel saying to me “Go win and come back.” Little did I know that that would further lead to my selection as lead supporting actor as wife to Moses in the Father Ho Lung and Friends production, Moses. For that performance, without any formal training, I was awarded most outstanding new actress.

Winning opened up a world of opportunities and a platform for me to be in the local papers and on television I was on all social media platforms. My winning song was hunted by radio DJs and played locally and overseas places in Caricom, Africa, United States. I was provided opportunities at live events as well. So my international recording artiste career began.

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