Toronto Funk & Soul Festival In The Spotlight: Jillian Mendez

Jillian Mendez is a Trinidadian pop, jazz, R&B, and soul artist based in Toronto, Ontario. She is best known for her first single “Get Up,” which reached #36 on the UK Club Chart. Mendez also co-wrote the Juno-nominated dance track “Destiny.” She performed at the Toronto Funk & Soul Festival last June and is currently working on new music.

Check out DJ Lady Funkalicious’ interview with her below:

Q: Do you remember your first musical influence? Who?

A: I have had many musical influences through out the years but the one artist/vocalist who still “moves” me and gives me goosebumps is the phenomenal Chaka Khan. I’ve been listening to her since I was young. She has been truly inspirational and has taught me how to interpret shape, phrase a song. Soul just oozes out of her pores!!!

Q: Where and when did you start singing publicly? With a band or solo?

A: My first professional gig was with a Toronto band called Lipstick.

Q: Have you released any albums or singles?  Tell us a little about them.

A: I’ve released singles when dance music was taking off. Canada had a huge impact in dance music and I’m proud to say that I am one of the pioneers and I was signed to Big Shot Records. My first track was called “Get Up” which charted in the UK/Europe. I released a few more tracks under Big Shots, one of them entitled “Don’t Know What You’re Missing” which has been remixed by various DJs and still gets club play in the UK. I then went on to sign with 4th & Broadway/Island Records.

Q: Does anyone else in your family sing?  If yes who, and how were they an influence?

A: I’m not sure where I got this love for singing from. No one else sang in my family but they loved music. Music was constantly playing in my household. I grew up having access to a variety of genres from R&B, soul, funk, country, jazz, blues, rock, instrumental, calypso, and reggae.

Q: Which famous musician/singer do you admire? Why?

A: That’s a no brainer lol…Chaka Khan!!! I admire her because of her contribution to music. She flawlessly fused R&B and pop music together. She still tours. She can belt out  a tune like no other. One of the greatest but I always felt she didn’t get the recognition that she deserved. She is a woman that is in control and takes no prisoners when she sings and that is empowering.

Q: Do you have a celebrity crush?  Who?

A: Haha too many fine celebrities!

Q: If you could pick anywhere in the world to perform where would that be and why?

A: I would love to play in the UK because that’s where it started for me.

Q: What do you find the most difficult and what is positive about the entertainment industry? The hours?  The opportunities?

A: Music is still a tough business to break into. Yes there are more opportunities for your music to be heard…social media, more home studios but that has just allowed even more people to try to get into the business. That’s great and all but you still need money, the right people for you to be seen and heard and there is still no guarantee. It’s long hours, it can consume all of your time because you do have to make sacrifices. But at the end of the day you are doing what you love! It just takes ONE person to believe in what you are doing and has the contacts to open the right doors.

Q: What has been your most enjoyable song to write? Why?

A: I enjoyed co-writing “It’s About Love” with my very close friend Frank Staffieri. He helped me to write what I was feeling. I was going through a very difficult time and having to deal with some serious issues.

Q: What is your favourite song that isn’t your own?

A: I absolutely love “By Your Side” by Sade. It is just a beautiful love song. Pure and I can relate to it.

Q: What is the biggest surprise a fan has ever done for you?

A: A fan contacted me on Facebook last year. He was blown away that he was actually chatting with me. He told me that I’m an icon in Britain and my track is one of his all time favourites. He was kind enough to put me onto a promoter that puts on festivals in Europe…so I am crossing my fingers!

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

A: It is wonderful to know that there are people like yourself who love and support R&B, Soul and Funk music. Bruno Mars has embraced it and I am hoping that more artists do that too.

Q: Where can people find you and your music online?  

A: You can check me out on Instagram, Twitter and also my Facebook fanpage or drop me a line at jmendezc593@yahoo.ca

(Header photo courtesy of Jillian Mendez)