Feature: Unbreakable Samantha Jade
Samantha Jade, despite her saccharine sweet exterior, is unbreakable. The Perth singer’s success was all but guaranteed at the age of 16 when US label Jive Records signed and flew her to Hollywood. She joined the likes of P!nk and Justin Timberlake on the label’s roster, recorded in LA and Sweden with hitmakers Max Martin, Timbaland and Stargate and had her track for the film Step Up chart at #92 on the Billboard chart. Then, as is now etched in her history, Jade was dropped from Jive and moved home to take advantage of what she calls Australia’s “lounge room culture.”
“I think the US has left a really big scar for me,” says Jade, her hands clasped together in front of her.
She’s sat down in the boardroom at Nickelodeon’s Sydney office and is talking candidly of how she was burned by the music industry. “It was a really hard time, I lived there for seven years and I do not want to go back any time soon.”
Jade’s relationship with the industry is undoubtedly conflicted now – “When you’ve been in the industry there and you’ve been knocked down, it is really tough. Really, really tough,” she says quietly – however one cursory glance at Jade’s performance on the ARIA chart proves she’s exactly where she’s meant to be. Since winning The X Factor Australia in 2012 Jade has had five Top 20 singles. Her debut single What You’ve Done To Me hit #1 and has been certified 3x Platinum, and Firestarter won the Best Video ARIA Award in 2013 – all before the release of a debut record.
“I knew X Factor, or a TV show was the only way to do it in Australia,” say the 28-year-old.
Jade says the US and Australian markets couldn’t be more contrastive; while the grassroots method of slogging it out on the touring circuit is still effective in America, local acts haven’t given up on the talent-show genre and are using it in droves to kick-start their careers.
“It’s a totally different market in Australia, and it’s done very differently,” Jade explains. “I’ve watched it as I lived in the States as I saw what was going on at home still.
“[…] Performing in pubs and bars and in shopping centers, that really still works [in America]. Over here it’s got more of a lounge room culture, in that Australians really like to get on board and really know the person that they’re going to support. That’s why TV shows really work so well because they’re there from the very start and they feel like they’re part of your success.”
Samantha Jade boasts a highly engaged social media following, and a certain level of celebrity outside of her hit singles. In 2014 she managed to remain in touch with her fervent following but for most of the year she was experiencing the worst heartbreak of her life, the loss of her mother. Jade’s mother Jacqui lost her battle with cancer last June; Jade immediately put her career on hold and began a self-restorative mission in Perth with her family.
“I didn’t want to be around music last year to be honest,” she says.
The loss took the direction of Jade’s upcoming debut album in a completely new direction. The record won’t be the blatant bubblegum-pop for the masses we were expecting; Jade went on writing trips to reshape her message – “it’s a different record altogether,” she says.
While the whole album, reportedly titled Angel, is dedicated to Jacqui, Jade says there’s one track on the album about her. “It’s actually a positive spin on everything,” she smiles. “My mum’s a very positive person and she was very, very unwell. I’ve never seen her so positive in my life […] I didn’t want to write a song that was really sappy – obviously it’s got its moments of sadness – but it’s about the positives that we took from it.”
Jade’s shiny-pop persona has remained relatively unchanged at this point, her latest single features ‘Mr. Worldwide’ Pitbull and if it’s title (Shake That) wasn’t a dead giveaway of its radio-ready leaning, it has enough ooh ooh’s and woo ow’s to fill Justin Bieber’s 2016 quota.
Still, she’s unsurprisingly dismissive of taking a crack at the US market again. She calls that difficult period in her life a run-of-the-mill “Hollywood story”.
“It’s very common in the US,” she says. “People break up with labels all the time, people’s management screws them over all the time; it’s the Hollywood story and I just happened to be one of the people that went through it.”
When Jade chats about her time with Jive Records and the hits-in-waiting she recorded with them, she doesn’t categorically reject the possibility of their release. While the tracks are all owned by Jive, the label is a wholly owned subsidiary of Jade’s label Sony Music Entertainment.
“The thing with that is that it’s all very political,” she explains.
“They’re just sitting there though, it’s so annoying. Who knows, maybe one day we will try and get them back and revamp them […] Now, it might be a little easier because I’m a Sony artist.”
Jade may have been building hype for her debut album for almost two years now, but it hasn’t necessarily been difficult. Earlier this year she was nominated for the Most Popular New Talent Logie Award for her performance in the INXS: Never Tear Us Apart mini-series. Last month she was announced as the ambassador for fashion gathering Runway Weekend and next month she joins label mates The Veronicas, as well as Timmy Trumpet, Savage, At Sunset and Reece Mastin at Nickelodeon’s Slimefest in Sydney and Melbourne.
Following the album’s release in Australia Jade say she’ll set her sights on the UK and Europe, with plans to relocate to London.
“I’m a career artist,” she says with a sweetness that belies her determination. “I’d like to be a household name. I don’t just want to have songs out and just be known for my music – that’s my core – but I do want to go into the fashion world, do more acting, I do want to do what the bigger people do, that’s always been my dream.”
Tickets to catch Samantha Jade at Slimefest are on-sale now for the 11am and 6pm Sydney (25 Sept) and Melbourne (27 Sept) shows via www.ticketmaster.com.au