Nya Jade Biography
Nya's gift for freely traversing artistic boundaries stems from her transient youth. Her father, a doctor with UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS, traveled frequently, and as a result, Nya grew up in such exotic locales like The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Her childhood in the Caribbean exposed her to a diverse range of music, from calypso and reggae to salsa and classic R&B.
"My doors were always open," she recalls, "and a whole bunch of different influences came in and really expanded my musical palette."
Nya first began exploring her interest in music while at Boston's Noble and Greenough School , singing in the boarding school's Jazz-Pop Octect called Octazz. After Noble and Greenough, Nya began attending Stanford University , focusing on a career in medicine. She also joined Talisman, perhaps the most elite unit among the university's nine acapella groups. With their mixture of gospel, pop, and traditional African music, Talisman sang in competitions as well as concerts, including a performance at the 1996 Olympic Games.
Her interest in music soon led to writing songs, expanding on a lifelong habit of penning personal poetry. Before long, Nya realized that if she was going be a serious songwriter, she would need to learn to play guitar. "I had all these ideas for melodies," she says, "but it was so hard to convey them I realized I needed to pick up an instrument for myself."
But with the pressure of being a pre-med student, Nya found herself conflicted between a career in medicine and her love of singing. After two years, she resigned from Talisman in order to fully devote her time to her studies.
"Talisman was a time-consuming commitment and something had to go," she recalls. "So I left to focus on Organic Chemistry and all that other fun stuff."
Fate, as it often does, interceded in the winter of Nya's junior year at Stanford. Crossing a street after attending a Talisman performance, Nya was hit by a speeding car. "I was really lucky," she says. "It could've been much, much worse. My head smashed the windshield before I flew off and landed on my shoulder. Had I not landed like that, I would've landed on my head and that would've been that."
Nya suffered a dislocated shoulder, along with injuries to her head, back, and knees, forcing her to take a semester off to heal and attend physical therapy. As she restored her body to health, Nya found herself rethinking her priorities.
"It's cliché, but it was a painful rude awakening," she says. "I realized that there was a lot of truth to the old saying, 'here today, gone tomorrow.' The difference of a split second and I might not be here anymore."
She decided that life's too short not to live one's dream. Nya dropped pre-med, but determined to get a degree, switched majors to Economics. Her guitar lessons became a crucial part of her physical therapy, while songwriting helped her heal emotionally.
"When you go through an experience like that," she says, "you tap into a whole well of feelings."
Friends and acquaintances were knocked out by Nya's emotive voice and heartfelt lyrics, giving her the courage to try playing her songs in a Stanford coffee house. "The college environment is very encouraging," she says. "Everyone is open to exploring new music. That made me think, 'Maybe there's something to this,' so I started playing in cafés around San Francisco ."
Nya began frequenting open mic nights around the Bay Area, and with each passing gig, her fanbase grew. Still, she had yet to fully invest in the idea of a career in music. Upon graduation, she chose "the safety net of staying in college" and continued onward at Stanford, pursuing a master's degree in Organizational Studies. It wasn't until she took a position at a Silicon Valley start-up company that she realized that a deskbound life was not her destiny. "I was bored to tears," she says. "I realized that wasn't I the type of person to spend my life sitting on the phone."
Intent on going full-on with her music, Nya put together a band through craigslist and started playing out as often as possible. She also recorded a series of tracks with up-and-coming Bay Area producer Tone, known for his work as a studio engineer for artists such as Green Day and Santana. The songs scored airplay on the local alternative station, Channel 104.9 FM, whose support led to Nya's sharing stages with the likes of the Donnas, Evanescence, Ben Kweller, and Maroon 5. In summer 2004, Nya and her band wowed the side stage audience at Dave Matthews Band's Sacramento show. Taking in the rapturous response, Nya had an epiphany: "For the first time, I thought, 'Hey, this is really happening.'"
While she was determined to make a career for herself, Nya was hesitant about staking her artistic future on the whims of the ever-fickle music industry.
"My music isn't cookie-cutter pop that you can market to young kids," she says. "I knew the labels were thinking, 'How do we market her?' I realized that the music industry today is more about promotion and distribution, not developing artists. I knew that if I was going to be serious about a career in music I was going to have to pave my own path."
A Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist -- and avowed fan of her work -- encouraged Nya to put together a business plan for starting a label of her own. She reached out to former Atlantic Records President Ron Shapiro, admiring his philosophy of allowing young artists to develop their own unique potential. Widely regarded as among the music industry's most innovative and accomplished executives, Shapiro responded positively to Nya's music and vision and came aboard as manager.
As she explored ins and outs of the business, Nya attended the annual NEMO Music Conference where she struck up a fast friendship with legendary producer Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, John Lennon). When the time came to record, Nya headed down to Los Angeles' Westlake Audio, where the studio veteran enlisted a line-up of session players including bassist Dan Rothchild (Beck, Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple), guitarist Rick Dufay (Aerosmith), and drummer Dan Potruch.
"It was exciting," she says, "but since I'd had some studio experience with Tone, I wasn't intimidated about working with Jack. I wasn't afraid to speak up for myself and make sure that what we recorded was my vision."
Combining the Douglas-produced sessions along with those helmed by Tone, the resulting My Denial is unquestionably representative of Nya's multi-faceted personality. The songs touch upon a range of life's big issues -- from our pharmacologically obsessed culture ("One Pill"), to romantic ennui ("Leave It All Behind"), and questions of faith and redemption ("Best I Can") -- all informed by the songwriter's witty and intuitive lyrical perspective. At turns poignant, humorous, and fraught with great beauty, Nya explores the complex emotional terrain of interpersonal connections in all their many permutations.
"The songs are predominantly about relationships," she says. "Ultimately, that's what life is all about. Whether they're romantic or friendship or political, our lives are a tangled web of relationships."
My Denial will be the debut release on Katako Records -- the label name comes from the initials of Nya's family members. Nya will serve as both artist and CEO, an unusual but indisputably thrilling dual role. With her musical gifts more than matched by a daring desire to reshape the very face of the industry, Nya Jade is poised to spread her wings and bring her songs to the world in unprecedented fashion.
"It's so exciting," she says. The music business is changing and the field is wide open for creative, alternative ways to get music out there. I truly feel like the possibilities are endless."