When you're a teenager, there's almost nothing more important than blending in. You dress the same, talk the same, see the same movies"anything to avoid standing out too much from your peers. But for 19-year-old Jessie Daniels, this wasn't the way she wanted to live her life. Instead of following the crowd in high school, this New York native embraced her faith and followed her dreams. And her decision to be different"to fully embrace the ups and downs that come with everyday life"has provided the inspiration for her self-titled debut.
Like many successful young artists, Daniels made her performing debut early. Working as an actress since she was eight, Daniels appeared in multiple independent films and commercials for The Lifetime Network and MTV. In addition to print advertising gigs, she also was involved in musical theater and off-Broadway plays. But what Daniels loved more than anything was music, particularly singing. And it wasn't too long before she'd have the opportunity to showcase the skills that eventually led to "her life's calling."
Growing up in what she describes as a "very loud, Italian Catholic family," Daniels was active in her home church. "I always knew about God, but never really realized you can have a relationship with Him," Daniels remembers. "It wasn't until I attended church with a Christian friend that my heart really began to change. For the first time, I experienced God in a real way and saw something new I wanted to commit myself to."
It was during this time that Jessie also realized there was far more to performing than simply entertaining people. "I remember thinking, 'God, I want to use my singing for you. Lead me.'"
A few months later, Daniels traveled to Nashville to check out the musical possibilities, and "it sort of blossomed from there," she recalls. In 2003, Daniels began writing and recording her first project, a six-song EP she released independently on her Web site. Before long, her hard work paid off with national attention and, eventually, performances at Radio Disney concert events. After that, additional dates with Kutless, Seventh Day Slumber, Paul Wright, Across the Sky and more positioned the emerging artist in front of an even wider audience.
Knowing it was time for the next step in her career, Daniels met with several record labels and signed with Midas Records as the company's first faith-based artist.
Midas Records A&R executive Brad Allen explains, "I knew my two-year-long search to deliver music with a positive message to a broader audience was over upon meeting Jessie Daniels. I was convinced instantly that this New York teenager's talent and message would drive the launch of Midas' CCM division."
With the business side of things nailed down, Daniels was free to focus on recording her debut. Teaming up with producer Scott Davis, she co-wrote on all 12 songs. "It's my goal for these songs to be 'me' in every way possible," Daniels says. "I'm coming alongside people who know me well and understand what I want to say."
It's also important to Daniels to make her own mark on the music world. "My songs capture that rock ambience with a pop edge that I love," says Daniels. "It's so important to me to find my own identity, and I'm getting to do that on this album."
Daniels' first single, "The Noise," reflects that unique musical vision. But even beyond the catchy hooks, it's what the song is saying that's ultimately more important to Daniels. "In the tough times, you want to hear God's voice through the chaos," she explains. "It's cool because The Bible always talks about God's still, small voice. But yet 'The Noise' is this loud, pumpin' pop/rock song. I guess God speaks to people in different ways."
In stark contrast to "The Noise," another song Daniels can't wait for people to hear is a ballad titled "Hold Me Now," a song that came out of an extremely painful time in Daniels' life.
"'Hold me Now' is my worship song," Daniels says. "When most people think of worship, they think of a song like 'God of Wonders.' But where I'm coming from here is that you can be different and worship God in your own way."
When considering her place in the music scene, Daniels' hope is to encourage Christians and non-Christians alike with a message that continues to have an impact on her.
"For me, growing up in New York and becoming a Christian there, it's on my heart to show people God in as real and relevant of a way as possible," Daniels concludes. "Because of how advanced and progressive things are in New York, you're not going to get through to people unless you're real, honest, and able to identify with them. That's how I intend to be about my faith through the music. Obviously, music is what I love, and what I want to do, but ultimately it's my calling more than a job."
Now really, we couldn't have said it better ourselves.