Interview: Prima J – Pop Music Duo

Posted: June 16, 2008 in interview, music
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Prima J

Date of Interview: 06/16/2008

© 2008 Clayton Perry

In the cutthroat world of music, the pleasantries of business are rarely a family affair.  But when the going gets rough, Janelle and Jessica Martinez find comfort and strength in each other.

Collectively, these first cousins are known as Prima J.  And while the duo’s name hides their individual personas, their differences make quite a dynamic duo.

In 2007, Prima J made their debut on the Bratz Motion Picture Soundtrack with “Rock Star.”  The single was prominently featured in the film and a music video was commissioned for promotional purposes.  Word of mouth created instant buzz for the duo and “Rock Star” eventually garnered six million views on YouTube—less than one year after its release.

On June 17, 2008, Prima J released their self-titled debut with Geffen Records.  Upon review of Prima J, Janelle and Jessica Martinez managed to squeeze some time out of their busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on “Rock Star,” the influence of Stefanie Ridel, and the meaning of “chilosa!”

Clayton Perry: When performing as a duo, I imagine that it is difficult to showcase your individual personalities at times.  How would you describe each other?

Janelle Martinez: Jessica – she has a very big heart. She’s always on time. And she just loves to have fun.

Jessica Martinez: Janelle – she is crazy. She loves to bungee-jump and all that crazy stuff. She is never afraid to be herself. And she always looks super-pretty because she takes forever to get ready.

Clayton Perry: Collectively, you are known as Prima J.  How did you come up with the name?

Janelle Martinez: In Spanish, “prima” means “cousin.” And the letter J is the first letter of our names – Janelle and Jessica. So that’s how we became Prima J.

Clayton Perry: As first cousins, every day happens to be a family reunion.  Do you ever find it difficult to get along?

Jessica Martinez: We’re like sisters. When we fight, we fight. And then when we look at each other and we start laughing – that’s how we make up. Then we’re all good for, like, a month. And then we fight again.

Janelle Martinez: Yeah, it’s all good.  Besides, it’s nice to have family on the road.

Clayton Perry: How did you get your start?

Jessica Martinez: Not too long ago, we used to work as backup dancers.  And one day, we got a meeting with Stefanie Ridel, who was a former group member of Wild Orchid. She helped us develop as artists and songwriters and taught us about the industry. After some time, she met with us and said, “Tomorrow, you have a meeting with Ron Fair.” We were totally not ready for that. We had one demo, and we didn’t know what to do. We went in and played him our demo. Then, we sang him a song that we had just written, and he basically said, “Congratulations!” on the spot. We’re really lucky and really blessed. That was two years ago. We’ve been working hard ever since and, now, our album is finally coming out. It’s crazy.

Clayton Perry: Few soundtracks experience a great deal of commercial success, but your first single (“Rock Star”) became the breakout hit of the Bratz soundtrack.  Were you surprised by the song’s incremental success?

Jessica Martinez: It was our unofficial single, but people loved it. It was our first real look into what this could be, or what this could be like. Just the fact that we made the video for “Rock Star” and had a song out was amazing to us. It still hasn’t really hit us.

Clayton Perry: During one of the dance sequences in the “Rock Star” video, both of you sport clothing with the word “chilosa” written across the front.  What is the significance of this word?

Jessica Martinez: Chilosa is a slang word in our culture that we made our own. It means a girl that’s independent, self-confident, not afraid to be who she is, very comfortable in her shoes. That’s chilosa. That’s what we want every girl to be.

Clayton Perry: Now that you’re in the spotlight, a lot of young ladies have their eyes on you.  Do you feel any pressure in being labeled “role models”?

Janelle Martinez: I really think it’s a great thing. We’re really ourselves 24×7. We don’t look like the girls on the magazine. We’re still doing what we’re doing. We want all girls – everyone – to know that no matter where they come from, what they look like, if they really work hard and they want to do, they can do it.

Clayton Perry: Having made your start with the kid-friendly Bratz audience, how hard is it to transition between audiences and showcase a more mature sound?

Jessica Martinez: I think our real personalities shine through with both audiences – the older, more mature audience as well as the kids. It’s not really changing who we are that much. I think the style of “Rock Star” is a little bit younger, but it’s still part of us. I think all of our fans will like all of our music.

Clayton Perry: Your album was originally titled Inside Out?  Prior to its release, however, the album was renamed.  Why the change?

Janelle Martinez: We were thinking about calling it Inside Out, but we said, “You know what? We should just have it self-titled.”

Jessica Martinez: Yeah. We do not have any featured artists on this CD. It’s all Prima J! So the title fits.  It’s our introduction to the world.

Clayton Perry: Few cover songs receive airplay while the original song is still in rotation, but “Nadie (No One)” became your second single.  What led you to include this song on Prima J?

Jessica Martinez: We love that song and we’re just like, “You know what? This song would be so beautiful in Spanish as well.” We taped it for fun – in Spanish – and it ended up bigger than what we thought it would be.

Clayton Perry: Have you gotten any feedback from Alicia Keys?

Jessica Martinez: We haven’t contacted her personally, but we needed her approval for the song. They said that she really liked it. We did meet Kerry “Krucial” Brothers, who co-wrote “No One” with her. He said that he loved the song, which was amazing to us.

Janelle Martinez: It was awesome.

Clayton Perry: Your current single is “Corazon (You’re Not Alone)” and friendship underpins the lyrical content.  What central message did you want to share with the world?

Jessica Martinez: It’s a woman empowerment song. It’s about women who’ve gone through bad relationships. We’re telling them that they can get through it. It’s going to be hard sometimes but it’s all going to be okay. Life goes on and we’re all going to make it through together because we all know what’s like. You’re not alone.

Clayton Perry: I am quite sure that both of you have had to overcome a great number of hurdles, especially being so young in the music industry.  What lessons have you learned while working together?

Jessica Martinez: Being away from our family, being away from home – it’s great to have each other there while we’re learning who we are as adults. We really have to be adults in this industry. We have to make tons of decisions on our own. Our family, our parents, aren’t there to help us. We really have to learn to be independent. The fact that we have each other to help each other really helps.

Clayton Perry: For young artists eager to follow in your footsteps, what would you warn them about or ask them to keep in mind?

Jessica Martinez: There will be people that will always try and bring you down. Just don’t listen to them, listen to yourself and what you want to do and keep on going.

Janelle Martinez: Always be yourself.

For more information on Prima J, visit their official website: http://www.primaj.com/

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