Jena Rose is a sixteen-year-old singer-songwriter from Dallas, Texas who is breaking into the music industry with confidence and authenticity that rings true in the world of contemporary pop. In June, she released a song called “Lost at Sea,” a heartfelt ballad dedicated to her late grandmother, showcasing her honesty about who she is as an artist and her desire to genuinely connect with other people through her music.
Jena recently wrapped up the Taking You tour with pop collective Why Don’t We and the High School Nation tour with the Plain White T’s. Over the early part of the summer, she’s hit the road with indie pop band AJR of S-Curve Records.
Over the years, Jena has grown as an artist and honed her musical style by facing and overcoming different adversities, such as her young age relative to other musicians in the industry and remaining determined to stay true to herself as she continues to develop her sound.
How did you discover your passion for music? Is there anyone in your life who sparked it, or did you discover it on your own?
My brother started taking piano lessons, and when I was five, I got jealous of him, so I asked to take piano lessons too. So I started taking them, and I’ve been taking them ever since.
When I was nine, my friend wanted to take a voice lesson with me, a duo lesson. I wasn’t really too invested in it, but I thought, why not? It might be fun. So I went, and I actually loved it.
Then, I had my first performance at the House of Blues in Dallas. I was really shy, so it was very scary being up there. But ever since then, I’ve loved it, and that inspired me to keep doing music.
Is there anything specific that inspired you to create your music? Are there any bands, artists, subjects, or experiences that influence you?
I started writing because I went to my piano teacher, and he taught me how to improvise on the piano. So I went home that night, and I wrote a song. Because I was tired of singing covers, and I just wanted to experiment and do my own stuff.
How old were you when you started to improvise and wanted to write your own music?
I was actually still nine. So it all happened really fast.
Do you have a specific creative process or way that you write songs? Do you have to sit down and focus for hours at a time, or does it just come to you?
I write my music by sitting down at the piano. I play around with different chords and melodies. When I find one that I like, I start singing over it. I sing random words, and somehow I make them fit together.
I usually pull from experiences with my friends and family, from myself, and from TV and movies. You can get a lot of inspiration from things that you see around you. I just put them in my songs, and usually, they come together pretty quickly. I love it so much.
Are there any struggles that you face being sixteen years old in the music industry? If so, how did you overcome them?
From the time I was twelve, going out to New York and LA and working with people, you just don’t get the same amount of respect that people get when they’re older. It’s just a different thing. No matter if you feel older, you feel more mature than you are, or more mature than the age you are—people always try to treat you as your age. You’ll still be twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen in everyone’s eyes. That’s what I’ve had to deal with. It’s been really hard because I feel very experienced in life, and in my music, I try to show that But I’ve had people tell me that I should write songs that coincide with my age, that are more kid like. That’s just not who I am. I want to write about what speaks to me. So it’s just been a conflicting thing for me.
What’s it like being successful at sixteen? Is it overwhelming? Is it exciting?
I think it’s a lot of things. It’s very exciting because I get to do what I love every day. I get to wake up and I get to play music, and I get to share it with people, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. That’s my main goal in life, to inspire people with my songs and my message, and I get to do that. And I’m very lucky that I do get to do that.
It’s also a balance with school work. I do online school, so I have to balance that. I also have to maintain friendships, which is hard sometimes, because I’m busy. But I try my very best. Life is [all] about balance—it’s a give and take.
You’ve been on tour with groups like Why Don’t We and the Plain White T’s. What’s your favorite part of being on tour?
My favorite part of being on tour is performing every night. I think every crowd is different, so not knowing what to expect is pretty exciting to me. Every night is a new night, and you get to perform at your very best with people. You get to introduce yourself to people who don’t know you, and that’s a fun thing. I love touring with the openers and the main acts, because we always have fun, and that’s great.
Have you met anyone cool on tour?
I just toured with R5, who were really nice, as well as AJR. And last night [July 26th], I performed with Sabrina Carpenter. She was so kind and funny and a great person to be around—really welcoming!
Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians who want to break into the industry or are thinking of pursuing a career in music?
I would say always stay true to yourself. It goes with the age thing. No matter what people tell you, it matters who you are inside and what you want to do. And that’s the most important part of it all.
Was that something you came to on your own, or is there anyone in your life who helped instill that idea?
My mom. I have her by my side basically 24/7. She’s my best friend, and we talk about everything. She’s been there for every experience that I’ve had with music, with people who have told me that I’m too young to do something or have told me to change how I write or how I feel. She taught me to be myself and not care what people think—love who you are.
You’ve been writing music since you were nine, but how long have you been working in the industry, in studios, and with other people?
Since I was twelve. When I was twelve, my voice teacher said, “I think it would be cool for you to go to New York. I know a guy who could help set you up with studio time.” I worked with a band and had a whole music experience in New York. He thought that would be great for me, so we were like, why not? It’ll help me see if I’m really serious about this if I really want to do it for the rest of my life. So we went, and I loved every second of it. It was super fun.
Are there any cool producers or musicians who you’ve worked with in the studio, who you like working with?
Yeah! I started working with this amazing producer named Drew Scott when I was thirteen, and we did so many songs together. He’s so talented. He can basically read my mind. We worked together for a while, and then I started working with other producers. But then I came back to Drew recently—he’s the producer who really gets me and gets my sound, and we have such a great friendship and bond. I love working with him so much.
Do you have a specific song or album that keeps you going when you write music?
I love Adele’s most recent album . I love how soulful she is and how she really tells a story in her music, so that’s been a big inspiration for me recently.
When I write songs on the piano, they all start off as ballads. When I take them to Drew, we figure out which ones we want to turn into upbeat songs or mid-tempo [songs], and we kind of take them from there.
Could you tell me more about your song “Lost at Sea”?
With that song, I wrote about feeling lost. I know my family felt very lost when they lost her. I just wanted to write a song that explained how we were feeling and focused on that. The single’s cover is actually her painting because she loved to paint. It really makes it dedicated to her.
What’s coming in the future? You’ve been posting on your Soundcloud recently. Are you going to be working in the studio? Is there anything that we can look forward to?
I’ve actually been in the studio a lot recently. I’m recording a bunch of new music that I’ve been writing. I’m going to the studio next week for some other stuff—I have a new song and video coming out soon that I’m excited about. It’s going to be awesome. I don’t know the exact date yet, but it’s coming out in August.
Is there anything else you’d like to share for us to know more about you and who you are?
I want people to know that I’m here for them and that I want to tell their stories in my music. I want people to relate to my songs.