By Sheri Tyler Kimble
NASHVILLE, TN — Nashville songstress and composer, Ayanna Jahnée’s birthday is June 5 so that makes her a Gemini. She planned on a double celebration by having a downtown rooftop release party for her new EP, Gemini, on Friday June 7 at City Taps. It was CMA Fest Week in Nashville and the entire city was going to party with her. Then thunderstorms changed the plans. But the storm didn’t dampen her spirits. The EP dropped as scheduled and the release party was postponed until the next week.
It wasn’t the first time that Jahnée has faced disappointment. The Nashville native and graduate of Hillsboro HS (‘13) was a former contestant on The Voice. She didn’t win, but took the lessons learned to find her own voice. “It’s a blessing because it shows you your strengths and weaknesses amidst so many talented people, but then also at the same time it teaches you what you want personally for yourself.”
She describes her sound as “Avant-Garde/ R&C”-rhythm and country. Growing up in Nashville, she was influenced by a combination of musical styles–soul, jazz, R&B and country. You don’t avoid country music. “You come downtown and that’s that all you hear (country music). As a composer . . . I love having all the different nuances of the music I grew up with.”
And she had an Avant-Garde/R&C look. Dressed in a white jumpsuit, ala Elvis with white cowboy boots, she crowned it with nubian knots coiled with gold ribbons and accessorized with ethnic jewelry.
Before the show, she didn’t isolate herself like a diva, but walked around the rooftop greeting the standing room, multi-generational, multi-ethnic crowd with hugs and conversation like everyone was an old friend.
Then she took the stage with the band she formed after returning to Nashville. She sang cuts from her first EP, Unfinished Business. She mixed it up with covers from other artists, from Kanye West and Miss Lauryn Hill to Fleetwood Mac, all Geminis, since it was the theme of the night. And like a good Nashville concert, she had us all singing along, teaching us parts to become her background singers. Pretty soon, she had half the audience on their feet, singing and rocking along with the rhythms. As if to prove her point about the versatility of Nashville music goers, she included a country song. The same people who were singing along with Kanye’s “Don’t Act Like I Never Told Ya,” belted out Big & Rich’s “Save A Horse, Ride the Cowboy “ as well as any Lower Broad crowd.
An advantage of having the party a week after the EP drop, her fans could sing along with the new songs (“Recognize”, W.W.B.D.,” “Norf”-as in ‘norf side’ and “Gemini”) like they were old friends.
She ended with “Printers Alley,” a song she wrote because she feels that Nashville doesn’t have an appropriate anthem. As she sang the lyrics, the audience keep singing the refrain “In Nashville,” not as backup singers, but becoming one with the performance.
You can find her EPs, Gemini and Unfinished Business on Amazon or any of the major download or streaming sites. I recommend you take a peek of her sultry performance of “Skyfall” from The Voice on You Tube. You might check out her YouTube channel as well.to see her growth as an artist.
If you see that she’s scheduled to perform–go treat yourself.