Ahead of their sold-out shows at TAB in July, the twins of Jayesslee, guitarist Sonia and vocalist Janice, tell Denise Cheong how they became overnight pop sensations – and how they’re dealing with their sudden fame
First published on 29 Jun 2011. Updated on 29 Jun 2011.
What is it like being YouTube stars? Were you surprised by the extent to which your videos became viral?
We are still getting used to being called YouTube stars. We are two very ordinary 24-year-olds who are lucky enough to do what we love doing. We still get surprised when we are stopped in the middle of a shopping mall for photos and autographs.
However, this has made us more conscious of the way we treat each other and the way we act in public, as we realise that people do recognise us. The morning after we uploaded our cover of [Tamia’s] ‘Officially Missing You’, we were shocked to see that it had gone viral. Even to this day after 7 million hits, we can’t believe that people are watching our videos worldwide.
What are your day jobs?
As of 2010 our full-time vocation has been recording, touring and performing. Prior to this, we’ve had part-time jobs where Sonia worked at a juice bar and Janice was scooping ice cream. It got to a point where we didn’t have time or flexibility to commit to everything, so we decided to make music our lives.
What was your experience at the Boombox Tour like? How was it meeting other YouTube stars like Ryan Higa, KevJumba and Andrew Garcia?
Boombox was exciting for us, especially because it was our first Australian tour. Among the cities was Sydney, where we grew up and live, yet it was our first performance where our family and friends got to hear us sing live.
Meeting the other YouTube stars was an experience we won’t forget. People ask us how we felt, and we tell them we were starstruck! They were all such great people, down to earth and full of energy. There wasn’t a boring moment and we feel like we’ve built great friendships.
What do you look for in a guy?
A guy has to have leadership, yet be humble. He needs to be fierce in protecting but gentle in loving. He has to be brave enough to step up to the challenge and strong enough to admit when he is weak. He doesn’t have to be rich, as long as he has a heart of gold. He doesn’t have to be perfect, but he does have to fight for integrity. A guy with these traits is pretty hard to top!
What music do you girls listen to? And how up to date are you on the K-pop scene?
We listen to a bit of everything. Some of our favourites would have to be Maroon 5, John Mayer, The Script, Brooke Fraser, Hillsong and Jesus Culture. We are not completely up to date with K-pop, [although] we do hear all of the big hits. Having said that we would love to work with some K-pop artists in the future.
It seems like Sonia has always been the one playing the guitar. Janice, can you play as well?
Sonia has always been the one playing the guitar but behind the camera, Janice is also picking up the guitar and she plays a bit of piano.
When did you start making music? Ever thought about setting up a band – or has it always just been an acoustic duo?
We starting making music with pots and pans from when we were little, but it was never something we considered pursuing until 2007. This was a big year for us with Janice leaving on a mission trip to Cambodia for nine months. Our time of separation resulted in us trying new things and this was when Sonia picked up the guitar for the first time. Eventually we began to upload our music onto YouTube and we became an acoustic duo.
We currently have a ‘Jayesslee Band’ and regularly play together at church. Although our band members do not make an appearance in our videos, they are very much a part of the team, and we travel together for concerts and tours.
What are your future plans in showbiz? Are you girls thinking of making an album? Would that include some originals as well?
We are currently in the midst of a number of shows and tours, with more to come throughout the rest of the year. We love doing live shows because it feels like we get to meet our listeners in person. We’d love to continue touring for a while and eventually release a cover album as well as an original album in the near future.
Do you find that being so open about your religion attracts more fans than it repels?
This is a good question. We are very transparent about our faith and at every opportunity we get, we try and share the love of God. This is because the love of God changed our lives. From struggling with insecurities and depression, we found joy that was not temporary but permanent. We find that our fans are quite accepting of this and more often than not, they respect us for being who we are and being unashamed of our faith in Jesus.
Where would you like to tour next, and why?
We would love to tour Europe. Occasionally we hear from our fans in France! To travel Europe has always been a distant dream for us, but to know that we have a following there is very exciting.
Jayesslee perform at TAB on July 8 & 9.