THE GROOVE IS IN DEEJ'S HEART
Think dreams are just unattainable fantasies? Well think again. Because 16-year-old singer/songwriter DeeJ is living proof that dreams can and DO come true. This Melbourne-based performer had a worldwide Number One hit at age twelve and she hasn't stopped since. But it hasn't all been plain sailing for this talented youngster. Facing adversity and personal hardship along the way, DeeJ still managed to come out on top.
Her latest effort and debut release as a solo artist, is a brilliant cover of the massive 1990 hit "Groove Is In The Heart". An appropriate song for an artist who declares that music IS her life and whose musical dreams are never too far away.
In this revealing interview, DeeJ speaks of the tragic loss of a close friend, her burning passion for music and her love of shopping!
GIRL: Your debut release is a cover of the 1990 hit "Groove Is In The Heart". Do you remember listening to the original version when you were younger?
DeeJ: I was pretty little but I do remember listening to it back then and the line in the song "I couldn't ask for another" has always stuck in my head.
GIRL: Why did you decide to release a cover as your first single?
DeeJ: Well I was in a band from the time I was twelve, writing originals for them and after that fell through, because the other lead singer in the band passed away, I decided to work on my own stuff. While I was doing that the guys from DSP came to me and told me they were doing this track and I loved it. I thought it would be a great thing to do, it's really fun and the sort of thing I'm into.
GIRL: The original version was performed by Deee-Lite. Have any of the original writers heard your rendition?
DeeJ: Yeah my record company did tell me they were going to send a copy to them but I haven't heard a response from that as yet. But I am hoping they like it.
GIRL: When you were twelve years of age, you were a member of a Melbourne pop band called "Aussie Youth" which became signed to an American label. Was this period in your life all a bit surreal at the time?
DeeJ: It was a blast, at twelve years old I was sitting in on meetings and being informed that I had to perform at Disneyland and things like that! It was just huge and being twelve, of course all I could think of was "oh I might meet Hanson!" (laughs)
GIRL: Unfortunately, "Aussie Youth's" debut album was never released due to the untimely death of one of your band members. This must have been a lot to take in for a young teenager?
DeeJ: He actually was my partner and my best friend in the whole world, we were pretty much each other's lives. We wrote songs together, we sang together. I was fifteen when he passed away and to try and comprehend that, even now, it was such a huge thing. It was very difficult, I felt like I didn't want to go on with my music but I am just so glad that I had the time with him that I did, we did a lot of great things together of which I know he was proud of.
GIRL: Even though you were faced with a great tragedy, what made you decide to stick at your music career?
DeeJ: Music is my life, I want to sing all the time, it's all I can do. People have asked me 'what would I want to do if I wasn't a singer?' And I still can't think of anything that I am remotely passionate about like I am with my music. It was just one of those things, I didn't really get a choice in the end, it was like yes of course this is what I have to do and I couldn't keep away.
GIRL: So do you believe that music chose you or you chose music?
DeeJ: I think it was a bit of both. I think I was born with it in me because if I had wanted to get it out of me, the desire to do it, I couldn't. But also it's my push to do it as well. There are a lot of talented people around me but they don't have the desire to push themselves. And I am just so hungry to make a living out of my music and performing, so I think it was a bit of both.
GIRL: You worked with producer Paul Wiltshire and dance producer Christos on "Groove Is In The Heart". How did this collaboration come about?
DeeJ: Paul Wiltshire actually recorded some of the "Aussie Youth" album so I got to know him very well through that and we became really good friends even though I am a lot younger obviously. I was introduced to Christos through the record company and he is an amazing talent, they both are. Paul's vocal production is amazing and Christos' music is just fantastic.
GIRL: Does it sometimes get a little difficult chasing your music dreams and still being a regular teenager?
DeeJ: It does get a little difficult because I'm still at school. It's more some of my friends that don't understand the nature of the business, so that can become difficult. But most of them understand it and it's fun anyway so I wouldn't give it up.
GIRL: Aside from all that, what do your close friends think about your pursuit of your music dreams?
DeeJ: Most of them absolutely love it. They are so proud of me and what I'm doing and always say 'just go for it'. I think it's good to see someone striving for their dream as well. A lot of people get kinda down about it but I'm like "no this is going to happen". Most of them are really proud and supportive of it.
GIRL: Do you expect your life to change much after the release of your first single?
DeeJ: I hope not because I'm ME...you know, sometimes I'll go out to get my mail in my pyjamas and the kids at the primary school across the road, look at me like I'm nuts! (laughs) So hopefully I'll still be like that all the time. I'm not going to change myself and the way I am.
GIRL: You have maturity beyond your years, where did this develop?
DeeJ: You know what, so many people say this to me and it's a really lovely thing to say but I have no idea. It's probably got a lot to do with what I've been through, you know, being thrown into an industry so young. To be honest, I don't really notice it.
GIRL: Being a teenager of today, do you think that music artists have a responsibility to be a good example for the younger generation?
DeeJ: I know that I definitely look up to a lot of people and aspire to be like them. I know I respect a lot of teenage artists like Ella Hooper, I think she's fantastic. For younger kids, I think it does influence them a lot. So I think these artists have to be careful but not totally over the top.
GIRL: Is this something you'll be conscious of?
DeeJ: Yes, I think it's very important to remain stable and have something for younger kids to look up to.
GIRL: Are you currently working on an album or will this single be a one-off?
DeeJ: At the moment this is the first one, but I have a couple of singles that I have worked on. I am just constantly writing and working towards an album. Hopefully the second single won't be too far away. I definitely want an album after this and five more after that! (laughs)
GIRL: Do you enjoy the process of recording or are you more at home performing live in front of an audience?
DeeJ: Actually it's really interesting because most people prefer one over the other but I have been fortunate enough to run into some really great producers. I absolutely loved working with Paul Wiltshire on vocals because he has just got this knack that makes me want to be in the studio for hours. Performing live is the reason I got into this in the first place. Nothing in the world beats getting up in front of people, even if it's four people and singing live with a guitar. It's just fantastic and my favourite thing to do.
GIRL: When you're not hanging out in recording studios, what do you like to do for fun?
DeeJ: Shopping, shopping and shopping! I am addicted to clothes and just love buying them. I also love sleepovers, movies, getting my hair and makeup done; all those sorts of things.
GIRL: If you could record with a person of your choice, who would it be?
DeeJ: That's a tough one, there are so many. But I do have to say that I look up to Madonna a lot. Her longevity and how she's managed to stay in the industry is just fantastic. Australian-wise, I love Daniel Johns - apart from being a bit of a spunk, he is very cool. He's got great music and style - people like that would just be great and I think I could learn a lot from them.
GIRL'S 60 SECOND QUIZ
Full Name: Danielle Jenkins
Star Sign: Gemini
Fave Food: Pizza
Fave Film: Charlie's Angels
Fave Actor: Brad Pitt
Fave Animal: Dog
Describe Yourself In 3 Words: Fun, Outgoing, Talkative
Best Feature: My Smile
Worst Feature: My Laugh
Person You Would Most Like To Meet: Brad Pitt
Hobbies/Interests: Music & Shopping
First Job: In a bakery
A Talent You Wish You Had: To play guitar
The Best Advice Given To You: Never stop, keep working for it
What Can You Never Leave Home Without: My lip gloss
If you were a cartoon character, which one would you be? Bugs Bunny
If you were told you had a minute to live, what would you do? Go and hug my mum and go bungee jumping!
What do you think of when I say Bert Newton? Moon-face!
- Annemarie Failla