Meet JAEL: The R&B Artist and DJ You Need to Listen to ASAP
JAEL, also known as Giovanni Jano, is a 28-year-old Moluccan R&B artist and DJ based in The Netherlands.
Growing up in a musical family, Jano found his affinity for performing at a young age. He followed in his uncle's footsteps, learning to DJ and produce music, and soon began creating his own music.
Jano's music is perfect for fans of Anderson .Paak, Devin Morrison, and Jarreau Vandal. Velvety vocals layered over a groovy rhythm section are a staple in his sound, which combines R&B, soul, and electronic elements. Jano's most recent release, Half as Much, is filled with seamless collaborations and what are sure to be your new favorite songs.
We spoke to JAEL about movies, influences, and new music. Read the full interview and listen to Half as Much below:
Where are you based? What is the music scene like there?
I live in the Hague, which is about 20 minutes from Rotterdam (an hour away from Amsterdam). I’m in between the cities with the most noise… the music scene is amazing. There’s so much talent in this country. So many artists, DJs, singers-- too many to mention them all. I’m into the DJ scene, and everyone is so supportive of each other; there’s no competition, everyone helps each other out, gives feedback-- it’s amazing.
At what age did you start playing music?
When I was 14 years old, I started DJing and producing. I grew up in a church-going household, so I love to sing as well. I just started making beats and trying things out; eventually I decided to make music my career.
Do you have any mentor figures that you looked up to growing up?
One of my uncles is a DJ, and I always saw him playing at weddings, parties, and even on T.V. That was really inspiring, and I wanted to be like him. He goes by DJ Rob Manga and he’s a really well-known DJ here… he’s an OG. On my mother’s side, everyone sings or plays instruments, so I just sort of grew up in a musical environment.
How would you describe your sound?
As a singer, producer, and artist, my music is a cocktail of R&B, hip-hop, electronic, and soul. When I DJ, I like to play for everybody in the room; electronic, R&B, funk, soul, pop-- I’ll play a bunch of genres as long as they’re mixed well.
Who are your musical influences?
One of my biggest influences is D’Angelo. I’m forever a big fan. I remember locking myself up with a pile of CDs when I was ten years old; I’d play every album. One album that’s still close to my heart is Voodoo by D’Angelo… I’d play the album maybe ten times in a row to listen to every part of the music: how the bass line goes, the drum parts, vocals, everything. I also really love Devin Morrison, Joyce Wrice, J Dilla, and more.
What message do you hope to leave your listeners with through your music?
Don’t ever limit yourself, especially when it comes to art. I think it’s important to play whatever comes to mind and whatever you are feeling in a moment. Don’t worry about if it sounds good enough, or fits into a certain genre; just do what your spirit tells you.
"Don’t ever limit yourself, especially when it comes to art."
What are your favorite songs to play when DJing?
I’ve been into KDaGreat, his stuff is really good. He has this remix of Luther Vandross’s “Never Too Much,” and it has an African vibe to it and it’s really great. I love anything by Jarreau Vandal, FS Green… there are too many to mention. I can’t pick one favorite.
What is your favorite movie?
One of the movies that has always stuck for me is Blood in Blood Out, which is from the 90s. It’s about gang wars and brotherhood.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I’m a morning person. I feel really productive and motivated to work in the mornings. Usually, I wake up sometime between 6:00 and 7:30 and start working. At around nine-ish, I already feel like I’m getting tired and I try to get to sleep at 11:00 or 12:00 at the latest. Before the pandemic, I was touring and playing a lot of shows, so I sort of transformed into a night owl.
Talk to me about your latest release Half as Much.
Half as Much is a project that’s really close to my heart. I started working on the album in January of 2019. My dream was always to make an album and I thought, “what have I got to lose?” It was really a rollercoaster-- I had a tough time focusing on the project because I was traveling and touring a lot. I would work for one or two days on it, then pack and go away; it’s hard to focus on a project like that while traveling, playing out, and DJing. I also tried to make a DJ edit or a remix to play every night when I performed (DJed), so it was a challenge to balance everything. When the pandemic hit, I was pretty sad because everything was cancelled-- there were no shows. I realized that I had all the time in the world now to finish the record, so I really spent a lot of time focusing on that during the lockdown.
What inspired the album?
All the songs are about life experience: moments I’ve witnessed, stories I’ve heard from friends… It's a collection of my life’s meaning.
If you had to pick one song off of the album, which would you say is your favorite?
It changes a lot, but right now I’d have to say that “Red Dots” is my favorite. The collaborations with Phabo and The Kount were really cool. I really look up to those artists; I’ve been listening to them for a long time. The song is about this girl that everybody has a crush on-- everybody wants to get her attention.
What’s next for JAEL?
I’m going to do some live shows with a band and maybe some with just a guitar. I’ll be releasing a deluxe edition of Half as Much, too. I have a lot of new music coming this summer and at the end of this year, so be on the lookout for that!
How do you create your visuals/album covers?
My friend, John Li, takes all the photos. We just write up some stuff that we feel and see when we listen to the music, and it goes from there.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?
I’m just a guy that loves to make music and sing. My roots are in Maluku, in Southeast Indonesia. I’m from the Northern part of Maluku, which is called Halmahera (where my father comes from), and my mother comes from Tanimbar in the South. It’s paradise.
"I’m just a guy that loves to make music and sing."