Is making it in the big time all it’s supposed to be? Jessie Clark, a Pearl-award winning artist in the LDS scene, has a story that is both unique and universal.
At 15, Jessie was living a good life in an active LDS family in Utah. Blessed with a terrific singing voice, she was trying out for gigs before she could drive. She landed several, one of which was performing in musical shows at a local amusement park, under the guidance of Jenny Jordan Frogley, a talented and well known musical director and singer.
After honing her performing skills on stage during the summers, her big break came: a recording contract with Scream Records, (a division of Sony Entertainment in Florida). She was to be part of the boy band/Britney craze in a new group they were putting together. Fame, fortune and glamour were coming her way!
She moved to Florida with anticipation and excitement. The group spent their days in the studio; recording, working on songs, practicing choreography, and developing their act. They were supposed to keep up their schooling with independent course work. But who could do that when they were soon-to-be stars?
Fame, fortune and glamour started getting sexy and trashy. The producer was domineering. The label wanted her to wear cellophane tube tops, to look and act a certain way. Once she dyed her hair and was severely reprimanded for it. The group was being molded to sell music with sexuality and suggestive innuendo.
“I felt the Spirit slipping away. This was every singer’s dream. It was all supposed to bring happiness, yet I could no longer feel the Spirit in my life. The environment was dragging me down, and I realized the difference since I had grown up with the Church’s influence at home.” she said.
After four months, she had enough. The excuse that they were not completing their schoolwork syllabus material served as a reason to move back home.
“After it was over, I didn’t know what to do. I was relieved and frustrated at the same time. If this was my big break, and I didn’t want it, what was I to do with my life now?”
She felt discouragement and disappointment. One day, she went to the Provo Temple and sat in the lobby with a prayer in her heart that the Lord would show her what she was to do with her talent and her life.
Two months later, at the suggestion of Jenny Frogley, she called my studio and blurted out that she was dropping off a demo CD in my mailbox. Later she explained that she was too intimidated to give it to me in person, knowing I get endless demos all the time, and here she was, just a young kid.
Her demo was great, so I did the next thing I routinely do and called her references. It didn’t hurt having Jenny Frogley on the list. I have great respect for Jenny’s opinion of singers. After a strong recommendation from her, I decided to find an opportunity to have Jessie sing a track on one of our label’s albums. We were doing a new Young Women’s series, and she would be perfect on one of those songs.
She showed up at the session nervous and scared. But by the time we had the song recorded, it was clear she had great talent and I was a happy producer. I had her come in several times later and do a few more songs on other projects.
The albums did very well, and audiences began to ask for more of “that new young singer, Jessie Clark”. She was 16 when we recorded her first song. By the time she was 19, the audience response to her vocals were so great we decided she needed her own album.
Her spiritual maturity reached new levels as we talked about being a instrument for good in music, about being a worthy example at all times, especially when in LDS music. That being an LDS recording artist, at least for our label, meant we are held to a higher standard of behavior. That our motivations had to be unquestionably pure, and our motto the words of President Hinckley himself, found on every album cover. We were there to support the Brethren’s positions, and not the opposite. We were all about the message, not the messenger.
All of this seemed an answer to prayer to her. She began co-writing her own songs with Jeannine Lasky, and soon we had a track list of songs for her new album. By the time we were in the studio recording them her life had turned 180 degrees opposite what it had been in Florida.
She met a great guy and got married, adding “Funk “ after her last name. She’s won three Pearl awards; one for the album and one of the songs, as well as Female Vocalist of the year.
Today she can hardly believe the difference in her life. “I’ve gotten all I ever wanted already,” she says.