Arts & Culture

Richmond-raised Ajaye Jardine rising up the country charts in Nashville

By Don Fennell

Published 11:18 PST, Wed December 18, 2019

Last Updated: 2:33 PST, Tue January 7, 2020

When Ajaye Jardine broke up with a longtime boyfriend and headed to Nashville, it had all the makings of a traditional country song.

Only the BC Country Music Association’s reigning Female Artist of the Year isn’t your conventional country artist; her style better described as modern country-pop.

Rapidly building a reputation as an outstanding vocalist, songwriter and entertainer both in Canada and the United States, she has developed an engaging sound influenced by Sheryl Crow, Brandi Carlile, and Emmylou Harris. But she uses her unique and personal creative vision to remain authentically original.

Growing up on Canada’s West Coast, in the farming and fishing village-turned-urban-metropolis of Richmond, she enjoyed an eclectic taste in music largely influenced by that of her parents.

“I listened to a wide range of music growing up—pop, classic rock, country,” she says. “My direction as an artist, especially my upcoming work, integrates all the genres I’ve listened to over the years, to create a sound and style that’s uniquely mine.”

Also nominated for Record of the Year by the Tennessee Songwriters Association International, and featured on “Today in Nashville”, Jardine’s single “Fill it up Again” (from the album Midnight & Bourbon) has received more than 100,000 streams on Spotify. And as part of her new project The Demo Files, she is releasing new songs each month exclusively through her online community “Team Jardine” at https://mailchi.mp/609822f8ef8a/teamjardine.

“I’m a huge fan of artists like Brandi Carlile and Kacey Musgraves,” she volunteers. “I’ve followed their careers for years and I’m continuously inspired by their authenticity.”

Her songs, all of which she relates to, reflect a similar mindset.

“Each song I write, whether on my own or with co-writers, comes from a truly emotional place,” explains Jardine, a graduate of McNair Secondary’s mini school program, and holder of a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Simon Fraser University.

How long the songwriting takes depends on several factors, she says. Sometimes it’s 30 months, other times it’s three months.

“I think the first step is coming from a place of honest emotion,” Jardine says. “We all experience heartbreak. We all love the feeling of joy and success. We all face disappointment. As an artist, it’s my responsibility to be vulnerable through songwriting, to create a safe space where others can come to the realization that no one is alone; we’re all in this together. I relate to all of my songs, because each song I write, whether on my own or with co-writers, comes from a true emotional place.”

Jardine made her first trip to Nashville six years ago knowing she would eventually return. Last year, she took the leap of faith and moved to the country music capital.

“I live by the words my dad has always told me: ‘You never want to look back on your life and wonder, What if?’”

Jardine says being an artist is to be vulnerable, honest, and an inspiration to others through her actions.

“I take my work seriously, I love what I do and I love who I am because of my commitment to my art,” she says, glancing in the direction of her BC Country Music Association award. “I use it as a reminder that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. It inspires me to keep writing songs and digging to the core of my artistry. It reminds me on both the challenging and successful days that my path as an artist is bigger than myself.”

Jardine has received multiple BC Country Music Award nominations over the years, and performed at both the 2017 and 2018 award shows.

She’s also collaborated with Aaron Grain of the award-winning Canadian country trio The Washboard Union (2017), and was a finalist for Canadian publishing company Anthem Entertainment (previously Ole Publishing) in 2016. Additional highlights include performing alongside the legendary Steve Earle (Sixthman’s Cayamo) at such iconic venues as The Listening Room and The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. Currently, she hosts and performs at her weekly writer’s night The NashUp 615 (Alley Taps) and at Blake Shelton’s Ole Red.

“Ajaye (has) always (been) around music,” notes her mom Cherelle. “Her dad and I used to have some awesome house parties with all our musician friends and we would play music all night long. Ajaye would take her turn at the mic, as young as six-years-old. I knew music was in her blood. I made her take piano lessons (Royal Conservatory) at five, knowing that it would give her a good base knowledge of music and playing an instrument. Fast forward to post-secondary, I gave her my Ovation guitar to take to SFU which she picked up and taught herself to play.”

Ajaye was in her late teens when she joined her mom in the alternative country mother-daughter group known as The Jardines. In their years together, Cherelle delighted in watching her daughter’s confidence grow. It was also a time when Ajaye was introduced to performing on large stages from the Merritt Mountain Music Festival to the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics.

“When we were recording the second album Someone's Stolen Tuesday in 2011, Ajaye was hitting her stride,” Cherelle says. “For her graduation, I took Ajaye to Nashville and that's when the bug really hit her. We were on our way to a gig in Louisiana and on the drive there she told me that she wanted to be a solo artist and explore Nashville. As much as it broke my heart, I saw the fire in her eyes when she talked about it and I knew that she had to follow her dreams. I know I'm her mom, but honestly she's an extraordinary songwriter and an outstanding performer. I have no doubt she will accomplish anything she puts her mind to.”

“My mom is an incredible woman and creative influence,” Jardine says. “She helped me build a foundation including our time with The Jardines, and from there has been an incredible support and confidant on my path. (Coming to Nashville) has been the greatest decision I’ve made for myself. Any path that is unknown comes with highs and lows, but every experience has taught me so much about myself.”

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