by Mark McDermott
Jamisen Jarvis always sang. Like most little kids, she made up songs about whatever she felt. About a boy, a doggy, or a pretty color. But Jamisen didn’t stop singing, even when things got awkward as her teenage years dawned.
At 13, Jamisen got a ukulele and wrote a song, called “Vanity.” She sang it to her dad, Dennis Jarvis, who is known as an iconic surfer and shaper but was also once a singer in a band. He was honest.
“J, I love you so much,” he said. “It’s an awesome song. But I afraid you might be tone-deaf.”
Jamisen didn’t really know what that meant but she knew it wasn’t good.
“I was devastated,” she remembered. “I was like, ‘No. That is not okay. I need to be a singer.’”
Photo by Oliver Blank
Jamisen scoured YouTube, learned vocal practices, and began to realize that she was mimicking other singers, rather than sounding like herself.
“I trained my voice, and learned to understand how I wanted to sing,” she said. “I worked really, really hard. It didn’t come super natural to me. I had to work for my voice.”
It worked. Her voice and her deftly buoyant songs are the aural equivalent of champagne – effervescent and exhilrating, but those bubbles also carry a potent pop. Jamisen is only 20 and she has already found some measure of fame, as a TikTok and Instagram star and “influencer” with hundreds of thousands of followers. She’s also kept singing, releasing a few singles every year, including the recent “Aspen,” a cinematic little wonder of a song that on its surface is about a boy but beyond that sheen is about anyone who carries a memory almost too precious to bear. She writes in easy, conversational form and sings with such ingenuity and ease that it’s hard to imagine how all these ingredients don’t add up to a pop star in the making. And indeed, that is Jamisen’s goal – ever since she saw the Jonas Brothers at Staples Center when she was 11, her dream has not been not just to sing there but to sell it out.
But here is the real beauty of this dream: it’s not about bringing attention to herself so much as giving a lift to like minded souls. Jamisen went through a painful time in her teenage years. She struggled with depression and self-image issues, and despite her butterfly-like emergence, it’s still that little girl she left behind who drives her forward.
“My dream…I close my eyes and I am at the Staples Center with people who – I don’t think of it as fans, or as fame, I think of it as being with people who get me,” she said. “Because I was never understood growing up, and I feel like we are all the same person. I am just saying things that they couldn’t say.”
She is grateful for everything that made her different, from her mom telling her to wear whatever outlandish colors she felt like to her dad’s candor and unconditional love.
“Seriously,” Jamisen said. “Thank god I was a weirdo.”
Jamisen Jarvis plays BeachLife’s SpeakEasy Stage May 14.