Born Jerome Stovell, on the beautiful Atlantic island of Bermuda, Jae grew up in the church, where gospel music during that time was especially prolific, with many choirs and singing groups providing endless opportunities to hone one’s musical skills as a musician, singer, or both. This was the heyday of gospel music with early artists like James Cleveland, Shirley Ceasar, Thompson Community Choir, Richard Smallwood, Andre Crouch, and later, The Winans, and Commissioned. It was Andre Crouch, though, that had the greatest influence early on. Jae reflects, “Andre Crouch was a true pioneer…his music really pushed gospel into unchartered musical territory…it was so diverse, and his arrangements were so unique. I specifically liked his latin-influenced stuff…had never really heard that in Gospel before.”
From his early teens, Jae sang in many music groups and choirs, and by his mid-teens was playing piano and arranging original music for his church’s biggest choir, the ‘District Choir’ comprised of members from all the affiliate churches of the denomination on the island.
Jae, the eldest of five siblings, was born into a musical family. His father was a jazz tenor sax player (he played with one of the popular big bands on the island during the 50’s); his mother often played piano at the family church; and all of his siblings played a musical instrument and/or sang. They formed a band, ‘The Stovell Family’, which was very popular within the island’s church circles for many years. Although raised in a very strict denomination, which frowned upon “worldly” (secular) music, the Stovell children’s voracious appetite for music could not keep them from secretly soaking up all the popular music of the day, bar none! “I remember sneaking Earth Wind and Fire records into the house…we’d have our ears glued to the speakers ‘cause we had to play the music so low, so we wouldn’t wake our parents!” Jae laughingly recalls.
Then, there was radio. Jae came of age during the 70’s, a time of great of great musical diversity in popular music. Jae recounts, “Every group had their own sound, you know? I mean, The Commodores, Parliament Funkadelic, O’Jays, Spinners, LTD, Sister Sledge…all these bands were very unique. Then we had this FM station, FM89, that would pipe in pop music from the US late at night. So in addition to all the R&B/ Soul bands, you had Elton John, Three Dog Night, John Denver, Captain and Tennille, Barry Manilow,The Carpenters, Steely Dan…and on and on!” Finally, we cannot omit the influence of reggae, which was huge on the island during this time. It was the heyday of reggae bands such as Bob Marley and the Wailers, Peter Tosh, Max Romeo and the Upsetters, Steel Pulse, Aswad, and Third World, to name a few.
Exposure to this broad spectrum of popular music in his youth had a big impact on Jae’s musical development, and continues to influence his writing and arranging to this day. He refers to his music as “gospel fusion” as it incorporates elements of Gospel, R&B, Reggae, Jazz, and Pop. He has performed with and led many contemporary gospel groups over the years, with one group “Destiny” recording an album back in 1996. His bands have always have always been distinguished by performing exclusively original music, usually written by Jae.
With the release of the current ‘Inner Man’ EP, the singer/songwriter, musician, and producer/arranger makes a return to the music scene as a solo artist. Jae explains, “With this project, it’s all about sharing my faith and the realities of spiritual life from a Christian perspective. I hope that it finds a home with many who do not traditionally listen to “gospel” music, and will bring peace to the soul for those who venture in.”
And so we introduce…Jae Jerome.