Teresajenee's new album, The Ecklectic, lives up to its name. The eleven-track release encompasses tender piano ballads, kicky electro-driven dance numbers, slow-burn R&B, and gospel- and string-tinged soul. What anchors the album is her expressive voice, which can coo like a new mother or wail like a church soloist. Think Lauryn Hill or Erykah Badu — and that just scratches the surface.
Like The Ecklectic, Teresajenee (given name: Jennifer Sanders) is a study in contrasts. She's a combination of sassy and elegant, edgy and traditional, a charismatic dynamo who grew up in Walnut Park surrounded by music. Her dad played guitar and listened to everything from Frank Sinatra to The Phantom of the Opera. Her mom, meanwhile, went to school for music education, and before she was married, Sanders says, "she had a band, and she was a soul-singing sister as well, from lounge to lounge, club to club." As a youngster, Sanders would fall asleep at night listening to the dulcet tones of KEZK (102.5 FM). In fact, soft rock and gospel influenced her the most — especially because, in her religious household, she wasn't allowed to listen to certain kinds of music. Naturally, her decision to become a secular artist wasn't an easy one. She credits an audition for LaFace Records with her college singing group as the experience that "motivated" her to do things her own way.
"That was the deal with the going secular — I wanted to do this on my terms," she says. "I don't have to be vulgar. Not saying there's anything right or wrong about it, everyone's entitled to their own [opinion]. But I don't have to be that way to just do music that reaches people.
"It wasn't easy," she stresses. "Coming from the family I came from, obviously if I was going to do music, I was going to do Christian music. And nothing else."
Sanders moved back to St. Louis after attending college in Nashville, and The Ecklectic came together "over a span of maybe two, three years" in local studios. Why the long genesis?
"I believe in divine timing," she says. "Things will come when it's time to come. And a lot of things fell through, a lot of problems with producers, a lot of problems with losing sessions and stuff like that. It would just be a lot of random stuff that would happen every time I would try to record this album that would completely tear it apart. It got to the point where I was like, You know what, I'm going to stop trying to force this album to come about."
Indeed, Teresajenee has kept busy in the meantime as a songwriter for other artists; she also has a collaboration with Rockwell Knuckles in the works. "To know me is to know that I'm truly an eclectic," she says. "I am a little country, I'm a little rock & roll. You know, I am a scatterbrain at times. That's just me, you know?"
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