Jacquelyn Davette Velasquez: A Continuous Biography
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." -- Romans 1:16 (Jaci's favorite verse)
Jacquelyn Davette Velasquez was born October 15th, 1979 in Houston, Texas to David and Diana Velasquez. She is the youngest sibling of Mario, Julian, Mindy, and Dion.
Jaci Velasquez ceases to be a novelty act the moment she picks up a microphone. Although it would be any casual observerís inclination to be both distracted and mesmerized by her youth, Jaci's musical talents go well beyond her 19 years. Her vocals have long exceeded anyone's expectations of a teenager's range, emotion and depth, and on her latest release, simply titled, Jaci Velasquez, an even more polished and sophisticated artist has emerged. The little girl with the big dream is no longer dreaming.
Only three short years ago, an unknown 16 year-old, soon-to-be-phenom, exploded in the world of Christian music. With the release of her debut album, Heavenly Place, Velasquez quickly became a fixture on the charts, graced the pages and covers of national magazines and was a constant winner in a multitude of award polls and shows. She now holds the distinction of being the fastest selling debut solo artist in the history of Christian music. Her debut album shot five singles to the number one position, landed Jaci Velasquez the prestigious Dove Award for New Artist of the Year and was recently certified gold, signifying sales over half a million copies. Not a bad start for any new artist.
Teaming up once again with producer Mark Heimermann, Velasquez is quick to point out the difference between the making of Heavenly Place, her first "real" record and her latest sophomore effort. "This time there were a lot more people involved," she laughs, "and a lot more opinions and ideas! Itís a little scary." Her first album came about after what she herself calls "a fluke" discovery - coming after she was asked to open for a Point of Grace concert in her hometown. Their road manager, who witnessed her performance, was so impressed he made some calls, introduced her to management and eventually Myrrh Records' executives. The rest, as they say, is history. Even so, the demands and expectations for a blockbuster follow-up project, which could make even a seasoned artist shudder have only strengthened Jaci's resolve. "It's a bittersweet thing being so young in this industry," she confesses. "People think, 'ah, she's just a kid, this is what you need to do, Jaci.' Now that's changing for me, people are beginning to respect me a little more."
Respect is one thing that won't be hard to find while looking over the cast and crew that went into the making of Jaci Velasquez. The album boasts a stellar lineup of some of music's top studio players: Jackie Street on bass, Jerry McPherson on guitar, and drummer Dan Needham, while label-mates Anointed dropped in for the rousing, "Glory". Song writers lending their talents to the project include Grammy winner ("Change My World") Wayne Kirkpatrick, album producer, Mark Heimermann, Chris Eaton, Toby McKeehan and Michelle Tumes. The multi-Grammy winning Mick Guzauski (Celine Dion, Babyface, Eric Clapton, Amy Grant) has also been called in to mix several songs on the album.
The album, of course, features the older and wiser Jaci, but not surprisingly, the songs have an added depth and passion - more so than one would expect only "two years later" from any recording artist. Then again, in that same time, Jaci also went from childhood to adulthood in her own life. "There were a lot more emotional rushes for me on this album," she points out, and also proudly notes a significant new level of sophistication in both the music and the delivery.
Call it one of the hazards of life as a Christian musician, but Jaci also seems as ready as ever to tackle the expectation of artistry as ministry and the confines of a somewhat scrutinized personal life which seems to come with the territory. She recalls her stints on stage with her father and his traveling ministry and remembers with a hint of laughter that she actually was called on to preach to the audience as often as she was called to sing. That experience, however, prepared her for what was to come. Today Jaci receives thousands of letters from young fans and their parents, and shoulders well the burden of role model.
To her peers, Jaci is much more than an entertainer. Espousing a commitment to abstinence, Jaci has been a spokesperson for the popular national campaign True Love Waits, and proudly shows her "promise ring" to emphasize the passion of her decision. A new book, published by Simon & Schuster and written by Jaci throughout the whirlwind of her last year, was released in May of 1998. The book, entitled, A Heavenly Place, was yet another chance for Jaci to share more than just music with her fans. "It was tough," she recalls of the writing, "I had to search myself and actually dig deep and find out why I believe what I believe in and why I've dreamed these dreams."
She names among her greatest influences, Amy Grant, a young artist who forged the very same path that Jaci is now on as a contemporary Christian woman, sharing her heart and voice through music. She counts her greatest moment as an artist, however, as her performance at a Billy Graham Crusade in San Antonio, Texas. Even though she's sung at the White House and in hundreds of churches and concert halls throughout the country the appearance was anything but old hat for Jaci. "I love people and I love being a part of people's lives" she confesses with trademark candor. "I may not even know them, but just thinking that a song is a part of a person's memories and when they think back to that moment that my song was part of it - I love that."
Asked what her wildest dream is, as if it possibly hasn't already come true, she giggles enthusiastically, "to meet Antonio Banderas!" - but then quickly regaining her mature composure banters out loud about her desire to maybe someday take her gifts into the field of acting. As for television experience, Jaci's already had a little taste. She's made the regular talk show circuit with appearances on The Today Show and Fox's After Breakfast, and even filmed a Target commercial last Christmas which aired in Hispanic markets throughout the United States. "But, you know," she confesses with great seriousness, "music is my first love. If anything took away from my music I couldn't do it."
Long after her days as a teen-wonder have ended, Jaci Velasquez will still likely be a dominant figure in the musical world. The novelty of her youth which naturally passes with age, is already growing into an enthusiastic respect of a powerhouse talent. And if natural talent, healthy ambition and a heart for "changing the world" is truly what it takes to make it, Jaci Velasquez is well on her way.
After releasing her holiday single, performed in conjunction with The Winans Phase 2 and Burlap to Cashmere, Jaci is getting ready to release her Spanish album, Un Lugar Celestial by Sony Discos on August 24, 1999. She is also doing international touring. Click here to see a list of her 1999 concerts. Jaci won the 1999 Dove Award for Female Vocalist of the Year. She was also nominated for 4 other Dove Awards including: Song of the Year ("God So Loved"), Artist of the Year, Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year ("God So Loved"), and as a contributor to Special Event Album of the Year (Touched By An Angel Soundtrack).
Also coming soon, Jaci teamed up with Gospel singer Oleta Adams to record a new song, "Colors of the Heart," which will be released on July 13th on a new album from Benson Records called Bridges. The song features very mature-sounding vocals blended exceeding well together. Jaci's first home video called Clips and Conversations will be released on August 24th in conjunction with her new Spanish album. It will feature all of her music videos plus an exclusive interview.