Wednesday, April 6, 2016

JROQSOL rocks The Dizzy Bird

Jay Smith, who goes by the stage name JROQSOL, wows family and friends at
The Dizzy Bird in Midtown on Sunday (April 3) evening. (Photos: Wiley Henry)
Local pop artist Jay Smith, who goes by the stage name JROQSOL, has a lot to be thankful for. He survived homelessness, bouncing from house to house, and struggled with a weight problem that crimped his vocal cords and caused deep-seated angst.
He’d fallen on hard times after his employer laid him off. Left to fend for himself, he couldn’t find enough work that would afford him a place to stay. He also was in school at the time and dropped out.
“It didn’t feel good,” said JROQSOL, who, despite having no place to call home, managed to compensate the people who wrested him from wretchedness and a life that could have taken even more of a turn for the worst.
Through it all, including losing 110 pounds, JROQSOL was determined to survive. He righted what was wrong in his life and now makes reference to some of those experiences on stage and via message-laden songs.
“I couldn’t tell stories if I hadn’t gone through some of that,” he told an intimate group of family and friends at The Dizzy Bird in Midtown on Sunday (April 3) evening for JROQSOL’s inaugural fan appreciation show, “#For The Survivors: The Take Off Edition.”
Singing a medley of pop and R & B songs, JROQSOL and his backup singers – Sequoia Gray, Kevin Pierre and Dillon Banbenhoek (who played guitar some) – stirred the crowd to hoot and clap.
JROQSOL unleashed three sets of songs, with intermission between each set for a get-to-know JROQSOL interview with the show’s announcer.
JROQSOL and his backup singers – Sequoria Gray, Kevin
Pierre and Dillon Banbenhoek – perform a medley of pop
and R&B songs.
Q: Describe your sound?
A: I love all types of music. Memphis is one of those cities where everybody can sing. … I’m a pop artist with an R & B edge to it. It’s me. It’s who I am.”
Between sets, several gift cards and “huge prizes” were given away to the audience for answering questions correctly about JROQSOL’s life, career and passions. At one point, the announcer asked, “How many people came to JROQSOL’s first show?”
 “Eight people!” someone blurted out about the 2012 show at The Renaissance in Midtown.
“I expected about 500 people, but only eight people showed up,” JROQSOL said. “And I still had to perform like it was packed to the brim. It was actually great training for me.”
Since then, JROQSOL has performed on stage six other times, “at least two shows a year,” he said, adding, “There really isn’t a big platform for pop artists the way that I do what I do.”
Sunday’s “Survivors” performance was “a fan appreciation show for everybody that supported me throughout the years,” he said.
The year 2012 was JROQSOL’s official launch as a pop artist. He’s been singing since childhood, he said, recalling keeping tune to a song on the radio when he was 4 years old.
“My aunt had heard me. She said, ‘Josh, cut the radio off.’ I cut it off but kept singing and she thought it was still the radio. So she kind of was the one who was like, ‘hey, you can sing.’”
Before he was JROQSOL, he was Jay Smith, a preacher’s kid growing up in the church. His father, Dr. Larry Smith, senior pastor of Empowerment of Faith Christian Church in East Memphis, was beholding to gospel music. Secular music was a no-no. 
“Absolutely no secular music was allowed in my home – unless you were with mama (Barbara Smith), who is divorced from his father – or snuck it in whenever you could,” said Smith.
At seven, Smith’s talent registered at Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ. “Actually, Bishop (G.E.) Patterson gave me my first solo,” Smith recalls. “I did ‘Talk it Over With Jesus’ with my grade-school class at Bountiful Blessings Christian Academy).”
Smith started his own group at 17, which placed him on a trajectory in gospel music. He sang primarily at his father’s church, where he was “praise and worship leader, youth choir director, everything that a preacher’s child does, I did.”
It was the late gospel legend Daryl Coley who overwhelmed Smith and took him to school with his music and musicianship.
“Daryl Coley is one of the few singers that I can say is the reason why I started singing in the first place,” said Smith. “He made it cool for you to have range and his ear was impeccable.”
Smith got a shot with Andrew Knox and New Change, a local community choir. He sang background on the group’s first album. He also sang and recorded “Be With Me” with Donald Walker and Company.
From group to group, Smith plied his vocal skills – in the background. Then he came to an intersection in his career. He wanted to make a switch to pop music, change his persona, and take the lead.
“I knew I was supposed to do something solo. I prayed about it,” said Smith, who consulted his godfather, Bishop Gerald Coleman Sr., senior pastor of Faith Keepers Ministries in the Raleigh/Frayser community.
“He told me to stick with God, listen to God’s voice, and that I should be fine,” said Smith.
Following that course, Smith came upon a green light that led him to make the move to the next phase of his life as JROQSOL.

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