Tampa Bay’s soulful singer Jennifer Real is ready to go global

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Watch out, J.Lo: Tampa Bay has a Jennifer of its own, and she knows a thing or two about being “Real.”

Jennifer Real’s commitment to her craft has ensured that her career has flourished in the St. Petersburg community. The sultry singer won last year’s “Favorite Local Performer – Musician” WAVE Award and performs regularly throughout Tampa Bay, including last year’s WAVE Award celebration and (you may have heard of it), St. Pete Pride.

With a sound reminiscent of Nina Simone and Annie Lennox but uniquely her own, Real is gearing up for the release of her first full album. Watermark caught up with her to—you knew it was coming—get real.

Photos by Jonathan Greye.

Watermark: The last time we talked with you, you told us that your father was an opera singer and mused that you’d been singing since you could talk. What are some of your earliest memories of singing and performing?

Jennifer Real: When I was very young, my parents made me learn songs to perform for our family on the weekends. Since music ran in the family, it was second nature for me. Nearly everyone in my family can sing, but I always stood out. I was in gospel choir, chorus and started competing. Fun fact: I played the French horn in elementary school. I feel the competition really began in 11th grade when I won my first talent show for singing.

Are there any moments that stick out that made you want to pursue your professional singing career?

I saw Whitney Houston at Radio City Music Hall and was star struck. I was immediately inspired and started thinking that singing could actually be a career.

When you aren’t singing, what music are you listening to?

All genres really but my favorite stations and mixes are: Anita Baker, the Love Frequency (528 Hz) and Annie Lennox, primarily.

Who have been your biggest musical influences?

Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Sting, Heart, Melissa Etheridge, Jill Scott, India Arie, Cindi Lauper, the list of inspirations goes on and on.

Love it. What about them inspires you?

Mainly that they are dynamic and versatile. The long breaths, high notes and range makes for deeper, more eclectic sound. That’s extremely inspiring to me.

What was it like to perform at St. Pete Pride this year?

So exhilerating! I loved being up on that stage, singing to and with so many beautiful people. Seeing thousands of heads was a rush. Just wow! I want more!

What’s been the most rewarding thing about pursuing your career?

I am doing what I love to do! Seeing opportunities open regularly is hugely rewarding – and justifies why I do what I do daily. The biggest reward is that my fans keep coming back for more, which makes me feel so supported. That’s priceless.

What’s been the most challenging?

Almost two years ago I had a serious car accident. The car flipped three times and eventually landed on all four tires. It was totaled, but I walked away from it. I was shaken up for months after that and would occasionally have anxiety out of nowhere. That same year, only months later, I also underwent major knee surgery for an old basketball injury. Needless to say… that was quite a challenging year. I was unable to perform comfortably for over a month, but gave myself time to heal and recover and ended up coming out even stronger on the other side. Both were painful, but worth it.

We’re certainly glad to hear you overcame all of that. Do you have any particular fan interactions that stick out to you, good or bad?

Just all love! Some of my closest friends originally started as fans – so I enjoy how social my career is.

How do you prepare for a performance?

Practicing music constantly is my norm for prepping…with vocal exercises, doing scales and ‘mouth yoga’. I just made that up! (laughs) Some of the more “fun” preparation is getting dressed before an event. Clothing and heels are my deal! I can’t have enough heels. And lipstick.

Jennifer Real’s latest single “Give it All” is available now on most major streaming services.

You’re currently writing for your first full album – what does your songwriting process look like?

I’m surrounded by inspiration and get “zinged” with creativity throughout my day. I use the recorder on my phone when I need to get something out of my head. I write, record and collaborate with other musicians for guidance and expertise. I am still learning.

Your latest single is available now across all of music’s most popular platforms. What’s that experience been like?

“Give It All” is all heart. The response has been an incredible feeling of support, and reminds me to keep going. Sharing something you’ve created on an international level is exhilarating. I sometimes catch myself singing it and ask, “Is this me?!” Ha! I can’t quite comprehend that it’s really me on Spotify. It’s definitely an out-of-body experience, for sure.

How does singing an original song differ from singing a cover for you?

Regardless of what I’m singing, it comes from the roots of the earth, into my cells, out of my mouth and is then heard by whomever choses to listen. Often times the response is incredible. It’s certainly wonderful to feel like I am an instrument for something larger than myself.

What are your goals for the album?

Since my style is so varied and eclectic, I am still fine tuning what I want to record and share with my fans. I have many ideas, and a few collaborations are happening right now. Stay tuned and please support.

What are your career goals? What’s next for Jennifer Real?

Bigger stages, bigger audiences; going regional, national and international.  Utilizing my voice for studio session work, commercials and much more.

What advice do you have for those seeking a career in the music industry?

Don’t give up. Learn as much music as possible, experiment with more genres and be versatile. Develop your own sound: you are one-of-a-kind.  And always, always come from your heart.

Finally, what else do you want readers to know about you and your work?

My passion for music, singing and connecting people back to their hearts is my life. I have a regular spiritual practice that is at the center of the conscious lifestyle I am living. We all are here, now, for a reason. Spend time figuring out what your gift is and share it with others. I can say with certainty – gratitude is powerful. Use it!

Jennifer Real’s single “Give It All” is available now on Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Music and iTunes. Writing on her first full album continues, and you can check in with her at JenniferReal.com.

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