Kaya Jones is busy. Or maybe that’s an understatement; she’s very busy. For illustrative purposes, it might help to list all of her jobs: touring singer, songwriter, recording artist, dancer, record label head honcho, former Pussycat Doll, actress, reality show star, author, and toy and fashion line creator. She’s also made an appearance on The Biography Channel’s “Celebrity Ghost Stories.” For a 28 year old, you might say she’s already done a few things, and she has plans for a lot more. One of those is a stop in our area, to perform at Arlington’s own Mad Rose Tavern on Thursday, April 25th.
Jones started out playing violin as a kid, learning the instrument through lessons at school. But in her early teen years, her path changed when a friend asked if she could help him with some choreography. He was trying out for a Backstreet Boys tribute act, and Jones went along and decided to try out for the female version: a Britney Spears tribute act. She was offered a slot and declined, deciding she didn’t want to make a career out of imitating Britney. But she was hooked on the music biz and knew she wanted to be a performer.
She didn’t have any connections to help her on her way, so she started approaching artists like Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg, hoping for a big break.
“I didn’t have anyone in the music industry who was in my family or anything,” Jones said. “So I found out where these artists were staying and showed up at the front of their hotels and just basically said, ‘You need to know who I am, I’m going to be the greatest singer ever,’ and they were really kind to a 13 year old kid that they thought was clearly full of herself, wanting to try to get into the music industry.”
One of the artists Jones met had a road manager who knew another road manager who worked for R. Kelly. An audition was arranged, and Jones got on a plane. Kelly signed her on the spot and Jones was on her way to being a recording artist.
Musically, she said, her collaboration felt right and things were moving along well. Then, in August of 2001, R. Kelly’s protégé Aaliyah died in a plane crash and Kelly was devasted. He decided he needed a break. A few weeks later, 9/11 happened, and the whole industry took a break. Jones was left in the lurch.
She was excited about her burgeoning career and didn’t want it to end, so she went on some auditions in LA. One was for a punk band needing a singer, which didn’t feel like good fit. The other was for the Pussycat Dolls. 2000 hopefuls were narrowed down to 200 after a preliminary dance audition. 200 became 5, and 5 became 3; Jones was picked to be a Doll. While her time in the Dolls went well for a while, personality clashes and other assorted issues that arose in the group led her to leave around 2005.
Since then, she’s embarked on a solo career, wearing her many hats, and said that it’s been “so much fun, liberating, freeing, and cathartic” to be out on her own.
“When there were doors that needed to be open and they weren’t,” Jones said, “I had to do it myself. When it came to finding a record label, there just wasn’t one that worked for me. I had to build it.”
“You need to know who I am, I’m going to be the greatest singer ever”
In addition to performing and recording for her own label, Jones is busy scouting other artists that she wants to sign. She’s excited to give other artists the opportunity, and to sign them to fair deals.
“The setup is more about artists owning themselves,” she said. “We focus on helping them, and we own a portion but not all of it. It allows them to be protected and to have revenue for the rest of their lives, and when they die, to leave something for their children. I’m sick of hearing stories about artists broke and their kids not having a dime.”
In addition to a new reality show (and companion book), and a new career in acting, Jones’ biggest new endeavor is the Hollywood Doll toy and fashion line. The name for the brand came from one of Jones’ songs, and the idea is that each doll in the collection features clothes and accessories that can actually be purchased for kids. As if Jones didn’t have enough going on, she’s also branching out into candy. The Hollywood Doll brand will also feature a special peanut butter, jelly, and gummy bear candy made by gourmet chocolatier
For Jones, all of these various branches are part of the same tree: her career as an entertainer and performer. And, as you might imagine for such a driven artist, she has no intentions of doing anything else.
“I didn’t go to Harvard or Yale,” she said. “I studied with R. Kelly and Jimmy lovine, Dave Stewart, Mick Jagger and all of these incredible people I’ve worked with. That was my college. So there’s no point in thinking, ‘If this doesn’t work out with the singing and acting stuff, I’m gonna go get a job at Hot Topic.’ That doesn’t really work.”
See Kaya Jones Thursday, April 25 at 9pm.
Mad Rose Tavern: 3100 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, VA; 703-600-0500; www.madrosetavern.com