Influenced by the sounds of the South Beach Club scene of the early 1990s, Jane Castro, better known to her fans as JEI, blames Madonna of all people for wanting to pursue a career in the music industry.
"Madonna happened for me at the age of 10. It's all her fault," she said.
Born in Miami to working class Cuban immigrant parents, JEI was bitten by the singing bug much earlier than that at age 5. After performing in front of a large crowd at a school event, she received her first standing ovation and her parents decided to nourish her artistic talents with singing and piano lessons.
JEI continued performing in her teen years as an active part of her high school chorus and drama club, eventually being featured in a "Miami Herald" article about local musical talent and interviewed by other local magazines. These publications opened several opportunities for JEI. She auditioned and performed on "MTV’s Spring Break" and "American Idol" in 2003.
At this same time, JEI was introduced to the underground house music scene in Miami in clubs like Space. It was there that she met Edgar V, Oscar G, Ralph Falcon, Charlie Solana and Sammy O. From then on, Castro performed in the top clubs with Hot Jam Entertainment, developing her style and craft. This eventually led her to record ‘’Amame’’ with Ralph Falcon, Intruder and Murk on Nervous Records. The single was released on vinyl format in May 2011 to commemorate the record label's 20th anniversary and garnered JEI a nomination for Best House/Garage/Deep House track at the International Dance Music Awards.
JEI went on to join the cast of the reality show, “Tough Love Miami,” on Vh-1, which debuted to more than 1 million viewers on October 2011. From there, her solo single, “Show me the Money,” produced by Giuseppe D on Spy Music Group, was released on iTunes and she put out her first solo album, the self-titled “JEI,” on O-Beat Entertainment in the spring of 2014, featuring songs co-written by JEI, Oba Frank Lords and Michael M.
SFGN caught up with JEI as she is working on a new project for 2018. Here's what she had to say:
Your preferred genre of music to perform is dance music. Have you always been interested in the same genre of music?
Always since the first time I fell in love with dance music with Robert Miles' 'Children' in 1994. I was 14 years old and I played that CD until it scratched.
How did you get involved with Michael M and his label? What do you feel he has contributed to your career?
I chose Michael. Michael made it happen for me. After I recorded 'Amame,' Michael told me about the 'Tough Love Miami' auditions. A friend of his, Tony Miros, was doing the casting. I aced it and got it. From there, he hooked me up with Giuseppe D and we recorded 'Show Me the Money.' After that, Oba Frank Lords....we would later record my album and other various projects.
You have a big gay following and are a big supporter and ally to our community. Why is that important to you?
It's important for me to have fans and followers. That's what's it's all about and what gives me the energy to go on. As far as the gay community, they have always been there and helped me embrace my inner drag queen, you can say. They are my first fans and followers. If it wasn't for the LGBT community, I wouldn't be anyone.
What do you next have coming up musically?
I'm currently working on a secret project for 2018. Stay tuned!
For more information on JEI, visit www.missjei.com. For more information on Gonna Be Music, visit www.gonnabemusic.com or listen to music on www.soundcloud.com/gonnabemusic.