They say “never meet your heroes” but remix and production dynamo Jared Jones certainly does not believe that hype. After working with Lynda Carter and RuPaul (among other legendary icons), he has collaborated with Samantha Newark (the voice of Saturday morning cartoon songstress and 80’s icon Jem) on her stunning new album Hologram 2.0. I sat down with both Samantha and Jared to discuss collaborating on this brand new album, primed for the dance floors. We discussed gay iconography, the pop artist that brought them together and what their collaboration meant to both of them.
Michael Cook: Collaborations between two amazing artists like yourselves always end up creating simply magical music; what has it been like working together?
Samantha Newark: We have been having so much fun doing this record. Thank you Jared for making me laugh! We have just had a great time and made it so much fun!
MC: You met through fellow pop artist, the dearly departed Ari Gold. It’s almost ethereal the way that he put the two of you together and is now getting to enjoy the collaboration. What do you remember the most about Ari?
SN: I just remember what a cool cat he was. It took way too many years for us to meet in person, we were friends on Facebook for quite a long time first. We finally got to meet at JemCon, just that one time when we finally met in person. I treasure that, but I’m pissed off that it wasn’t more. He was a lovely, lovely person and he was a great human.
Jared Jones: I worked with Ari for close to fourteen years on various projects. It started off as business, then we became friennds. We would visit each other, he would come down here to Virginia and stayed, I would go to New York City to see him, and he was always just so kind and caring. I’ve made so many connections through Ari, like Samantha. The amount of people that he knew and the lives that he touched, it is crazy to really think about it. I am glad that I was able to share in that and be a little part of The Ari Gold Experience.
MC: What can you both tell me about the new music? Working collaboratively during a pandemic certainly has conspired to make some wonderful art between artists.
SN: I would say that on the heels of losing Patricia (the voice of Pizazz), my dear friend in Nashville on Christmas Day in 2019, then losing Ari in February. It really made me see how precious life is. Share your gifts and talents because tomorrow is not promised. We are all sitting around wondering what its going to happen in the world and we have all of this great music and amazing collaborators that Jared wrangled for this project, including the wonderful remixes that he did himself for this record. We just thought “here’s to you Ari Gold”; the record is actually dedicated to Ari Gold. Music is a gift, music is a celebration to uplift everyone. Lord knows this is the time that everyone needs more of that.
JJ: It’s so funny, Samantha and I spoke about having the material that we sat on when the pandemic hit, because it was obviously not the right time to put out on album. I think Ari’s passing is what really lit a fire under me and made me see we needed to get it out. I was looking at emails and he put Samantha and I in touch in 2018 and we started talking then and got to know each other. It has been a labor of love for sure and a real journey. I think now is the time; we have the product done and people need other outlets and distractions from the everyday. They need some glitter and gold!
SN: When it really started to come together, I truly think that this was the most effortless project that I have ever done. Obviously I didn’t have to record the vocals, they were already done, as they were the original stems from my original Holograms production. Jared and everyone just worked so hard and everyone that participated in the project was so executed to be on board. Before I knew it, all of these amazing remixes were showing up and it was like “oh my God this is really happening”!
MC: Jared, you have slowly become one of the most go-to remixers in the industry. What do you think it is that makes artists gravitate towards you so much for their projects?
JJ: As far as the work goes, I have refined, improved and bettered myself to make myself stand out and be able to approach artists like RuPaul, Mary Wilson, Lynda Carter and Taylor Dayne. The relationship that I have made with people like RuPaul and Levi Kreiss…I mean not many people can say that they can call up a Tony-Award winner and say “Hey what’s going on today”? Part of it is because I think I take the time to cultivate the relationship, not just getting a track and I’ll make something for them. Samantha will tell you, even though I am the one doing it, I sought her input and tried to bring her into it as well. I try to do that with all of the artists that I work with; I try to make it a collaboration and I think that goes a long way. Artists are more used to people coming in and are used to studio session style-collaborations and don’t get to really talk to the people working with them. I really want to speak to the artists, I don’t to speak to their management and I want to speak to them.
SN: This was the most effortless collaboration. As the artist, you do want to have input because they’re my songs and they’re my babies. I trusted you to fly with them as well, you were so open and so fun, and you had so much enthusiasm. My project kept the fire going, it is hard to put yourself out there as an artist and to put it out there for the world. To have someone on board and that is really loving it helps so much; it was a huge part of it, not just the amazing remixes, but the personal touch was just everything.
MC: Bringing remixers into a collaboration between two artists can be challenging, as bringing new people in means you are bringing ideas, voices and schedules into the mix. What were your experiences on this project?
SN: I really all just came together perfectly. I feel like it was meant to be; it was the right timing, hearts, and people coming together at the right time to create it and I could not have asked for more.
MC: Do you look back on the 80’s with Jem and see it through the lens of gay iconography that the rest of us do?
SN: I have started to because I have had so many profound experiences. When you go to RuPaul’s Drag Con and drag queens are going “Showtime Synergy”, I mean WOW! I met Detox and she was like “Oh My God”! You dont know until you know. I knew that the show had reached so many lovely souls, but to get that response back and meeting so many beautiful souls in person, I didn’t really know until I knew.
MC: It seems that any large female presence with her own “other life” for young boys, like Wonder Woman, was so representative of what so many young boys were going through and they gravitated towards that.
SN: Absolutely. The whole “secret identity” thing, I understand it so much more now than when I was doing the show. I was just a kid when I was recording Jem. I understand the gravity of it though; it was so much more than a Saturday morning cartoon. It was reaching deep into people’s psyches. and giving them a sense of self that they didnt find with their families. They could relate to Jem, Erica and her secret identities and they could relate to her not telling people who she really was.
Jared Jones: I can absolutely attest to that feeling. During my first phone call with Samantha, I had butterflies in my stomach, I was going to talk to Jem! Having been in the room and met so many people, it is funny how your childhood idols still have an impact on you as an adult.
MC: Samantha who have you gotten to meet or has influenced you that truly has helped shape your musical career?
SN: In my music realm, before I was really writing music and I was in my early twenties, I went to every Tori Amos that I could have gone to. I got to meet her at The Roxy in a very intimate setting. I asked if I could hug her and she said “absolutely”. She was my muse for my songwriting that I knew was in me, but she gave me the permission. It was all about Tori Amos. I think I would bow down or curtsy or do something ridiculous for Annie Lennox also; I just love her so much.
MC: What do you want the new music to reach in people, what do you want people to get from it?
SN: I feel like an escape into something that is fun and as outside of the calamity that we have been through in the past couple years. I want people to enjoy a new frequency that is about celebration and fun that is about something other than the madness of life. I want to soothe people and make then happy and make them want to go dancing. I cannot wait to see people dancing to these tracks in a club.
JJ: I think because I have been doing dance music for so long, I am glad it is coming around. For so long, dance music was pushed off as “filler” and to some, didn’t have any meaning. A lot of the songs that Samantha wrote are dance tracks, but have meaning and evoked emotion. I hope people will feel a lot of that; the album has a lot of that, and a wide range of emotions and topics. I hope people look at it as more than just an album that we twirl around a disco ball too (laughs)!
SN: Nothing against a disco ball of course (laughs)!
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