Jay. Image: Sneakerboxx

Sika Jay is a Mississippi Delta native, an emerging solo artist who calls her genre “groove,” and an event promoter in Jackson.

Jay is bringing a new talent showcase to Fondren beginning March 24 and sat down with Find It In Fondrenâ„¢ to give us an inside look at her drive, her history and her plans for “Audience Controlled.”

What drives you? What gets you out of bed?

“Throwing all kinds of events surrounding music; that’s my passion. Since I moved back from Atlanta (two years ago), I’ve been able to have all of my friends come together and they’re all from different genres. And I’m like, ‘Man, let’s do some events with all different kinds of music.’ Although I am an artist myself, I actually enjoy being behind the scenes more than I do being on stage. I love seeing it start and then the finished product. I just love… ‘We did it! We talked about it and it happened.’ I love that process.

How did you get into the business?

I learned how to throw events because I was in this girl band, Calico Panache. After traveling with no help with us, I learned about the process of booking shows. Once the band disbanded, I was stuck and still wanted to do music, but I didn’t have (my musician friends) here. I started throwing events at Offbeat and Soul Wired Cafe. When I started to see people responding, asking when the next event was, I thought, ‘I might be on to something here.’

Have you had a “big break,” so to speak, something that let you know you were moving in the right direction?

My biggest event was two years ago at Soul Wired Café which turned into a documentary. It’s 63 minutes of 12 different artists I brought together, literally in the backyard of Soul Wired, bon fire style. We were out there like four hours, just listening to each other’s music. We were sweating and no one cared! It just felt good. We had enough video to turn into the perfect documentary. I was super proud of it. After that, it was like, ‘This is what I’m meant to do.’

I started working at Hops & Habanas. Six months later, they offered me the booking position. I started circulating around the area, learning about other people. I slowly started building my clientele here for booking. When the Baton Rouge flood happened, I put together a fundraiser, Funding in Fondren. It was the first time throwing a massive event, knowing I wasn’t going to see any money. It just felt so good to see the store filled with all the donations and to take them down to the people who were affected by the floods.

You’ve got something new up your sleeve, something for Fondren. Tell me about it…

It’s called ‘Audience Controlled.’ We do it every fourth Friday at Hops & Habanas, part of what I’ve dubbed ‘Fondren Nights Live.’

When I lived in Atlanta, I attended this showcase-type event that let the audience have a say. ‘These people are jamming, these people aren’t.’ It was like a new version of ‘Showtime at The Apollo.’ I had a friend that entered and he blew the judges away. After that, I said, ‘Jackson needs something like this.’

Considering everything I do here during first Thursdays (to book entertainment), I thought I could merge what I do with that type of event. Different genres, different artists — all kinds – will have the stage. Three judges will listen to crowd reaction and give artistic, constructive criticism. Then the judges will choose winners according to what they hear from the audience. In between sets, we’ll have live entertainment before we switch to poetry, or rap or just singing. And while the show is going on, I’ll have a matchmaker. She comes on first Thursdays and puts people on dates! It’s so cool! It’s another aspect of entertainment for people who aren’t necessarily paying attention to the stage. We’ll have games, too. We’ll also have lots of prizes for audience participation.

After the first three, we’ll bring those three winners back and throw a concert.

You say, “Like Showtime at the Apollo.” Sometimes people get booed off stage there!

Laugh if it’s bad! That’s a little entertaining! In Atlanta, people that didn’t quite have it together, when they got booed off, it wasn’t in a rude way. It was like, ‘You are wasting our time. You know you shouldn’t have gotten up there,’ more so like that.  It won’t feel so rude to get booed off. I didn’t want to eliminate that aspect. I want the audience to feel involved, instead of just, ‘Hey, come pay attention to people on the stage,’ it’s like ‘Come out, pay attention, get involved, watch it and enjoy it.’

How has response been from talent wishing to participate?

We’ve had over two dozen so far that have registered at IAmSika.com. Going through it, I’m going to have to choose who to put on stage first. I already have enough for the first three installations. But I keep on accepting submissions because you never know who’s going to pop up in that email and who will be participating.

What’s your ultimate goal for the show?

I hope everyone comes and sees how much talent is here. So many people think it’s only a hip hop scene, or an EDM scene. People aren’t aware we all actually come together and know about each other’s music – and jam to each other. I kind of hope to bring more camaraderie. When we do that, we have the urge to push each other much more, especially when we kick it with each other. I enjoy bringing people together and to mesh and see, ‘I really like you. I didn’t think I’d like a person like that.’ That’s my goal. Music is the universal language and that’s what I’m doing, using it to bring people out.”

Jay gave her first solo performance for Jackson Indie Music Week in January and is finishing an EP on Homework Town Records. Her first single, “Signs,” is available on Soundcloud. Check out more at IAmSika.com.