Interview with Jaci Velasquez

To hear Jaci Velasquez share her vision is to be given hope again. To hear her sing it, as in the case of her message of abstinence (on “I Promise”) is to be renewed and inspired to share it with someone else. That’s the way her ministry works, naturally, as she lives it out in front of her generation.

Refreshing. It really is not very common to run into a recording artist today who is just refreshing to sit down and talk to. But Jaci Velasquez is that unique artist whose honesty and transparency about her life, ministry and faith comes at a time when egos and awards have taken the place of humility and truthfulness.

Busy is an understatement for this artist’s schedule. She averages about 25 concerts per month. Jaci says one of her most memorable performances was in San Antonio, Texas singing in front of 66,000 people at the Billy Graham crusade. And like last summer, Jaci’s schedule will find her performing at many summer Christian music festivals.

This past winter Jaci shot a Spanish-language commercial for the Target stores. Oh yeah, and speaking of Spanish, you heard it first here, Jaci is being courted by Youth for Christ DC/LA people to travel with them in November of this year to perform in English and Spanish at a National youth rally to be held in Spain.

OK, before I go any further, I’ve got to tell you one incredible piece of info about this performer, and that is this: She has just turned 18 years old.

That’s right. And to top it off, her debut album, Heavenly Place, had four songs that went #1 on the CCM and CRR charts in 1996. In 1997 she was nominated for four Dove awards (The Contemporary Christian Music Awards, awarded annually) for “Female Vocalist of the Year,” “Inspirational Song of the Year” (for On My Knees), “Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year,” and “New Artist of the Year.”

Jaci’s music career did not start though with Heavenly Place. Jaci grew up in a musically talented traveling family who loved God. “I learned so much about music because of their involvement, but also why they were doing it. They were living it, too. That’s why it shaped me. I know how important it is to walk the walk, not just talk the talk,” Jaci says.

The desire to do both ministry and music well has always been modeled for her by her parents. So it should come as no surprise that at the age of 11 this talented vocalist competed in an entertainment pageant with over 3,000 contestants and finished first. With faith at least the size of a mustard seed, she then prayed that she could sing, Lord willing, at the White House and, yes, God answered that prayer as well.

So many good things coming so fast, yet, when you speak to Jaci, her candor, surprise and joy over all these things are tempered by her humility and understanding from where all these things have come. Says Jaci, “I know that I have a ministry, and I have a heart for people my age, and I want to be an encouragement to them. I can look at them and say, ‘I’m dealing with the same things you are, and we’re gonna wrestle to be all that He created us to be TOGETHER.”

SHOUT was able to catch up with Jaci early one morning and she graciously provided some time for a few questions

SHOUT: How has life changed for you since the Dove Awards?

JACI: Life has not changed much, in fact it has changed very little. However one change is that I realized I was no longer viewed as a newcomer into the industry especially when I was asked to present the Dove Award for New Artist of the Year this year.

SHOUT: Sort of like passing on the baton?

JACI: Exactly!

SHOUT: Jaci, our theme for this quarter’s issue of SHOUT is sexuality. How do you deal with the issue of sexual purity in your life on a day to day basis?

JACI: The number one piece of advice I follow is to not put myself into a situation where I might compromise my beliefs. You’ve got to really check out the situation and be sure that the people you’re with have similar convictions. It’s not just about sex, when you give yourself to someone outside of the marriage commitment, you are also giving them a part of yourself which includes your dreams, your goals and your heart. To give away this much outside of the context of marriage, just for sex, is never worth it.

SHOUT: If you were sitting with a group of teen girls what would be the best piece of advice you could give to them in the area of sexual purity?

JACI: Well I have this friend of mine that is two years older than I am and she once told me that she has had a few boyfriends already. The one thing she has experienced in the area of dealing with boys and what they want sexually is that “it’s never enough.” That if you start with “just kissing” it never seems enough – you always move on to other things. You may feel guilt in the process, but after a while the guilt you feel lessens and eventually you feel nothing at all. Another thing I would like to tell the girls is that boys and girls really do think differently when it comes to relationships. Teen girls often get caught up in the romance of it all, you know, the knight in shining armor stuff. Where as most teen boys are just looking for the big score, commitment and responsibility are usually not in the picture.

SHOUT: Have you seen your ethnic background as a help, hindrance or non-issue in your efforts as a CCM artist?

JACI: My Hispanic background has definitely helped! Deciding whether to place my last name on the front cover of the album was my decision. I told my management team that I wanted people to know my last name. I am not ashamed of my ethnic background and I didn’t want to give the impression I was – no cop-out here. My music has crossed over many ethnic lines and I have been accepted and get letters from people of all races.

SHOUT: Are there any people, outside of your immediate family, who work with you, like your booking agency, management group, record company etc. who are of any minority background?

JACI: No, no one, but I haven’t found that to be a problem.

SHOUT: Have you been able to stay in contact with your friends from the past?

JACI: Oh yes, I contact them often. In fact I’m going to the prom this year with a young man named Michael. He has been a friend of mine since 6th grade. He’s funny! I know people have said to him, “Hey you’re going with Jaci to the prom? You know, she’s cute.” He tells me that his reply is, “She’s not cute – she’s just Jaci!” We made a promise to each other in 8th grade that we would go to the prom together unless one of us had a boyfriend or girlfriend at the time. He says he doesn’t have a girlfriend, so it’s off to the prom I go.

SHOUT: How would you describe your music style?

JACI: Definitely pop with some dance grooves with Spanish-Puerto Rican flavor. That Spanish influence comes from my dad who used to play with the Latinos and Los Amigos. Along with my dad some other artists that have had an influence on me are Amy Grant and Cindy Morgan. I think they are incredible. As for my debut album, I really didn’t know who would ever buy the album with the exception of my mom and relatives, or play it on the radioI was really scared. But the Lord blessed us with four #1 CCM hit songs off the album. My new album will be released on June 2nd titled “Jaci Velasquez.” The reason it is titled Jaci Velasquez is because this new album really incorporates all that I am and believe in. All my dreams, ideas and all that I love is expressed in this album. This album is about what the Lord has done and is teaching me now. My music style in this next album is a little more grown up. There will be a couple of dance tunes on this album. “Glory” is one, along with some songs to watch for like “Made My World,” and “Show Your Love.”

SHOUT: Knowing this article will reach many youth leaders around this country, what would you like them to know about Jaci Velasquez?

JACI: I’m just like everybody else – I’m gonna make mistakes. Because of age and how fast things are moving I know I’m gonna make a few mistakes along the way. However, I hope that my music will bring inspiration to those who hear it and especially to my generation. I don’t want to develop music just for music’s sake. I hope to have a strong ministry as well.

SHOUT: So out of curiosity Jaci, what kind of music do you listen to?

JACI: When I’m at home I slip on the headset and listen to Alternative and Modern Rock Music.

SHOUT: Jaci, we want to thank you for taking some time out of your very busy, almost out-of-control schedule, to chat with us. Are there any last comments of encouragement you have for our readers?

JACI: Be real! Kids will listen to you if you are honest and real with them. They can tell if you are a person of truth a mile away. Youth Pastors have had some major influence on my life and music. In fact, “I Promise,” a song which hit #1 on the CCM charts, was first written with a youth pastor from Houston. So again, the best advice I can give is just to be real for Jesus.

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