Interview by Betty Dravis
Betty Dravis: Hey, Jessica… It’s great to see you. I’m overwhelmed by the number of entertainers and artists who suggested you for this interview. You’re a promoter of new talent, building fan bases for them, but it looks like you have a big fan base yourself. (laughs) On your various websites you state that you couldn’t live without music in your life. I assume that’s why you love entertainers so much and want to help them succeed.
There’s so much I want to ask you, but where to begin? Hmmmm… How about at the beginning…with your childhood in Canada? What kind of precocious kid were you, Jessica? When did you first start swaying along to music and realize you enjoyed it so much? Were you pushing your little friends off the merry-go-round, encouraging them to sing and dance instead? I bet you did something like that…
Jessica Gilbert: Hi, Betty. Thanks so much for having me here. I feel very honored to be among so many wonderful and talented people. You’re right, music (and the arts) is something I can’t live without, but I never went so far as pushing my childhood friends to perform. (laughs)
I truly love working with artists and being a part of their journey to the top. There is so much great talent out there and being able to assist an artist in even a small way makes me feel good because it’s one step closer to helping them reach their dreams.
I was born in Montreal, Canada, but left as a baby for Houston, Texas. I spent my childhood there until the age of ten. I was, generally, a very good and independent child because I was as happy doing things on my own as I was being with other children or adults. As a child I liked creative endeavors too: drawing, painting, coloring, writing and especially puzzles. I had learned the alphabet through the medium of puzzles by the age of two, which apparently was unusual, according to the playgroup “directrice”…much to my Mother’s surprise. I loved the performing arts: took ballet and tap-dance lessons; enjoyed singing to myself and making up songs and recording them as I came up with the words. At about age eight I organized a school play, Return to Oz, in which I was involved in all parts of the production, placing myself in the lead role. (laughs) I was also engaged in fundraising activities for various causes. In fact, at my school I was the first child to initiate a fundraising activity which led to many other student fundraisers.
Betty Dravis: Just as I suspected, Jessica, you were a precocious child. (laughs) And then when you grew up, did you start attending concerts? If so, can you recall your first concert (who you were with, who was performing, etc.)? Please share the emotions the live music aroused.
Jessica Gilbert: Yes, Betty, I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend many concerts! My first concert was Tina Turner in Målaga, Spain at age ten with my parents and sister in the summer outdoors. I can’t say it was the best concert experience because it started really late. It was also hot, buggy and I got tired of standing. However, I still loved seeing her live! Back then I played Tina’s music a lot as she was one of my top favorite artists (still is today), so getting to see her in concert was an exciting experience for me. I was overwhelmed with joy to be there.
I’m not sure what I’d do without music because not only is it great for entertainment or inspiration, but soothing to the soul. Literally, I go to sleep listening to music, listen to it when I wake up and throughout the day have some music playing. Music gives me an inspiration to think, create, write and relax.
Betty Dravis: Wow, Jessica, that’s a lot of music, but if it inspires you, that’s what matters. I can understand how that works for some people, but do you choose different music to create different moods? For instance, what do you listen to while writing? While relaxing?
Jessica Gilbert: Yes, Betty, the kind of music I listen to depends on what I’m doing, time of day, how I’m feeling, etc. For instance, while writing or painting I like inspirational music. While relaxing or before bedtime I like soft music. I even have a playlist in my iTunes called “Relaxing Mix.”
Betty Dravis: That sounds sensible for a person so attuned to music, as you are. I’m curious about your writing, Jessica. In addition to articles for your new online magazine, what type of writing interests you? We’ll talk about the magazine later.
Jessica Gilbert: I’ve written short stories, and screenwriting has always been an interest of mine. In college I took a film-writing class, so learned the technique for this type of writing. For the class assignment, we had to write a seven-minute script, which turned out to be a success. Subsequently, I thought it would be great to turn it into a feature-length script. I also have an idea for another one inspired by actual events in my life. However, any screenwriting I do will be an extra thing when time permits.
Betty Dravis: I wish you luck with all your projects, Jessica. While on the subject of writing, in your Facebook notes you posted a lengthy list of biographies and autobiographies of famous people. It contains a fascinating array of movie stars from Rita Hayworth and Ray Milland to Jane Fonda. What prompted you to post that?
Jessica Gilbert: Betty, the list of biographies and autobiographies that I posted was on behalf of a friend of mine who has this book collection for sale. So, I wanted to help spread the word about it.
Betty Dravis: He certainly has an interesting collection. Do you aspire to write a book someday? If so, are you interested in fiction or nonfiction?
Jessica Gilbert: Yes, I’d love to write and illustrate a children’s book. Since I like to draw, paint, write…and I love children, I think this kind of book would be a great opportunity to combine all these elements together. Actually, Betty, I have a couple of ideas for children’s books. (smile)
Betty Dravis: Oh, you’d be a natural for children’s picture books, Jessica. I’m here to tell you that they are a joy to write; takes one back to one’s own childhood. I’ve only published one YA, The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley, but I have three unsubmitted picture books that are partially illustrated by my granddaughter, Kristy Soza. I would so enjoy doing my own illustrations, but, unfortunately, don’t have the talent of a kindergartner. (laughs)
But changing the subject, you wrote somewhere: “I’m not your average girl.” What do you mean by that, Jessica?
Jessica Gilbert: Well, Betty, I’m not your average girl because I’ve lived a life that many people don’t get to experience. I’ve lived in three countries (USA, Spain and Canada) and traveled extensively throughout much of Canada, USA, Europe and the Dominican Republic. So I feel very fortunate to have experienced living in different countries and cultures. Also to have been able to do all the traveling I’ve done up to this point in my life.
Betty Dravis: You’re right about that, Jessica: You are fortunate. I’m about twice your age and have only been in two bordering countries and about twenty of our United States. (laughs)
I hear you just returned from Italy, which is one place I would love to visit. I’d enjoy going there now while filmmaker Tony Tarantino is directing Between the Olive Trees. I could kill three birds with one stone: meet Tony, actress Susan Kennington who has a prime role in that movie, and Antonia Tosini, talented author of the book the film is being made from. Now that would be a thrill.
Was your trip vacation or business? And did you meet any new artists while there?
Jessica Gilbert: Betty, my trip to Italy was a much-needed vacation. (smile) I had such a blast traveling throughout Italy and got to see so much in twelve days. The highlights of my trip were Venice and Capri. I love Italy, so hope to make it back there again soon. I didn’t meet any new artists while there, but finally got to meet one of my MySpace friends in person…a gifted photographer.
Betty Dravis: I saw photographs of your trip, Jessica, and Italy’s as picturesque as you say. Breath-taking, in fact… I know you love to travel and get around much more than the “average girl,” so I’m sure your time there is a treasured memory.
But I’m the most curious about the promotion aspect of your life. I know that you promote a number of talented people: musicians, authors, singers, dancers, artists, etc. But from the sheer number of musicians you help, it’s obvious you prefer them. I know you promote singer/guitarist/lyricist MT Robison and The Messengers and are a huge fan. I met you through M.T. after he was featured in our first Dream Reachers book. He’s awesome and has some clever promotion going on himself. For instance, he calls his fans his “Street Angels” and a white feather is one of his trademarks. Like you, I’m a Street Angel, too, Jessica; I adore MT. He certainly has it all “going on”: the look, the voice, and the creativity—not to mention a huge stage presence. He can’t miss with a publicist like the talented Linda Shrader in his corner.
How many fan clubs have you founded and who else do you promote besides M.T.?
Jessica Gilbert: I do promote many musicians, but it isn’t that I prefer them over the others because I love all types of artists. I just end up connecting with more musicians simply because so many more come my way on the various social networking sites. Yes, I do promote MT and The Messengers. I adore MT so much…as both artist and person. Linda Shrader is amazing and he truly is lucky to have her as his publicist.
I’ve founded eight fan clubs for various musicians. To tell you about all the wonderful artists I promote would be a whole interview itself because there are so-ooo many of them. However, to name a few: Kashy Keegan, Wildon Ash, Michael J. Scott, Neil Barlow, David Blair, David Barreto, Kadesha, Lizann, Daz, Elena Vogt, Tima Montemayor, Olivia Gray, Tobiah and Orly Vardy. They are all amazing artists that can be found on MySpace and I highly recommend checking out their music.
Betty Dravis: That’s quite a roster, Jessica. I expect many of those to be big names in the future; you certainly have an eye and ear that’s attuned to the pulse of the world. You were even kind enough to start a Dream Reachers Fan Club on MySpace and on Facebook. My co-author Chase Von and I are humbled by that. Just to be included on the same page with all your talented friends is an honor. Thanks so much for your faith in us.
Speaking of MySpace, your MS page is incredible, chock-full of talented people and current bios and links. Each time I visit your page, the photos and art are so appealing that it boggles my mind. I feel like I felt the first time my mom took me to an ice-cream parlor. How could I choose just one flavor? I wanted them all… That must be how you feel when deciding who to promote. What’s the first thing that draws your attention to a promising artist, Jessica?
Jessica Gilbert: It was my pleasure to start a Dream Reachers Fan Club for you and Chase Von. It’s a wonderful and inspirational book that everyone would enjoy reading.
When I visit ice cream parlors I always have a hard time choosing flavors too. (laughs) Yes, I feel exactly the same way when deciding which artists to promote. It’s going to be really hard choosing who to interview for each issue of my magazine because I really do love so many artists. What draws my attention the most to a promising artist is how much they give of themselves, which leads to our connection. One of the qualities I value most of all, besides talent, is originality.
Since you currently do the publicity and promotion as a labor of love, do you plan to make a career of it? If so, is your forthcoming magazine the first step towards making your dream come true? I know you “wear three hats” with the business: publisher/managing editor/freelance writer. As a former print newspaper owner myself, I can testify that there are many more hats than that. (laughs) But tell us more about Talent Spotlight Magazine, Jessica. When will you launch your debut edition? And can you give us a sneak peek at a few artists you’re interviewing for the first edition?
Jessica Gilbert: Betty, I would like to make a career in artist promotions (and possibly even in other aspects of the music or film industry) because I’m passionate about promoting and working with all types of artists. Perhaps I might work for a record company in the PR department.
Talent Spotlight Magazine came into creation as a result of my desire to participate in the creative process of talent. It is very fulfilling for me to offer artists a creative venue to promote their talent. As well, selfishly speaking, I hope this creative venue will be a good means to get myself out there as a promoter. I’ve thought about doing something like this for a while now and always wanted to work with a magazine. So, now I can…with my own. (smile)
TSM will be an online magazine that will come out bimonthly, starting this October. It will feature in-depth interviews with talent from all genres of the arts: music, photography, art, film, print and more. The magazine’s primary focus will be on new and emerging artists. However, it will feature more established ones as well. Each issue will also feature an organization or cause–there are so many wonderful causes and organizations out there that I feel it would be great to promote them too–reviews and more! It will have a whole variety of different artists in each issue, making it a more diverse magazine. Some of the artists that will be in the launch issue are two of your original “Dream Reachers”: Kashy Keegan and MT Robison. I will also be featuring April Star Davis, a jewelry designer whose designs have been featured in numerous fashion magazines and in various movies. Her jewelry has also been worn by many top celebrities.
Betty Dravis: Great minds think alike, Jessica: I thought about interviewing a famous jewelry designer for Dream Reachers: Vol. 2, but due to heavy demand for the available slots, I didn’t have time. I look forward to reading your story about April Star, and of course, dear Kashy and MT. As you know, they were interviewed by my Dream Reachers co-author Chase Von for that book. Your first edition sounds like a winner.
I understand that the talented writer Michelle Jackson will be working with you on the magazine. Did you know that she wrote the following about you?:
I am wonderfully blessed to call Jessica my friend and to be on this great journey with her. She is extremely talented in the arts and has a heart of gold, reaching out to others who possess the same passion. She is motivated and driven to help artists of all genres to reach their dreams in this great Industry. I have great hope that she will succeed in achieving these goals
That’s high praise, Jessica, and “heart of gold” is how many of the artists describe you. Can you tell us a little more about Michelle and her duties with TSM?
Jessica Gilbert: Yes, Betty, I’m blessed to have Michelle Jackson working with me on the magazine. I connected with her instantly awhile back through a friend. We share a love for the arts, plus she’s also a wonderful writer. Michelle is a great singer too and I have told her she should put her music out there. Then I can promote her as well. (smile) I didn’t know what Michelle wrote about me until it was up on the TSM MySpace site. I’m infinitely grateful to her for her kind words and generosity. She will primarily be a contributing writer with interviews for the magazine.
Betty Dravis: Michelle sounds like a real “keeper.” You two have a lot of mutual respect and admiration for each other. I look forward to reading her articles too.
Talent Spotlight Magazine–that’s a perfect, self-descriptive name, Jessica, and your logo is very attractive. It’s all the buzz with many artists that I know. I’ve been hearing about TSM for months and months. We’re eager to see your first edition and wish you incredible good fortune.
Jessica Gilbert: Glad you like the magazine name and logo. (smile) I designed the logo myself and received positive feedback on it, so am pleased that people like it. Awhile back in Canada, I took an intensive graphic design course as I enjoy playing with graphics as well. I know that many people have been anxiously waiting for the launch of the magazine and I promise that wait will soon be over. Thank you, Betty, and to everyone else for your tremendous support for TSM.
Betty Dravis: The late promoter Bill Graham, who was the best in his day, had some incredible stories to tell about how he got started. After meeting the San Francisco Mime Troupe at a free concert in Golden Gate Park, he gave up a promising business career to manage the troupe in 1965. After Mime Troupe leader Ronny Davis was arrested on obscenity charges during an outdoor performance, Graham organized a benefit concert to cover the troupe’s legal fees. The concert was a success and Graham saw a business opportunity. He was an American impresario and rock concert promoter from the 1960s until his death in 1991. We wish you fame and good fortune, too, but hope your success begins with less public scrutiny than Graham’s. (laughs)
Jessica, being such a lovely, dynamic and active young woman, when do you find time for dating? Or is that something you’re postponing for the time being?
Jessica Gilbert: That’s interesting about Bill Graham, Betty. I bet he did have great stories about his work as a promoter! Perhaps after I have more experience, I’ll write a book about it someday.
But to answer the big “dating” question: While I am busy with all the work I do, I always have time for dating. (smile) Finding Mr. Right and settling down is high on my priority list.
Betty Dravis: I thought you’d say that, Jessica, but I’m glad to hear you confirm it. All work and no play makes Jessica…well, you know how that old saying goes. (laughs) Okay, now that your priorities are settled, let’s move on…
I hear that the very talented David Barreto, one of the musicians you promote, wrote a lovely song about you. Tell us about him and how that made you feel? I find that incredibly romantic. Do you have a link where our readers can hear the song and do you mind sharing the lyrics with us?
Jessica Gilbert: Yes, David Barreto did write a wonderful song about me titled “Jessica.” I was really honored and flattered he did this song for me and will cherish it forever. Friends who have heard it said he really captured the essence of me. I don’t have the lyrics, but people can hear the song on my “Jessica’s Artist Network” page. David truly is a talented and amazing musician, one I proudly promote. (smile) BTW, he also did a Talent Spotlight Magazine jingle for the website.
Betty Dravis: Oh, Jessica, I love that catchy jingle; the way David drags out the words (Talent…Spotlight…Magazine) is so cool. Makes me want to dance…
Since you’re multi-tasking now, Jessica, do I dare ask if you have a “day job?” If so, where do you work? If not, let us in on the secret of survival without working. Are you an heiress or some rich man’s daughter? (laughs)
Jessica Gilbert: LOL, Betty… I’ve been taking Spanish classes in the mornings to brush up on my speaking skills. The rest of the day is a combination of artist promotions, magazine work and painting/drawing. Recently, I got back into my art and would like to build up a body of work to sell (originals and prints). My background is in art, as I majored in studio art with an emphasis on painting/drawing at university. Soon I shall also be offering an official listing of my services and rates for online promotions and management.
Betty Dravis: I’m glad to hear you’ll soon be going professional with your promotions, Jessica, and the news about your art is welcome too. I would love to have an “original by Jessica,” so keep us posted about that too. Meanwhile, I invite our readers to view your online gallery (under Art in your Facebook photos) and if they see anything they like, to contact you.
Since we all must prioritize our schedules, here’s a food-for-thought question that might be fun to answer: Can you name three things in your life that you couldn’t live without?
Jessica Gilbert: That’s an easy one, Betty… I can’t live without my family/friends, travel and live music.
Betty Dravis: Well, that’s short and sweet, Jessica, but it says a lot for your character and values. Thanks.
Another question that usually brings out the humor in people is: What’s the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?
Jessica Gilbert: You know, Betty, I really can’t think of an embarrassing thing that has happened to me. I’ll share a funny story with you instead. For my tenth birthday in Texas (it was also my last one there before I moved to Spain the first time around), my dad got a piñata. For people who don’t know what it is, it’s something made from either a clay container or a cardboard shape covered in paper mache. The tradition with a piñata is that you fill up the inside with sweets and goodies. Then everyone is blindfolded and hits it with a stick until it breaks and the sweets fall out. However, that didn’t quite work out the way it should have. My friends and I were hitting the piñata non-stop, waiting for all the sweets to come out–but no traces of any.
What my dad didn’t know was that he was supposed to fill the piñata with sweets himself. So, all the hard work hitting that piñata to get it open didn’t pay off with sweets. This was one of those occasions where you just had to be there. (laughs)
Betty Dravis: Oh, no-ooo, Jessica… That’s hilarious! You poor kids, but I feel sorry for your father too. I hope the kids didn’t get after him with those sticks… (laughs)
Now for another question: If you could spend an entire day with just one person (living or dead) who would you choose and why?
Jessica Gilbert: This is a tough question, Betty, because I’d like to meet people from all walks of life who work in different fields because everything fascinates me and I can learn something from everyone I meet. But since I have to pick one, I’d choose to spend an entire day with Ellen DeGeneres because she has had all types of people on her show and must have many wonderful stories to share about her experiences meeting them all. An entire day would be needed to hear about much of them, plus I think she would just be so much fun to hang out with in person. (smile)
Some celebs I’d love to have an encounter with include: Julie Andrews, Wentworth Miller, Anthony Hopkins, Barbara Walters, Brad Pitt, Alec Baldwin, Robin Williams, Scott Wolf, Bette Midler, Adam Lambert, David Cook, James Blunt, Bon Jovi, Enrique Iglesias, Five For Fighting, INXS, Daughtry, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jewel, and lots of others.
There are so-ooo many celebs I’d love to meet. I’ve been fortunate to have already met some of them, including: Cyndi Lauper, Bryan Adams, Rob Thomas, Rosie O’Donnell, Gary Sinise, Kurt Browning, Joss Stone, Kelly Clarkson, Joshua Radin, David Usher, Suzie McNeil and some others.
I received a phone call from Alec Baldwin when he filmed the TV mini-series “Nuremberg” in Montreal and came close to meeting him. I would still love to meet him.
Betty Dravis: Wow, you’ve met a lot of celebs, Jessica. My daughter Allie used to adore Cyndi Lauper. In fact she resembled her so much that she dressed like her one Halloween; a dead ringer in that pink dress, black mesh hose and black-and-white, high-top sneakers. A wonderful memory…
As for meeting Alec Baldwin–you and me both… The funny thing about Alec is that I like him better today in his maturity than I did when he was younger. I often wonder why that’s true with certain actors. But you must share the story about how you came “close” to meeting Alec. I want to hear all the juicy details… (laughs)
Jessica Gilbert: Well, Betty, it was simpler than I thought it would be. I just sent Alec Baldwin a note expressing my appreciation for his work; included my number and also shared some pix of my art. So, one night I got an unexpected call from him. That took me by complete surprise since this doesn’t happen often–at least not between a celeb and fan. When we spoke, he expressed interest in meeting and seeing my art work, saying that he would get in touch with me again if it were possible. I never heard back from him, so that’s why the meeting never took place.
However, a couple months later I did receive a lovely, personal note from him mentioning how much he admired my work and one day hoped to own one of my pieces. So, I actually sent him a small painting as a gift and got a nice thank you note from him.
Anyway, he’s not the only celeb I’ve received mail from; I used to enjoy sending letters of appreciation to many of my favorite celebs. I have over a hundred autographs. Some I did write to through the film’s production office when they filmed movies in Montreal (at one time they were filming tons of movies there).
However, with Gary Sinise and Nicolas Cage, I left letters for them with assistants on the movie set. I was actually one of the thousands of extras in that movie; you can’t see me though. I had an awesome day, watching the filming in action under the direction of Brian de Palma, and also had a free lunch and t-shirts imprinted with the name of the movie and cast.
In response to my letter to Gary Sinise, his personal assistant called, inviting me to the wrap party. I went, of course, and met Gary there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a pic with him. His sweet, pretty assistant told me he was overwhelmed with pictures. But I received two signed pix in the mail later on. It was also unfortunate that Nicolas Cage and de Palma weren’t present at the wrap party; they had already left town. Nicolas Cage also responded back to me, signing and writing a short message on the pic I had enclosed. I want to share this story about Cage and Sinise with you, too, since it’s a nice story.
Betty Dravis: You’re right, Jessica, those are heart-warming stories, reinforcing my opinion that high-ranking people are not much different than you and me. The majority of them are hard-working, sincere, down-to-earth and friendly. I’ve seen that same caring quality in many of the celebs I’ve interviewed. It’s good to know that about Alec, Gary and Nicholas; thanks for sharing.
Well, Jessica, we’re nearing the end of the interview, so this is a good time to mention anything that I might have missed. I’ll post your links in closing, so your fans and friends can find anything else they might wish to know about you.
Jessica Gilbert: You didn’t miss much, Betty, but I’d also like to add that I have a children’s page dedicated to all causes and organizations related to children. People can check that out on my Artist Network page. It’s called “Jessica’s Precious Treasures of Hope.” At some point in the near future, I’d like to create some kind of fundraiser project to raise money for some of those that I strongly support. If anyone would be interested in working with me on something, please get in touch with me.
Betty Dravis: That’s an important point to mention, Jessica. Children are our future and I’m pleased to know you have plans to help them also. Now, so that our readers can keep track of you and your many projects, I’m going to post your main websites:
It’s been delightful chatting with you, Jessica, but the time flew and I must bid you a fond farewell. We learned a lot more about you today and definitely look forward to reading and becoming a fan of Talent Spotlight Magazine. It will be cool to follow the careers of you and your clients…your awesome artists!
Thanks for sharing your dreams with us. You’re a caring, dynamic woman with a heart of gold, as you have heard many times before. May all your dreams come true, and keep rocking to the beat of your own drummer! I’m so happy to add you to the growing list of our Dream Reachers.
Jessica Gilbert: Betty, thank you so much for inviting me to be here, and I will keep you posted on everything! Love and Blessings xo