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jclaudeHelloBeautiful.com’s “Base Level” column features the hottest new artists we’re buzzing about. Before they make it to the summit of superstardom, we spot them at base level–the beginning of their hopeful journey to the top.

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Name: Jennifer Claude

Age: I am forever 25…no, I’m 30!

Hometown: Wilmington, NC

List some of your musical influences: I’m a classically trained musician and a composer and a writer and it’s difficult for me not to give you a list of 25 artists (past and presently relevant) that influence me. But creatively speaking, I’ve always loved Jazmine Sullivan. She inspires me. I like that she is willing to push the boundaries of her vocal ability and play around with different musical styles on her records. I love Elle Varner and Chrisette Michele, they are writers, like me! Kim Burrell, because duh! She’s everything. Lisa McClendon, Norah Jones, Donny Hathaway, Prince and Jill Scott.

Describe your sound: I’m a soul singer and I make real life music. My sound is like flowing water; at its core it’s pure, rich and authentic, but its ever-changing and non-conforming because life is ever-changing and non-conforming. So when I go through it, I write it or if I witness it, I write it. And one day that “it” might have the DNA of a 1990s R&B track, whereas the next day the feeling will be 1970s rock.

Biggest break thus far: At the end of 2014, I signed my very first songwriter publishing deal with an amazing publishing company for a song I created for movie/TV. I wrote and produced it with one of my ridiculously amazing engineers Randy. I also did the vocal production and the vocal arrangement on that track out in L.A. last year. I am so very proud of it. That deal has been opening so many amazing doors and I can’t wait to see how my career blossoms from here.

If you were a lovechild of any artist, dead or alive, who would they be? I’d be the love child of Ella Fitzgerald and Justin Timberlake. Ella was more than just a “singer;” she was the epitome of the consummate musician, utilizing her voice as an instrument, maximizing her range and always willing to take risks. I love studying her live performances. You can tell that she is on stage, doing what she loves and really immersed in her music as if the audience were not even there. And Justin Timberlake, he’s an amazing performer, a skilled writer and producer and just super dope all around. Plus, he was part of a Boy Band, and that adds major cool points.

Dream collab: My dream collabs would be Alicia Keys and Tank. I am a songwriter/singer/producer, so I want to work with artists who are also hybrid musicians. I love Alicia’s ear and her compositions. I remember in high school, running to Sam Goody and on my lunch break, the day Songs in A Minor released, I got the CD, popped it in my CD player and listened to it on my lunch break. I will never forget my first thoughts “God, this is so raw!! I LOVE THIS!” She’s super dope!! I want to write with her.

And, I love Tank most for his vocal arranging skills and his ability to hear the hidden melodies within a melody. On the production end, he fills a lot of his empty spaces inside of his music with minor runs and rifts that add just the amount of spice to any track. I’ve been a huge fan since the days of Aaliyah. I really look forward to getting in a studio with him one day soon and making some pure unadulterated magic.

What is the celeb advice you’ll never forget? I met [producer] Mike Will Made It during a round table event at ASCAP’s “I Create Music” Music EXPO out in Los Angeles last year—and he said “Work for it like you want it.” He said a lot of other stuff too that I took to heart, but that one particular sentence glued itself to my brain. Too often we are stuck working a job because we have to. But when it’s something you love, you go the extra miles and miss out on sleep, and endure the pain and rejection and frustration just to get to that one goal, because it’s what you love. That’s motivation for me to continue pushing to do what I love, and “work like I want it,” not work like “alright people I’m only here cause homeless is not cute.” When you do what you love, God will create a way for you to thrive and flourish. There are so many talented singers and songwriters and producers out there, but ultimately it’s the passion and the drive that make the difference.

Latest single: My most current single that’s out is called “Beautiful Day.” I’m a poet and spoken word artist, so that method of telling a story carries over into my music. “Beautiful Day” tells a story that I know others can relate to–your day is going wrong, life kind of sucks, but at the end of it all you realize how blessed you are and through it all, every day is a “Beautiful Day.”

My latest single, “Over the Edge” goes on pre-order on Valentine’s Day and will be out for sale February 24, 2015. It’s different in its sound when compared to “Beautiful Day,” but that’s on purpose. The message is different and the emotion is different. “Over the Edge” is essentially a break up song, but it’s about breaking up with your fears and insecurities and anything else holding you back from achieving your destiny. It’s great music and I’m honored to share it with the world.

Check Out Jennifer Claude’s “Beautiful Day”:

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