By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
“Music is my life,” said singer/songwriter Jillian Jensen, 19, who in February is set to release a three-song demo, which she said features some of her most personal compositions.
She will also perform acoustic versions of her new material at the fifth annual Limelight Magazine Music Award Show at Firehouse 13 in Providence on March 10.
“Getting to play is so cool and I’m excited that I get to be there with a bunch of talented artists,” she said. “I like being able to listen to their stories.”
But Jensen has a story of her own to tell and said she’s thinking about releasing a single this month, “From the Outside.” The song offers an intimate glimpse of a time she was bullied at school during her younger years.
When she was in junior high, she said she witnessed a schoolmate make a “bad choice” that was harmful to him and those around him. Wanting to help, she informed school officials. Shortly after, prank phone calls, cyber bullying and verbal harassment ensued.
“I was tortured and called, ‘tattletale,’ and ‘snitch,’” Jensen said. “I was so confused and used to cry myself to sleep. I didn’t know how to cope.”
Not wanting to worry them, Jensen didn’t tell her parents of the situation. Through it all, she said she kept a smile on her face and pretended everything was fine.
“I guess that was the pageant side of me,” said Jensen, who began competing in beauty pageants as a toddler and won the title of Little Miss Talent New England before she turned two.
Nevertheless, her parents found out about the tormenting and transferred her to another school, as they noticed their daughter was depressed and isolated. She said getting away from it helped her grow.
“I learned that you can’t stop what every one else is saying but you can change how you deal with it,” said Jensen. “Now, I’m more vocal about it.”
Because of the experience, Jensen wants to support children and teens struggling with feeling alone and under attack. Through her music and website at jillianjensen.weebly.com, she hopes to lend her wisdom on the topic to others and help them overcome the abuse, teaching them to turn negatives to positives.
“People can contact me privately so they can talk and hear firsthand from someone that’s been through it,” she said.
Oddly, Jensen said some of the people who bullied her often attempt to add her as a “friend” on Facebook and other social media networks. She simply ignores them and believes “success is the greatest revenge.”
“Instead of worrying about what people think of you, you should be thinking about how to better yourself,” said Jensen. “If you get to where you want to be it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.”
Not only does Jensen hope to help people with her music, she also wants to entertain them. When onstage, there’s no place she’d rather be.
“I feel at home onstage and putting a smile on someone’s face keeps me going,” she said. “I want people to feel my music so much that they can’t help but smile or cry because they just get it.”
It’s no surprise Jensen is at ease when performing, as she participated in several pageants through the years and won the contest for Miss Massachusetts Teen America 2007; the South Coast Idol winner 2006; and the Burt Wood Idol in 2006 and 2004.
Additionally, she was chosen out of 3,700 applicants as one of 150 to compete in the U.S.A. Talent Show Case in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2004. There, she earned first place in acting and placed in the top 20 best performers.
These days, she no longer takes part in pageants but is grateful for the opportunity.
“I had to be very proper and meticulous and that’s exactly what I didn’t want to be,” said Jensen. “But they are awesome outlets for people to gain scholarships and make friends. I enjoyed the community service aspect of them, too.”
She also got an education in performing when at the age of 16 she auditioned for American Idol, a reality television singing show that began airing on FOX in 2002. In August, she also performed on the morning talk and variety show, ABC’s LIVE! with Regis and Kelly, as one of two backup singers for former leader of the Pussycat Dolls, Nicole Scherzinger, who serves as a judge for FOX’s X-Factor, a show similar to American Idol.
Further, Jensen learned a lot about being a team player when she sang with the Varsity Girls, a Mattapoisett-based teen girl group.
“It taught me how to give my input and how to listen to others,” she said. “Being solo, I get to do my own music and it’s a good feeling because it’s my own. I know what I was feeling when I wrote it and I don’t have to create emotion for it. Instead, it comes naturally.”
But Jensen is also sharing her musical knowledge, too, as she teaches music composition, guitar and piano. While she first picked up guitar before her second birthday, she began dabbling on piano when she was six.
“I would take anything I heard and learn it from ear,” she said. “It was something that just came naturally to me.”
Now, she also plays bass, drums, violin, saxophone and ukulele, most of which will be featured in her new music. She described her style as a mix of “everything” and is looking forward to releasing the album.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Jensen.