Though Texas born/California based rising star JONTEZ may be a fresh face within soulful pop territories, but he is no stranger to success. His music lineage dates back to a diverse run of prominence, and now in his twenties, the singer/songwriter has spent well over a decade in the business. A child prodigy, at 12, JONTEZ was mounted to local fame via a ministry focused Tejano band. The opportunity sent him on a series of regional touring trips at various churches providing a slew of experiences he’d eventually apply to a worship leadership position at Bishop T.D. Jakes’ Potter’s House. Even more notably, he also was a member of the multi-platinum milestone group God’s Property (whose album was produced by Kirk Franklin) and opened for the likes of Erykah Badu, Amy Grant, Jaci Velasquez and Point of Grace.
“Music has always been important in both sides of my family, so it’s just the environment I’ve grown up in all my life,” explains the consistently creative force. “Like many Christian homes, I wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music, so I grew up listening to everything from the Gaither Vocal band to Amy Grant to the Mighty Clouds of Joy. I connected with all sorts of music, which probably explains why I’ve had a handle on so many styles throughout my years of performing.”
And with his latest venture, JONTEZ is winding down yet another highway of stylistic twists and sonic turns. After many instances of collaborating with others, he’s finally treading solo territory with his bold blend of pop, R&B, hip-hop and Latin influences on And So It Is… (his official SOUL2SEOUL label debut). The project is a culmination of all of his previous encounters with a newly discovered stamp of artistic exploration.
“One side of me has come from performing in churches, first having to win them over as just a performer and then leading them into worship,” JONTEZ observes. “But then an experience like God’s Property comes along and it’s a wonderful training ground for pretty much any type of situation one could ever possibly have as a performer. It stretches you musically and spiritually, while it builds confidence in you just being on stage.”
Aside from those various training grounds, JONTEZ also spent time in the hip-hop ensemble Mankynd, which became the catalyst for him to branch out individually. Though the Floetry framed group had received numerous offers from various labels following the tenure in God’s Property, SOUL2SEOUL labelhead Eddie Kim courted JONTEZ exclusively in hopes he’d go solo. After time of prayer and counsel, everything felt right and it was off to work in a Los Angeles studio with a team of top-notch players and producers.
“The timing’s right and it’s all coming to a point where I feel like I have a lot on my heart to share and many different musical ideas to express,” JONTEZ verifies. “I’ve been in the middle of an enormous growing spurt musically and I think it shows in the songs that I’ve written for my album.
A primary theme that runs through the record is JONTEZ’s personal journey of faith, which despite being rooted in the church, has become a rock terrain at times. Between years of touring the spiritual circuit and always being a leader within his school and family life, the lyricist admits to feeling a bit burnt out and broken down.
“I basically had to let out a cry for help to have my relationship with God be real again and not just something I would participate in because that’s what I was expected to do,” JONTEZ confesses. “I think it’s something we all go through at some point and after comforting it and seeking a change of direction, I feel like there’s been a huge turnaround in my life.”
Aside from that personally vulnerable thread, the ingenious song sculptor also branched out to an influence palette that includes Michael Jackson, Brandy, Missy Elliot, Whitney Houston plus BeBe and CeCe Winans. Like the latter act who made a significant impact in both Christian and secular circles, JONTEZ hopes his material will be equally effective to both audiences.
“My goal is to present who I am and what I’m going through in a way that all can relate and be encouraged,” he offers. “I’m also concentrating on the quality level of every element that goes into the record and have tried tirelessly for that effort to be apparent.”
Amongst the many potential cuts to find dual footing is the riveting anthem “Why Can’t We – We Be Friends, the ”booming balladry of “That’s What You Said,” the flamenco flanked “Can’t Get Enough” and the 50 Cent flavored “First Love.” There’s also “Call Me Your Own,” an inspiration R&B ode to Jesus’ unconditional love that could first be interpreted as coming from a boyfriend or girlfriend, along with the redemptive “Rising Son.” JONTEZ also cites “I Am” amongst his favorites, yet another example where he reaches beyond the box of pop culture Christianity.
“In every instance, I’m basically showing something I’ve gone through or am learning along the way,” he confides. ‘I Am’ is one of those songs I found myself writing at two or three in the morning when I was literally just sick of the studio but feeling really passionate about what God was telling me at the time. It’s a reminder letting us all know He’s in charge and is the ultimate source of solace, but also the King who’s to be praised. The bridge says ‘I will be what you desire, your affection I require.’
However, this quest of relaying faith over adventurous soundscapes in a world that’s less than privy to the gospel, JONTEZ realizes he has a challenging road ahead of him. Just being within a stone’s throw of Hollywood has its own set of pressures and temptations, as does approaching any new venture within the music industry at large. But with an unbridled commitment to honesty and excellence while staying grounded in reality, he strives to live out a lifelong calling to serve Christ.
“My prayer is that God would give me the wisdom to deal with it all, everything that may come my way and the people I continue to meet,” JONTEZ asserts. “I thank God for my training – for all the successes and trials – and I pray He continues to keep me strong in what I’ve been put here to do!”
Jontez at GMA Week 2006
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