At age 11, Janessa Smith, whose parents Kevin and Ann Marie Smith are from Jamaica, is making history as her gospel single “He’s Able” landed on the Christian Billboard chart and stayed there for 20 weeks. Janessa is also among the youngest recording artists to be nominated for the prestigious Stellar Awards in the category of “Youth Project of the Year.”
The young singer-songwriter said she wrote her first song while riding in the car with her father when she was four years old. This song “One Day” became her first single, which she recorded at the age of six and released at age eight. She said she did not put the song on paper but “just wrote it in my heart,” and her father helped her “put it together.” Kevin Smith produced the song at his home studio. He has been involved in music production for over 25 years with his own music label, Inspired Recording, and has had a hard time describing his feelings about his daughter’s talent but said “it’s all God’s doing for sure.” In the beginning there was no intention for Janessa to get on the Billboard chart or be nominated for any awards. “It was just God’s plan for us” to be positioned to do so at this time, he said. “Janessa is gifted musically, and she doesn’t even know it,” he stated, adding that he had been the same way as a child and that his father trained him on piano and other instruments as he is doing now with Janessa.
Janessa Smith told the Sunday Gleaner that she did not know what it meant to be listed on the Gospel Billboard charts until her father informed her of how important it was. “He said it is a big deal.” When asked about her musical inspirations, the 11-year-old named stars like Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, and Mahalia Jackson. In the fourth grade, she did a project on Ella Fitzgerald and although she was not a gospel artist, “I just love her style,” she said. Among the gospel acts she would like to work with are Sinach and Tasha Cobbs.
Janessa is thankful that she has her parents to guide her through her musical journey. Both her father and mother help her with her creations. As a sixth-grade student, Janessa must juggle her schoolwork with media interviews, rehearsals, and live and virtual performances. On July 31, 2021, she will be the headliner in a summer concert telethon planned by the Ardenne Alumni Association Atlanta chapter as a fundraiser for lunch and scholarship programs for financially challenged students at her father’s former school. She hopes she will be able to help all people in the future and to touch everyone with her music.
Janessa traveled to Jamaica just before the COVID-19 lockdown to attend her grandfather’s funeral. Although the occasion was one of sadness, she did have the opportunity to meet many family members on the island. She said that she loves Jamaica, especially the food. “Although I was born in New York, my roots are from the beautiful island,” she said, adding that Jamaica “is my home.”
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