This marks the first guest post on my blog. Collaboration is an essential part of connecting with an audience. With this in mind, I approached Jolie (pictured above) about doing a post as part of a series I’m calling “St. Augustine Through My Eyes.” You may have been captivated by what I like to think of as the “Jolie Effect” while walking downtown. Her powerful yet graceful voice is known to literally stop foot traffic. Among other things, she enthusiastically agreed to share her thoughts on our local music scene and her introduction to St. Augustine. I hope you enjoy her heartfelt thoughts below. Thanks for being a part of this Jolie! I’m honored to have such a talented woman as my first guest blogger. Shoutout to her husband Sam for his editing help.* Be sure to check out her website for upcoming events.
Hey there! My name is Jolie and I’m a local singer/songwriter here in St. Augustine. I’ve been performing around town on various stages such as Colonial Oak Music Park, Pizza Dina, Prohibition Kitchen and Casa De Vino 57 for a little over a year. During that that time, I’ve built a relationship with the city. When I was younger, my family would make the occasional trip from Jacksonville to St. Augustine to walk along St. George Street, but I’d say my proper introduction happened in my sophomore year of high school.
I had been attending virtual school since 7th grade and suddenly decided to attend public school out of fear that I was missing out on experiences only available in that setting. After some research and persuasion from a family friend, I decided to enroll at St. Augustine High School. The feelings were mixed for sure. On the one hand, I’ve always been a bit of an introvert, so the thought of integrating myself into a giant pool of strangers made me uneasy. Fortunately, I was also excited to fuel my love for singing in their rich chamber chorus program and to grow further in that department.
Once I got my drivers license, I really began to explore the ins and outs of St. Augustine. After school, I would walk along the beach, find a new shop to browse, or grab a bite to eat at a new restaurant. That’s a beautiful thing I’ve found about this city - it’s been over 6 years since my exploration began, and each time I go out, I discover something I didn’t know or see before. A couple of years ago, I discovered that I have a gluten sensitivity. Finding things to eat at any given restaurant can be a challenge. However, I once had a favorite little mom and pop café called Dolce Café. This little hidden gem was my go-to spot for everything: to study, to stuff my face, to entertain friends when they came to visit - you name it. They served gluten free crêpes that were actually really good! It was the only place I was aware of in St. Augustine that had this kind of menu, but unfortunately they’ve relocated to Georgia! I haven’t found my new favorite spot yet.
Singing was something I always enjoyed. It was something I did because I couldn’t help it. I was the type of girl who danced on the bed while lip syncing to Hannah Montana or Taylor Swift (no shame!) All behind closed doors, of course. If you knew me when I was younger, you’d think I was a pretty quiet and reserved kid, but in truth, I was someone completely different. I’m pretty sure my family had no idea I loved singing as much as I did until the day I told my Dad out of the blue that I wanted to be a singer. He was shocked...Jolie, the sometimes overly-sensitive child who cowered behind her parents when being introduced to people, wanted to be a singer?! Regardless of their doubts, my family was supportive and believed in me from day one. I started taking piano lessons from my Mom when I was 10, but quit when I was 12 because I felt forced to learn. Nothing is enjoyable when being forced! From there, I taught myself chords and realized I could learn songs by ear. So, that’s when I really fell in love with the piano. I’ve been playing by ear ever since. I naturally combined my vocals and piano-playing to get what you see from me today! Writing my own songs came next. It was a way to express my thoughts and feelings. Surprisingly, it was easier than journaling. I eventually picked up the ukulele and wrote a few tunes on it as well.
Music has always surrounded me. My Aunt Shelly had the voice of an angel. I remember listening to her recorded Christmas songs over the holidays growing up. My sisters were involved in the chorus programs at their schools by choice. My Dad and his siblings were always jamming out to the likes of Bon Jovi, The Eagles, or The Police. My closest friend was a songbird herself. I think having these musically-inclined people in my life definitely influenced my connection with music.
I was a part of many singing competitions growing up, but I can pinpoint one in particular. It's the one that undeniably got things started for me on a professional level. I went through a competition called Arts Alive and won some studio time from a St. Augustine producer. This meant a lot of my afternoons in high school were spent in the studio recording with him and other local artists. By the end of this adventure, I released 3 singles. That experience was surreal and unforgettable. I started my first gig in late 2017 at a restaurant called Pizza Dina. It was steps away from St. George Street where all the tourist foot traffic was. Most nights during the busy seasons, I managed to literally stop traffic. Like, a few people would stop to listen, then more people would stop, and then next thing I knew there would be an enormous crowd to my left. I freaked out the first time it happened. When I see crowds growing like that, it blows my mind. It’s hard to put into words what I feel during those moments because they're so unexpected. The audience just grows on its own. These people who have no idea who I am choose to stop for me, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.
I’ve performed on quite a few St. Augustine stages, but there are still many I’ve yet to try out. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d choose Colonial Oak Music Park. Its location is smack-dab in the middle of St. George Street, so every single person passing by can hear you. Not to mention, the atmosphere is great. There’s a giant old oak tree in front of the stage with lights and lanterns strung from the limbs, and it’s surrounded by picnic tables for listeners to sit on. The music scene in St. Augustine is lively, which I learned after a few months of downtown gigs. There are so many talented artists here! I’d say we’re all supportive of one another. I’ve only met a few local musicians, but if you just took a night to walk around and listen, you’d hear such a wide variety of live performances. I love that- it gives the city color.
In December 2018, I auditioned for America’s Got Talent! I’ve auditioned for AGT and The Voice in the past, but this time I had more experience. I’ve learned that auditioning for shows like this and actually making it requires not only talent, but a lot of serendipity. Think about how many people audition in every city these contests visit...the odds of making it are slim, but you just have to try because who knows?! I posted a picture of me about to audition on my social media, and the support I received in response was humbling. My supporters are incredibly kind. I received so many messages of encouragement and love, and it made me realize that I have a growing fan base. It’s not huge, but it’s there, it’s mine and I love it! I’ll know the results of the audition sometime in February or March.
So, what’s next for me? No one can predict the future, but I can tell you my dreams and aspirations: I want to release my own music this year. I spent last year releasing covers and that was rewarding. But I’ve been feeling the “itch” to let the world hear what I have to say through original songs. It’s scary to be vulnerable, but if I’ve learned anything in my few years of doing this, it’s that the effort is always worth it. There are endless possibilities in this world, and I just can’t wait for what’s to come!
*Additional editing by yours truly.