After touring with Johnson, Joyner had the itch to become a solo artist. He says, "Even during the time that I was a sideman, it felt right for me to step up front and take solos. The first time I had the chance to headline my own gig at the Revere Beach Jazz Festival in West Palm Beach, Florida, I knew that starting a full-fledged solo career was just a matter of time and opportunity. So when I moved out to California in 2004, I started doing some small gigs, but I really wanted to focus on making a record."
After taking 2005 off to prepare, Jackiem Joyner has now released his debut CD Babysoul. "For this record," says Joyner, "I'm really trying to communicate the soulful sound I have cultivated as much as possible, delivering the message that I'm not only an emotionally strong player, but also technically on par. The album Babysoul has a variety of types of grooves and a variety of different feels that can take you from feeling like you're at a concert to like your driving through the mountains. To me, it just brings out the way that I play the saxophone. It's R&B, a little bit of Latin and it's a little bit of worldly like feel, and also even a pop feel that the album has."
Babysoul shows two different sides of Joyner. He says, "I have the best of both worlds on Babysoul with a lot of dance groove elements up front, and then the second half of the disc that slows down into a slightly more romantic mindset. I just wanted to be easy when you put in a CD. If you really want to relax, you can probably just go ahead and start on track six, and if you want to groove, start right on track one. We took some time to put the order and the sequence of the tracks together. It really shows the versatility on the saxophone that I have, as well as flute. I can play funky, but I can also play soft and romantic."
Jackiem Joyner wore many hats when recording Babysoul. He says, "Pretty much throughout the record, I'm doing most of the playing, the drums and the bass and stuff like that, putting that stuff together. Everything is written by me with the exception of 'Say Yes.' 'Say Yes' was written by the group by the name of Floetry. They're out of England. I thought it was a really beautiful song. I used to perform it on the East Coast when I was living in Virginia and people loved it, so I decided to do a remake of it. It's my own arrangement and I decided to put that on my record kind of at the last moment. When I was making the arrangement, I didn't necessarily have in mind that it was something I would put on my record. I just wanted to see what it would sound like. I think it's a pretty good record and I really enjoyed it. I was satisfied with the tunes I wrote and I think they came together well."
Joyner not only shows what he can do with a sax, but he also shows how good he is on the flute, as well. He says, "It was fun coming up with groove concepts for which the sax and flute could both work together. I knew they'd make a powerful combination on the chorus parts."
The first single to be released from Babysoul is "Stay With Me Tonight." Jackiem Joyner says, "It's one of the few songs on the record that I actually thought about before I moved to California. I had begun producing that song in Virginia. I didn't know exactly what I was going to do with it, but when I got here to California, I put my studio together at my house and thought to play the song on soprano saxophone. I was thinking about playing alto or even thinking about playing tenor, but soprano seemed to really sit well with that song. So I recorded the soprano on it and I was very happy with it."
On "Stay With Me Tonight," Joyner got guitarist Peter White to help him out. He says, "I didn't think that Peter White was going to be performing on it. I had finished that song before I even sent the demo to the record label. When I got to trumpeter Rick Braun's house, where we actually mixed the record, he told me that Peter White was coming over to lay down some acoustic guitar. Rick Braun thought it could really help the song out. So he came, and it took 45 minutes in the studio at Rick's house. He laid it down and it just really, really came out amazing. The acoustic guitar brought the song out."
Jackiem Joyner is one of the first artists to sign with the ARTizen Music Group, which is co-owned by Braun and saxman Richard Elliot. "In the music business," says Joyner, "everything is business and it always seems that they put business first, and then music. When you're dealing with musicians like Rick Braun and Richard Elliot who have been out there for years, been through every kind of a contract you could probably think of, and [who have] probably been burned many times, it makes you feel a lot more comfortable that these musicians [are] running the label. They know how to put the artist and the music first, they know what's important. I think that made me feel comfortable working with Rick Braun and Richard Elliot."
Joyner says Braun and Elliot did their homework when they formed ARTizen Music Group. He says, "They've worked hard on this label. Obviously, someone like Rick Braun and Richard Elliot with the background they have, it wouldn't be hard to have a lot of connections to put together a decent smooth jazz label. As you probably know, a lot of the smooth jazz labels are dropping off and a lot of the major labels are dropping their jazz division. It's really good when you have a label like ARTizan still looking at new artists and putting new artists out there in the forefront. It's good [we have] musicians like Rick Braun and Richard Elliot doing it."
Jackiem Joyner was prepared for the struggle he would face about being a new artist. He says "Being at Artizen is the perfect combination for success for new artists. It's hard to bring out new artists. This is one of the things they told me in the beginning. It's going to be an uphill battle being someone new that no one's really heard of. I'm on the radio in different places, but the people that are hearing it never heard of Jackiem Joyner before. I think that it's very good that they know how to work with artists like that."
One thing that Joyner learned about making his first album is that it will not be his last. He says, "It was a cool experience going into the studio and knowing that while I was still working on the first album, songs for the next one were coming to me. I feel like I have a lot to share with the audience, and I'm excited to have the chance to do that. The most important thing I can do to succeed long-term as an artist is to continue to work towards becoming a great musician by practicing and making sure I keep aware of the kind of music the audience wants to hear. I'm still a baby in this business, but adulthood is just around the corner."
Jackiem Joyner's adulthood will not only come rapidly, but strongly, and he will have the audience in his hands always.