We had the good fortune of connecting with Jada Cato and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jada, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
My work life balance is a work in progress. I am now so aware of the importance of taking care of my mental, physical, and spiritual health. I have tools now that I didn’t have when I was 18. Now, I’m learning to integrate those tools. Stopping myself when I want to work through illness or exhaustion. Allowing myself space to rest. Realizing that my success doesn’t come from climbing any ladder, but from taking care of me and this body that I was given. My work life balance definitely improved when I stopped seeing success as some trophy or an award, though a Grammy or two wouldn’t hurt! I work really hard on avoiding living up to the expectations others’ put over my life, and that’s given me permission to do what I want to do and live a more authentic life.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a country singer and songwriter, I’m all about storytelling. Storytelling is at the root of all of my art, be it writing a song, performing in a play or musical, embodying a character on screen, or directing actors through their storytelling process. Even make up and costume design is storytelling for me. I’ve always been incredibly artistic and experienced a lot of hate and bullying throughout school. Being diagnosed with ADHD and Tourette’s syndrome in elementary school made me realize that nuerodivergency wasn’t widely understood or accepted. I struggled with depression, anxiety, and s*icide. It was only in music where I felt normal. Music became the catalyst to healing every challenge thereafter. Breakups, divorces, moves, losses-music was always there walking with me. I’ve written my way out of hell countless times. That’s why I love country music in particular-it gives space for honest, vulnerable storytelling and helps us realize that we aren’t all that different emotionally.
As a black, queer woman in the spotlight, it doesn’t take much to stand out! And it wasn’t/isn’t easy. Despite the decades of voice lessons, competitions, shows, choirs, performance experience, or my theatre degree, someone will discredit me simply because they don’t like who I am. Or worse, they think they are inherently better than who I am. I’ve learned that some people have a hard time getting into my art or brand because they only want to see life through eyes that look just like their own. I’ve learned that when you are your true self, people will hate you because they want to be true, too, but don’t know how. Authenticity holds up a mirror and asks, “Can you truly see yourself?” And if they can’t, it triggers them. I try not to take it too personally. My spiritual life is to blame for that. I realize that no amount of changing myself will ever make anyone truly happy, because only they can do that. So I just focus on being and loving me, telling my story, setting my boundaries, and loving the community that does show up for me with acceptance, love, and encouragement.
I’m most excited about the future release of my record “Why is the Bed Unmade?” This project is the most magnificent and terrifying story I’ve ever told, because it is mine. And it is true. It will take you on a ride! One moment you’ll be crying and the next song, you’ll feel like you could run a marathon. I’m really proud of this record and I can’ t wait for everyone to hear it. Considering all I just shared, I think country music could use a good dose of me right about now!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Bestie! We are going to the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum, and the Negro Baseball League Museum. We’ll take some nice strolls/hikes so bring your good shoes! Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Red Mountain, and Turkey Creek are some of my favorite spots. Saturday we are having brunch at Tin Roof (trust me on this) and on Sunday, we are having brunch at Bar Sebastian. Throughout the week, I’m taking you to Fife’s, this good fish spot next to a Shell (again, trust me), the taco truck off of 31 by the Chevron, and Evelyn’s (owned by my friend/banjo player Tim). If we’re wanting a healthy lunch or a light snack, we can head over to Golden Temple. Hope you like lentils! My favorite BBQ is The Barbecue Stop, always worth the 30 minute drive. And if we go at sunset, you won’t regret it. Of course, we’re going to drive around Birmingham Southern College so I can point to each building and tell you what kind of riffraff I was up to back in the day. We have to go in the chapel, it’s stunning and the acoustics are out of this world! With all this excitement, we’ll need some nice incense and maybe a candle from Ritual + Shelter. I’m not a big bar girl, but I will go with you to Al’s on 7th to see my girl Ara perform. I could also take you to Queen’s Park for or Collin’s Bar for a nice Old Fashioned. Then we’ll catch one of the Broadway in Birmingham shows! But you’re my best friend, so you know my favorite place to be….is right here on the couch.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh man, I could shoutout so many people. Luckily, I practice my Grammy speech in the shower often so firstly, I just thank God for keeping me alive! Shoutout to my team, Carl, Melanie, and Erik. Without you, life and making this record would be so much more difficult! Shoutout to my family, my friends, my church family, and CJ along with the entire Birmingham Black Repertory Theater!
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