Family plays a pivotal role in all our lives, but for up-and-coming Halifax-based singer Jody Upshaw, it's been especially important. From the support of her parents to the people she's met in the music industry, family, in all its forms, has been a cornerstone of her success.
Recently, the 19-year-old singer visited our Central Library branch to give a performance of her catchy track “Guilty One” and chat about the importance of family to her career.
Supported from the start
Music runs in the family for Jody, whose father was a rapper in Halifax. She remembers being in studios with him at a very young age and gaining valuable insights. Expressing her interest in singing, Jody received support early on in her music career from her father.
“He was like, ‘alright, if you want to sing like we're doing it, we're doing it as big as we can,’” says Jody, whose career took off at the age of nine.
Jody's dad and mom also run Ascension Barbershop in Sackville, which has given her a first-hand look at what it takes to be an entrepreneur. She has learned about managing people, time, and resources from her parents, who showed her that it takes hard work and dedication to pursue any passion to its fullest potential.
This support was essential for Jody as she launched her career, and she has since achieved success through performing at shows, writing her own music, and continuing to make connections in the music industry, not to mention her song Straight Shooter, opens a new window being featured on the hit HBO show Euphoria.
Being featured on Euphoria was a game-changing moment for Jody's career. The show, with its massive audience, has become a cultural phenomenon, especially among younger viewers—giving tremendous exposure to Jody as well as the confidence to know that she’s on the right path.
“It did great things for my career,” says Jody. “I definitely had like a lot of interviews. I was on ET Canada a month later, and that was huge for me because I grew up watching Carlos on YTV, and he was the one who said, ‘homegrown, Halifax star Jody Upshaw,’ and I almost died.”
The song's placement on the show also gave Jody credibility within the industry, proving that her music was not only worthy of being heard but also able to evoke emotions for an older audience.
“Seeing my song play while Zendaya’s face was on the screen, and Drake produced the show, and everyone in the world was watching that show like at that time — it just meant a lot to me and like my confidence,” says Jody. "It's also great because it was a more mature show, of course. Since I've been doing music since I was a teen, it was a great way to move to a more mature audience because that's what my music is going to be looking like over the next couple of years.”
Beyond immediate family
In addition to her parents, Jody has been surrounded by a diverse mix of artists and producers that have helped her to shape her sound and hone her craft. Jody has benefited from the mentorship and friendship of local musicians like Reeny Smith, opens a new window, Hailey Smith, Michael Smith, Kxng Wooz, opens a new window, Shay Pitts, opens a new window, Jayden Austen, opens a new window, Classified, opens a new window, Quake Matthews, opens a new window, and more as she’s grown her career.
“I used to say I have a music family,” says Jody. “Then, specifically this year, I was like, ‘I should start referring to them as my actual family because they're my real family.’”
“They're at my shows, I see them all the time, we're always working together, and they push me really hard. They're there for me when I have a bad show or a bad day,” says Jody. “Family is the people that really show up for you.”
Navigating the industry
While it can be difficult to break through in any creative industry, for Black women, this challenge is often compounded. Jody admits that she’s been fortunate to have supportive people around her.
"Not everyone is as lucky as I am—I feel super safe in this industry.”
She says that recently, there’s been more acceptance of and celebration of Black artists in the region.
With the support of her family and industry connections, she has been able to thrive despite the obstacles that come with being a Black woman in the music business.
"I'm just lucky enough that I really do have the best people in my corner, and they're there for me, and they support me, and I always feel safe and supported around my music family,” she adds.
Delivering her message
With that support, Jody plans to release her first EP later this year and wants to deliver a message that's optimistic but authentic.
“It's not always sunshine and rainbows,” says Jody. “The biggest message that I want to send out is that you can go through dark times, and you can have dark moments and experience dark things, but you can still experience love and light at the same time.”
And she won’t be experiencing it alone.
Equipped with love, support and valuable lessons from her family, Jody has certainly established herself in the music industry and is now ready to take her career to the next level. She hopes that everyone is ready to hear her stories and music and thanks everyone in the industry that has supported her thus far (as well as Halifax Public Libraries, where she has performed numerous times).
Urging people to continue to support local artists and music, Jody notes Nova Scotia has something special to offer, and she's excited to make her mark on the local scene and the world.
Check out Jody’s music and follow her journey on social media:
About African Heritage Month at Halifax Public Libraries
More than a month.
Every year in February and the months that follow, Halifax Public Libraries, in partnership with the Black History Month Association and countless dedicated individuals and groups, offers high-quality programs that highlight and celebrate the rich diversity, culture, and heritage of our African Nova Scotian community and people of African Descent.
The TD Ready Commitment is the generous presenting sponsor of African Heritage Month 2023 at Halifax Public Libraries. Their ongoing sponsorship—2023 marks 8 years of support!—increases our capacity to host important programs and conversations, and expand our collection, year-round.
Discover more stories, events, resources, and videos on our website at ahm.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca.