Nothing about American Idol season 14 alum Jax’s 2016 was funny. Shortly after releasing the reality show bashing single “La La Land,” the East Brunswick, N.J., singer was poised to take her career to the next level, but was dealt a crushing blow when she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease and thyroid cancer, taking her life in an alternate direction as she underwent treatments to fight the disease.
Fast forward to 2017, and the pop singer is surging forward with the release of her new six-song EP, ironically titled Funny. The title track, she says, is “sarcastic in its own weird way.”
“It’s not that funny, trust me,” Jax tells Billboard of her journey.
Putting her feelings into words, she says, helped get her through the dark times, and she hopes it can help others with their own personal battles.
“I have always been a writer. I always loved to write. It’s my outlet,” she says. “If I didn’t have that pen to the paper, I would probably be in a mental institution somewhere.”
While some songs were written “a while ago,” Jax says that “most of the writing process came after my diagnosis.” The single “Stars” — written with Nash Overstreet of Hot Chelle Rae and Nashville singer-songwriter Sidnie Tipton — addresses her health and captures her journey by describing how one can find light in the darkest hours, with the lyrics like “stars can’t shine without darkness.” The rest of the EP chronicles the rest of that journey, along with songs she laughs over being “kind of whiny or bitching about boys.”
One song on the album, “LSD,” which was written last spring with Larzz Principatto (who has worked with Halsey), covers that territory ably.
“He is one of the Warner/Chapel songwriters in New York, and we bonded pretty well. He’s a sweetheart,” she says.
The concept was inspired by “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” by the Beatles, she says. Jax — as fans know — is a big fan of the Beatles and auditioned for Idol with “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” on piano.
“I don’t know if the kids will understand it, but that was kind of where I was at,” she says. “The song is about the passion and the deep connection in a toxic relationship and how it’s kind of like a drug, but the song isn’t actually about drugs. It’s about a poignant, dangerous relationship that you are so connected to that it’s hard to let go. The line is like ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.’ That is where it came from. I don’t expect anyone to know the reference, but that is where it came from in the studio.”
“Wrong Girl”—produced by former Idol produce Beau Dozier– is another cool track on the EP, with a spaghetti western-like feel inspired by her new favorite show, Westworld. The song — with the lyrics “You thought you could get away/Making a fool out of me”– is an anthem for girls who have been, well, wronged.
“It’s such a cool production,” she says. “It was my favorite production on the EP.”
The record is filled with moments like that. The album kicker, “Sleep Like a Baby,” is a “girl power” anthem.
“it’s a little creepy,” she laughs. “Lyrically, I think it’s Alanis Morrisette-inspired. I want people to feel empowered.”
Other collaborators on the record include Colin Louis Dieden from the Mowgli’s, Ruffian (Selena Gomez and Zedd) and Nick Marsh (Kelis, John Legend, Black Eyed Peas, American Idol season six winner Blake Lewis).
Looking ahead to 2017, Jax is planning on releasing videos to coincide with the EP and is planning to book some shows. She is also continuing to work with the clothing line Gypsy Warrior, who designed a shirt based on the song “Stars” and even outfitted her for the Funny EP shoot.
“I feel good. I feel like I’m on top of the world right now,” she says. “I was going to move to L.A. but because of my health situation I need to be home for a little bit, but I feel fantastic. I really do.”
Funny is available now on iTunes.