Even before she joined the cast of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills last year, Erika Girardi — also known as Atlanta-born, Los Angeles-based dance-pop singer Erika Jayne — was a star…at least, in the dance club community. With six No. 1 hits to her name prior to RHOBH (the total is now nine No. 1s, btw) on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, Jayne’s audience was, in her own words, mostly the “dance club and LGBT community.” But following her season six addition to the cast, Erika Jayne’s public visibility has gone far beyond what she expected.
“I didn’t realize how big of an impact this show has,” Jayne tells Billboard. “Everyone watches this show. Flight attendants I never thought would have cared who Erika Jayne was come up to me now. Now my audience is teenagers, college kids, and even housewives my own age are listening and getting into the music and message of Erika Jayne and the philosophy of the Pretty Mess,” she says, referencing the title of her 2009 debut album.
“Pretty Mess” might be one of Jayne’s signature songs (and a term that applies to a lot of people on Bravo shows), but ‘mess’ is hardly a word you’d hang on Erika Girardi. When she talks to Billboard ahead of Tuesday night’s (Dec. 6) RHOBH season seven premiere, Girardi is thoughtful and polite, never stumbling over words or repeating talking points. And on the season seven premiere, she pulls off something most reality stars never manage — having an on-camera birthday party that doesn’t end in drunken hysterics.
From talking about her adjustment period on RHOBH to her 2017 single “Xxpensive” to an upcoming acting role on another TV show, here’s what Erika Jayne has to say.
Hi! So for season seven of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, there’s a new housewife, Dorit Kemsley. Does that take some of the pressure off of you now that you’re not the newbie?
I had an incredible first season, so when they asked me to come back I was more than happy to. There is no pressure. The only pressure that’s there is the pressure you allow to be applied to you. It’s not that deep. Coming into a new group of women, it’s more awkward than pressure. Now that I know everyone, that stage is over.
Your birthday party on the premiere episode is Studio 54-styled. It looks amazing and your outfit was incredible. Why the Studio 54 theme?
A couple of things. Number one, I feel totally left out. I’m not old enough to have been to 54. So for me, the music and the fashion is a total inspiration for what I do today. And the mood at the time. To me, it looks like everyone was having a good time and experimenting and having fun. These huge social issues like HIV and AIDS had not come down yet. I’m mad I missed it! Although I did get the ’80s, which was awesome too. When you picture 54, you think of Bianca Jagger on the white horse, Andy Warhol, all these incredible people at a nightclub. I feel like now, with the whole bottle service thing, it’s segregated in a way. Back then, everyone was together, whether they were the stockbroker or drug dealer or painter. Everyone was there for the music and to dance and have a good time. Also, my earliest childhood memories are in the basement listening to my mother’s Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the double album with the Bee Gees. Just putting on her wrap dresses and remembering her going to disco lessons. So the 54 party came from an organic place.
Does that Studio 54 vibe or disco music influence your new single, “Xxpensive”?
This record is not heavily disco influenced, it’s more bass influenced. It’s fun. I think people will relate to it — the video is a visual delight, it harkens back to the ’80s, with Scarface meets Miami Vice colors: pale baby blues, lavenders.
When you make music, do you ever run it by people like your husband or your mother?
No. That would be like my husband running a lawsuit by me. It’s none of my business. I like to create on my own. My mother is an artist and she was a piano teacher, but me, I prefer to create on my own and put it out. I tend to make the music on my own, or with writers like Sarah Hudson and Jesse St. John and Ferras on “Xxpensive.” They are really good, they crawled into my brain, wrote the skeleton [of the song] and I improved on it just a little bit. For me it’s about feelings or words or people I’m inspired by. I try to make records that people want to dance to and that make you want to smile. I like to escape through music.
At your birthday party we meet the woman Prince named his song “Pussy Control” after. I have The Gold Experience CD and had no idea that was a real person.
Oh yeah. Sharon Ferguson — Prince gave her that name and they did a whole body of work together. I know Sharon through the dance world. She is an incredible dancer who’s worked with everyone, she was in my show for a while. We’ve remained friends, I really like her.
Do we get to see you making “Xxpensive” this season?
Yes, you will, you get to see the audition for the girls in the video — for the first time I dance with both girls and boys in a video. You’ll get to see the whole thing: Styling, camera, the building of the set. And we go to Mykonos to perform for this whole party. Mykonos is incredible – it’s gorgeous, we do a great show inside of a cliff and Kyle [Richards] comes along to visit.
What’s coming up for you in 2017?
In 2017 I need to make new music and I’m excited about that. I have time now since we finished filming, so I’m looking forward to writing new songs and getting out there and performing. So writing, recording and performing. I look forward to making new music and having something to say. I don’t know if I’m going to be bratty or sassy, but I know one thing — I’ll never apologize and I’ll always be myself. It’s wide open and exciting.
Warning: RHOBH season seven premiere spoiler ahead.
At your birthday party, Eileen Davidson gifts you a role on The Young and the Restless. Did you already shoot that?
We shot it, but I haven’t seen it. But I’m praying to God above it’s good. This was the birthday present Eileen gave me — I didn’t even know you could give presents like this! She must have some real pull over there. But I met with the executive producer over there and they made me come audition, come read, to see what I could do. Then they went back, wrote the part, and it was an incredible experience. Very challenging — the work is fast in the soap opera world. You basically have one rehearsal and then they shoot it. It’s like a machine.
Were you nervous?
Are you kidding me? Crawling out of my skin! This is a different medium. It’s not getting on stage and performing, there’s subtlety to it. It’s a craft and I’m an amateur in this lane. It’s challenging but I love a good challenge. Hopefully it comes off great. But we rehearsed and Eileen took great care of me, everyone on set couldn’t have been nicer. Looking at it from the outside it was like, “Wow, I’m really out of my element, I better not fuck this up.”
What’s your interest level in doing more acting?
Let me see how this turns out. [Laughs.] The answer is ‘yes of course’ but let’s high five when the job is done. Let’s see how this turns out first.
Since you joined the cast, what’s surprised you the most about how it impacted your career?
It’s interesting to see who this show reaches. I was in Dallas, we’d just done Dallas Pride, and at breakfast I noticed this little boy smiling at me. This kid was 5 or 6 and his mom comes over and says, “Excuse me Erika, my son is a very big fan of yours, he watches you on TV and has all your music, would you take a picture with him?” Yes, true story, I was blown way. He sat down next to me, he was like “hiii.” I was like, “You watch the show and like the music?” He was like, “Yeahhhh.” That’s when I was like, “Wow, I could not have predicted this.” It was really sweet.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.