Jen Lilley is more than just an actress and musician. As a foster mom, she is a huge advocate of children’s rights and supports charities that focus on protecting children against physical and sexual abuse as well as human trafficking. Her debut single, “King of Hearts”, was released in October, but is only the beginning, as she is set to release an album in February. We chatted with the actress and singer Jen Lilley about the creative process working on “King of Hearts,” the message of the song and her support for child abuse and treatment organizations.
Cliché: What were some of the signs in your life that proved you were destined to become an actress and singer?
Jen Lilley: When I was younger my dad had retired as a judge and he was always extremely animated. I just remember being at dinner for the conversations at the dinner table and one day he acted out all of the parts that happened in the courtroom. My family is very animated and they always loved storytelling. I also love storytelling. One of the signs in my life was when I was 7 or 8 years old I would get all my stuffed animals and I would put on these horrible plays that I wrote and I would force my parents to come down to the basement and watch this play. I think storytelling is obviously a huge part of singing and songwriting. Another sign in my life was when I was 4 years old my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I was older. They told me that you can be anything you want to be when you grow up. I said, “Anything?” They replied, “Oh yes, you can be anything.” I remember pausing and then saying, “I am going to be a bird.” They said, “No, you can’t be a bird.”
The main signs in my life that proved I was destined to become an actress and singer were my family’s history of storytelling and the horrible plays that I put on and the fact that I wanted to be a bird so that I can sing all day when I was 4.
What was the creative process like when working on “King of Hearts”? Can you describe the emotions and feelings that you got after completing your debut single?
I started working with Adrian Gurvitz in February 2016 and the whole process came about when we would sit around his grand piano while drinking tea in the living room and he would play a little bit from the piano. One day around the piano Adrian and I were playing music stuff and he said, “You know who you remind me of?” I was like, “No!” He replied, “You remind me of Dusty Springfield.” I was like, “Oh wow, that’s amazing.” Then we started taking a 60’s approach and then with “King of Hearts,” it just came in line with being in a song that is uplifting and fun but is also about empowerment and relationship.
We finished the entire album. We didn’t do the single first. After we finished the entire album, we have been strategically planning single releases for the debut album. It launches in February.
I felt so overwhelmed. Even though I am a singer and a songwriter on all of the songs, it took me through a journey and it was such a unique experience when listening to the song for the first time.
What’s the message of the song and what do you hope listeners take away when listening to the lyrics of the song? How does the song reflect your own personal experience?
I am pro boy and I am pro girl. The song is about a girl who has been played by a guy who says that he is going to be with her forever and that you’re the one. Then she finds out that he has been basically playing her and collecting other girls numbers. She comes to a point in her life where she realizes that she has worth and value and that she is better off alone than a relationship that is half middle. The message that I want my fans to take away is that each and every one of them is born on purpose and with a purpose and everyone deserves to be in a relationship where they feel valued. If they are not then they better off being alone because they’re amazing.
Everyone has been played by someone. Luckily, mine wasn’t too late in life. But I was definitely played by a guy in college so it reflects that story and I also think success is one of the best forms of revenge.
Can you describe your relationship with producer Adrian Gurvitz?
I love Adrian. He is amazing and he is a legendary rock star and he makes sure that everyone is aware that he is a legend. I am so delighted that I got to work with him. He is really funny and has a dry sense of humor. He was touring by the time he was 14 years old and he worked with Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston. It has been amazing working with him. When I started working with him, he would tell me that I am so embryonic because I had this amazing voice. The whole two-year journey was him teaching me not only the art of singing but also storytelling.
In 2001, you received the National Educators Award for your work in Guatemala performing in concerts for underprivileged Guatemalan youth. How much did winning that award mean to you? What was your initial reaction once you received that award?
Winning that award was so surprising to me. We weren’t expecting that at all. It meant a lot to me. Once I received that award, it was mind-blowing to me and it felt so underserved.
My initial reaction once I received the award was shock, humbled and honored. We didn’t even know that award existed.
You are very active in charities and you are a celebrity ambassador for the child abuse and treatment organization like Childhelp, ECPAT, and The Dave Thomas Foundation. Can you describe your overall relationship with these organizations? Why was it important for you to take a stand on helping out children who have been abused?
With Childhelp, I am one of the main ambassadors but I am also a mentor for the program like Big Brothers Big Sisters. The program is called Special Friends. I am also in the process of adopting my 2 ½ year old who I have had since he was four months old. I am also fostering his little brother who is eight months old. 100 percent of my share profits from my albums and singles will go to helping children and children’s foster care.
It was important for me to take a stand on helping out children who have been abused because as cliché as this sounds, children are our future. I was blessed with an overall amazing childhood and I think that all children deserve their innocence and so many children in this country and around the world have been robbed of their innocence at such a young age. I find that to be such a travesty.
What was the best advice about the music industry that you’ve received and who was it from?
It was from Adrian Gurvitz. He told me that the best singers are not the ones who can hit notes, they are the ones who can tell a story and make the audience experience the story as they are listening to it. He would often use Bob Dylan as an example. Bob Dylan was definitely not the best singer who ever lived but he could definitely tell a story.
At this point in your life, who was the person who helped guide you to get you to where you are now?
A lot of people. But I would also say my faith in general and my ambitions to leave the world a better place than I found it has really helped guide all of my decisions.
What’s next for you?
My album is coming out in February. With that, I suspect quite a bit will come with that. Hopefully, there will be a lot of awards shows next year and then I am also continuing my work with the Hallmark channel. I am hoping to continue with the acting, singing and I am also hoping to executive produce more in 2019.
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‘Days of Our Lives’ Star Jen Lilley Discusses Her Debut Single “King of Hearts” and More. Image Credits: Brandon Kaipo