Even among a list of strong releases that includes albums by long-time critical darlings like The Magnetic Fields, The Shins and Father John Misty, one of the year’s most praised efforts thus far comes from Melina Duterte, better known as Jay Som, a largely self-taught 23-year-old from the Bay Area. Her sophomore release Everybody Works earned her scores of praise from nearly every reputable music publication and drew massive crowds to her slew of SXSW performances, its critical success above and beyond what most independent artists have come to expect or even hope for.
Though Duterte’s overnight rise might seem sudden to those new to her music, it’s really been more of a slow roll into the end zone; the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist got an early start as a musician, picking up several instruments by the time most kids are only reaching the end of elementary school. “My entire childhood was saturated in music and a curioisity [about] performing and learning,” says Duterte. “I started self-learning guitar when I was 8 and picked up the trumpet when I was 10, then [played] that for about nine years. I’ve slowly been trying to learn more instruments in a serious manner, with drums being the most recent.”
Though she’s only been releasing music online since 2012, posting just a couple of songs each year before dropping her first full-length effort in 2016, Duterte has been writing her own material since she was a pre-teen. “My first song was about Taco Bell and how much I loved and hated it. It was probably really bad, but you have to start somewhere.”
Saying she’s come far since that... Sign In to Keep Reading