The art of pushing boundaries and making catchy love songs

Q – Can you give our readers a little intro into Jae and criibaby?
I only have one goal: redefine inclusive music

I’m a new queer artist pushing boundaries and normalizing queer identities with love songs for everyone

my gender-neutral, intentionally inclusive music project.

The concept is, no matter how you identify, this feel-good, empowering music was made with you, and others like you, in mind.

Q – How did you get into music?
The embarrassing home videos and kindergarten talent shows seem to back up my theory that I have never really existed without music closeby. I started studying jazz when I was just a kid and received a DownBeat award at age 13.

I learned a lot about the technical parts of singing from wonderful teachers and programs at great institutions like Cal Arts and University of the Pacific, but

I owe the development of my sound to neo soul trailblazers like Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and D’Angelo.

Q – What’s your experience as a queer musician in the industry?
I think it was Kevin Abstract who said, “I don’t want to be a queer icon – I want to be an icon.”

So some artists view their LGBTQ+ identity as a very separate thing from their musical identity, which is totally cool. On the other hand, some find speaking directly to a queer audience to be super important. Both are valid!

For me, music is my way to process my emotions and express myself-

so my queer identity and my musical identity have become pretty inseparable

I feel that representation is extremely important- if I had seen someone who looked like me onstage taking up space as a queer artist, it would have really helped me understand my identity and feel like I belonged.

As someone who is often assumed to be straight based on how I appear and present, I feel it’s critical to show the world that

queerness doesn’t have any one look, sound, or genre

and that is certainly part of my art.

Q – So word on the queer grapevine is that you have a new single and gender neutral intentionally inclusive EP coming out soon, fancy giving us some of the inside scoop?
Pride month is a really meaningful time for me this year. I’ve gone to the world renown San Francisco pride parade nearly every year since high school, but this would have been the first time attending after having come out to my family.

So I felt I had to do something empowering this month- and that meant writing and releasing a new song. The tune is called “Some Kinda Voodoo” and it’s

a dreamy, vintage-inspired love song.

I hope the floaty vocal melodies and pure, silly lyrics capture the feeling of falling inexplicably hard for someone and remind listeners of the joy in being completely lovestruck. With subtle references to witchcraft throughout, the song is about being under the spell of a new lover.

Being candid, it’s one of the corniest songs I’ve ever written (insert me, snort-laughing!) but it’s also one of the most genuine… You don’t come up with lyrics like this if you don’t feel them authentically. The track is inspired by neo soul legend Lauryn Hills’s lyrics, “Who ever knew, the voodoo you’d do,” from her classic song, “When It Hurts So Bad.”

Q – What’s your favourite track on the EP and why?
My favorite track on the upcoming EP, “love songs for everyone,” is an 80s-style ballad called 80S KWEEN inspired by queer music duo SATEEN

If you haven’t heard their stuff, go check it out when you’re in the mood for disco. Ruby is the instrumentalist/producer (and is also a proud transgender woman) and her wife Queenie is the vocalist.

Anyway, my track 80S KWEEN has been a blast to record because it’s a real MOOD that’s totally over the top, with all kinds of nostalgic synth layers brought to life by my brilliant producer, Big Soda.

I can’t wait to film the music video… I don’t want to give everything away BUT

I will say two words: roller disco. Stay tuned!

Question: The theme of our fourth issue is ‘Crush’. You mentioned your new single is about falling in love, is love, crushes and relationships a common theme in your music?
Love and personal relationships are definitely a common theme in my music. My whole EP actually grew out of a challenge I had for myself to write a real HAPPY song. That was my last single, Sunshine, which I wrote about the first girl I ever had feelings for.

It’s all about the butterflies and realms of possibility that have opened once you give yourself the space and time to fall in love with yourself, your identity. Once I emerged from that challenge with Sunshine, a happy, bouncy lovesong, I wanted to write more.

And suddenly I had a bunch of real empowered, I’m-doin’-me-now-but-think-I-might-love-you type tunes. Erykah Badu once said something along the lines of, “When I’m in love, I’m IN love. I’m deep in it. And I like it that way.” I can definitely be like that!

I’m an incredibly emotional person, often the most feeling my feelings-y person in the room- and I’m ok with that. In fact,

it’s what makes me me.

That’s where my name “criibaby” comes from- taking an insult and turning it into a word of pride, of identity, much like the use of the word “queer.”

Question: Favourite queer musical artists?
Too many to name- that’s why

I curate a new playlist called BI-weekly

(shh, you know we stan a good bi pun!) which celebrates the best of queer music. From rising stars like Pandaraps, to icons like King Princess, there’s something for everyone. I keep it fresh with updates biweekly (duh!) Definitely give it a listen and a follow on Spotify to discover someone new!

Question: What’s on the horizon for Criibaby post isolation?
I’m working hard on my gender-neutral, intentionally inclusive EP, love songs for everyone, and plan to release it on National Coming Out Day, October 11!

I can’t wait to share my debut project with the world-

honestly, I’ll start to tear up thinking about it.


Jae Riley aka Criibaby

She / Her | San Francisco | Artist

Rectangular photograph. The left handside shows lilac balloons filling the image. Partially hidden behind them is criibaby, the artist. Wearing her dark hair up in a ponytail, tied with a lilac scrunchie. Her hair is long. We see only her left eye peeking behind the balloon. She is standing by a lilac painted wall. She is wearing a white shirt with a lilac pinafore dress over the top.

Instagram | Spotify

criibaby is a new queer artist pushing boundaries with “love songs for everyone,” a gender-neutral, intentionally inclusive music project

Jae was interviewed by Lucy Everett


MORE UNICORN