at Oceana Coastal Kitchen [ Catamaran Hotel ]

3999 Mission Blvd., San Diego   »  Neighborhood: Mission Beach   »  (858) 488-1081   »  CatamaranResort.com

by Mikey Beats

In this edition of Beats & Eats, I interview the illustrious Rebecca Jade during a staycation at the Evans family’s new gorgeous and gourmet restaurant Oceana Coastal Kitchen on the bayside of the Catamaran Hotel.

Mikey Beats: The origin of Rebecca Jade, where are you from originally?

Rebecca Jade: I call myself a San Diego girl, but I was born in New York City, lived there until I was three, then moved to Puerto Rico for about four years where my mom was a professional jazz singer. When my parents split, my mom stayed in Puerto Rico while my dad was in the Coast Guard and he got orders to move to San Diego. My mom eventually sold everything and came here to be with me and we’ve been here ever since.

MB: Where did you go to high school?

RJ: El Cajon Valley and then my senior year I transferred to Scripps Ranch.

MB: You are from here. In those early years as a kid growing up in SD, what were you doing musically?

RJ: Well, my mom was a singer, my grandfather was a singer and my uncle too, so I came from a musical family, it was my life.

MB: There is trying to be and then there is, therefore you are singer.

RJ: Absolutely, it is second nature. We were always involved in our church, I was part of the church choir and church plays. There is a picture of me when I was like five or six, and I was singing a solo. My mom and my dad were very supportive, understanding and open to my creativity and whatever I wanted to try. I was very much into the arts in school, meanwhile I was into a ton of sports. I had a very much dichotomous life. I ran track, swam, played tennis, basketball and even baseball before high school. I was the only girl on the baseball team and such a tomboy.

MB: Were you involved in any musical projects in high school?

RJ: When I was about 15, the musical director at our church, Tim Minor, saw some potential in producing an all-girl group with me and two other girls. We were recording but that didn’t really go anywhere because he wanted me to have more focus, but I was playing basketball. I had a lot of scholarships to play college basketball out of high school, but I was so against going to college because it was hard for me to focus in high school, so I took a year off. I just worked and I just kinda grew up a little bit and that’s when I decided to go to Mesa College were I played basketball for two years.

The waiter brings out a beer for me and a mimosa for Rebecca and we place another round for Rebecca and I switch to a Mai Tai. My plan is to get Rebecca buzzed so she eats seafood and tells me her life story. A waitress simultaneously brings out a toasted crostini with three spreads: pimento cheese, smashed avocado and roasted almond and red pepper. Nathan Peel, chef de cuisine at Oceana, brings the Yellowtail Crudo, which is fresh sashimi grade yellowtail, dressed with an agua chile, which is onion and lime topped with an avocado, cilantro and pickled radish. We are getting the royal treatment.

MB: Now you have explained to me that you do not like seafood which is a shame because you are missing out on delicious ocean life.

RJ: Correct.

MB: So we are going in on the toasted crostini and spreads together. I got my first taste of the red pepper and roasted almond spread and I think my salivary glands just popped. Judging by the smile on your face, you are happy with it. Since you will not be eating the sashimi, I will handle it on my own.

RJ: Go right ahead.

I pop a piece of the fresh yellowtail in to my mouth and it is as I like it to be, cut thin and so freshly fresh that it disintegrates between the tongue and the roof of my mouth. I waste no time, pop the rest in my mouth and lick the plate. Well, I didn’t lick the plate, but if I knew Rebecca better and wasn’t in such a classy joint, I would have. This place is special and exactly the type of fine dining that Pacific Beach needs on the bay.

MB: Where did you end up going to college after Mesa?

RJ: I went to UC Berkeley on a full basketball scholarship.

MB: Were you musically active in the Berkeley music scene?

RJ: It was very hard to be involved in anything other than basketball when I was there because as a full time student athlete that’s your commitment. I don’t know if a lot of people know this, but when you go away to college, they give you five years to play four. So that gives you a red shirt year, an extra year in case you get injured. So two weeks after I signed my letter of intent, I was backed into as a pedestrian by a drunk driver in a parking lot.

MB: That was in San Diego?

RJ: Yeah, it pinned my legs. Luckily, everything was OK and I didn’t break anything, but it was a lot of tissue damage. I tried to go play and I had a horrible year, my third year, at Berkeley. Then after a year, I was getting healthier so my fourth year was much better. I did pretty good and then I re-injured my knee and that was it.

MB: Not that injury is ever a good thing, but it gave you a chance to get sports out, get the music back in the last year and then focus on your major.

RJ: Yes. If nothing else, I had to focus my goals on the fact that if I stayed true to this, I was going to walk out with a degree from Berkeley and no one could take that away from me. My degree was in theater and performance studies so that fifth year came in really handy because I was then able to do some of the performance things that I was not able to do during season. I was also part of the Berkeley Gospel Choir. I did that for two years. I sang the national anthem for a lot of my games as well as the men’s games. After college, I came back home.

Chef brings in Cabo Crab Louie, a traditional Louie salad with egg, pickled asparagus, tomato, a Louie dressing and Dungeness crab meat.

RJ: What’s a Louie?

Chef: A Louie is one of those classic salads. Kinda like a Caesar is a classic salad where it’s well known throughout the world. The dressing is like a Russian dressing or like a Thousand Island.

MB: Excellent, I will take that please.

I take the Crab Louie and promptly inhale it. I have no time to play around with delicious food on my plate, I prefer it in and around my mouth. Besides, Rebecca doesn’t eat seafood, yet. The waiter comes by and I order passion fruit margaritas, which come out immediately and Rebecca doesn’t drink hers much. I spent time in Brazil so I love me some fresh passion fruit so I take hers and she orders a Long Island Ice Tea, which is in her hand before she can take a breath.

MB: Most people would ask the question, “When did you realize music was your passion?” With you, music is you, so at what point did music become your business?

RJ: After I came home from college, I got introduced to Kamau Kenyatta through an old friend named Damien Willis. Kamau ended up becoming my music mentor. I owe so much of my growth and understanding as a singer and a musician to him because he took me under his wing and helped me to understand music from a totally different perspective. He built my repertoire up, but he didn’t really push me too hard. He grew me slowly by getting me to understand how the form of a song goes, how to let the band solo and then come back in with the vocals. After about three years I started getting calls from people saying, “Hey, I need a singer for this gig. Kamau recommended you and he said you’re a singer so I don’t even need to audition you.”

MB: Kamau was the one who led you into being a professional gigging musician?

RJ: Yes, absolutely.

MB: When were you in the Anthology house band?

RJ: In 2007. It was open for 5 1/2 years. Kamau brought me into that project because he was part of the house band. He told me, “There’s a house band for this club that’s opening up and they have a singer, but you should just come with me to these rehearsals because in case she can’t do it, maybe you can be the first in line.” I started going with him to all these rehearsals and the girl who was supposedly the house singer never showed up because she lived in Orange County. I love this story, this is the epitome of how to be present. If an opportunity comes to you, jump on it.

MB: Be present and show up.

RJ: This was probably six to eight weeks before the club even opened doors and I’m going with Kamau to these rehearsals. Mind you, this other girl has not even showed up for one rehearsal and the bandleader, who wasn’t Kamau, was like, “Well, you’ve been here for every rehearsal. As far as I’m concerned, you’re the singer now for the house band.” That’s how the opportunity just presented itself: Kamau told me to show up, I was there and because of that I was in the house band for 5 1/2 years. I was there from before the club opened to the day it closed.

MB: Wow!

RJ: I’m so grateful because I’ve gotten so much exposure and the name that came with Anthology …

MB: Would you say that your residency there was career defining?

RJ: I would say it had a strong influence on it, yes.

MB: That room was AMAZING.

RJ: AMAZING.

MB: Post-Anthology Rebecca Jade, more projects. I think you said six different acts.

RJ: I’m in like six different bands, yeah. (Laughs) You can’t be a living, working musician unless you’re in a handful of different projects. Unless you’re in the big leagues.

MB: You must be diversified. How many gigs do you do on average a week throughout your various projects?

RJ: I average about four to five gigs a week.

MB: That’s a mix of private and public gigs?

RJ: Yes.

Chef Nathan brings out the Oceana House Roll with eel, crab, tempura shrimp with an unagi sauce as well as the Yasai Roll, which is a vegan option composed of pickled Berdock root (a.k.a. gobo), avocado, cucumber and radish sprouts.

MB: This might be a little extreme for you, but this eel is better than I had expected. I am not trying to change you in any way, shape or form and I don’t need to make a believer out of you, but I will say that this stuff is excellent. You don’t even like shrimp?

RJ: I do eat shrimp.

MB: Here, try the veggie roll and go from there. Might I suggest you dip the veggie roll in the eel sauce so you know what it tastes like?

RJ: OK. Mmm.

I nonchalantly take a nice piece of eel off the top of the roll and place it on the plate, in the sauce.

MB: OK, I am going to isolate some of the eel from the rest of the roll and remove the skin. Now, that is eel, it is cooked and it is good.

The mood suddenly changes. Maybe it is the beautiful setting, maybe it is the alcohol, but Rebecca Jade is about to eat seafood!

RJ: Let’s fucking do this! I am going to put it on this veggie roll.

She puts a small piece on a veggie roll, dips it in the sauce and pops it in her mouth.

RJ: It’s not bad. I am going to try this bigger piece. These are baby steps.

She eats a bigger piece of eel and my mission is complete.

RJ: It is sweet. I can now say I ate eel! I think that gets a high five! That’s big for me, I am trying to venture to and try new things and I am proud of myself!

Cheers all around as even Chef Nathan bore witness to this special moment as he laid down the last round of food: the fabled Drugstore Hamburger made famous by Oceana sister property, The Lodge at Torrey Pines and their famous clients the pros of the PGA Tour.

MB: Seeing this on a menu in Pacific Beach makes me believe that Rocky’s now has competition for the best burger in PB.

The guys in the kitchen quartered the burger for us so we could share it and I take a bite out of one piece, narrowly missing my finger nail, because I got excited.

MB: Oh wow … that is juicy. Mmm, that’s really good. It’s a simple looking burger with just lettuce, tomato, mayo, a juicy patty, jalapeño jack cheese and a sesame seed bun, but it is so fan-fucking-tastic!

Rebecca goes in for a bite.

RJ: That’s a juicy burger.

We both dig into the fries.

MB: These fries are the bomb. They’re almost like McDonald’s fries. (Laughs)

RJ: You’re right. I can taste that actually. It’s like McDonald’s fries with sea salt.

MB: OK, back to the beats. We recently hung out together at the House of Blues doing a corporate show together, and there was one of your many acts that you play in, Siren’s Crush. How long have you been one of the performers?

RJ: Before we became Siren’s Crush, we were just Crush and the three girls from the band and the keyboard player broke off and started Siren’s Crush. So that was four years as Crush and then about four and a half years as Siren’s Crush. Crush helped me build another level of stage presence that I didn’t have at that time. Siren’s Crush plays everything live, they don’t play to backtracks. Victor Sagastume is the keyboard player and he finds all the samples and sounds from the songs to play live, so we sound very authentic.

MB: Random factoid, the keyboardist Victor is the brother of a guy I graduated from high school with, Remo Sagastume.

RJ: Yeah, Victor is the bandleader/keyboardist and his wife Angie Sagastume is the band manager/singer. We’re a modern, Top 40 act covering Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Beyonce and Ariana Grande, among others.

MB: I really enjoyed the “Bang Bang” cover you all did because there’s some notes that you all sing that are like, whoa.

RJ: Thank you very much. We have a YouTube video of that song that we did a cappella.

MB: One of the other bands you are in is Rebecca Jade and the Cold Fact.

RJ: That’s relatively new; we started everything in 2013 and completed the project in 2014. We earned a San Diego Music Award for the album, which was really cool and unexpected.

MB: So whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it right because you attracted the attention of Joe Rinaldi, who booked you for the sixth annual Oyster Fest at the Embarcadero Park North on June 13!

RJ: Yes! I can’t wait!

Chef Nathan brings out desserts.

Chef: Here we have our a traditional crème brulee done with shots of espresso to make it coffee flavor and caramel sugar on top to make it crispy and creamy. Triple chocolate fudge brownie baked to order in a skillet topped with a nice vanilla gelato that is made locally. Also we have a new school banana pudding. It’s a banana cake layered with banana pudding and then crusted with cookie crumbles and topped with caramelized bananas.

RJ: Bless your heart my son, this looks amazing! I am so full!

MB: Whoa! OK! I’m a big brownie fan so this one is going to be me. … You go right in there. Do not be shy.

There are sugary smiles and gluttonous grunts as we spoon our ways through the variety of delicious desserts.

RJ: You get to do this all the time?

MB: Once a month.

RJ: I think you found a winning ticket, my friend

MB: Ha-ha, I think so. Is there anything else you would like to add for our readers?

RJ: This is something I think is important, especially for singers. We have such a bad stigma of being “just singers.” Musicians have to work their asses off to really hone their instrument and craft. Then there are singers who have been given a gift. We can hone it, of course, but there becomes a false reality that one can sing and that’s all you need, but that’s not true. There was a turning point for me, when I didn’t want to be considered just a singer so I spent two or three years at Grossmont College studying theory and voice. So put in that work and don’t just be a singer, be a musician. Learn how to run a band, how to talk to your musicians because that’s so important and it’s helped me tremendously.

MB: That is a cold fact Rebecca Jade, and thank you for delivering it.

You can check out Rebecca at Po Pazzo on India Street on most Thursdays and all over the city on other nights of the week. She is also the artistic director at Seaside Center for Spiritual Living in Encinitas. Keep up with her at RebeccaJadeMusic.com.