My singing began before I ever thought of it as being a
talent, or as something that other people would listen to
and enjoy. It was more of a way to escape the situation around me,
a release. I've never really trained - just never stopped
I enjoy singing anything that I can apply passion and
experience to. I sing for everyone and anyone. I think
that music reaches all types of people. It's the message and the
passion that hits a heart, any heart.
My mother made my name up. It's always confused
with Jermaine, Jerome, Jasmine . . . the list is endless. "Jah" is
the Rastafarian name of God, and a shortened form of Yahweh. "Sing
unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the
heavens by his name Jah, and rejoice before him."
Of course, all my songs have a spiritual
dimension. I like to think that, even if it isn't as clear
as a hymn, people will still feel that kind of love.
I draw my inspiration from my life experiences,
the people around me and their talents, and, of course, my
I remember being very young, and my mother was
being beaten by my father in the next room. For a moment,
everything zoned out - the screams, the situation. I experienced
something wash over me in a moment's silence, a comforting embrace.
In that moment, I prayed for my mother, not really knowing or
understanding much about it.
Days after, my father was arrested. So, ever
since I was young, without it being imposed on me, I've had a
connection with God, and believed in the power of prayer. This was
even though my father wouldn't let us go to church. I've always
spoken to God in my own way. I'm 23 now.
I stick to music. I do a lot of gigging to pay
the bills. Making albums doesn't pay as much as people think. I
don't get paid for my ambassador work for Women's Aid.
Domestic violence is something I've had to deal
with; so I'm trying to make it into a positive thing. When
I was on The X Factor [he was runner-up in 2012], the
media dug up my story. They called it a "sob story", which was
annoying, but I tried to turn this into a positive.
I'm Women's Aid's first appointed youth
ambassador, which means a lot of meetings and politics;
and the coverage in the media meant that donations went up. We want
a change in politics, the justice system, early prevention. I go
round schools, meeting teachers and talking to children, trying to
stop alcohol abuse, which is one of the main causes of domestic
My motto has always been not to let the situation define
who you are, because if I did that, I'd be quiet and
beaten down. That's what my father wanted. But I have an
untouchable light inside myself. A strong faith is contagious.
Always live up to what God wants of you, and you'll have
The traumatising blessing - it's the best type
of blessing: one you've struggled for. I lost a stone and a half
while I was on The X Factor. People think you're just
singing at the weekend, but there's a craziness of expectation and
pressure. Never try to live up to an expectation, because you'll
always fall short, and be tempted to surround yourself with the
I've seen the extreme side of drink and drugs,
and what it turns into: my father insisted on drinking and doing
drugs. I've never gone near anything like that. I just go and pig
out instead. No . . . I try and stay in shape, because if you want
to be in the spotlight, you've got to fit in the
I'm just working on my second album, trying to
reach out to those who don't make a difference. We need to reach
out beyond the church walls. A strong community where you can leave
your door open cuts out a lot of things like domestic violence and
I live a very nice area, very peaceful:
Berkshire. I grew up in a lot of dodgy communities: my mother could
scream at the top of her lungs, but no one would call the police.
That was really shocking, because people knew she had five
children. I looked around for a few months and deliberately picked
a place where there were older people - respectable, good to learn
That's another thing we miss in our
communities: older people. There are a lot of children
having children, and they haven't learned to be parents. And all
the churches are turning into youth clubs, mosques, and social
centres. There are no spaces to learn. Other religions are much
At the same time, I feel that religion needs to move
with the times. A lot of Christians shut out things that
are wrong. You don't help people by shutting them out. You push
them further into their demons that way.
I've grown up in many different places, from
flats to homes, city to country - even refuges. My family is big. I
was one of five, born in Birmingham. There's been madness and many,
many tests and trials. I feel we have all gone from one side of the
spectrum to another. My siblings are all quite close in age, and we
are all just as crazy as the next.
I travel so much on business, and breeze through some
beautiful places; so I never get to stop and really
appreciate. You see it all through "business" eyes. It's done. So
when I travel [for pleasure], I just love spontaneity, and going
somewhere I've never been.
My mother's a poet. She's working on her second
book now; so I'm following in her footsteps. I write about love and
life and how you get through it. My poetry is testimony, like my
I would love to release my poetry at some
point, and, in the long run, raise a family, and learn a
new language and an instrument. I think everyone should be able to
speak at least two languages. I'd like to speak Spanish or
Mandarin. I tried learning alto sax, one of my favourite
instruments, and I'd like to play the piano. We didn't have the
money for that when I was young.
I love jazz and old soul-music, gospel . . .
but people get confused about what "gospel" means. It's not just a
black woman singing; it means it's anointed sound, the sound of
truth, any form of sound - like in Exodus 15, when Miriam played
the tambourine. It's a godly sound to lead the people.
My favourite sound is Whitney Houston's voice,
or the sound of a large massed choir.
My mother is the one who has influenced me most in
My favourite book is the Bible. There's always
something to learn. Many, many "Aha!" light-bulb moments. And I
like I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and
Still I Rise by Doreen Lawrence. I love anything T. D.
Jakes writes, and Roald Dahl. His innocent imagination reminds me
of my childhood. I love reading facts, too: encyclopaedias and
I pray for others most.
I'd choose to be locked in a church with my
brother-in-Christ at the moment, my friend Kayne Rose.
He's been an incredible spiritual boost. I believe very much in
surrounding yourself with positive, encouraging people who are for
you. A lot of people surround themselves with impossible
expectations, temptations, and negativity in the people they call
friends. It usually reflects a sadness they're holding on
Jahméne Douglas was talking to Terence Handley
Love Never Fails is produced by Sony Music Entertainment,
RCA Records. www.womensaid.org.uk
Correction: the Australian doctor
who inspired Klaus-Dieter John (interview, 3 October) was Dr Paul
White, not Dr Paul Brand. Our apologies.