Early Influences

Many of Jenna Martinez’s first childhood memories from the late 1980s are laced with the sounds of music; jazz, blues, soul, rock, and musical instruments everywhere.  Of those memories, perhaps the most vivid is of her father, Luis, taking her to see Michael Jackson’s Thriller when she was no more than two years old at a local theater in Portsmouth, Virginia.   Not long after, the sailor relocated his wife, Ina, and his family to Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida when Jenna was around 4 or 5 years old.  Her sister, Debra was then only one.  

Debra and Jenna-early performances

Being a Navy “brat” always presents its challenges to any growing family; the travel, an inability to connect permanently to any lifestyle or friends.  Yet it may also open windows of opportunity for a young girl growing up around musical parents whose love for the art form, both performing and appreciating it led to two highly talented and musical daughters who in their own ways would go on to make their mark musically in the world.

Jenna recalls her earliest performances were sing-alongs to Disney movie records and in elementary, first, and second grade, singing in choirs.  Around age 9, the family relocated once again to Rota, Spain, and Jenna joined USO Fairs dancing country dances in cowboy hats to old school country and western artists interchangeably with hip-hop entertainers such as MC Hammer. Her performances were as eclectic in her youth as her upbringing.  Wherever she went, there was always a stage and a desire to be on it.  Performing became a part of her normal life.  Not until much later would a mild stage fright take its hold on Jenna causing her to be perpetually late and always flustered when in front of an audience.

Early Setbacks

Somehow, Jenna knew that she just didn’t feel at home completely in front of a microphone, though she did have a flair for the dramatic.  This love of acting led her to audition for Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in 9th grade when her family returned home to Jacksonville and the Mayport Naval Station, her father’s permanent and final duty station.  Jenna didn’t make the cut, but the audition foreshadowed a long life of missed opportunities that opened other more prominent and unexpected doors to success for her.

Douglas Anderson called Jenna back for a follow-up audition, but instinct told her to walk away, and instead she opted to go to Sandalwood High, a more traditional school where she still took drama and pursued musical interests without the intent of ever being a dramatic actor.  At the time, Jenna saw no chance of being successful as there were few Latin actors in roles in Hollywood, especially not women.  And she certainly knew she had no interest in teaching drama.


By then, the 90’s grunge movement and the Seattle sound had conquered the radio music scene around the world.  So while figuring out what she wanted to be when she grew up, Jenna became immersed in Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Hole, the all-girl band of Kurt Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love. Their live performance of Live Through This in 1994 sparked a major turning point in Jenna’s life.  Not only did she love the song structure, the rhythm, and the guitar licks, but she truly gravitated toward bassist, Melissa Auf Der Maur’s heavy bass patterns within each song.  

Now that they were older, Jenna and Debra’s parents gifted their daughters instruments.  But the guitar placed in Jenna’s hands felt as awkward to her as a microphone.  Handing hers down to her sister, Jenna chose the bass guitar instead.  It was still not a match made in Heaven for her, but she and her sister would jam together and sing, and while fun for them both it was clear Debra had a more innate talent while Jenna’s skill leaned more into the technical side of things.  She simply heard the music differently than her younger sibling and gravitated more to songwriting, song structure, and understanding the history of music.

Seeds are Planted

Jenna in high school often got offered opportunities to be in bands, but nothing ever materialized of it.  At age 15, she was already reading books such as Running your Rock Band and This Business in Music.  She was fascinated with how the music industry worked even if it wasn’t clear to her then that band management would be a part of her path.  When she would show up for band practices touting what a band should be doing instead of just following a lead, her know-it-all attitude labeled her stuck up and irritated her fellow musicians.  So while Debra found her way into bands much more easily, often absconding her sister’s clothes and albums and looking and sounding much more hip than their owner, Jenna never made those connections in high school.  The calling just wasn’t there.