What inspired you to become an artist?
I grew up with a family of artists and musicians. My mom and my late grandmother were both singers. My grandmother was in the entertainment and music scene in Ecuador and would bring my mom to watch her perform at events. They released a vinyl record of cultural Ecuadorian music. My dad was the producer on the album and was also in a band, where he played bass and guitar.
Name three of your key influences.
1. My upbringing in an artistic family. My family parties consisted of anyone that knew how to play guitar grab one and any one that knew how to sing, sing! There were several of those growing up, and watching my parents play with other family members and friends.
2. Latin music: I grew up in home listening to Latin music, a lot of rock in the late 50s/60s, listening to cumbias, salsa, and Latin pop.
3. Dance: I love to dance to salsa and bachata and very involved in the GTA dance social scene. It actually influenced last single “Hypnotic Dance” bachata rock on my tropic-lectic album “Out of Office”
Describe your musical sound/style
Growing up, I was heavily influenced by reggae, hop hop, r&b and Latin music. I call it Tropic-lectic. It best describes what I do which is a fusion of tropical sounds including reggae, Latin (bachata, salsa, reggaeton) and rock.
Do you write lyrics or music first?
I typically write lyrics first over a produced instrumental track. If I don’t have an instrumental track to work with then I then will compose the vocals as well, roughly record them and submit them to a producer or musicians to help me create my vision.
Where did your stage name come from?
The Prof comes from my real-life day job as a Professor. However, I wanted to make it very clear with my style, music, photos and videos that I’m not an uptight prof and I’m definitely not like that at all in real life. I wanted to create something that was easy to say and remember instead of my full name, Jennifer Cortez and to create something fun with wardrobe, using the stereotypical “pencil skirt, blouse & glasses” yet my style keeps evolving. I love fashion and have a diploma in Fashion. For the past year, people may not know my real name but they certainly know who The Prof is now and say “I saw you perform at…you were good and I love your style.” It’s fun when they light up as soon as they hear my stage name. I didn’t want to be compared to other artists so I tried to create something unique but still reflects who I am.
What's been the most significant obstacle to overcome as an artist?
Financial constraints. All artists know how expensive it can get.
Also, as a female artist, knowing when to say no and not assume everyone has your best interest at heart. This is more specifically when I started out in my 20’s and had to learn that there were many promoters, producers, videographers that just wanted to make a quick buck and didn’t really care about the final product nor did they deliver to what was discussed. I’ve been burned the past but as didn’t know any better. There are many tracks and videos I would never share today.
However, I learned from all of that so…don’t mess with The Prof.
I’m more aware now and have grown an intuition for who I’m able to collaborate with. I have a very strong work ethic and am very organized. I’m very hands on so I need to work with others that will allow me to be as creative as I want with my craft.
How do you give back to others in the music community?
I am always either supporting our local music community of Mississauga by attending events, open mics, making donations when I can and buying music from local artists I enjoy being a part of the audience at times to support several of my artist friends' shows which I visit frequently - it's great to see them perform. I also have been involved in causes that appeal to me such as sustainability, natural disaster funding, more specifically when there has been natural disasters within South America such as Earthquakes In Ecuador for example. When Haiti was hit by a tsunami, I was a part of a fundraiser held by AM1610 and also donated to the cause. I support events and have participated in ones that are empowering for women, such as events around International Women's Day, celebration of Women, El dia de la mujer and also participated as a performer at an event that Amnesty International put on a few years ago that was directed towards women in abusive relationships. I'm always willing and open to participating in these great causes.
How has Mississauga's music scene evolved over the past 2 years?
The music scene has evolved so much since I started back in 2009. However, I did take a break from the scene for several years and when I came back into it, I saw a huge difference. It grew immensely!
There is definitely more of a demand for artistic performances, new venues and establishments are more open to this concept of showcases and supporting local artists which I love and why I also do my best to attend these events around Mississauga. The more we all support them, the further they grow. It’s the ripple effect.
What do the next 12 months look like for you musically?
I’m aiming to release new music digitally in the next few months. I’m working with an award winning producer Medylandia who produced Alx Veliz’s “Dancing Kizomba.”
There will also be live performances for the new music.
What one song could you listen to on repeat for 60 minutes?
Party Animal by Charly Black, Luis Fonsi (Daddy Yankee Remix).
What are you most proud of in your career?
Building my brand as an artist the way I have from scratch. I’ve created my own logo, my own graphics, animation posts and video editing of my music video. My MARTY award nomination for the emerging performing arts category in 2011 - it was a real honour to be nominated.
Being chosen as one of the Top Ten Performers of the Open Mic Live Series at the Living Arts Centre in 2018 where I then was able to perform at the RBC Theatre with the band.
I have two albums, the original is called Through the Rain” which was under my real name, Jennifer Cortez which featured a song called Himno Latino ft. Juno Nominee Arabesque that was played on Flow 93.5 in 2008. I’ve grown so much since then and evolved as an artist which is how my stage name, The Prof, developed. I’m grateful and proud that I can continue to express my creativity through my music.
What advice do you have for other artists?
Don’t give up and follow your intuition. Make music that speaks to you, from you and from your heart. Don’t worry about what the mass industry is doing because if you do something that you think others want, it won’t show through, it will be weak. Who you are truly will show through in your style, music and performance. Even if you are told “I don’t think you should go this direction…I think you should change your stage name” follow your gut because ultimately it is your career, what you are passionate about and no one understands that more than you.
Her album, Out of Office, can be purchased here.