Jamie and Jenny
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Jamie and Jenny

Barrow, Alaska, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Barrow, Alaska, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Duo Pop EDM

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"Palmer Sisters Pursuing Dream of Music Career in L.A."

WASILLA — Local residents might remember Jamie and Jennifer Christensen from high school basketball games, but few know the sisters’ longest-held dream – a dream they’re living right now.

Born in Barrow and raised in Palmer, the Colony High School graduates have been living in Los Angeles since 2011, working to make a name for themselves as the pop duo Jamie and Jenny.

Jamie, 25, said she and her sister have wanted to be singers since they were in elementary school, when their desire to do so was printed in the school yearbook. But it took a while for them to accept their goal as something achievable.

“God placed a dream in our hearts, and this dream is so big, and it’s so far beyond us that we were afraid, and we kept it a secret,” Jamie said.

The sisters focused on sports in high school, suppressing their dream of singing professionally until Jamie graduated in 2008 and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, which she called the “hip-hop capital of the nation.”

Jenny, 23, followed after her graduation in 2010. Shortly thereafter, the girls decided they’d rather get more into the electronic-pop scene, and moved to L.A.

The duo listed Black Eyed Peas and Britney Spears among their influences in terms of their musical style, as well as pretty much anything that has aired on Anchorage stations KFAT and KGOT.

“That's what we grew up on, so that’s what we’re aiming for,” Jenny said.

The sisters (who are Eskimo) have also utilized their Alaska Native heritage, in more ways than one.

First, they’ve made a pact to incorporate some part of their Inupiat culture in at least 50 percent of the songs they write, record and produce. Their first recorded song, “On Top of the World,” for example, features a sort of bridge that reflects the vocalizations in traditional Inupiaq songs, Jamie said.

“We definitely wanna take from our culture and let the world hear a unique side (of music),” Jamie said.

The striking physical appearance the Christensen sisters have inherited from their ancestors has also caught the attention of many L.A. residents.

“When we come across people here, they just start speaking to us in Spanish. They don't even realize that people live in Alaska, that Eskimos are real and they don’t live in igloos,” Jamie said.

The girls’ heritage has also helped fund their venture, in a way. Though Jamie and Jenny spend most of their time in L.A., they've spent the last several summers working on a boat with Alaska’s Marine Mammal Observer Program. The job has brought in enough revenue to support the girls year-round and help them invest around $30,000 in their own studio.

Still, it takes more than money to build a dream or achieve a goal. The sisters thanked their “aaka,” or grandmother, for playing guitar with them and teaching them how to sing and harmonize together at a young age, as well as their first formal choir teacher, Jennifer Dalby, who taught the girls at Pioneer Peak Elementary.

A rap producer the sisters interned for when they first got to L.A. was also instrumental in showing them how to get started, Jenny said. The entertainment industry can be intimidating, but less so when fellow up-and-coming artists know the difficulty of taking off.

“It’s hard to feel at home in a big city, but everybody’s chasing dreams and that’s something we can feel at home with,” she said.

When they’re not making music, the Christensens play basketball with each other every day, but the trips back home to Alaska will be fewer in the coming years as the sisters focus on establishing themselves as artists. With their first album written and a couple of songs recorded, Jamie and Jenny are hoping to launch their debut album, “Here We Come,” this winter.

The album will consist of eight songs, including a single, “On Top of the World,” which they released on YouTube on Dec. 18. They’ve also completed a song called “All In,” which they described as a perfect “locker room warm-up” song. The message of their positive, up-tempo music is all in the name of the EP.

“If anyone has a dream, chase it with us,” Jamie and Jenny encourage their listeners. “Don't give up, don’t be afraid — tell the world, ‘here we come.’”

To stay up to date with Jamie and Jenny, visit their website at jamieandjennymusic.com, or “like” their page at facebook.com/JamieandJennyHereWeCome.

Contact reporter Caitlin Skvorc at 352-2266 or caitlin.skvorc@frontiersman.com. - Frontiersman


"Bringing Alaska to the big city: Inupiat sisters pursue a musical career in Los Angeles"

If there’s one thing Jamie and Jenny Christensen understand, it’s the beauty and difficulty of living in different worlds.

They are Inupiaq sisters who were born in Barrow, raised in Palmer, and now live in Los Angeles where they are pursuing their dream of becoming musicians.

Their studio is located in Carson, Calif., on the border with Compton. It’s spacious by Los Angeles standards with a sound booth, dance room, and work space and it’s decorated with colorful Christmas lights and inspirational messages on the walls.

Jamie is the older of the two. At 25, she comes across as confident and self-assured, though she doesn’t shy away from talking about the challenges of getting where she is today.

“Every day of my life I have a voice inside of my head telling me I’m daydreaming and that I’m crazy and that it’s not possible and I should give up,” she said. “And every single day of my life, I have to tell that voice ‘no’ and I have to fight for this. This is a tough industry and nothing is given to you.”

She graduated from Colony High School in 2008 and made the tough decision to move away from home to Atlanta for col- lege.
Jenny, 23, recalled one the last conversa- tions they had before Jamie left.

“I remember when I was 15 and Jamie was a senior, getting ready to graduate. We were going for a drive and I remember her telling me: ‘This is my time to move out. I’m seriously going to chase music.’ I thought, ‘You’re not going to go — you’re not going to leave me.’ We were at a stoplight and she looked at me and said, ‘No, I’m going to do it.’”

For Jamie, Atlanta was a city of dreams and possibilities. It was ruling the radio at the time and was a place where under- ground artists and musicians had a chance to get noticed.

After Jenny graduated high school, she joined her sister there.

“That was our true introduction into stu- dios and the industry and how it works and we had a lot of fun in the process and learned a lot,” she said.

But after a while, they decided to make the move to Los Angeles.

“L.A. was the place for it to get bigger, to see more, and to get a different perspective on it because Atlanta was so hip-hop, which we enjoy listening to but it wasn’t what we were aiming for,” said Jenny.

When they first put down roots on the West Coast, they tried renting space in downtown Los Angeles. They struggled financially with high rental fees for studio space and apartments. They figured they’d have better luck if they looked in the greater metro area, instead, and found their current space in Carson.

It looks more like home, too, said Jenny, who describes it as “like Anchorage, but with palm trees.”

The sisters have wanted to pursue a career in music since they were young. They recalled each independently writing in their elementary school yearbooks that they had dreams of becoming musicians. They were surprised to find out, when the yearbooks were published, that they had the same life goals.

Getting started on that path was a differ- ent story. It hasn’t always been easy.

“It seemed so far-fetched for us,” said Jamie. “We faced a little bit of rejection early on and that was so scary for us so we lived looking for other people’s approval.”

“I guess what the fear was was getting out of our comfort zone, and doing something bigger, and moving out, and just challeng- ing ourselves to get out and make a career of it,” said Jenny, finishing her sister’s sentence.

While they have distinct personalities, they do that a lot — talking as a single voice, completing one another’s thoughts, refer- ring to themselves as “I” and “we” inter- changeably.

They’ve done a lot as a pair and it shows in the way they interact with each other.

For the past several years, they’ve worked as marine mammal observers on the North Slope during the spring and summer to help supplement their income so they can afford the cost of living in California for the rest of the year.

“It took a lot of communication. It took a lot of teamwork,” said Jenny. “We were together alone and we were the only marine mammal observers together on that boat. So, it took a lot of initiative to take control to make sure we’re protecting not just our life- style with subsistence but our community. That played a big role with communication for us. So, I guess, learning how to commu- nicate together alone has helped us in our own business—learning how to grow together and how to get somewhere farther out there in tough situations.”

They didn’t start with that kind of work, either.

“We first started in 2010 working on the Slope and we’ve been going back every sin- gle year. We started off at the very bottom of the totem pole as stick pickers, picking up trash,” said Jamie.

“But they changed the name to tundra technicians,” Jenny added, laughing.

It showed them the importance of working their way up and taking situations in stride.

Another component of their story that’s shaped the way they see themselves today is their childhood, when they first learned to negotiate living with a multi-faceted identity.

When they moved to Palmer from Barrow as kids, they found themselves having to redefine who they were.

“All of us siblings were in an identity cri- sis,” said Jamie. “We had to learn exactly who we were and what our purpose was.”

“Because they’re two different places,” added Jenny. “The culture’s different and the language is different. So, what we did was when we grew up in Barrow and then moved to the Valley, we were able to experi- ence both sides of our ethnicity — which is half white and half Eskimo. We experienced both of them before we were adults, which helped us to not just take pride in either one, but to take pride in both and to also figure out who you are and what you like to do outside of your ethnicity. We’re very proud to have a culture to represent, but we’re proud of other things, too.”

Now that they’re outside of Alaska, they feel they have more opportunities to pursue music on a larger scale. Being Alaskan has helped, they said.

“They’re all very shocked to meet an Eskimo,” said Jamie, but it helps break the ice when they first meet others in the enter- tainment industry.

They’ve dealt with the typical questions, like: “Do you all live in igloos?” They use it as a chance to talk about what the state has to offer and they’ve encouraged their new community members to go and visit.

“That’s what I love about being from Alaska is that you have a different mindset, a different upbringing, a different environ- ment,” said Jenny. “It’s totally different and it changes the game for us, for the people we meet.”

Though they’ve adapted well to their newfound environment, they still carry the marks of being Alaska-grown. They wear matching red sweatshirts and black sweat- pants, credit their aunties — the Patkotak sisters — as inspirations, and keep care packages of maktak and quaq in the freezer for the times when they need a taste of home.

While they are just beginning their careers in music, they have other goals on the horizon, as well. They hope to return to Alaska regularly as motivational speakers, sharing their story with youth in the state in the hopes of inspiring them to pursue their own dreams, as difficult as it may seem.

“A lot of the reason young people, espe- cially Alaska Natives, choose drugs or alco- hol to cope with their life struggles is because of not having outlets and just being bored,” said Jamie. “Music for us is a way to reach them. It’s a tool to make things fun for them.”

The pair hopes to release their very first album this spring, with more to come down the line. It’s been a tough journey with rough patches and setbacks along the way.

“Fear is such a mental thing,” said Jamie. “You’ve got to find something bigger than yourself. You’ve really got to want change the world to push past your insecurities.”

Their enterprise bears a name that reminds them to keep pushing every day. It’s called Akpak Studios — Inupiaq for overcoming personal struggles, said Jenny.

“Every day we have to decide to not quit and to keep going no matter what. Every day you keep trying is another day of suc- cess. When you speak hope into your life, then you realize one day, I made it. It’s about enjoying the journey and realizing that every day that you make a decision to get your closer to your dreams — that’s success.”

You can find out more about the Christensen sisters and hear samples of their music at jamieandjennymusic.com.

Shady Grove Oliver can be reached at sgoarctic@gmail.com. - Arctic Sounder


"Inupiaq Sisters Bring Alaska to L.A."

If there’s one thing Jamie and Jenny Christensen understand, it’s the beauty and difficulty of living in different worlds.

They are Inupiaq sisters who were born in Barrow, raised in Palmer and now live in Los Angeles, where they are pursuing their dream of becoming musicians.

Their studio is in Carson, California, on the border with Compton. It’s spacious by LA standards, with a sound booth, dance room and workspace. It’s decorated with colorful Christmas lights and inspirational messages on the walls.

Jamie is the older of the two. At 25, she comes across as confident, though she doesn’t shy away from talking about the challenges of getting where she is today.

“Every day of my life I have a voice inside of my head telling me I’m daydreaming and that I’m crazy and that it’s not possible and I should give up,” she said. “And every single day of my life, I have to tell that voice ‘no’ and I have to fight for this. This is a tough industry and nothing is given to you.”

She graduated from Colony High School in 2008 and made the tough decision to move to Atlanta for college.

Jenny, 23, recalled one of the last conversations they had before Jamie left.

“I remember when I was 15 and Jamie was a senior, getting ready to graduate. We were going for a drive and I remember her telling me: ‘This is my time to move out. I’m seriously going to chase music.’ I thought, ‘You’re not going to go -- you’re not going to leave me.’ We were at a stoplight and she looked at me and said, ‘No, I’m going to do it.’”

For Jamie, Atlanta was a city of dreams and possibilities. It was ruling the radio at the time and was a place where underground artists and musicians had a chance to get noticed.

After Jenny graduated high school, she joined her sister there.

“That was our true introduction into studios and the industry and how it works and we had a lot of fun in the process and learned a lot,” she said.

But after a while, they decided to make the move to LA.

“LA was the place for it to get bigger, to see more, and to get a different perspective on it because Atlanta was so hip-hop, which we enjoy listening to but it wasn’t what we were aiming for,” said Jenny.

When they first put down roots on the West Coast, they tried renting space downtown. They struggled financially with high rental fees for studio space and apartments. They figured they’d have better luck if they looked in the greater metro area instead, and found their current space in Carson.

It looks more like home, too, said Jenny, who describes it as “like Anchorage, but with palm trees.”

The sisters have wanted to pursue a career in music since they were young. They recalled each independently writing in their elementary school yearbooks that they had dreams of becoming musicians. They were surprised to find out, when the yearbooks were published, that they had the same life goals.

Getting started on that path was a different story. It hasn’t always been easy.


“It seemed so far-fetched for us,” said Jamie. “We faced a little bit of rejection early on and that was so scary for us so we lived looking for other people’s approval.”

“I guess what the fear was, was getting out of our comfort zone, and doing something bigger, and moving out, and just challenging ourselves to get out and make a career of it,” said Jenny, finishing her sister’s sentence.

While they have distinct personalities, they do that a lot -- talking as a single voice, completing one another’s thoughts, referring to themselves as “I” and “we” interchangeably.

They’ve done a lot as a pair and it shows in the way they interact with each other.

For the past several years, they’ve worked as marine mammal observers on the North Slope during the spring and summer to help supplement their income so they can afford the cost of living in California for the rest of the year.

“It took a lot of communication. It took a lot of teamwork,” said Jenny. “We were together alone and we were the only marine mammal observers together on that boat. So, it took a lot of initiative to take control to make sure we’re protecting not just our lifestyle with subsistence but our community. That played a big role with communication for us. So, I guess, learning how to communicate together alone has helped us in our own business -- learning how to grow together and how to get somewhere farther out there in tough situations.”

They didn’t start with that kind of work, either.

“We first started in 2010 working on the Slope and we’ve been going back every single year. We started off at the very bottom of the totem pole as stick pickers, picking up trash,” said Jamie.

“But they changed the name to tundra technicians,” Jenny added, laughing.

It showed them the importance of working their way up and taking situations in stride.

Another component of their story that’s shaped the way they see themselves today is their childhood, when they first learned to negotiate living with a multifaceted identity.

When they moved to Palmer from Barrow as kids, they found themselves having to redefine who they were.

“All of us siblings were in an identity crisis,” said Jamie. “We had to learn exactly who we were and what our purpose was.”

“Because they’re two different places,” added Jenny. “The culture’s different and the language is different. So, what we did was when we grew up in Barrow and then moved to the Valley, we were able to experience both sides of our ethnicity -- which is half white and half Eskimo. We experienced both of them before we were adults, which helped us to not just take pride in either one, but to take pride in both and to also figure out who you are and what you like to do outside of your ethnicity. We’re very proud to have a culture to represent, but we’re proud of other things, too.”

Now that they’re Outside, they feel they have more opportunities to pursue music on a larger scale. Being Alaskan has helped, they said.

“They’re all very shocked to meet an Eskimo,” said Jamie, but it helps break the ice when they first meet others in the entertainment industry.


They’ve dealt with the typical questions, like: “Do you all live in igloos?” They use it as a chance to talk about what the state has to offer and they’ve encouraged their new community members to go and visit.

“That’s what I love about being from Alaska is that you have a different mindset, a different upbringing, a different environment,” said Jenny. “It’s totally different and it changes the game for us, for the people we meet.”

Though they’ve adapted well to their newfound environment, they still carry the marks of being Alaska-grown. They wear matching red sweatshirts and black sweatpants, credit their aunties -- the Patkotak sisters -- as inspirations, and keep care packages of muktuk and quaq in the freezer for times when they need a taste of home.

While they are just beginning their careers in music, they have other goals on the horizon, as well. They hope to return to Alaska regularly as motivational speakers, sharing their story with youth in the state in the hopes of inspiring them to pursue their own dreams, as difficult as it may seem.

“A lot of the reason young people, especially Alaska Natives, choose drugs or alcohol to cope with their life struggles is because of not having outlets and just being bored,” said Jamie. “Music for us is a way to reach them. It’s a tool to make things fun for them.”

The pair hopes to release their first album this spring, with more to come down the line. It’s been a tough journey with rough patches and setbacks along the way.

“Fear is such a mental thing,” said Jamie. “You’ve got to find something bigger than yourself. You’ve really got to want change the world to push past your insecurities.”

Their enterprise bears a name that reminds them to keep pushing every day. It’s called Akpak Studios -- Inupiaq for overcoming personal struggles, said Jenny.

“Every day we have to decide to not quit and to keep going no matter what. Every day you keep trying is another day of success. When you speak hope into your life, then you realize one day, I made it. It’s about enjoying the journey and realizing that every day that you make a decision to get your closer to your dreams -- that’s success.”

You can find out more about the Christensen sisters and hear samples of their music at jamieandjennymusic.com. - Alaska Dispatch News


"Inupiaq Sisters Bring Alaska to L.A."

Their studio is in Carson, California, on the border with Compton... - Anchorage Suntimes


"Inupiaq Sisters Bring Alaska to L.A."

Born in Barrow, raised in Palmer, Jamie and Jenny Christensen now live in Los Angeles, where they are pursuing their dream of becoming musicians. January 12, 2016 - Juneau Aggregator


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Jamie and Jenny are an Alaskan Pop music duo consisting of two sisters Jamie Christensen (January 7, 1990) and Jennifer Christensen (May 30, 1992). Both sisters are American singers, songwriters and models. In 2014 they opened a commercial recording studio in Los Angeles, California to record their debut EP entitled Here We Come, which is expected to release in the fall of 2015. Jamie and Jenny were born and raised in Alaska and are Inupiat Eskimos.

Band Members