Ask people how they started playing music and you generally get a fairly mundane response about how they were inspired by such and such an artist or how mom or dad played music around the house growing up.
And then there's Jasmine Tate, whose story has a touch of divine inspiration.
"I found myself in this crazy series of situations where people were having dreams about me being a singer/performer and preachers would call me out in churches or different events to tell me I was going to sing and be a performer," she says. "It happened so many times that one day I decided I was going to say 'Yes' to this seemingly unending call to do music."
This was in the spring of 2010, while she was still back home in Columbus, Ohio. There was no room in her life for music to become her primary pursuit right away, though, as she was about to take a full basketball scholarship at Robert Morris University, where she played all four years.
Nonetheless, she got right to work on that calling.
"I loved music, but I hated my voice and didn't think I could sing at all," she says. "It's pretty crazy, too, but I swear to you, God taught me how to play. It's the only way I know how to explain it. One day I was in my room and I was just finding chords."
She started with an e-minor she learned on YouTube and went from there. "I started writing my own songs that day because I already wrote poetry. So I have some funky chords in the first songs I ever wrote and I still don't know all of the chords I play."
At RMU, she broke up her basketball/class routine by playing open mic nights around 2011, but music was still on the back burner. "It was really important to be fully committed to my team while I was on the team. So it felt like a sacrifice at the moment for sure, but it was worth it," she says.
Based on her debut EP, which peaked at No. 9 on the iTunes charts in the singer-songwriter genre, it's no surprise where the soulful Tate found her musical inspiration.
"I loved Lauryn Hill probably more than any other artist. I wouldn't say I ever tried to emulate her, but a lot of her style/vibe has definitely come out in my songwriting."
From the Fugees, Tracy Chapman and gospel came the inspiration to fill her music with heart, substance and powerful messages.
"As a child, I woke up to my mom blaring gospel music through the house on Sunday mornings," she says. "I remember thinking how awesome it was that people wrote music that gave people a desire to fight/press on in life. So, once I started writing, I decided I wanted to write music that would inspire people and give them some fuel to fight with when things get tough."
One of her most potent songs is "Believer," a dark tale of a woman looking back on a sexual assault as a child and desperately looking to God for answers.
" 'Believer' is actually based off of a storyline that I had a vision of one time while I was playing those chords," she says. "It was like a mini movie that played in my head. It's a super heavy song, but I love playing it publicly because it's super raw and it's usually someone's story. Each and every time I play it, someone comes up to me afterwards to let me know that it really brought healing to them concerning the situation."
Another standout is "Just Wanna Know," a hip-hop/rock track about an absent father and a kid making her own way, complete with sly shout-outs to Marvin Gaye and Kanye West: "Hey Marvin, what's going on?/The American Dream, it isn't what it seems/The prettiest people/Do the ugliest things (Hey Kanye)/Family in shreds/Working 9 to 5 just to get the latest threads."
"It's largely based off of my story," she says. "However, I wanted to write a song that explored something that I believe everyone goes through."
After graduating last May, she chose to stay here rather than return to Columbus, saying, "I definitely fell in love with this city, but I also recognized the amazing opportunities that are here as an artist. There's just a tremendous arts community here."
The music community, here and nationally, has embraced her in a big way, funding a $20,000 Kickstarter campaign that allowed her to go bigger with her new full-length debut album, "Life and Love."
The stripped-down solo acoustic sound from her EP is gone in favor of indie-rock treatments that give her songs shimmering atmosphere and a jolt of electricity. It was recorded at Iron Wing Studios in Covington, Ky., with Brandon Weaver, a producer she met through a friend after her Pittsburgh studio session fell through.
"I wanted to go with a full sound because it's always been part of the goal and vision for me," she says. "I often write songs and hear the other instruments, but like most artists, I wanted to finally get out some of what I've been hearing."
"Working with Jasmine was a complete joy and adventure," the producer says. "I would forewarn the musicians that came in to play on the record, the ones that didn't know her, saying, 'Jasmine is a real free spirit. This isn't going to be like any other record you've worked on. Just go with it.' She writes and sings with a passion and conviction that is truly rare, and her vision was never in short supply."
She releases "Life and Love" the record on May 1, but there will be a release party Friday at 720 Music, Clothing and Cafe in Lawrenceville with a chance to hear the album and buy a hard copy. It's the kickoff of a 10-date national tour with singer-guitarist Joel Ansett.
"We also have a percussionist that will play with us," she says. "There will also be a local artist that will be doing live painting at every show during the performances and a local dancer who will join us on most of the tour. She will also perform at most of the venues as we perform. So, it will be a multifaceted expression of creativity at every show. We are completely flipping the typical tour model."