J'ai spent her growing years in Kansas City influenced by the city's rich heritage of swinging jazz and blues. Coming from a family whose uncle, Vernon Gower played with Billie Holiday and her father who played guitar supporting national acts that swept through town, it was natural for her to exposed musically from classical to country. By five, she was writing songs and by eight, she sneaked into clubs to watch her father perform.
In 1988 she moved to Los Angeles to concentrate on a singing and songwriting career. Among those whom she learned from was pianist/arranger Phil Moore, guitarist Phil Upchurch, and Teddy Edwards. The washboard as a musical instrument is normally relegated to the zydeco and Cajun musical arms, but for J'ai, she makes it a "jazzboard." In 1997, she released The Art of Blue reflecting her former hometown's dual musicalities. Quickly, her album was praised by the local press, and its publicity garnered her to later that year to tour in Asia for two months, where she's been well received.