Jesslyn and Marina: an extraordinary partnership


Jesslyn Downey (Left) and Marina McMullen (Right) are a songwriting duo, artist and manager team, sorority sisters and best friends who are working to release music.

Brooke J. Freundschuh, A&E Editor

Jesslyn Downey and Marina McMullen came to the University of North Alabama in the fall of 2019 with different visions of what they wanted to do in life, but a shared love of music ultimately brought them together and changed their lives for the better. 

McMullen and Downey originally met at the beginning of freshman year, because they were neighbors in Olive. Both girls joined the sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta and quickly became friends by participating in a homecoming skit together. 

“I’m so thankful for that, because I almost didn’t do it,” said McMullen.

Downey came to UNA majoring in Public Relations, but her heart has always been in music.  

She has written songs for several years and upon coming to UNA performed at both an open-mic night at the Wesleyan Foundation and at the intermission for an event hosted by Alpha Gamma Delta.

She has had big aspirations for performing since high school. She auditioned for “American Idol” at age 16, but was rejected due to concerns for her finishing her education. She auditioned again her freshman year, as well as auditioning for “The Voice.” 

McMullen accompanied her on her audition for “The Voice.” It was here that the idea for their partnership was born. She reflects that over this trip, she realized how passionate she was about helping Downey jumpstart her career. With a PowerPoint presentation, she proposed the idea of being Downey’s manager. 

“From the get go it’s always been ‘can I be your manager until you get an actual manager?’” McMullen said. 

McMullen shares that her love for music is deeply rooted in her family history. Her grandfather was in a rock band in Michigan in his younger years, and her uncle and father are also interested in music. 

“I’ve never heard an actual person sing as well as Jesslyn, which is why I said ‘she needs to be famous, and I want to be a part of it,’” McMullen said. “I’ve always had so much faith in her and who she is. She has been one of the nicest and most opening and welcoming people I’ve ever met. I think she would be really good in the entertainment world. I think she should be famous.”

And so, the pair set off on their journey to boost Downey into the music world. They were, of course, interrupted by the outbreak of Covid-19, but the pandemic did not stop their dream from flourishing. 

By the end of their freshman year, McMullen and Downey had both decided to change their majors to Entertainment Industry. The pair came to the realization that they were both trying to find a way to apply their current majors to the music and entertainment field, so they made the direct switch. 

“I feel much more fulfilled in Entertainment Industry,” Downey said. “I feel like it’s what I am supposed to be doing.”

“The reason I came to college was to figure out what I wanted to do,” McMullen said.  “I’ve always wanted to do something fun, and the thing I love more than anything is music. Making that into my future career was very appealing to me.” 

At the end of June 2020, Downey moved in with McMullen in her hometown of Spanish Fort, Ala. Together they began writing songs. They often went to the Fairhope Pier to write and gain inspiration. 

“We wrote at least 30 songs,” Downey tells, and reveals that they wrote a full-length album in just two weeks.

Their co-writing talents are part of what make both their working and personal relationships so authentic. McMullen has helped to write about 75% of the songs Downey has written. They have crafted a sound that is a blend of pop and rock and roll music. Downey states that they take inspiration from Harry Styles, Fleetwood Mac and Kings of Leon. 

“I write a lot better with her,” said Downey. 

When they moved back to Florence for their sophomore year, they had to adjust to the new, different ways that school was taking place. Downey is a residential advisor in Rivers Hall and had to learn to manage her floor with quarantine safety regulations. However, when she was quarantined a total of four times during the fall semester, she and McMullens wrote many more songs and began to fine tune their craft of writing together. 

It was around this same time that Downey began posting videos to TikTok. She saw instant success on TikTok with her first few videos, one of her singing Borns’ “Electric Love,” and two others of her talking about herself. She currently has 91,200  followers. “I really started the music path when that happened.”

After a period of writer’s block, in February the duo wrote a track that Downey is determined to make her first single. The track is titled “My Fault,” a name chosen by Downey’s TikTok following. She plans on releasing it soon. 

For McMullen, songwriting seems to be the place she has always sought to share her own creativity. 

“I’m very creative,” said McMullen. “I never really knew I could songwrite. Before songwriting, I was very art focussed. Then I got into fiction writing. I want to put out a book. I think I’ve always known I was going to do something more creative.” 

Both women are working to collect music equipment so they can begin recording demos of Downey’s music as well as networking with professionals in production.  

No matter where they end up in the Entertainment Industry, it is clear that they will be there to help one another succeed.

“Marina is the backbone,” Downey said. “She knows I’m gonna be a star one day, and that’s my favorite thing about her.”