Have you had a chance to work on anything while you’re on the road? Yeah, I’ve been writing lyrics and doing melodies on my phone but I kind of just lost all that yesterday [when my iPhone crashed], so I’m starting over today.
Is inspiration for the songs coming from the tour? Sort of. I don’t usually run dry with inspiration, I always have something to write about. But I’m sure it might be influencing it in a way I’m subconsciously unaware of. I’m having a lot of fun and getting new experiences, and I’m sure it’s sneaking its way into the music.
What’s your process typically like? It sounds like you use your iPhone quite a bit. It’s because that’s the thing that’s always in my pocket. But as far as a writing process, I have no process whatsoever; it’s different every single time. I don’t really like to say, "Okay, I’m gonna write a song now so I have to sit down and open up Pro Tools or whatever and try to formulate a song." It’s always if I hear something in my head or I get an idea in my head, it’s always completely random. I did this song a couple months ago that I was demoing out. I was sleeping in my bed and I thought of a synth that I could use and the way that I could use it in which I’ve never heard before. The next morning I got up and and basically made it from scratch, and that started a whole song which I then completed and it turned out really good. Other times I just get a lyric or an idea, or maybe I happen to be making up something on a guitar. So it’s really different every time for me.
I’m kind of obsessed with multiple different writing styles—I like country music, I like hip-hop, classical, jazz, blues. You might catch me listening to Lana Del Rey one day and Luciano Pavarotti the next day.
Did you have a specific idea when you were putting together the Dark Star project or did it just sort of happen organically? I think it was entirely organic because there were no stipulations or even really a direction for that project. The project only really happened because there was no direction in the beginning. I’m kind of obsessed with multiple different writing styles—I like country music, I like hip-hop, classical, jazz, blues. You might catch me listening to Lana Del Rey one day and Luciano Pavarotti the next day. And I was recording and writing in all those different styles too. I happen to have a lengthy catalog just because I’ve been writing and recording demos for so many years and then it was kind of like one day we realized, "Hey, this batch of songs has this continuity and kind of this truism to who I am as a person." And that’s kind of what developed the project.
Rather than releasing songs and building a buzz that way, what spurred you to make this into a full project? It was the songs that I felt represent me the most. Whether they were new songs or not, they reflected how I feel inside. Also, I’m very picky with the music I put out, just like most artists I’m sure are. So it took a little encouragement from managers to be like, ‘Hey, you should put this out even though you recorded it in your bedroom. Cause it’s great and you need to recognize that.’ So it did take a little bit of encouragement, especially just on the fact that I did mix and record it all at home so there’s a slight insecurity because you’re not sure if the quality is up to par or not. But I’m very happy with the songwriting and I really feel that it represents me as a person and as an artist.
I grew up in Seattle so of course there was the grunge like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains and all that stuff that I grew up with. But my parents are pretty avid music fans and they showed me a lot of stuff. They were the first people to introduce me to Death Cab, Modest Mouse, Coldplay and even to some of the classical music like Luciano Pavarotti. With that I can say that Parachutes by Coldplay probably is one of my all-time favorite albums.
It seems like you have a pretty varied palette of musical influences. What was your musical upbringing? Well, I grew up in Seattle so of course there was the grunge like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains and all that stuff that I grew up with. But my parents are pretty avid music fans and they showed me a lot of stuff. They were the first people to introduce me to Death Cab, Modest Mouse, Coldplay and even to some of the classical music like Luciano Pavarotti. I really latched on to a couple different albums, and I’m always going for the music that makes you feel emotional. With that I can say that Parachutes by Coldplay probably is one of my all-time favorite albums. And even Songs About Jane by Maroon 5, that was a big record for me. I have a little bit of a hip-hop influence too. When I was younger, my brothers would listen to Eminem and Tupac and all that stuff, so that was kind of random.
You do a lot of your production yourself, right? Pretty much the entire mixtape and/or EP was 100% me. The only thing I did was I just took the EP songs and I went in the studio and we added effects and stuff like that.
The production definitely sounds like it has a more modern R&B and a little bit of that electronic edge to it. Does that sort of come from your head and saying— I think that came from me hearing Justin Timberlake and Maroon 5 and wanting to make that instrumental feel without the songs being that feel. I guess that might sound a bit disconnected, but there’s a certain vibe—I guess that would be the appropriate word—that artists like that have. And I didn’t want to go with the rock band side of it and I didn’t necessarily want to go full-blown hip-hop or R&B. I just kind of wanted to take an indie route with it. I’m still an avid guitar player and I wanted to incorporate that as much as I could.
Do you think having access to studios, new equipment, and sort of a whole new world is gonna change your approach? Or are you still gonna go about writing songs the same way and just take advantage of what you have now? I think that my approach will never change, but the music will. I’m always gonna approach with it the same, "What makes me feel good, what music am I connecting with, and what lyrics do I feel like saying?" And then I’ll just use those tools at my disposal the same way I’ve used other tools. For me, that’s a good question because with this last EP/mixtape, my tools were actually fairly limited. I was using Logic Pro and mostly stock sounds, I didn’t have a lot of great hardware, just a studio in my bedroom. I really didn’t have a lot of great stuff, I didn’t have any sound treatment in my room really at all; it was just barebones. And I think that helped to dictate the way the mixtape ended up sounding. Music is a therapy for me and it’s a way for me to reach out to other people so I wanna keep it there instead of being like, "Oh, I got a new drum kit today, I’m gonna write a song purely based off that." Which is fine, but I think my approach is just gonna stay the same.
How did you decide on “What Is Love” as your big cover moment? Honestly, I like taking cheesy songs and making them sound like really heartfelt. And what was funny is one of my managers—cause I have two managers basically—was over my house and we were talking about cover ideas. And he said, "Yeah, we need to do a cover" and he walked away to go to the bathroom and then he came back and I had been fiddling around with the chords to the chorus of “What Is Love” in that like two or three minutes. So I was doing the chorus in the way that it’s recorded on Soundcloud, the way you’ve heard it. And we were both just like, "That actually sounds really cool." So I finished that and did the verses from there. The other thing is that no one ever really deals with lyrics in their original context, the original song, but I feel like now that there’s kind of an emotional backbone with the music, people are actually listening to the lyrics of the song that was written a while ago and being like, "Oh, okay maybe that’s what that means’ or maybe ‘That’s something totally different than what I originally thought."
Yeah, I hope that’s not your last contribution to society, but maybe your great contribution will be bringing Haddaway into the proper light. That’s hilarious. We’ve been playing it live and it’s really fun to get everybody singing that chorus. It’s funny because I was watching an interview with Mumford and Sons, and I think it was the singer who said one of my favorite quotes right now. He said, “People go out to these concerts because they need an excuse to scream at the top of their lungs. You can’t be sitting at work and do that.” And so it’s awesome to take a song like that, that everybody knows and see everyone screaming and shouting the lyrics to that chorus like "What is love, what is love" over and over again. It’s a really cool experience.
Stream and download Jaymes' debut Dark Star project below.