Read the interview below.
This past Thursday I got the chance to sit with De’Wayne Jackson, the rapper and singer/songwriter who’s working to solidify his spot in the music game. Taking his career into his own hands, Jackson left his small town and moved to LA, and it all went up from there. The talented young artist has had the opportunity to open up for artists like Pusha T and more. He has been hard at work, releasing his debut EP Don’t Be Afraid this year. Be sure to listen to it below. Jackson has been praised by various media outlets, including Interview Magazine, The Fader & more. His EP is filled with dreamy R&B and heavy rock influences, creating a soulful sound. I got the chance to hear first hand about his creative process and goals for the future. Read the interview below:
So, I did a little research on you, and you had no music background a few years ago. What sparked your interest in music, what got you started?
I’ve been doing music since I was 14. I just turned 22 on June 27th. I’ve been doing it for about 8 years now and I wanna say when I found music I felt connected emotionally. I was a freshman in high school, it came at a perfect time for me and I felt like it was what I loved. The words and the emotions that it gave me, I just knew it was right and ran off with it.
Who would you say were your biggest influences when you started?
I always listened to a lot of J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar. I’m from a southern family, so a lot of gospel music and soul. Just a lot of hip hop, Outkast. A lot of hip hop.
Aside from rapping and singing, do you play any instruments?
I have been learning guitar for the past year. Hopefully on the new project I’ll be playing some guitar.
Are your projects usually you working all ends of the creation process hands on, or do you usually work with other people?
It’s just me and the producer. Me and one other guy for now. I think as the years go by I’ll probably add other people in, but for now it’s just very hands on. I’m writing everything, making sure I have my hands-on deck, ensuring the creativity and emotion is real and by me only.
When it comes to actually picking a beat and chopping it up, picking a sample, do you play a part in that or do you trust the producer?
I trust the producer with that but we definitely try not to mess with too many samples. I’m very picky with beats, they have to make me feel something. Even if a beat is good. I’ll like it, but I need to be able to write to it. For me, it’s all about connection with the music, connection with the beat. It’ll just flow out if its right.
Outside of the genre of hip hop – I know you have a lot of soul influences- who would you say is your biggest influence?
Hip Hop was my first introduction to music. Once I got to LA I was introduced to a whole other side of music. My biggest influence ever is Radiohead. We literally walked in here and they were playing Radiohead and I’m like, this is gonna be a good day.
What made you decide to move to LA once you graduated high school?
I’ve been trying to get out of Spring forever. It’s not that I couldn’t blossom in Houston but I knew that in order to really make something happen for myself I had to leave. So I went to LA. I didn’t have anything but I knew if I worked hard enough it was gonna give me an opportunity, and now I’m here talking to you.
Once you got yourself situated in LA and you knew this was what you wanted to do the rest of your life, what was that first move you made to ensure your success?
I was in LA for 4 months, I didn’t have anything. I was just working. I met these guys at a party and they gave me a chance to go to the studio with them and build. I built for like a year. When I met them, I was like ‘okay, this is my first chance.’ They were the first people I met, it was like a blessing. I could’ve went there and met this person, that person. I met them a few months down the road and they gave me a chance to create. It was all I ever needed and ever wanted. Once we got to the studio I was ready. I had all these stories and emotions to tell.
When you’re in the studio, working on music, what would you say is your biggest influence?
I come from a family of 8 brothers and sisters, I have a big family so just that. I wanna be really great one day and I don’t feel like I’m even close to that. I inspire to be really awesome at making music and I inspire to wanna change my family’s lives. When I’m sitting there writing, I’m doing it for my mom and dad, sisters and brothers. Going back home and doing a show and seeing them there, I’m just like ‘this is why.’
Would you say your family – even though you moved away and you’re not with them – is still a big part of your life?
Oh yeah. They about to call me in like 10 minutes. Somebody in my family is about to call me. They’re always checking, always calling and praying. All that good stuff.
So when it comes time to work in the studio, do you have a specific routine? Are you very nit picky with how you do your work?
I’m not nit picky but I do like to start early. I like to be early, be in the studio, stretch, write in my journal. Starting early, play some sad music, get in the mood.
Sad music? What kind of sad music?
Any emo stuff from the 90s. rock stuff, anything to get me in the mood.
How was opening up for Pusha T?
I was young. It was a big opportunity for me. It was really great. At the time I was working like a cooking job, people were coming to me to buy tix for the pusha t show. It was a big show for me at the time, there were about 450 people there.
What’s something you want to do before the year is over that’s just as big?
Coming to new York is honestly really big for me. I feel really good about it. I just wanna play more festivals. I think I have some coming up in the fall. I wanna play like 5 more, I think I have one coming up in September.
Who’s one artist you want to work with – rapper, singer producer – wether its for your personal work or a collaboration on their project?
I don’t wanna work with too many people but if I had a chance, I’d wanna work with Frank Ocean. Maybe get Thom Yorke to do some vocals. But this is like 10 years down the road.
Why not earlier?
I gotta get it together. I gotta get really good. It’s a dream, we’re gonna do it though.
When it comes to writing, how many songs do you write before you say, ‘ok this is the one.’
I gotta write a couple of songs in order to get a good one. I’m setting the bar really high. I’m not letting anyone hear something I wouldn’t be proud of.
What would you you say is one city you want to hit and have a big show in?
London. I really wanna do something there. For sure.
What is one piece of advice you would give to yourself at 14?
I would tell him to stay focused and not get caught up everything that was going up around you. I grew up in a city where you only do certain things. So yeah, just stay focused and stay dreaming.