Spiritual, philosophical and soulful. Three apt adjectives to describe singer/songwriter/producer and all-round creative lifeforce Jesse Boykins III. The AU review asks the Chi-town soul man some questions before he plays the OutsideIn festival in Sydney, November 5th, as well as a few other Australian dates.
How would you describe the music you make?
World Soul. I am influenced by many different cultures and periods in history as well as our current history. I write love songs, that express every dimension of love, because to me Life is Love. And it is SOUL music because it is honest and from my heart. Waves I feel everyone can channel into, no matter the age or where you're from.
What was it about music that first drew your effort and attention?
It felt good. I've always been an observer and when I was younger I would watch how people interact with music when a song they loved came on, or how it could change the mood or tone of an entire environment, I wanted to hone that power and be able to connect people through what I created.
How has a traditional musical education influenced your music? Would your music be vastly different otherwise?
I feel knowledge in anything you are passionate about is important. My family has always taught me to do my research and question things I want to know more about. It was natural for me to want to dig into art and music history to see its affects on the world. Also very inspiring. I do believe the spiritual is enhanced when more wisdom on what it is you are focused on is in the equation. I feel my music wouldn't be too different in certain lights, but it might have been more 'safe', if I didn't continue to educate myself on all there is to know about music. I still have a lot to learn.
You got a lot of early recognition with your first couple of albums. Did you feel pressure to perform on the next? How did this affect your music-making?
I always approach albums as paintings or instalments, documenting my artistic timeline. You grow and evolve naturally as an artist, so I document my stages of life with my music. I do feel slight pressure but it's the same pressure I feel when I release anything I care about which is everything. I like to call myself a conceptualizer, so my albums are super conceptual, something I feel great artists that I listen to are good at.
Do you produce any of the songs on your albums, or do you see yourself only as a singer/songwriter?
No, I am a producer as well. I produced my first two albums alongside band-mates. I am very involved in the production of the music I create. I've self-engineered almost everything I've ever released. I learn a lot about myself in my production, the detailing tells all.
You’ve collaborated with quite a lot of producers and musicians. What is your philosophy on collaboration?
I believe collaborating is important in developing your vibes when it comes to creating. It's the process of channelling energy from whom ever you are working with and building something together that could not have been achieved alone. Most timeless music has a lot of minds involved.
What do you look for in potential collaborators?
Passion, honesty, vulnerability; someone who isn't afraid to experiment and someone who has a wide range of musical taste.
What inspires creativity in you? Is music your only creative outlet?
I feel we all are here to create in some sense of the word. I channel mine through a bunch of different outlets. I'm just acknowledged more from the music because it first expressed my subconscious. It's my first LOVE. I usually gain inspiration like everyone else through experience, living life to its boundaries and learning life lessons, then transforming it into melodic stories. I also shoot and direct videos from time to time, and I've been shooting & directing a documentary for about a year now. Film also stirs my curiosity. Style is also a way I express my creativity.
You're coming to Australia for the OutsideIn festival in Sydney, among other dates. What can we expect from your live show?
A LOT OF ENERGY. Good Vibrations, Connection with the Audience. I always treat each performance like its being televised to the world, no matter what effort is given. I'm a hard worker and it shows when I am on stage. We are definitely going to be groovin'.
What will the set list look like? Mostly off your collaboration album Zulu Guru, with MeLo X?
Since this is my first time to Australia the set will be more of a timeline performance, in a sense. Songs from other projects that I've put out will be on the set list as well as a couple of tunes with MeLo-X from Zulu Guru. Expect variety.
After the tour, what are your plans? Any future releases or collabs in the near future?
ZULU GURU is the current plan. It actually drops November 5th while we are in Australia so the show will be extra special. I'm also finishing up my third official solo release, "Love Apparatus", all co-produced by Machinedrum. That'll be set to be released next year, along with the documentary I mentioned earlier. I also intend on continuing my travels around the globe and experiencing every aspect of life I can, to share through my art forms.
Thanks for your time and your words.