Photos by Melanie L. Brown for Steed Media Service
Rolling out sat down with the Chicago artist known as Jack Red to discuss his past, present and his future. He has been in the entertainment industry behind the scenes and is now stepping out front.
What is your real name?
Why the name Jack Red?
Jack Red because I’m a producer, writer, engineer. I can like do it all. I’m a jack-of-all-trades and it just kind of suited what I wanted to represent.
When did you decide to become a singer?
My whole family sings. I came out of the womb singing, my brother did too. It’s really just all we know. Music is the biggest part of me, the biggest part of my family. My father is an entertainer, my uncle is an entertainer, it’s just how we were raised.
Which artists have influenced you?
Definitely Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, even though he’s not a supreme vocalist, it’s his art of the vibe that has definitely influenced me in a lot of my music.
Did Marley inspire your style as well? I see you have locks and that whole earthy feel.
It was weird how my locks grew. I didn’t make a conscious decision to grow locks. It was like “you know what, I don’t want to cut my hair anymore.” It kind of transformed into something that then started to transform me and who I was, how I thought and it developed my character. I realized what it was after it already began. You meet people with dreads and they can tell you about the ugly phase. The hair is not quite long enough to be styled per se, but it’s not short enough to be tamed.
What prepared you to become a singer?
There’s definitely preparation. At age 7 my parents put my brother and I in the Mayor’s School of Music Conservatory in Chicago. I studied voice, I studied percussion, I studied piano. I had some trombone joints, I had the cello classics. It just really shaped me as a vocalist and an overall appreciator of music in all genres. We had to do classical, jazz, blues and gospel. You get exposed to so many different things you understand what gives those things their identity and from there you kind of pick your passion.
What kind of singer are you? What’s your genre?
You know if I could call it anything it’s like island soul, hip-hop island soul. I respect R&B, but there [are] certain stigmas and stereotypes that come with it that I don’t generally favor.
What do you talk about in your music?
I talk about a lot of personal experiences. I talk a lot about family. I’m really really big on family. You’ll find a quote or a comparison or story you know about my family in almost every one of my songs in some sort of way.
Where’s the hip-hop?
The hip-hop is the vibe, the drive and the energy of the beats and things like that.
Do you rap?
Not really, I have moments where I have a certain cadence that could be close to rap, but I’m a singer. I’m not a rapper.
What were you doing before you decided you were going to be a singer? You mentioned you were an engineer.
Before I became a full-fledged artist I was a recording engineer, worked at Soundscape Studios. Actually, I still do, that’s the home of the hits. Through that I was able to work with tons of different artists, building with artists, seeing them rise and noticing what the change was, what the development was, which was an interesting process for me. People like Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, even producers like Young Chop and a bunch of other names I was able to work with. I’ve probably worked with a good like 75 percent of artists in Chicago at some point or another. Doing that for a while has really inspired me to step out.
What are some of your accomplishments as a singer as well as a producer?
I’ve performed on a lot of different stages in a lot of different arenas. I’ve gotten to do some work for R Kelly. I’ve gotten to do some work for Lollapolooza and The Pitch Fork Fest. I’ve gotten to perform on Saturday Night Live, Windy City Live, music for a featured film called Dysfunctional Brains with Stacey Dash, Terrell Owens and Meagan Good. We did a campaign, we partnered with Dream Works and McDonald’s Corporation as well as the people over there at Burrell Communications and Leo Burnett we did a jingle for their “Eat Healthy” campaign. We sang on it and produced it.
Who is “we”?
Me and Sir the Baptist.
Do you want to be an independent artist or be signed to a label?
At this point I just want to make dope music and reach the people and inspire as many people as I can and entertain. That’s the focus right now, what comes from that we’ll see. I feel stronger about reaching people, reaching the masses than reaching an office.
How do get your music out?
Right now SoundCloud and social media but I will be releasing on Spotify, i-Tunes, Apple Music and other premium outlets.
Talk about your new project.
The new project coming out this fall is Life of Jack Red, and the new single coming out soon [is] called “Naked Hands,” look out for that. Check out Lifeofjackred.com, follow me on all social media platforms, Life of Jack Red. I also want to engage in conversations with my fans as we talk about things and explore topics. I want to know what you ‘re thinking about. I want to know your interpretation. I want to know if this is something you can relate to or can’t relate to. We[‘re] fam now, we’re a tribe out here.