Exclusive Interview: Jack Be
1. To start just give us a little background on who you are, where you're from and what motivates you to be successful.
My name's Jack Be; I'm a rapper/singer and a game designer, but mostly I just like to think of myself as a creator. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, where I still live today, and I grew up as a kid with way too much on my plate: I played football and boxed, I sang in choir and spent some time singing opera and Italian art songs (across the country and in Europe), I learned Chinese and several coding languages, and tons more. All in all, I was way too busy for my own good, and ultimately music was the saving grace that allowed me to figure out who I was. If not for the deep hook that rap and music dug into me at 13, I don't think I ever would've gotten a handle on myself as a person. You know like, what I want from life, what my core beliefs are, etc. But something about Hip-Hop just touched my soul; it's the reason I spent six and a half years writing a song a day, and in the lyrics of those songs I learned so much about myself that I hadn't previously consciously understood. So what motivates me to be successful now, I suppose, is knowing how much of a difference rap, music, and cinematic media had on my life in general. I wouldn't be me without it. So if I can connect with people through my music and help them find themselves, well, that's what will make me happy.
2. Tell us a bit about touring Europe and some of your other creative ventures before we dive into the amazing song that is Beauty Hurts!
In tenth grade I toured Europe with my choir, and was lucky enough to have do some operatic solos at the time as well. Beyond the obviously awesome adventure that was traveling through Europe as a teenager, there are still two funny things that stick with me about that part of my life: first is the image of all the choir kids sitting in the back of the bus, indulging my fanatic emphasis on rap and learning to freestyle with me while wearing tuxedos and organizing sheet music. Second, is how I had to go so far out of my way to learn how to sing in a hip-hop/pop manner; there was a long period of times where I couldn't sing in my tracks because I only knew how to sing in a classical tone. Sometimes it still comes out in recording sessions, and it always surprises the room. In fact, when I opened for 2 Chainz I decided to scare the whole arena of people by opening my set with a snippet of opera. Beyond that, this past year was also a total whirlwind for me: I made several games, including one with a team of about 20 people that I was lucky enough to be the lead designer on. I got to go on my first tour with Cryptic Wisdom, did tons of cool festivals opening for artists I really respect, and I released my first viral music video with my band Flowrunner (Shoutout to Brigsby). A surreal part of my life this past year were the days when I would get up in the morning and sit in my dorm's kitchen in my underwear writing code, then in the afternoon I'd have a meeting with my creative collective, and then by night I'd get on stage at a club and do a set. I did a lot of everything except for sleeping, unfortunately.
3. You're not new to the music scene but this is your first solo release, can you tell us about your song writing process on Beauty Hurts and how it's different from your previous projects.
Sure. Beauty Hurts, as an entity, is a really new thing to me. I'm used to being a rapper, just a rapper, and I've never allowed my singing to take center stage. There's never been a need for it either; Flowrunner shows were mosh pit, hardcore, explosive affairs. My more emotional writing took a backseat in my first year and a half as a public musician, and I'd often write a lot of sentimental material while waiting in green rooms to do these insane EDM/Rap sets. But after a slew of singles and our first EP, Flowrunner took a small hiatus between projects. I'm a pretty industrial guy in terms of work ethic, so I maintained my work flow and dove into writing about an albums worth of material per week. And now, without the pressure of thinking the music would be released, the stuff I made began to cover a bevy of topics and genres. It got more sing-y, it got more sentimental (with the occasional hard hip-hop verse for good measure). Ironically, Beauty Hurts didn't come out of any of this workhorse production. I was two albums deep, about three weeks after Flowrunner started the hiatus, and taking a break to watch Extras. Christopher Martin, the lead singer of Cold Play, came on for a small cameo, and I don't know why, but it just immediately triggered me to run up to my bedroom and create a singing focused song. Out of that weird, experimental, and supposedly non-productive place came this weird song Beauty Hurts - it's not quite pop, it's not quite R&B, it's not quite rap. It's this weird soundscape that I felt myself constantly getting lost in when I listened to it. I like to think the sound it's most comparable to is Joji, but it also has this KYLE-esque upbeat verse. But I guess the reason I decided to release it as my first official solo track is that I hadn't aimed to make it sound like anyone when I made it. It just came out, and everything came out super honest to my life and an experience I had recently had meeting a new girl and finding out about her harsh past, but seeing that she'd grown into a beautiful soul. So what was really different about it for me, was that it just happened. It wasn't an exercise in singing, it wasn't an excuse to practice mixing vocals. The expression just came to be, and better yet it felt like a sound that was all my own. Beauty Hurts' process, ironically as the first product I've officially released to represent me, was that there was no process, that I didn't perceive it as a product. I guess that's what made it feel right to label it as "me".
4. The music video is also very well done, can you give us a look into your how you went about producing/directing the video and also shed some light on why you chose to do everything on vhs as today's world is so reliant on digital technology.
So, I guess, as I said before, Beauty Hurts is a song that always takes me to another place mentally. The chorus goes on for a very long time, and just layers and layers and gets more and more dreamy, until finally some small narrative is introduced in the middle. When I hear the song I get really nostalgic, and I do a lot of fantasizing and remembering. So when I sat down with my two directors, Michael Chung and Bronson Diallo, we decided the music video had to have those exact elements. Shooting it on real VHS was initially, for us, a way to make the video feel nostalgic and timeless, but it also ultimately resulted in some incredible dreamy colors that the VHS texture naturally created. Fun Fact: there is no color correction/editing or custom graphics in the entire video. Those are all frames that the VHS naturally created. Anyways, we wanted the video to above all be a visual aid to the song rather than a real story. So we created this sense of an adventure that the audience is forced to imagine on their own; small snippets and shots of a grander journey that we actually took together over the course of several days that we ran around LA and California just picking up shots and having a good time. Strangely enough, the music video is, for us three, a fun nostalgic look back into the small adventure we had together, and I think when watching it you can feel that genuine fun and love. Better yet, I feel like the non-specific nature of the video allows the viewer to feel their own adventure, to summon their own similar memories from it. In terms of production, it was totally opposite our previous effort, which was a large scale, painstakingly planned music video. For Beauty Hurts, it was just three guys and a VHS camera and like, two colored lights. I even edited it myself, and that was my first time ever editing a music video. We wanted that home video feeling, that unspecific nature that allows anyone to insert their own emotions into the mix, but with a strong grounding in some small glimpses of a specific adventure. And I really think that that's exactly what we got.
5. The song's obviously doing very well and has recieved a ton of great feedback so far. What can your fans, new and old, expect in the coming months. (new music, shows, possible tour)
It really is! I still haven't stopped smiling from all the videos people have sent me of them singing it and listening to it. Anyways, there's a lot coming soon. Right now working on locking in a couple new singles for the next couple months just to provide the world something to chew on, and then shortly after that I'm dropping my first official solo project (Working title: Cool New Trash). I'm also working on booking my first headlining show in LA so I can debut a lot of new music, and working on a tour for shortly after the project drops. These next 3 months are gonna be crazy! To stay up to date, people should follow my instagram: @JackBeThatsMe.