Our WorldArts Spotlight Artist of the Month is Jae Jin! This R&B artist & Baltimore native ended up making a big life choice when he sang a soul song cover that went viral and changed the course of his life. Check out our exclusive Q&A with Jae to learn more about his journey and his upcoming single & EP!
1) Tell us about how you got started in music?
My music journey began just 3 years ago. I became every Asian parent’s worst nightmare by walking away from an MD/MBA program and a stable professional career to pursue music. This began when a humble video of me singing an old soul song by Sam Cooke went viral online. I was receiving many meetings and offers but did not receive any that were fair to me. I decided to keep working at my craft hoping that the right offer might come along that would allow me to continue to sustain myself doing what I love. For me, my journey has been possible because of my unique life stories and perspectives which include being a two-time survivor…you can find out more about that at jaejinmusic.com
2) What inspiration(s) do you draw on when you create music?
In regards to inspiration, it’s all about relationships. It could be romantic, platonic, even your relationship with God, if you believe. One of the greatest gifts in life are the people and communities that surround you and this deeply influences me, and in turn… my music.
3) What was the music scene like in your hometown of Baltimore when you were growing up?
I loved how Baltimore’s music scene has been quite eclectic. I grew up listening to a lot of hip-hop, soul music, and obviously a lot of the greats like Prince, Michael Jackson, but also grew up listening to different genres. The music scene in Baltimore has also been wonderful to see live music. Seeing bands like Beach House, Dan Deacon, or Wye Oak and attending underground Baltimore club music scene concerts were definitely riveting and made a deep impact on how music can move all sorts of people.
Hands down, it would have to be Prince. I have a deep respect for someone who can create such amazing music, write it, compose it, play the instruments and then when he wants to go on tour, he can simply call it “Piano and a Microphone” and do an intimate show where he tells stories and shares songs. I would have loved to go on tour with him. In terms of more contemporary artists, I’d say folks like Josh Garrels, Ray LaMontagne, Emily King, Allen Stone, Marc Broussard, Patty Griffin, and John Mayer all would be amazing folks to go on tour with.
5) What’s your ‘go-to’ karaoke song?
It would have to be It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday by Boyz II Men. Because when it gets to that final bridge, I think I can hold my own with the Wanyá Morris runs. ;P
6) WorldArts is all about giving tools and opportunities to artists. What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
The best advice is that there are no handouts. You need to put your head down, work hard, and know that it’s worth exploring to learn every facet of the trade. If you can’t find a producer, learn the production craft. If you can’t find a bassist, take lessons and learn the basics. It’ll in turn make you into a more full artist and help to maximize the artist you were made to be.
7) If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
I’ve had countless meetings with individuals in the music industry over the past two years. Honestly, what would be great is that they’d take a chance on artists who definitely can move people yet are unique in their own right. I’ve had people tell me that because I’m not black or white, that I don’t matter. I’ve tried to book under my name (which sounds Asian) and have had 10 emails ignored, but when I used my manager’s name (Caucasian), they responded on the first email. Sometimes, I do understand where others are coming from, but I do wish that the industry wouldn’t stick to the social constructs. People will surprise you.
Marketing myself as an independent musician is extremely difficult. Marketing without a label or a team has been next to impossible. But what I’ve found is to just hit the road and go wherever people will take a chance to hear me. I’ve played almost 180 shows in the past 2.5 years and with each performance, I’ve slowly been able to build a faithful following and support system. I think sustainable marketing is about relationships. Aside from continuing to create my art, I aim to invest into the relationships and people who come alongside me on this journey.
9) Tell us about your latest single “Heart Smiles” and the inspiration behind it?
Heart Smiles is about the power of selflessly loving someone regardless of the outcome. Sometimes in life, you don’t always end up with the person you desire. Sometimes, it’s about timing. I’ve always believed for me that the right girl at the wrong time is the wrong girl. But that doesn’t mean the connection is meaningless. If anything, that connection becomes even more meaningful because you can intentionally find the silver lining of why this person was sent into your life and what lesson you were meant to learn. At its core, love assures the continuity of heart smiles throughout life.
10) What next on the horizon for you?
I just wrapped up my next album. I’ll be releasing a brand new single in two weeks that has a “90s R&B feel” because I love 90s R&B and wanted to bring it back. My next album also finds me experimenting with different genres that I love. You’ll hear some alternative R&B sounds as well as an EDM style song. I’m excited for you all to listen! Feel free to find me on Spotify as I’ll be releasing all the new music there first!
Check out the video for Heart Smiles and download it on iTunes today!