He started off writing music so depressing only a middle-schooler could love it. Then one summer, Volunteer State’s Jarren Blair learned that music could save someone’s life, and his sound took a turn for the happy.
1. True or false: You taught yourself how to play piano at 11 using YouTube
True, yeah. I heard a Bruno Mars song on the radio – or maybe it was Coldplay –
and I was like, “I want to do that.” I got bored of playing other people’s songs
pretty early on, though, so a couple of months later, I started writing my own stuff.
2. What was the first song you wrote?
“Sometimes I Can’t Find the Words.” Not a good song, for sure. The lyrics were
pretty heavy. I look back and think, “What could I have possibly been dealing with
back then?” It’s funny. But, you know, music helped me a lot through middle
3. Not going to lie. We did not know there was such a thing as Grammy Camp.
But you went, what, three times?
Four times, actually. It’s just a week. The Grammy Foundation runs it. You visit
studios, and panelists come in to teach you about songwriting law and marketing,
and that kind of stuff. And over the course of the week, all the kids make an album
together. It was basically a crash course in everything I’m doing now. And
actually, one thing I learned there, it changed my life.
4. Get out. How so?
A lot of times, when you do music, people say, “Oh, that’s not a real job, that’s just
a hobby.” But there was a songwriting teacher there -- his name was Drew Ramsey.
He taught us that being a songwriter is just as important as being a doctor because it
saves lives. I’ll never forget the moment. He said, “If music has saved your life,
raise your hand,” and everybody did.
5. And you realized?
That what I’m doing is important. Lifting people up, it matters.
6. Who makes you feel that way?
Phoebe Bridgers for sure. She meets you where you are. That’s the best kind of
music. Whether it’s a lyric that makes you happy or speaks to something that’s
happened to you. A good song is like medicine – a melody can be medicine.
7. OK, change of topic. What’s your iPhone background?
It’s actually the cover art of my new album, Space Jam. But it changes from time
to time because I love cartoons, and sometimes I just throw random ones on there.
Whether it’s a lyric that makes you happy or speaks to something that’s happened to you. A good song is like medicine – a melody can be medicine.
8. Now that you mention it, cartoons seem to be a pretty big influence for you.
They were a huge part of my life as a kid, and I still love them. I watched Danny
Phantom recently – fantastic. Avatar the Last Airbender was dope, Teen Titans
was a really good one, and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. I’m going to
start nerding out right now if we keep talking about this.
9. Does your cartoon love find its way into your music?
Absolutely. A Goofy Movie -- the music in that is crazy. Tevin Campbell voiced
the superstar, Powerline, and I remember watching it as a kid and getting hype to
those songs. They actually laid the groundwork for me getting into music. The
sounds, the images, the nostalgia. I love it.
10. Do you want people to feel nostalgia when they listen to your music?
I want them to move! I started a show in Nashville a year back called Boogie Bash
because I had been to too many shows where people would just stand there. I
wanted my show to encourage people to dance. I wanted people to feel a freeness
to dance around in their room or at a show. I just want people to feel, I guess.
Every song should be like a show you binge watch. You have to watch it again,
and then afterward you think, “What do I do now?” and you watch it again.
Check out Jarren Blair below!