Jared Evan Interview

Jared Evan
Artist:Jared Evan
Next Project:Radio in My Head (Deluxe Ed.)
Twitter:Jared Evan on Twitter

What do you get when you cross Mos Def, El-P and the Roots with The Beatles, Led Zep and Radiohead? Well, you get one of the most versatile and unconventional up-and-comers to hit the scene in a good, long while. Incorporating these disparate influences (and many more) into his distinctive, genre-defying sound, singer/songwriter/emcee/producer Jared Evan is one of those rare recording artists who can do it all – and do it well, as evidenced by the rave reader reviews garnered by his Booth features to date.

Signed to Interscope and Polow da Don‘s Zone 4 Entertainment, the 21-year-old Long Island native (and exclusive freestyle series participant!) is currently preparing to drop a deluxe, expanded version of his debut mixtape, Radio in My Head. Featuring the original tracklist (including the artist’s Booth debut, “What I Want”) along with bonus cuts like “They Don’t Look at Me the Same,” the re-release is scheduled to hit stores and online retailers sometime this spring, paving the way for the arrival of Evan’s debut studio album later this year.

In an exclusive interview with our own DJZ,” Jared Evan steps into the Booth to discuss how his eclectic musical tastes (along with his experiences playing percussion in school band) converged to form his signature style, the power of music to help listeners through tough times (or, potentially, hurt them), and why he’ll never sell his soul in exchange for security in the game.

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Jared Evan Interview Transcription

DJ Booth:  What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a Long Island native whose diverse musical stylings captured the interest of some of the industry’s most powerful and respected figures. As a result, last summer the singer/songwriter/rapper/producer inked a major-label deal with Interscope and Polow da Don’s Zone 4, and is anxiously awaiting the chance to unveil his debut offering later this year. Please welcome my friend, Jared Evan. How are you?

Jared Evan:  What up, Z?

DJ Booth:  Good to talk to you, as always. We have featured your work five times over the last four months, so our readers should be very familiar with the goings-on of your career, but let’s backtrack for a second to find out how we all got to right here and now. I read that when you were 11, you were sent off to boarding school for children with behavioral issues. Jared, would you say you were a class clown, a rascal, a troublemaker, or just misunderstood?

Jared Evan:  I would say, kind of a mixture of all those things. But really, what it was, was, growing up, I didn’t really care about school. Music was always my escape. And it’s crazy cause, growin’ up, it was different music that was my outlet – it was sh*t like Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull and El-P and The Beatles and The Doors and stuff like that. That’s all I cared about, and because it was all I cared about, I kind of strayed away from the academic thing, and really just giving a f*ck. I just didn’t care. And I think that is kind of cause for what you were saying about the whole behavioral thing, and all I cared about my whole life was doin’ music. And because my focus was so strong no that, it kinda took me away from bein’ the average, normal, good, hard-working student.

DJ Booth:  You know what, though? Who is, these days, the average student? I think everybody has a passion for something, it’s just that some people go out on that limb and they know what they wanna do and they go for it, and others just sit back and let it come to them.

Jared Evan:  Right. I had this huge dream of bein’ the next Keith Moon or John Bonham, or the next dude on VH1 Behind the Music type thing, and because I was so into that dream, nothing else mattered to me.

DJ Booth:  Well, lucky for you, that dream has almost become a full-fledged reality. You definitely made the right choice. You mentioned the drums.  I grew up playing trumpet in band, and 15 years later I’m interviewing a recording artist, you played drums and you are the recording artist – clearly, I didn’t pick the right instrument. But, with that said, what type of role did not only your drum playing but all of your musical interests early on play into how you sound as an artist right now?

Jared Evan:  Oh my God, man, it’s crazy you said that, because really, that’s why I sound like I do now. The fact that you can’t just box me in as an emcee or a rapper or a singer or a songwriter is really because, growing up, my foundation of music was all different kinds of music, and all different kinds of instruments, and just experimenting. I’m not like Jimmy Page, I’m not a classically trained guitar player, but if I pick up a guitar and I make a certain kind of a sound, that, to me, is being able to play guitar. Being able to experiment with instruments, and taking whatever sound comes out of those instruments, and being able to use them in production or music in any way, that makes you a musician. You couldn’t have said it any better, Z. That’s really the biggest reason why my music sounds how it sounds now.

DJ Booth:  Last August, when you first popped up on the national radar in terms of awareness, what instantly interested me in your music was how distinctively different it sounded. Now, I know a lot of artists, they hate to be labeled, or put in that proverbial box, so how do you plan to appeal to the largest possible audience, without associating yourself necessarily with any one specific genre or subgenre?

Jared Evan:  It’s hard. It’s definitely difficult for any artist or anybody to do that, but with me, that’s just what I am. I am somebody who delves into all different kinds of music – why not be able to break that mold and be like, it’s really just, “Let Jared do what he does, man.” Obviously, if I drop a freestyle, that’s going to attract more of the hip-hop heads, but if I put out a singing song, that’s gonna attract a totally different audience. As long as it’s quality, and as long as every music genre I put out, people gravitate towards it, why not? If it’s quality stuff, why not run with that?

DJ Booth:  You mentioned “freestyle,” and obviously, thank you again for blessing us with entry #135 in our freestyle series, “The Opposite of Singing.” Did you have fun doing that?

Jared Evan:  It was a blast, man. Thank you, Z, for real. That was crazy. I mean, I’ve always been a fan [of DJBooth], and I’ve always known about you guys, and you reachin’ out and asking me to drop for the freestyle series, that was like, “Damn!” To me, that’s crazy. So thank you. But yeah man, doing that was great, ‘cause, as we were saying, when I do the freestyle thing that’s fun for me; it’s just straight, natural fun. So when I did it, it was like, no-holds-barred, let me just go in.

DJ Booth:  You spit the line, “Honestly, my whole philosophy is not to sell my soul to the devil or anybody else who’s gonna lie to me.” Obviously, you did it a little bit better that I just read it. Knowing that major labels, probably for as long as both you and I have been on this Earth and then some, often get a bad rap for trying to mold talent into a cookie-cutter sound, how comfortable were you during the recording sessions for your forthcoming debut, knowing in the back of your head, “I wanna do me, I don’t wanna do what they want,” or, according to the line in the freestyle, sell your soul to the devil?

Jared Evan:  Right, and that’s it exactly, Z – you couldn’t have said it better. That’s exactly what that line means: I never wanna be a sellout and I’m never gonna be a sellout. But, at the same time, obviously in any record label situation, you’ve got to work with the label. You have to give them what they want. In my case, I’m givin’ them what they want, but at the same time it’s not watered-down, cookie-cutter sh*t. It’s credible. You know what I mean? Like, why not be able to make pop music good music again? I remember in 1993, I was like four years old, the Wu-Tang Clan had a song called “C.R.E.A.M.,” and that was a radio smash, and that was one of the most credible hip-hop songs of all time. Not speaking on hip-hop, but if I’m singing a song, or if I’m making any kind of radio pop music, why not be able to have that music be credible again, and respectable, and people appreciate it from a musical standpoint?

DJ Booth:  It’s interesting that you mentioned Wu-Tang’s “Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” back from the early ‘90’s, ‘cause, as an example, it just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter what year good music is made – if it’s good music, it’s relevant and sounds just as good 16, 17 years later.

Jared Evan:  Exactly. And it’s stuff that’s timeless, and that’s the music I make. I’m gonna give the label what they want, because that’s why they sign artists, but I’m not gonna give them smash hits that aren’t me, and I’m not gonna give ‘em smash hits that came from somewhere else, or that sound like everything else.

DJ Booth:  Now, I wanna play devil’s advocate with you for a second. You have an act who is one of your labelmates, the Black Eyed Peas, they are obviously a classic example of a group who have completely changed their sound, from when they started recording to now.

Jared Evan:  Oh, a hundred percent.

DJ Booth:  I don’t know how much of that was influenced by their label situation, but if you got to a point where the label came to you said said, “We love what you do, but in order for us to really market you, and make you rich and famous, we want you to gear your stuff more in this direction?” Is that a point where you say, “You know what? I believe in what I’m doing enough to go a different route,” or you wanna make sure you have your feet on solid ground to start your career, and you say, “You know what? I’ll give in a little bit.”

Jared Evan:  Nah… basically what you’re saying is, play it safe so you’re guaranteed in that world.

DJ Booth:  Yes.

Jared Evan:  But honestly, nah, man. I’m not gonna give in. I’m gonna do what I do, and have them come to some sort of a compromise. Obviously playing it safe, it’s a guarantee, but big risk is big reward, and if you take that risk, that reward will be much bigger than anything you played it safe with. That’s what I’m into: it’s all or nothing. I’m gonna take that risk, and I believe so much that it will work.

DJ Booth:  The song and video that grabbed more than just our attention is “Frozen.” In the video, the talented Rik Cordero, he depicts a game of Russian Roulette in haunting black-and-white fashion. Is the feeling of having that loaded gun cocked and ready to shoot, but not knowing if there’s a bullet inside the chamber, something that you’ve experienced metaphorically, at some point in your life?

Jared Evan:  A hundred percent. And that’s why, with that video – you know, that video is definitely confusing to a sh*tload of people. A lot of people hear the song, they hear the stories in each of the verses, and they see the visuals for it, and they say, “Wow, what you’re talking about in the song has nothing to do with the visuals of the video.” But, what they need to understand is that the video is a metaphor for what the song is about, like you’re saying. And definitely in my life, I’ve felt these emotions, and I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck in a situation. And basically when I say “stuck” I mean, I can’t express how I feel to anyone, ‘cause no one can relate to it, and no one cares. I feel like I’m alone and I’m stuck and I just can’t move in this place that I’m in. There’s no one I can talk to about it, whether it’s my Dad drinking alcohol or my parents getting divorced, or me getting sent away to school or whatever the case may be. I feel like I just can’t talk to anyone about it, because they either don’t care about me, or they don’t relate to it. When I made “Frozen,” puttin’ those verses on wax was like therapy for me. Now people can hear the song, and they can feel it, and they’ll be like, “Yo, he’s going through what I’m going through.” And that makes me happy, and that’s all I wanna do, is, I wanna share my music with the world, and just have them connect with me on that emotional level. That’s the main thing I care about, before money or fame or any of that sh*t.

DJ Booth:  Is that scary? Just to think what you’re putting on record, and people are listening to, can either help them, or possibly hurt them, with whatever they’re going through – does that scare you at all?

Jared Evan:  Yeah. Dude, people don’t realize, the things that people say, [have] a large impact on how people feel. I mean, scary… I guess kinda, because now I have this opportunity to share my voice, and because of that, you’ve really gotta watch what you say. But I’m just gonna take that chance, of it helping people as opposed to it not helping people.

DJ Booth:  Well, you are an artist who had a track on a mixtape entitled “Heart of Gold,” so it all makes sense. We have time for one reader question, which is courtesy of Jacques, a neighbor of yours from – I hope I’m pronouncing this correctly – Massapequa, New York. Is that right?

Jared Evan:  Yes, it’s on Long Island.

DJ Booth:  And he wrote, “Jared, you came onto the scene in a fury of hype, but we have not heard much of you since the mixtape dropped. So, what are you going to do to recapture that hype prior to the release of your debut album later this year?”

Jared Evan:  Yeah, man. That’s definitely an understandable question. I’m not tryin’ to flood the scene or saturate the market, if you will, with material.

DJ Booth:  Quality over quantity.

Jared Evan:  Oh, it’s quality all day. People can put out all these songs and mixtapes and things and EPs… I like to keep that a mystery. I like to keep people like Jacques saying, “What’s the deal? Where can I get more?” I want that to happen. I want people to ask, when’s the next song, when’s the next project comin’ out?

DJ Booth:  The people are hungry!

Jared Evan:  That’s what I’m saying: you’ve gotta keep the people hungry, so they’re coming back for more. If you overfeed them, they’re not going to want to eat at your restaurant anymore; they’re just sick of it.

DJ Booth:  [laughs] They’re gonna sit there bloated, asking themselves why they did it.

Jared Evan:  Exactly, man, and they’re gonna gain weight, and they’re gonna want to lose weight.

DJ Booth:  Absolutely. We definitely beat that analogy down to the ground. That was great. So, the debut, [set to drop] later this year, I read it was untitled. Is that still the case, or do you wanna unleash some information on me?

Jared Evan:  The album definitely has a name, but I don’t wanna give that information away yet, because it’s one of those titles that needs to come out when everything else… it’s a connecting title, know what I mean? It’s kind of a guessing-game type thing. I don’t wanna give away too many clues right now.

DJ Booth:  I’d really appreciate it if you revealed that the title is “Ode to Z.” Then I’ll love you forever!

Jared Evan:  [laughs] That’s the bonus, deluxe version. That’s the iTunes exclusive.

DJ Booth:  Sounds good, man. I appreciate that plug. Jared, give everybody a website, Twitter account, anything so they can find out more about you and, of course, the exciting upcoming re-release of Radio in My Head, and your debut later this year.

Jared Evan:  Definitely, man. You guys can reach me at jaredevan.com, twitter.com/jaredevan, of course myspace.com/jaredevanmusic. DJBooth is gonna be noted as one of the biggest supporters. From the beginning, you guys really championed what I was doin’, and I appreciate that so much. It’s brands like you that really bring artists to that next level they’re trying to get to. Without brands and movements like you, I’m not so sure I would be as far as I am, or am gonna be.

DJ Booth:  Well, I thank you for your kind words, and I humbly respect what you’re doin’, and the direction that you’re headed in. Nothing but the best of luck, obviously, moving forward, and you know you always have a home at DJBooth.net.

Jared Evan:  Thank you so much.

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