At only 14 years old, Texan native De’Wayne Jackson started making his own music inspired by the gospel sounds he was exposed to at home and the rappers he’d hear outside of church. Fast-forward seven years and a move to L.A. later, the multi-talented artist is finally gaining attention globally thanks to a seriously powerful EP and a tour with Jessie J.
De’Wayne chatted with us about his musical journey so far…
Hi De’Wayne, what have you been up to?
De’Wayne Jackson: Hi, first off this is tight! Since I got back from tour, I’ve just been in the studio. Feeling mad inspired lately to create something I can be proud of. Released new music today as well – ‘Adios’ ft. Chase Atlantic:
You spent your younger years in Houston. Can you tell me about your earliest musical memories growing up?
Singing with my mom in the choir was cool for me coming up, ‘cause I always thought she had a beautiful voice. They always gave kids solos, so it was a start for me.
Has the move to L.A. changed you as a musician at all?
Most definitely! I’ve experienced my favorite music here. I also kinda grew up here in a way. Coming to L.A. at 19 just opened my mind in a different light so it was good for my music.
Is being in such a creative hub like California an advantage or disadvantage?
For me, I feel an advantage. All I ever wanted back home was to meet people who understood me and my music. Right place right time can change things for you. Along with getting lucky. It’s all weird man, like it freaks me out sometime to think about how things happen.
Your album Don’t Be Afraid is a bold and unique take on issues that many young people face. Tracks like ‘Do What We Want’ explore the contrast of wanting freedom while having responsibilities, which I’m sure lots of people can relate to. What is your process of making songs like that?
It’s just how I feel. I don’t think I’ll ever truly feel free because there’s constantly people pushing back on you. Life just does that. So it just makes sense for me to talk about that. I can’t wait for that day of complete freedom.
You ended last year touring with global superstar Jessie J. Can you tell us how that came about and how the experience was for you?
She’s such a G! I was at the studio and she came in and wanted to hear some of my songs. I was tripping out like haha! She was so genuine, and we really caught a vibe and made a song that day. She really looked out for me from that day on. It was a blessing. One night my team sits me down and tells me she wants to take me on her world tour and I cried haha. It was the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had. Getting to perform for thousands of people every night was just amazing. I dreamed about it my whole life.
I’ve spoken to a few artists from the States over the last few months and I was wondering how everything that’s happening there politically is affecting artists. Is it something that you are aware of when making music?
Of course! It’s so hard not to think about it especially being black and young. It’s on my mind a lot so it naturally flows. I don’t want to be scared to speak on it.
The music video for ‘Coming Back Home’ is visually stunning and suits the song perfectly, it looks like it could be a trailer for a movie. How involved are you with the concept and filming of your videos?
Thank you! A lot because I’m always trying to tell a story so I love when we can put it together to make it look cool and make sure you can feel it.
As a young musician at the start of your career, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing emerging artists?
Just really getting fans. Being able to tour and get yourself in front of the most people possible can be hard! Especially being independent. No matter what people say you have to keep going. No matter what.
I’ve seen on social media you’re really interactive with your fans. Some artists tend to shy away from these interactions. Is it something that’s important to you?
It’s so important for me. Because I never had fans until a couple months ago. It’s still so new to me I get excited. I’m just mad thankful to have people to listen. I think it’s good for us to have that connection.
With such a successful year in 2017, what are your plans for 2018?
Release music and tour again. Keep pushing for people to put genres and boxes in the trash. Buy my mom a nice present for her birthday.
And finally De’Wayne, what’s your favourite album of all time?
Radiohead – KID A.
Interview by Roxy Shah
Stream and download Don’t Be Afraid by De’Wayne Jackson via Bandcamp.