It began as an experiment.
Music had always been the focus of my short, 17yearold, guitarplaying life in Austin, Texas. I was obsessed with The Beatles, Hendrix, Sinatra, and Sam Cooke. The Blues were my foundation. I hung with a crowd of young musicians who shared my love of the classics. We listened to vinyl. We played in bands.
My safe, little vintagerock world was turned on its head when underground hiphop came knocking at my door. Rappers wanted me to sing hooks on their songs. I never in a million years thought what I did made sense in hiphop. Eminem and Outkast had blown my mind as a kid, but it was still an alien world to me.
As uncomfortable as it was, I jumped in. At first, my bluesy singing made the hooks come across as a sort of “blue-eyed soul” thing. I didn’t identify with that. The hooks I loved most had been sampled from old records. They contrasted the beat in a cool way. They felt distorted and fuzzy and their juxtaposition with modern music had an accidental magic.
The experiment was to see if I could convince people that my hook was a sample. I sang more laid back, more like a crooner than a hardattacking soul singer. I distorted my voice with guitar amps and heavy reverbs that created a huge space.
By the spring, my songs were gaining some attention. “Nice and Slow” and “White Lies” charted on Hype Machine and a few months later I signed with Atlantic Records. A major-label deal marked a serious second chapter in my creative life. Songs were no longer practice swings. They counted. There were real stakes now. But with a new opportunity in front of me, I dove in head first.
Sonically, I was inspired by artists like Amy Winehouse and Raphael Saadiq, who breathed fresh life into the classic ’60s soul sound. Their vintage songs have a modern edge to the production. My process is the reverse. I try to write songs that, if played on an acoustic guitar, are very modern. But my execution of the singing, instrumentation, and production is vintage.
My last year of high school and only year of college were only made possible by my abuse of Adderall. I first discovered its powers attempting to write college essays, and pretty much lost my mind from there. It allowed me to get away with chronic procrastination and mainly focus on music. But it certainly spiraled me into an unbalanced state of sleeplessness, anxiousness, highs, and lows that left me a pretty worn out person.
My Adderall years manifested themselves in a song I made with Cook Classics and Ross Golan called “Adderall” that I recently released. I sort of told the sad story in a funny way and tried to make it light hearted, and it seems that people have reacted. I’ll do college shows now where people come with their prescription bottles and ask me to sign them (which might be a crime or something I don’t know…).
My experiment became an abstract mind state that I want the listener to visit.