|Label:||Def Jam Recordings|
|Next Project:||Self-Titled Debut|
|Twitter:||Jeremih on Twitter|
Let it not be said that DJBooth.net doesn’t jump on new talent early, nor that our readers don’t know a hit when they hear one; though it wasn’t till the single’s official release this past March that “Birthday Sex” catapulted Jeremih to national fame, the record’s massive potential was clear to the DJBooth community since it hit our front page back in December. With his breakout smash in the midst of a legendary, ten-week-and-counting stay at the top of our own Top Picks chart (and currently sitting at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100), the rising star is preparing for the release of a debut LP that will showcase the true breadth of his musical talent and lay the groundwork for a long and illustrious career as a pop hitmaker.
Featuring the singer’s now-iconic debut single as well as equally reader-acclaimed follow-up “Imma Star (Everywhere We Are),” and street record “Raindrops,” Jeremih’s forthcoming, self-titled debut album comes complete with the DJBooth.net stamp of approval. When June 30th rolls around, be sure to “ri-i-ide out” and pick up two copies—one for yourself, the other to give your guy or gal on their special day.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Jeremih steps into the Booth to discuss his seemingly-overnight rise to pop stardom, everything you ever wanted to know about “Birthday Sex,” and why he considers Auto-Tune a complement to his distinctive vocal style, not a crutch.
Listen to the Interview
Jeremih 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 21-year-old singer/songwriter from Chicago’s South Side, who has made a splash on DJBooth.net starting last December, when his current smash hit single, “Birthday Sex,” premiered on our site. Please welcome my next door neighbor and one of the most talented young men in this industry, Jeremih.
DJ Booth: How are you doing? I know it was a long intro, but you’re deserving of it.
Jeremih: Man, thanks. That was great—I probably need you to come to one of my shows with me.
DJ Booth: I got you, I could be your hype man.
Jeremih: [laughs] Give me a proper introduction! What’s happenin’ though, Z?
DJ Booth: Well, let’s go back: last November, your manager called me up to tell me all about you, and he deemed you, quote unquote, “an unbelievable talent.” And this is before I had the chance to hear. Most of the time, when people say, I have an unbelievable talent,” it’s just that: it’s not believable, because I hear it so often. It’s different in your situation; unlike most artists, your rise to stardom did not take long, and you [really] took off in the last seven months. Describe your journey thus far, and [whether] you would use the word “unbelievable” to categorize it.
Jeremih: I would use the word “unbelievable,” just because of the state in which the music industry is right now, and how it’s so hard as a new artist to really break through and reach the masses with your work, your art. It’s kind of crazy, because a lot of things were happenin’ for us before we even got affiliated with a label and got the proper backing. We were doing almost what they said, the impossible. So I guess that would be close to unbelievable. The journey to this point has been tremendous, with the simple fact of us comin’ from the South Side of Chicago, which is full of a lot of talent. Obviously, Chicago natives like Kanye West and R. Kelly and Lupe Fiasco and Common have really put a mark on the industry, and I feel like I’m just here tryin’ to [carry] on a legacy. And I’m curious to see what the rest of the records are capable of doin’.
DJ Booth: You certainly are up next.
DJ Booth: Before getting signed, before you met your musical partner, Mick Schultz, before you decided that music was your intended career path, you actually attended a semester at the University of Illinois and you enrolled in the engineering science program. So, let’s play a game of “What if?” for a second—had you stayed there for four years, and you graduated with that degree in that field, do you think if we were on the phone, choppin’ it up, you’d be happy with where you’re at?
Jeremih: Probably not, just for the simple fact that I was doin’ that solely upon my mother’s guidance. [She was] just sayin’, “If you go to school for this, you’ll get this once you get you get your degree: you’ll have [not only a piece of paper], but you’ll have a decent income as far as living.” And I took her advice, and that was my whole purpose in makin’ that move, until I found myself out there, getting’ involved more on campus, and bein’ a part of all the productions and the homecoming events and all types of things. I began to get a little unfocused, even in class, and that’s when I proposed to her, like, “Mom, I know how to do music, but I really wanna learn the business behind it.” Not even being an artist at the time, I’m just thinking I could birth talent, I could actually do this. And so she took it into consideration and agreed, and so I transferred to Columbia College. Who knows? If I would’ve stayed at U of I, I probably would’ve—I dunno, it’s just, once I came to Columbia, bein’ around people that’s into the art… I’m not saying I would’ve gotten signed if I hadn’t met Mick, but I wouldn’t have met Mick, and I wouldn’t have met the proper people I needed to meet to get to this level.
DJ Booth: Was it difficult for your mother to understand the difference in direction that she had for your life, and that you had for your life?
Jeremih: No, not really. She’s always been highly supportive of everything I wanted to do. Whether it was playin’ basketball or chewin’ bubblegum, she would’ve been there and been highly supportive of it. I’d been into music as far as my instrumentation, from a musician standpoint, but never really a singer, so I would dare not tell my mom “I’m goin’ to school to learn how to sing,” ‘cause she really would’ve been like… I just wanted to learn the business, and then I focused [on] the music business.
DJ Booth: Since your “Birthday Sex” record has been atop our Top Picks chart for the last nine weeks, and accounted for 90% of all the reader questions that I received for this interview, I have nine quickie questions surrounding your smash hit. Are you ready?
Jeremih: I’m ready, man.
DJ Booth: Okay, number one: have you experienced birthday sex while listening to “Birthday Sex?”
Jeremih: [laughs] I most certainly have.
DJ Booth: Okay, number two: what is your preference: to give or receive birthday sex?
Jeremih: Well, to give… ‘cause I only get one birthday! [laughs]
DJ Booth: Great answer, great answer. Number three: what is worse, bad birthday sex or no birthday sex at all?
Jeremih: What’s worse? Bad birthday sex.
DJ Booth: Number four: you said it was created for fun, but does the song have any “inspired by” reference?
Jeremih: Not really, it was moreso just the vibe in the studio and exactly what I thought the beat was tellin’ me. I mean, obviously now there’s inspiration.
DJ Booth: [laughs] Post-inspiration.
DJ Booth: In the song you mention a waterbed. I always wanted one, never got one—do you have one?
Jeremih: [laughs] Actually, no. My sister’s ex-boyfriend did. It’s just like art—I like to paint pictures, and with writing, that’s pretty much what it is. I’m kinda good with storytelling and tryin’ to paint those pictures. I don’t have a waterbed, but hopefully one day—I don’t know, I want one now.
DJ Booth: You certainly painted the picture for me, ‘cause I had long forgotten that I’d always wanted one, and then I heard the song and I thought, “That’s right, I still want one of these! I’ve gotta get one!”
DJ Booth: Number six: everybody and their mother has remixed this song—whose version is your favorite, other than yours?
Jeremih: My favorite? I would have to say… let’s see… there’s this girl named Shonie, she’s actually a labelmate of mine, and I just felt, even with all the remixes and all the rappers and everything, the perfect remix would obviously be a girl singin’ about how she wants her birthday or show she’s gonna give me some.
DJ Booth: Yeah, she absolutely flipped it. Number seven: have you contacted Hallmark about getting “Birthday Sex” in one of their musical cards?
Jeremih: Actually, yes. There’s a lot of ideas being brought up. We’re thinking about havin’ condoms, Hallmark, just pretty much everything that can relate to what we’re tryin’ to offer with this one song.
DJ Booth: Number eight: can we expect a sequel entitled either “Anniversary Sex” or “Holiday Sex?”
Jeremih: Sure… I would have “Holiday Sex,” probably. It’d be a sequel, and I’d pull it off. [laughs]
DJ Booth: A song for every event throughout the year, that’s what I’m thinkin’.
DJ Booth: And number nine: are you at all concerned that it will take a massive follow-up for people to separate you from just “the guy that sings the ‘Birthday Sex’ song?”
Jeremih: Well, this is my introduction to the game, and with this first single bein’ a song I didn’t even pick for my first single, and even while writin’ it I didn’t think ‘label’ or anything, it was just for the love of the music. I feel like me and Mick have come up with a complete composition full of a lot of great songs. I don’t know—I guess everybody is still gonna look at me as Mr. “Birthday Sex.” With that bein’ my first single, that’s how everybody’s introduced to me, but I feel like, once you grab the album… who knows what could be next? Like, obviously right now they’re pushing “Imma Star (Everywhere We Are),” but it was just another song, once again.
DJ Booth: You mentioned that you didn’t specifically choose “Birthday Sex” as the lead single, and I heard in a previous interview that you don’t wanna be classified as just an R&B artist. It seems like you don’t want that box to be painted around you. How cautious and conscious are you when it comes to the image that you’re portraying to your new fans?
Jeremih: I’m very cautious, because there are a lot of songs on there that could be, alternatively, on different stations, on Top 40 stations. There’s a mixture and variety of sounds you’re gonna hear. I would love to have everyone as a fans, and that’s pretty much my goal in this album. I don’t wanna just be like, “Okay, only this certain type of crowd, are we lookin’ forward to buyin’ this album?”, but at the same time I feel like, I wanna appeal to the masses, not just be boxed in as the R&B cat. I make good R&B music because, growin’ up, that’s what I listened to, just love songs. With this first song, “Birthday Sex,” it’s been a privilege… even my 75-year-old granddad bumps with it, he rides a coach bus for senior citizens and they enjoy it. I’ve seen a five-year-old girl singin’ it. It’s cool, because obviously they know the music, and that just shows how powerful the music is.
DJ Booth: You mentioned that the potential follow-up is “Imma Star,” we actually have it featured on DJBooth.net. I’m curious: up to this point, do you feel like a star, or do you still feel every day, when you wake up, that you’re just an average Joe on the grind, tryin’ to make a dollar?
Jeremih: I’ve always kinda felt like an average Joe—no, I’m above average, I’m an above-average Joe. [laughs] I don’t know, I feel like people will say, “You turned Hollywood,” ‘cause that’s how they wanna make you feel; I feel normal still, and if they’re makin’ me feel different it’s because that’s what what they’re doin’. But I’m a cool dude, I stay in touch with all my friends. It’s not like I’m acting any differently, it’s just kind hard when you’re on the road all the time and not able to be home as much.
DJ Booth: People might or might not know this, but Willie of Day26 is your cuz, and I’m sure you watched the Making the Band Show on MTV, as I did. Would you ever consider having your life taped for a reality show?
Jeremih: It’s been a consideration. I think that will come in time, but I feel like sometimes when you give everybody your everyday lifestyle and they see you every day, it kind of loses its exclusiveness, and right now, as a new guy, I wanna keep people interested and willing and wanting to know, “Who exactly is Jeremih?” And one day, I’m sure, once people get the record and learn more about me [through] my music, I feel like I’m open to one day, possibly doing a reality show, however it may be. Probably no For the Love of Ray J type of show…
DJ Booth: [laughs] So at this point you don’t wanna pull the curtain all the way back yet?
Jeremih: No… if it was up to me, I wouldn’t have come out with a video. I would’ve just been infamous there and keep puttin’ out records [so] people are really curious, like, “Who is this dude?”
DJ Booth: A hot-button topic in the industry right now is Auto-Tune, to use or not to use, and I know your music features just a slight hint of it. For an artist like yourself, who has a very enjoyable voice, do you convince the masses that your usage of Auto-Tune is simply an accompaniment and not a crutch?
Jeremih: Yeah, it’s an accompaniment. A lot of people have to rely on it, even to the point where you’re just like, “Who is that?” My voice, I feel like it’s distinctive, and I can do without [Auto-Tune]; it’s just that, on some songs, it gives you a a texture that sounds like it fits much better than the original tone. With “Birthday Sex” I used that slightly, and a few other records on the album. Whatever I feel, you know, if it sounds good I’m goin’ with it. I don’t think people are gonna look at me ‘cause I use Auto-Tune and say, “He’s the next T-Pain,” but some songs it does sound better on.
DJ Booth: Having all of this success in such a short time period, do you feel like the rush has helped you better prepare for what you have coming up in the future?
Jeremih: I feel like the rush has gotten me better prepared. Every day now, we’re doin’ something new. It’s always a learning experience. Every day, I learn something new. It’s a privilege to be able to get signed to a label now, and they’re on it, they want you to come out with your album this year. We recorded the entire album in ‘08, before even thinkin’ about labels and singles and radio, just doin’ it for the love of music. It’s all practice and now the product needs to come out—like, Chicago’s been playin’ “Birthday Sex” since November, and people are just now hearin’ it for the first time.
DJ Booth: Well, those people have clearly been living under a rock.
Jeremih: Right. [laughs] But now it’s spreading across overseas, I get a lot of hits from people who don’t even speak English, and they love the record. I don’t have to get paid millions and millions of dollars—as long as [I feel like people are] hearin’ my music, I’ll be straight.
DJ Booth: Give everybody a website or a MySpace page so they can find out more about you.
Jeremih: Just Twitter me, man, follow me on Twitter; it’s twitter.com/jeremih. We’ve got myspace.com, I’m still on there—it was myspace.com/jeremihspace, which still works, but you can just [go to] myspace.com/jeremih. Facebook me; I’m on there, too.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth. It was a pleasure, and the best of continued success to you.
Jeremih: For sure man, thanks for all the support.