Singer Jeremih Talks Sophomore Album & A Year of Success – Our Interview
When he emerged on the scene last year with one of the biggest records of the year in “Birthday Sex,” he was a surprise to the entire industry and almost even to himself. Even with the tons of single downloads and an album that featured two more successful singles, many wrote him off figuring Jeremih might just be another one hit wonder. Jeremih has put those thoughts to rest with the release of his second album, All About You and the radio friendly single “I Like.” With the help of 50 Cent his buzz continues to grow with the single “Down On Me.” Recently we had a chance to sit with Jeremih to discuss his quick rise to stardom, his sophomore album and the challenges he’s faced in the last couple of years.
Parlé Magazine: Let’s talk about this second album. All About You why that title?
Jeremih: I felt my first album was self-titled, Jeremih because I wanted people to see my name tangibly, pronounce my name right. I felt like the first album ya’ll really got to know me, now I want to get to know ya’ll. Its no longer about me, its about my fans.
Parlé: What can fans and listeners expect this time from Jeremih and from this album?
Jeremih: Expect the unexpected. “I Like” in no way defines the album, it doesn’t definite me as an artist, but I feel like hopefully when people hear it they know who it is and who’s voice it is—sexy, annoying or whatever you want to call it, I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard the comparisons to R. Kelly and The Dream, but hopefully by now people know my voice and my vocal ability.
Parlé: You mentioned the first single, “I Like,” who decided to roll out with that record first this time around?
Jeremih: L.A. Reid chose “I Like”. There was another one that was a contender but in the end we sent him “I Like” and he said, ‘this is it.’ Originally Ludacris wasn’t even on the record, it was just myself. I was looking forward to people hearing it because I didn’t want people to just think I’m the new sex guy. I felt like there are some other records on the album that do define me a little more but that’s what people want to hear, that’s what people are having and that’s how people got introduced to me.
Parlé: You created your debut album pretty much entirely with producer Mick Schultz and really stormed on the scene from there. How did you and Mick even come together?
Jeremih: Well I met Mick just doing a hook for one of my guys who he was working with, which was a rapper. I laid the hook down one night and was like ‘cool, you make beats too’ [they were both producers] and it was like a month before he called and said to swing by. I did a record called “Marry Me” with him. I wrote it that night, recorded it that night and once again bounced, ‘like yeah he’s cool, he’s dope. I worked with this cool white boy that makes some good solid beats.’ Weeks later he called me and told me that he played the rapper’s record at WGCI, which is one of the leading radio stations in Chicago and he said ‘I put “Marry Me” at the bottom and they want to know if you got some more work.’ So I went back to his crib and I met Luis, who’s my manager now. He was like, you and this dude need to hook back up. I love this guy [the other rapper], but you and this dude need to do some more work too. And we did. We saw the instant chemistry and as a producer myself, I felt like it was easier to understand each other. Sooner or later my voice started maturing and I started taking it seriously. This dude, his father was in the music industry before so they have some kind of background and familiarity with the business. So I started writing more and he started producing more. We decided we were gonna make music, have fun and get placements. Contract what? Wasn’t none of that then. We were just gonna do what we been doing. As long as it was fun I think it works. Next thing you know all the songs we were doing nobody could sing them—well not nobody could sing them, but I was going for the big names, Usher, Trey, Jill Scott all the biggest names at the time, but no one was really biting.
We came up with a couple records and we put out “My Ride,” which was a little throw out. We got a little buzz in Chicago and it began to bubble. “Birthday Sex” was another record I was trying to get placed with somebody but they were like ‘this you’. Then next thing you know everything we had in the library and in the computer was ‘yo this you’. That’s how it happened. Brought it to L.A. (Reid) and usually artists get signed, they have an A & R to find this producer to get this sound and they have another writer to match this producer, but me and Mick we already had that sound. So L.A., shouts to him for believing in the project and letting us keep everything, no extra outsiders, nothing.
Parlé: Were you happy with the feedback from your debut, after “Birthday Sex” especially?
Jeremih: Unfortunately, I can’t be greedy and say that I feel like one of the records should’ve gotten more publicized than it did. There was one record on there that was my favorite, called “Starting All Over.” It was me, it was really poetic, I just put melody behind my poetry and that’s really what you all hear. It’s kind’ve like rap-poetry with a melody. I can’t say I’m the best singer out here, I really came in producing and rapping. The singing just came out in the last couple of years. All the critiques, ‘who is that? Why is he allowed to come out here and do whatever?’ I’ve heard it all.
Parlé: How is this album different than the debut? Is it pretty much on line with what you put out the first time?
Jeremih: The first album they got a hint of what I can do. I know a lot of people expected a whole R. Kelly type of album because of “Birthday Sex” and they expected to hear more of that cause that’s what they like and that’s what they want. I write those easy—bedroom, baby makers, I feel like that’s my niche. I always find a way to write them without having to say pussy, or ‘let me put my dick’. I like using metaphors and innuendos. Things you wouldn’t expect. Even “Birthday Sex,” how in the hell did I not use any body part or anything else in that song. But that’s just how I write. Hopefully this album is a stepping-stone into a lot of different things.
Parlé: Let’s go back to this new album, now is it just you and Mick again this time?
Jeremih: The first album was unintentional. No one knew that it would get that big, no one knew that I’d be the guy that I am now. Once we saw that this was round 2 it was like, ‘we did it, let’s just do it again’. I’ve gotten opportunities to work with other producers as well and I feel like I can work with anybody, but with this album I feel like we had a lot of great sounding records so if they only giving us 11, 12 songs let’s just make it happen again. We got here together if it all falls down, let’s fall down together. So that’s how it happened.
Parlé: What advice do you have for artists and entertainers trying to get into the business?
Jeremih: Music has just always been my passion. It’s nothing like doing something you love to do. Doing whatever you love to do, that’s a great feeling. For all those artists, my motto is if its right for you, if you feel like this is what it is, stick with it, don’t quit it, go out and get it. I just kinda been living by that motto, which is what I did. If I wasn’t going to get in any other way I’d get in with these beats so I’d wake up in the middle of the night. My grand dad a couple of doors down was always knocking on the walls. Now he’s proud of his grandson. And them beats made me believe in myself more than anything. And me working with other people made me begin to believe in my beats. So I would just say keep a good circle around you as long as you got a great team and you make smart decisions. I’m sure you know a lot of people don’t make it this far making stupid decisions. As long as you make the right moves, make smart decisions, continue sticking with it, give it your all, it will be bound to happen. It’s anybody’s time.
Parlé: Are you still writing records for other artists?
Jeremih: Yep. There is actually one record that’s on my album that I actually wrote for a female but she didn’t take it. I hope she’s mad she didn’t take it. But it made my album. I can’t see it being a single, but hopefully it can be one of those “Starting All Over” records that people loved about the last album.
Parlé: Would you change anything up to this point in your career? Change anything about the way you’ve done things?
Jeremih: (Long pause) Anybody can say that. Yeah I would have. A couple things I would do different business wise. Like I said everything was brand new. I was introduced to the world like a fresh fish in the sea being born. I was just going off the flow of how I thought things should go down. I was on one of the biggest tours of last year and we didn’t even have a tour bus. Just looking around at everybody like ‘what up Jeezy?’ ‘Wayne, WAYNE’ All these people I grew up listening to that I thought I’d never be standing up next to, playing basketball with them, meeting them in the cafeteria, it was just a surreal type of experience. I can’t say I’d really change anything other then some little things.
Parlé: I know you were in school when everything really started to pop off and you didn’t get a chance to finish, but would you go back and finish school?
Jeremih: Honestly I want to. I never wanted to do anything more. Especially being instilled in my head from my moms, (mocks her voice) ‘Just get your degree’. But she always said that cause I didn’t have no job and I ain’t never had no money. It’s still just an honor to go in your crib and see that piece of paper. I think I would’ve learned a lot more had things not happened as quickly as they did. Cause I was in there for music business. I was taking the publishing class, I was taking the investment courses. This was the point where everything was happening. It got to the point where I wouldn’t make it on time cause they knew who I was. And I didn’t have a video out so that’s the only thing that saved me. “Birthday Sex” was playing in Chicago from November and I was still enrolled in school. It got to the point where my teachers would say ‘My daughter loves you’. My teachers! It would be an everyday occurrence and everybody at that school wants to have something to do with the music industry. Everybody can rap, can sing, can dance, can act, can do photos, do videos—that was the beauty of that school. But when you go to a school where everyone wants to be who you are or see you going somewhere that they want to be it begins to be a lot. Then I started going away so I decided that it can be a risk but I’ll take it.
Parlé: Do you have any plans to transition to other sides of the entertainment business?
Jeremih: I been doing a little bit of acting. I wouldn’t want a major role and I don’t have time right now to dedicate to anything other than music. This is what people know me for and I want people to get to know me better. I feel like I can make a lot of great music in a short period of time and I want to keep hitting people with what I do best. Hopefully they accept this album and by next album they continue to grow with me. Once again this isn’t a whole “I Like” album. That’s not the vibe, its all different types of vibe.
Parlé: Sitting here speaking with you I can tell that you are just a real calm guy. Has fame hit you yet? Are you still getting used to it?
Jeremih: Yeah. It’s a lot of getting ‘used to ness’ up in here. (laughs) When I’m out sometimes I really don’t want to take a picture or I really don’t want to be bothered but I do it for you because you love me and I love you for loving me. It was one of the biggest changes for me. I was never no lame dude, I was known in my high school and I was always pretty good with the ladies, but now it’s times ten. Now when I’m out there’s probably always going to be someone that’s interested in what I’ve become. I get that, I understand that. The flights, never being home, which is cool because the only reason I’d be home is to see my family and right now they only want to see me grow. I love them for that. It’s a change, a big change. Its been a year and I can say I’ve almost traveled a big portion of the world, that I never thought I could in one year let alone being internationally known doing something that I really didn’t think would get me on. I thought my beats or my lyrics would get me on before I became that upfront artist. I thank God for that. I feel like I’m honored, blessed.
Parlé: You’re just 23 years old and all this has happened so quickly, but again you seem quite humble and laid back. Has any of this changed you?
Jeremih: I can see how it can change people, but I don’t feel like it’s changed me. I feel like the people closest to me have kept me sane. My mother, she’s definitely been there for me and she’s guided me. And my management, I got a pretty good team around me. As long as you got all those forces around you, you should be good, and I’m good. I don’t feel different. People that know me might say ‘he Hollywood now’. Why? Cause we don’t talk every day on the phone like we used to? Some people that I grew up with or that I knew in high school might say that. Now I’m Hollywood cause I’m never home as much. I’ve just become something that a lot of people wish and dream to be. A lot of people do hate me, and are hating but its cool coming from a hating city. For the most part it’s love.
Parlé: People see you on TV and see you in videos and think they know you, but tell them about the real Jeremih.
Jeremih: I’m just a little city boy, who loves making music. I’ve always made it. I rap, I sing, I produce, I write. All About You is more detailed for my fans and I feel like for those that didn’t give up on me because I been MIA for a couple of months and let the other R & B dudes remain consistent and remain whatever they feel they are. But I feel like All About You is for my fans. I feel like every record on here has some type of story that every one of you all can tell and feel. My grand dad, your grand dad to your little sisters. I feel like there is a record on here for everybody. Usually this is the make it or break album for artists. Either you put out some weak shit or they say ‘he hot’. I just want to be hot. I feel like I’m hot, hopefully ya’ll feel like I’m hot.
Round 2, time to kill em.