What first got you into music?
Music isn’t something I got into necessarily. I’m from a music family, so I was technically born in it. My earliest memories are being at my dads rehearsals and concerts. I remember glimpses of studio sessions at Nolan’s studio in Pasadena. My pops formed a traditional gospel quartet with Joe Ligon’s younger brother, Thomas. I remember them being on Big Break n the 90’s. They were runners up to R. Kelly (So it’s been f*ck R Kelly *chuckles*). Just about every person in my family does something with music. My god brother, David Gleen, he is the engineer and road manager for Take 6. He started in music with my dad. Then there’s my cousin, Issac Reese, he was affiliated with Death Row. He’s all over Nate Dogg’s “G Funk Classics Vol 1 & 2”, He would provide vocals for gangster rappers then go sing with my pops group over the weekends. Dude randomly popped up at my aunt’s house one day with Butch Cassidy and made me play my poorly recorded demo for him I was only 15 and super embarrassed. I apologize for all the name dropping, I feel mad corny, but I’m just trying to give you an idea of how music is second nature because of how I was so exposed to it, at an early age. There are so many more dope artists I grew up around, that I can mention. I just feel too corny.
Who inspired you to make music?
Give artists insurance. Medical, Life, Retirement. Give them all the benefits. The music industry brings in billions but they’ll let a school district treat their assets better. There's no way Taylor Swift should come out of pocket for medical expenses. Rap was not allowed in my house at the time. It was devils music back then. My cousin would play me Xzbit . I feel in love with those few songs he played me. But I didn’t see myself doing it. I got a bit older, I believe I was in the 8th grade, I meet these two brothers who were way cooler than I was. They went to public schools, they were super into high fashion, all the girls our age would want to be around them and they were super into this crew from Harlem. The Diplomats. I was such a nerd and for some reason they took me under their wings. They started this dipset-esque rap group and I started writing raps and we recorded songs and did ciphers. At this point I still didn’t get it. I was more intrigued by being in choral. Then we took a trip to Atlanta for “Youth Congress”(It’s like the comic con for Seventh Day Adventist teens) While we were there we toured the city, we went to the MLK Museum. We Went to MLK’s childhood home. Our last stop for that day was the Underground Mall. We went there, I gravitated to the Foot Locker. I remember going through polo shirts and then, Boom! I hear “Through the test of time…” I look up at the t.v. screen and its some guy rapping about having his jaw wired shut. This thing resonated with me. I grew up very sickly, always in the hospital, I even died once. Collapsed lungs, chest tubes, doctor induced coma. I had to learn to walk and write again. So that song felt like my personal experience and from that dad on I felt that I found my calling. Thank you Kanye.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
My music changes depending on my mood. Some days it’s dirty sample beats, the next I’m doing this very cyber punk inspired score for one of my friends films. Then there’s the trippy days. I’m really all over the place. I’d say the common themes are the color blue, minimalism and emotion.
What is your creative process like?
A lot of the times, I’ll see a movie or show that really inspires me and make a series of music that goes with that show or movie, then I’ll get 2 or 3 really good songs out of it. Other times, I’m just really in my feelings. The music becomes the outlet and in returns I have a few good ass songs. Then lastly, i'll accidentally come up with a really good song. I call those my rain man moments. It's almost super natural. I know its me coming up with it, but it's not really me, It’s like the song exists and the song is using me as a vessel to get out.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Cardi B. Hands down. I love her voice, I love her confidence. Jon Brian is my second. He’s just the GOAT. Susan Rogers I really wish I could get her to leave McGill University for she can help me mix my album.
If you could go open a show for any artist who would it be?
Sada Baby. I’m a huge fan of his. Our music is plants apart, as far as sound, but I think his fans would love me.
What is the most useless talent you have?
I can hear any sound, song or melody and see a color
Do you know how to produce because some don’t?
Yes. As an artist, I think that's what I’m best at. Producing isn’t about beats or rhymes. It’s a bout finding what works best for a song. I look at my self, the artist as a painter, production is the brush. The melodies, kick, cadence, sequences, mix… etc, are the colors. The song fully mixed and mastered is the fully finished painting.
What would you be doing right now, if it wasn’t for your music career?
I’d probably working for a design firm or working as a creative director for some brand.
Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues?
Churches, Clubs, Out Door Stage events, Art Galleries. I really don’t have a favorite or least Favorite. I’m not much of a fun of performing, only because its redundant to me. How many times can I walk back and forth performing the same songs?
Do you have any upcoming shows?
No shows coming for a while, because of COVID-19 but, I am working on an hour long show that has a different format from what we’re used to seeing. Nothing new under the sun but, it’s something that’ll be useful for all artist, especially new artist in the future. That’s all I can say, people be steal lol
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
It’s helped as far as access goes. Everyone has access. It’s also made it more competitive. Since we all on here, we all fighting for that attention. The most visible is the winner.
What is your favourite song to perform?
Bless You hands down.
Which famous musicians do you admire?
Prince Rogers Nelson!!!!
Did you go to any school for your craft?
I wouldn’t say that, it was a school particularly for my craft, but in high school I took Choral, and voice lessons. In Collage I took Music History, Music Theory I & II. I took a few engineering classes, but I learned the most From Nolan Shaheed, Sean 2 Miles and David Glenn, when it comes to the art of mixing songs. As well as learning a lot about music from my Father Johnny Dower Sr.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
I’ve gotta so many nuggets of advice from friend and family who work in the music industry. The one piece of advice that stuck to me wasn’t given to me directly. Ali, TDE’s primary engineer, did an interview with Dave Pensado. He was talking about how Kendrick Lamar keeps recording until his performance sounds like it sounded in his head.I’ve been doin that ever since. Another piece of advice that stuck out is from Kanye West and how he uses voices as if they were instruments. I implement that in my craft as well. I’ve even started using voices as if they were being sampled. Recording them at one speed and speeding them up or slowing them down, without pitching. It makes for an interesting take, especially if artifacts are left floating on the recording.
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
Give artists insurance. Medical, Life, Retirement. Give them all the benefits. The music industry brings in billions but they’ll let a school district treat there assets better. There's no way Taylor Swift should come out of pocket for medical expenses.
What’s next for you?
I have an album ready to go. COVID 19 pushed me back, but I'm kind of glad. The first single should be available shortly after we got off lockdown. I have 2 projects that I am contributing production for, with some fairly known artist. Lastly I hope to partner up with a major soon. I know its “f*ck the labels” but this independent sh*t is ghetto. My art is for the world to hear and they have the capitol.
Music on iTunes
Sir Jon Lee