Following the success of his debut EP in 2017 along with a small tour, he’s embarking on the next big adventure in 2018: the Komorebi Tour. As a New York City resident, he’s excited to see what other cities have to offer, and spoke with Four Over Four before his tour kicks off this weekend.
Your sound is very modern but is rooted in old soul. How did you find that sound?
I was a classical and jazz pianist before anything, and have always been into pretty old-school music. Since I was a kid I’ve been drawn to rhythmic styles, first jazz and Motown, then later R&B and modern electronic music.
Basslines are everything to me, and that focus on bass and rhythmic “feel” seems to tie together all the different styles of music that I like most. Bach was rhythmic too—he was creating the dance music of his time, and it was all about the bass counterpoint. He was, of course, on another level harmonically as well, and his approach will always be a major influence for me.
So all those different sounds started to come together in interesting ways and my sound opened up a lot when I started singing and writing songs. When I got into dance music and started DJing the dots seemed to connect themselves in crazy new ways, with infinite potential to design new sounds. At that point, I was more excited than ever to be creating original music!
My sound is all about bringing together the old and the new; interpreting and expressing it all in my own way. The jazz and classical traditions are in there and so is soul, R&B, dance music, wind chime samples from my front yard, and any number of other sounds.
I’m never quite sure how to describe it to people. It features so many different elements, but to me it’s all on this same rhythmic, soulful line. I’ve been calling it “cinematic soul” lately and think that describes it pretty well.
Who are some artists you admire?
Stevie Wonder and D’Angelo are two of my all-time favorites. They’re both singers and multi-instrumentalists like me, mainly keyboard players, and the way they each combine different elements to create their own sound is a big inspiration to me.
As far as current favorites there are far too many to name, but a few are NAO and Tom Misch, and my friends Kevin Garrett and Gabriel Garzón-Montano. All great artists bringing together a wide range of musical ideas to say something new.
What songs can you not stop listening to right now?
“Lonely World” by Moses Sumney. The long build gets me every time and that Thundercat bass fill at the end is too dope!
Also Talking Heads‘ song “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” has been on my mind nonstop since I watched Stop Making Sense a few weeks ago. I highly recommend that concert film to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.
If you got a chance to soundtrack one movie, what would it be and why?
Life of Pi had some of the most incredible visuals of any film I’ve seen in the last few years, I’d love to write a score to something like that! Scoring something imaginative from Miyazaki or Pixar would be amazing.
Writing film scores feels like one of the best ways to bring together everything I do, from sound design and creating emotional textures to writing for instruments and layering in interesting ways. Classical music was where it all began for me, so I’m excited to return to those roots in a way and start getting into more orchestral scoring in the future. I envision my live setup growing into a kind of orchestra as well.
What does your day-to-day life look like when you’re not on the road?
I meditate every morning, and usually start playing piano or bass and singing soon after. That morning routine is really important to me, getting into a flow and setting a creative mood for the rest of the day. Especially around a tour, things often get really busy with calls and emails and non-music stuff to do, so I really savor that morning time and carve out as much time over the rest of the day to be writing, producing, practicing instruments and just playing.
Most nights I’m out catching a show, meeting up with friends or sometimes just catching a movie or heading to a yoga class alone. As soon as I get into too much of a routine though I generally try to break it, travel somewhere and explore new sources of inspiration.
I spend a lot of time in upstate New York, making music alone or with friends, and just slowing down and listening more. At different times of year, I make time to get away for a few days to go skiing, hiking, sailing, rock climbing, surfing, and anything else that brings me closer to nature.
How has it been touring since you’ve released your debut EP last fall? How has the fan response been?
It’s been incredible! I think my music just clicks for a lot of people when they see it live. With the way music is made now it’s often hard to know which elements are “real,” but I think it just connects on a deeper level when we’re all in the room together and they see me singing and playing piano.
I play a few different instruments in the show and the whole setup is pretty dance-y, but at the core is this jazz-influenced, singer-songwriter feel that is a lot more timeless and seems to resonate with people on a different level.
What’s your favorite venue to play?
Actually playing Rough Trade has been a goal of mine since I first moved to NYC and lived in an apartment right around the corner on Wythe [Avenue in Brooklyn]. It’s such a unique space and a great-sounding room. Pretty rare to have a small venue with such a cavernous space like that, and the show and lights really come alive there.
I played an opening slot at Rough Trade last spring and it was one of my favorite shows I’ve ever played. So I’m especially excited to headline there Friday!
As an overall spot to play and check out new talent, Rockwood Music Hall (also in NYC) has been my favorite venue for a while and a big part of my experience living in New York over the last couple years. I’m excited to come back for another show there later on, maybe a secret acoustic set or something fun like that.
Can we expect anything new for the Komorebi Tour that we didn’t see on the First Light Tour?
Yes, lots of new songs and instrumental elements! The new Upstate Soundtrack tunes are incredibly fun to play live, and they add this whole new instrumental flavor to the show. I sing on almost every song, so it’s cool to be able to switch it up and just groove with the crowd too.
My bass guitar is making its debut, and I’m featuring several additional instrumentalists in select cities… at Rough Trade this week I’ll be performing with a four-piece live band plus special guests! There also just may be a crowd singalong, if you’re lucky.
What are you looking forward to most in the coming year?
There’s so many cities on this tour that I’m playing for the first time, and I can’t wait to meet so many new people and share new experiences in each city. I’d like to invite anyone reading this to send me a message or email right now, and I’ll send over a postcard from one of the stops on tour!
Also going skiing in Alaska this spring, that’s going to be pretty incredible.
I saw a video of you playing the harp on Facebook and you’re quite good. Do you think we’ll get a harp-only Josh Jacobson EP ever?
Thank you! My mom is a violinist and she’s been taking classical harp lessons, and bought this beautiful harp made from bubinga wood. I don’t really know anything about proper technique yet, but whenever I’m back in Ithaca, I just sit down and play stuff by ear.
It’s pretty easy to figure out since it’s all in a keyboard layout, and the tones and vibrations you can feel from that instrument are pretty magical, to say the least. It’s normally in a standard diatonic tuning, but if you flip a few levers, you can totally transform it and get right into that lush major pentatonic sound that people always think of when they think of harp. There are so many interesting alternate tunings and melodic patterns to explore, so that’s a source of inspiration as well.
Bass is my main new instrument priority right now, but after all this touring I’d love to take some lessons and get better at harp too.
Want to see Josh Jacobson on tour? You’re in luck.
1/26 – Rough Trade, New York – Tickets | Contest
2/1 – Larimer Lounge, Denver – Tickets | Contest
2/2 – Schubas, Chicago – Tickets | Contest
2/8 – Barboza, Seattle – Tickets | Contest
3/5 – Bardot, Los Angeles – Tickets Available Soon
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