Today, our previous Rising Artists Spotlight feature J. Esq officially released his debut album 'Imperfect Gentleman.' RnB Junkie had the pleasure of interviewing J. Esq upon the release of his debut album. We discussed when he developed his passion for music, his influences, the state of R&B, his debut album 'Imperfect Gentleman.' and more.
You come from a musical family, when did you realize you could sing and wanted to pursue a career in music?
I started singing when I was two, really like dove into it by the time I was five I recorded with my dad and then I started writing at eight. I really started taking it seriously at fourteen. I started forming groups at the end of my ninth grade year, so that's when I really knew that I wanted to do it.
Growing up who were some of your musical influences?
Ah man! Jodeci definitely, above all. Jodeci, Dru Hill, New Edition, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Donny Hathaway, Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, Faith Evans, yeah.
Being a Baltimore native home of artists such as Dru Hill, Ruff Endz, Mario, and not to mention the impact of Baltimore Club Music, how has the culture influenced you musically?
It's a sound to it. Baltimore R&B has this gritty churchy soul to it that you don't find in too many other places. I just always been a fan of that. You know, just the way that everybody just sings from their heart. It's really bluesy, it's churchy, it's really funky, it's a fun influence on my music.
How do you feel about the current state of R&B, and what do you believe you can bring to it?
I believe that every artist has their place. I do believe that R&B is missing its honesty. I think it's missing honesty in the sense that it's speaking the everyday truth about love. It's missing romance and to me, it's missing that vulnerability and that masculinity, especially in R&B males. You know, it doesn't have that same...I feel like women don't feel like their being protected in the music anymore. You don't feel like you are being wooed in the music anymore, You don't feel like you are being supported in the music anymore, and the men that listen to R&B music don't feel like anyone is singing from their standpoint anymore, so we gotta get back to that.
You've released your debut album “Imperfect Gentleman.” In your own words, what is an “Imperfect Gentleman?”
An imperfect gentleman is a guy who gives his all, means well, loves hard, loyal to a fault, but also flawed. You know, has his bad days, has his moments, has his rollercoaster rides like anybody else. It also represents the fact that on the album, I kept some of the flawed notes because that was where the best feeling came from, that was where some of the best energy came from. We went back to correct it and when we go back to listen to it, it just didn't feel the same anymore, so I was like let's go back to the last take and just keep that. It's a combination of those two, those are the two meaning. It's a dual meaning to the album.
As far as the album, can you share with us any writers and producers you collaborated with on this album?
Well, I wrote every song. Production wise I worked with J8s. I worked with my man Justin Grant. I worked with my man Joe Sembly, OMP Productions. Also, I have a record on my album called 'More' that's featuring an artist signed under my label Nu Legend Recordings, his name is J. Law, and I have a duet record called 'Say U Luh Me' and it's featuring a young lady called Par'ker. Those are the only two features I have on the album. I wanted to make it as old school, as J. Esq as it possibly could be because it's my debut album and I really wanted it to be an introduction.
You recently stated that Michael Jackson's 'Off The Wall' album was your inspiration for this album. What was it about that album that inspired you?
The energy of that album and was just so well produced, it was well recorded, all of the songs were written well. You will be able to hear the simplicity of my choruses, the hooks on the album. You'll be able to hear it in some of the intricate harmonies, the very fun spotty harmonies and some of the innovation I do taking it back to the sound of R&B. There will be little nuances you will hear and even starts like that album, in the sense that it starts high energy and ends high energy, and then you got the soft sweet spots in the middle of the album, so that was definitely an inspiration in that. I felt like the album cover was so simple that it made a huge statement, just with the tuxedo standing up against the wall. That's how the album inspired me.
You're a singer, songwriter, producer, and even own a label. Can you talk about the pros and cons of being an independent artist who owns their own label?
Finance. [Laughs]. More than anything it is the financial ending of it. Also, your team is a lot smaller, so you have to find creative ways to move about your listeners, your demographic. You have to find ways to keep them engaged, and keep them interested, and keep them listening to you. One of the things that's happening in music now is that it is so easy to obtain, so obtainable that music just falls by the waste side. Artist don't even have moments anymore, like even if an album is number one you don't even feel the effects of it anymore. It used to be exciting to go buy an album, you waited, and it used to be so much anticipation for this album that even if you were down to your last dollar if you could get that was bought. So now, you got to figure out a way. I think one of the beautiful things, one of the pros to being an independent artist is you have grassroots promotions. That's when you're able to nestle in and do all the interviews and do all of the shows all over the place be it big or small. People are becoming these instant stars, and they are missing all of those opportunities and those outlets to really let people in to let them know who they are and to become invested in them as a brand and as an artist.
For those who still like to purchase physical copies, how can they purchase a copy of your album?
It's going to be available on bigcartel.com/jesqunlimited store, they can buy it through that. Anybody in the DMV area can purchase it at Sound Garden in Baltimore, and I'm going to be out here. Me and my team are going to be out here hustling these records so there will be physical copies available today. It will be out on vinyl later on this summer. We already started talking the formatting and cutting it. That's a whole nother process that they have to do. That's a whole within itself. We just wanted to go ahead and make sure we had the support out there with the cd's and the digital first, then we're going to go back and make it happen on vinyl, so definitely look out for that.
On behalf of RnB Junkie, I want to thank you for the opportunity of interviewing you.
Thank you so much for interviewing me and giving me the opportunity to speak. Thank you for representing R&B hard it's needed, it's still out here, and it's coming back to the mainstream.
Before we go, can you tell our followers how they can find you on social media?
Absolutely, facebook.com/jesqmusic. Instagram and Twitter @jesq_music.