POP Interview: Jaymes Young

Late June I discovered Jaymes Young’s single “Feel Something” which ignited a musical obsession of sorts. After heavy listening of the brooding single, I dived deep into the sounds of his 2017 album of the same title. With passionately burning moments like “Sugar Burn,” “Naked” and “We Won’t” featuring the impeccable Phoebe Ryan, Young had caught my attention and won me over fully.

Living in Los Angeles has its perks, and after a couple of emails, Pop On And On was able to land an interview with the rising star. As ecstatic as we were, the icing on the cake was attending his show at The Troubadour which I was able to shoot, capturing Young’s fiery performance of new material as well of some of his previous hits like “Habits Of My Heart” and “I’ll Be Good.”

Check out our exclusive interview with Young below and feast your eyes on some cool LIVE shots.

POP: Pop On And On’s first encounter with your music was back in 2013 when we featured a “Dark Star” remix by Jez Dio/SmartChild, and you’ve definitely come a long way since then. Has your journey since been everything you thought it would be?

Jaymes: “I guess I never expected a specific thing, but it’s been interesting. It’s been… I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s been random, you know? I’m just trying to go with the flow of things and trying to stay in the moment and not think too far ahead or think of the past – just trying to ride whatever wave I’m on, really.

For the most part, I’ve been trying to stay creative – that’s the biggest thing for me. I don’t know if I really expected anything specific. I’ve been out here in L.A. since 2012, and it’s very different than Seattle where I’m from. Everything here is a lot faster, and you kind of just learn to… try to catch moments – because I feel like they come and go really, really fast out here.”

David Esquivel / Pop On And On

POP: How long have you been making music for?

Jaymes: “Well, I started to do a little bit of writing when I was 14. Just kind of really casually, and I just quickly became obsessed with it. So… it’s been a bit!”

POP: And how long have you been singing for?

Jaymes: “I don’t know, actually… The thing is, I never really considered myself to be a ‘singer’. In my mind, it was more like, ‘I love writing’ and ‘I love making songs’. And when I get on stage, I’m kind of just trying to portray myself as best as I can.

That’s a really hard question for me actually, because I always think, ‘Oh, maybe I really started singing 3-4 years ago’, which was when I actually started trying to be healthy and have a healthy voice and making sure I do my vocal warm-ups. As opposed to 8 years ago, none of that stuff would have ever mattered. There was no technique involved. There’s… still very little technique involved…” *laughs* “In that regards to me, it’s just kind of winging it.

I do feel that some people could have a negative reaction to that, though. Like, ‘What!? You’re not a professional singer!?’” *laughs*

POP: I guess it could be seen that way. But you know what, I feel what makes your music truly unique is your voice because it sits comfortably with the atmosphere of the productions. Have you always sung the way you do?

Jaymes: “I think since I’ve started, the way I sing has changed a lot. Partly due to puberty, obviously… *chuckles*

But it is kind of funny because you listen to what your voice sounded like two years ago, and you will notice things because time just passes, and you’re influenced by the people who are around you that you speak with. And even with speech, I feel like that affects us sometimes too, so if you don’t sing for like, several months, and you’re taking a break and doing other things, you’ll notice that you have to work pretty hard to get your enunciation and lung power back and all that stuff.”

David Esquivel / Pop On And On

POP: You’ve just released your first full-length album (Feel Something)… how did it feel to share it with the world?

Jaymes: “It felt great! I’m glad it’s out and living and breathing in the world because I kind of hoarded it to myself for as long as possible.”

POP: How long have you been sitting on the album?

Jaymes: “The timeline’s kind of all over the place. For the bulk of the album, it’s been about two years, but I feel like there had been a lot of small pieces of what happened over like a two to three year period. And for me, it’s kind of like, ‘Okay, I put this original piece out’, which is a representation of what I’ve experienced over these three years. And there are little different pieces of songs that I’ve worked on that didn’t get finished, so I’m actually trying to keep going! So whenever I’m not touring, I’ll be working on that.”

David Esquivel / Pop On And On

POP: It’s the little things that matter! And I’m sure there are a lot of tracks that are still unreleased. Are there any tracks that you felt extremely passionate about that didn’t make it on this album or any of your past EPs (Dark Star, Habits Of My Heart)?

Jaymes: “Yeah, I mean, there are always songs where it’s like, ‘Man, I love the way this song is written, but it’s not the right production’, or ‘Something’s missing; it’s not quite there yet.’ And to be honest, I felt that way about songs that are on the album and actually made the cut as well. But that’s just the nature of it – you can only do so much. You can even overthink it so much, and I tend to do that, but it’s fine because the songs that happen really, really fast always turn out the best as opposed to the songs that you spend the most time. The time doesn’t reflect the quality of the material sometimes just because it’s not necessarily about the time – it’s about the moment when you got the idea, especially if you stuck with it while you had that inspiration fresh in your mind. But there are definitely songs where I kind of have to wait and see if they’re gonna come pop their heads up again, where I will think, ‘Oh, I have to go in this direction with this song’, and you kind of have to let that happen because forcing it just doesn’t work as well. It doesn’t sound as genuine, it doesn’t feel as genuine.”

David Esquivel / Pop On And On

POP: It’s crazy because it’s an entire process – from writing to producing to mixing and mastering and everything – it takes a long while! At the end of the day, songs are stories, and I like to think that the best music is timeless, so we’d love to hear some of these tracks in the future.

Jaymes: “Yeah! And it’s nice what you said about songs being timeless. It’s nice to think that something you worked on isn’t going to lose that spark after a couple of months or even a year – and a year is a long time these days for songs. So, it’s nice to feel that you’re making something that you’re going to be able to come back to even yourself as the person who created it and remember like, ‘Hey, I’m still proud of this, I still like this personally’, and hopefully it wouldn’t feel like this nostalgic thing that I don’t want to listen to or something like that.”

POP: I know this may be a tough question to answer, but what’s your favorite song off the new album?

Jaymes: “You know, I’ll probably change my answer after this, but there’s a song off the album called ‘Naked’ that I really felt was representative of a lot of different thoughts and ideas that I’ve had lyrically just even a few months before I wrote that song. I don’t know if it’s my favorite – or if I even have a favorite – but I think that one is kind of ‘close’ to me right now.”

David Esquivel / Pop On And On

POP: Do you have any particular collaborations that you really enjoyed? I know you’ve had quite a few collaborations, including with Phoebe Ryan, Birdy, and a couple other artists.

Jaymes: “A lot of the album – about 90% of it – was in-house, but I’ve collaborated with some people on the productions of my album as well, and they were all really great, especially the song I recorded with Phoebe Ryan called ‘We Won’t’. I’m still always looking for people to collab with, and I’ve been thinking about that more as I’m already thinking about the second album and what I want to do for that.”

POP: There’s this specific style that you deliver with your music, dark and calm, yet bold and striking, it’s such a vibe. Is there a specific inspiration or significance behind it?

Jaymes: “I don’t know, I mean for me, it’s really just where I was vibe-wise when I created those songs and those moments. It’s funny because they’re not always relatable when I look back to some songs. Like ‘Dark Star’ – sometimes I would look back to that song and think to myself, ‘What was I feeling when I wrote that?’ I would kind of remember, but I’m not in those exact shoes anymore. I think I always try to be honest with myself when I write from where I feel. Sometimes, I love taking inspiration from other people’s stories or circumstances that don’t necessarily involve myself, but I think it’s just where I am in those moments. Just stylistically and aesthetically too, it’s the same thing. Whatever I’m feeling – that can be translated musically at that time, and I hope it’s at least been a semi-consistent thing so far.” *chuckles* “But, you know, whatever it becomes, I like to let it just be representative of what I was doing in the moment.”

David Esquivel / Pop On And On

POP: And our final question…I know your birth name is Jaymes McFarland, but your moniker is Jaymes Young. Why did you decide to go with that alias?

Jaymes: “Well, ‘Young’ is actually my mom’s maiden name, and I kind of just liked the way it sounded and I thought it would be different. And I had done things under the name Jaymes McFarland before, and I kind of just wanted a bit of a ‘fresh start’, and that was my way of doing that.”

And there you have it, what started out as a love for one hell of a single, amplified into full coverage with the artist behind the music. A big special thanks to Jaymes and his team for making all of this happen!

Remaining Jaymes Young tour dates:

7/28: The Sinclair (Cambridge, MA)
7/29: The Foundry (Philadelphia, PA)
7/30: Rock & Roll Hotel (Washington, DC)
8/1: Vinyl (Atlanta, GA)
8/2: Exit/In (Nashville, TN)

Stream the debut full-length from Young below via Spotify.