Inspired does not seem to cut it. It’s not really possible to be in two places at once, but R&B artist and UCLA alumnus Jarell Perry gets pretty close, every single day. When he is not working with advertising for Funny or Die, he is putting in hours in the studio, getting as close to perfecting his voice as he can. With an EP already circulating and an album set for release early next year, Jarell Perry is taking his college experiences with Spring Sing and the Cultural Affairs Commission and magnifying them.
He spoke with Daily Bruin’s Manjot Singh about his upcoming projects and what it’s like to break into an industry saturated with redundant sounds and archetypal styles.
Daily Bruin: What are some of your musical influences that have helped you to shape the soul of your sound today?
Jarell Perry: Right now, we’re at an interesting time. I grew up singing in a gospel choir, so my vocals have always been influenced by the legacy of gospel music and R&B music like Stevie Wonder, Usher, stuff like that. Right now, I’m really looking to take a more unexpected route with my sound. I like to look to the left of the center a bit. It can be anything from dubstep producers like Rusko, who I’ve worked with in the past.
DB: Where do you derive your inspiration?
JP: Most of my creative energy comes from the fact that I listen to music now very differently from how I used to. I don’t really hear the same song once or twice because there’s always something new. I’m always looking for the next thing. I’ll always go on the Hype Machine and follow blogs. I think it’s important for me to always have a fresh ear. One day I could be listening to Kaskade and the next day listen to Marvin Gaye.
DB: How do you organize all these different sounds into your own flavor of music?
JP: Right now I’m working closely with a producer. His name is Hassan Johnson. What we do when we’re looking to make a new song is go through and play the various things that we heard that day. The thing that pulls it all together is how I produce the vocals on the track and that’s where you get the R&B flavor and soul.
DB: What was your first exposure to music in general?
JP: I was around 15 years old when I first started soloing. My choir was producing an album and I got to solo on a few tracks and that was my first experience in the studio. And that’s when I knew I was a studio rat at heart. I just love being in the studio and recording.
DB: What made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in music? What clicked?
JP: By nature, I’m not really your typical artist who likes to break the rules or really goes against the grain. I’ve pretty much been a straight edge, keep my head in the books, be practical, get a good job and that’s it. And if a music career happened to fall in my lap, I would take it. But then I realized, that’s not how it works. Nothing really falls into your lap. But I began to realize it was just this passion that was growing inside of me that I couldn’t really let go of. I had this Radio Shack microphone and my old laptop and I would just be humming melodies and recording layers in my spare time in my dorm room. That led me to find people to jam with at Kerckhoff and then I did Spring Sing. Having that reaction from people at Spring Sing and to be gratified on my own is really what made me realize I need to this.
DB: How was your time at UCLA?
JP: UCLA had so much to do with my music career it’s crazy. It was kind of like an incubator for my talent and a great place to try out new things and get comfortable with who I was as an artist and writer. From being a student and working on JazzReggae Fest, all of that stuff had such an influence on the things that I write and talk about and my taste in music. It just opened my mind. I owe so much to UCLA for what my career is doing now. Shoutout to the Bruins.
DB: What was the first song you ever sang?
JP: “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson. Don’t judge. I was all about that.
DB: What are your current plans? What can we expect?
JP: There is an album in the works. It’s called “Simple Things.” Right now, we’re saving its release for early next year. It’s still not ready yet and by that I mean the world isn’t ready. I want to make sure that people really get to know me before I throw this huge project at them. I’m really proud of the album and excited about the stuff we’re putting out.
Email Singh at [email protected].