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Jacob Lee - an interview

I had the pleasure of having a conversation with Jacob Lee, an independent artist from Australia. I had this opportunity during his Lowly Lyrics tour before his performance in Warsaw. The concert was dynamic and energetic. It gathered people who were singing along with every single word during the songs. It is easy to find out within moments that Jacob Lee is an artist who knows what he wants. He is developing his music career along with the digital side of it. His is very heavily influenced by philosophy, so some people might be surprised that Jacob was always also influenced by heavy metal music.

How has your tour been so far?

Jacob: It has been fun. I have been wanting to come back for, I think, almost 3 years. It has been really good. I believe it is our 10th show of the tour, we have 25 in total. So, I have been waiting a very long time to see the reaction that people get from my lyrics. I was so used to that three years ago before COVID, but it is very strange how you forget how much your music makes an impact when you don’t see people. So, it has been nice getting to see people’s reactions again and speak to them after the show. I met everyone after the show, and it has been beautiful.

You create a real community of people around the world. You share photos of them, invite them on stage. How does it feel to create such a close community with your fans?

Jacob: I just never really classified them as fans; you know, I just always felt like those people had a similar mindset to me. And the music is acting as a catalyst for me to find more people and bring them into this world that I am trying to develop. But I think the reason that a lot of people resonate with these songs is because I am not trying to trend on TikTok or get on the radio. I don’t really care for those things. All I want to do is write what is inherently within me, and when you do that, I think your emotions tend to resonate with a lot of people because we all seem to feel very similar things in our lives. So, I think it is half the reason that it feels more like a community than a fan base.

Do you have a dream venue?

Jacob: I do; it is in Red Rocks. It is like the cave with the rocks in Colorado, America. It is beautiful. I have never been there, but a few of my friends played there.

What inspires you to write such emotional and meaningful lyrics in your music, and how do you typically begin the sognwriting process?

Jacob: My writing process always begins alone. Until I finish a song, only then will I show it to people and get their opinions. So usually when I am in my studio, or even when I was younger before having a studio, I would be in my dad’s garage. It was that clattered garage, which was a creative space, and it was his studio. I would always make sure to shut all the doors instead of just one.

And always, when I knew someone was in another room, I would shut that door as well, making sure people were as far away as possible.

And I felt like I could then express myself deeply that way without feeling like people were hearing me and judging me or whatever. So usually, it starts like that, and I feel very comfortable that way. And then after that, once the lyrics are finished and the story is done, I am happy, and I would do some pre-production on my end, because now I have a studio at my house in Australia. And after that, I would take it to Luke, who is on tour with me, or Matt, who is back in Australia. Both are extremely talented producers. They would give me their opinion and tide things up, and from there, it was pretty much good to go.

Who has the biggest influence on you: a songwriter, an author, or a band?

Jacob: Whenever people ask this, I feel like my answer is a bit ridiculous. (laughs) Because it is never like an artist or anybody else. There are plenty of artists who inspire me, obviously, and similarly, there are a lot of authors who inspire me because I like writing. But I find that the thing that drives me the most every day is trying to attain my potential. I have always been very driven by who I could be. And so, whether through songwriting or performing, fitness or health, being a great dad, or whatever, I am very driven by that, so I just want to be better every day. And in my songwriting, I think that comes out. I listen to my previous work, and I am trying to one-up myself every time.

You are an independent artist. Your album called ‘Philosophical" came out. Your own company is called "Philosophical Record". Even the cover of your album seems to have a reference to philosophy, with a skull lying on the books. So why philosophy? What is the meaning behind this?

Jacob: I think it's just a natural inclination to want to dig deeper into things. I have always read various books. I love Mark Aurelius, the Bhagavad Gita, the Sutras, and all these types of things. I just find it very interesting. To see how far people have cracked into their subconscious and how they feel about themselves. So, I really do believe now that I am 28 that it is something I have inherently always loved. It is not like there was a specific age when I was like, "Oh wow, look at this..."; I have just always wanted to see what is beyond the veil, perhaps (laughs). So through philosophy, you tend to at least get a bit closer to that understanding. As a songwriter, I find that a lot of that interest gets put into my songs, and that is why pretty much everything I do has that kind of covering, I guess.

How does it feel to be an independent artist since you have your own label?

Jacob: So good (laughs)... so good. I don’t have to run things by anybody. No one can tell me no. Like, if I like a song, even if people around me who are my friends are like, "Well, maybe not," It is like, if I feel a deep desire to release it, I can. No one is telling me not to, and I can release it as quickly or as slowly as I want to. No one is like, "Oh, you need to post this much today. You need to release this song this year". I could put out a song every week if I wanted to If I had the time. I love the freedom of being independent. And these days, you can develop a significant career as an independent artist too.

You have already mentioned that you are a dad. You also post pictures of your family on social media. So, how do you balance being an independent artist and owning a record company with your family life?

Jacob: Luckily, my studio is in my house. So, I have got Luca who is three. He is always knocking on the studio door, trying to interrupt (laughs), and usually I open it. So, I find it's just a conscious decision every day and very good communication with your partner to be like ‘Look, today I need to do this, I need to disappear, or for these next few hours I am doing this". Instead of her thinking that I am going to be out in 10 minutes, I come out 3 hours later, and there is some discrepancy. So, communication, I think, is one thing. Secondly, because I work in the house a lot of the time, I am always around them anyway, and I make sure that I stop writing around dinner time so I can help with it. It has been hard being away from them on tour because I’ve never been away from them before like this. So, it’s been hard. But luckily, we have technology; we can do FaceTime, and they can send me videos or photos, so it is not too bad. Yeah, but we are not even halfway there yet, so I can imagine that by the end of the tour I will be homesick.

With music, you are creating a digital world using NFTS. It looks like you are pushing the boundaries in virtual reality; can you describe it for us and tell us what the idea behind it is?

Jacob: Yeah, definitely. I jumped into that in 2020, so it was early on when it started becoming something. And similarly, to what you said about the community finding that NFTs are digital collectibles, that really boosted that. Made people feel like they were a part of my growth instead of just listening from the outside. So, I could send them DMs (direct messages) on Instagram or Twitter along with e-mails. But that was always one-sided. With NFT, I could go and create my song as a collectible.

They could then go and purchase that if they felt like it. It took a lot of time. From there, I could identify who they are and who has invested in my career, and I could give them things. I'm able to provide them with utilities like free access to shows, early access to songs, or whatever. So, they all kind of sit within one realm, and it's expanding continuously as I add more collectibles to that.

And it's been nice seeing how many people are investing in my music because they believe in me.

You might be one of the first musicians to use NFTs in such an expanded way.

Jacob: For a very long time, I was" the first". I could not find anybody else, but I still cannot confirm that (laughs). So, these days, I just say I am in the top three. When I was trying to find people to talk to about NFTs in music, everybody was like "What?". No one understood it.

You are almost halfway through your tour. Do you have a favourite song to play live?

Jacob: Drift. So that's the final song before the encore moment. We just did that in soundcheck. And it's just—it's probably the biggest. It's just like having high energy. I feel like I can just, like, run around the stage a little bit. Well, the set is somewhat dynamic, with big moments and very intimate, quiet moments. Because my previous tour was very calm and quiet, the whole set has added this bigger dynamic, and I'm just having a lot of fun with that, yeah.

It looks like you went slightly from acoustic to more electronic sounds.

Jacob: Yeah, we've veered a little bit. What I've done has gone so far, from the extreme of acoustic to the extreme of electronic, and now I think I want to sit somewhere in the middle.

If you could choose anyone with whom you would like to share a cup of tea?

Jacob: Oh my gosh. You know what, this might sound so cliché. The kind of guy I said before, to be honest. Marcus Aurelius. I am not sure if you have read "The Mediations" but he was the most influential individual of his time. The fact that this book that people are reading now was a journal that he never intended anyone to read, and yet there is so much virtue in what he is saying. I really resonate with that, like I want to try and live an integral, honest, and truthful life in everything I do. So, he's kind of the trajectory that I aim toward, I think. So, if I could sit down with him, that would be wild.

So, what are your future plans in relation to your career, building the digital world, and writing music? There is a lot going on. So, what is next?

Jacob: Yeah, the goal is to try to consolidate and compartmentalize it. So, I'm not feeling overwhelmed. I want to tour way more because it's been such a long time, and it just feels so good. So once this is done, we want to organize another European run. We also want to tour Australia and the US, if possible. It seems like there are a lot of people in Asia who want to see my music, as well as in Saudi Arabia. I have no idea. It's just like somehow people over there know my songs. I've never been anywhere, not even around there. So that would be amazing. But doing that, I'm going to continue building my company, which is my primary company. It's called Lowly Labs, and it's kind of like a web-based company. Philosophical records are getting ingested into it. So, it's going to slowly, maybe a year from now, be called Lowly Land Records because everything is tied to this character called Loudly Lyricist. We don't need to go into it. It's deep (laughs). But it's tied to music. Whenever I'm on the bus, I'm just working on that. So, touring, building Lowly Labs, writing, and releasing more songs, as well as being a good dad and partner... So yeah, that is the plan. Interview and photos: Zuzanna Maja

Editor: Grzegorz Biały

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