The gatekeepers of the punk community have been having a hell of a time criticising artists like jxdn, the American singer-songwriter whose highly-anticipated debut album Tell Me About Tomorrow has already accumulated hundreds of thousands of streams (not counting the hundred million already wracked up on its lead single). And yet, we’ve been waiting for a celebration of pop punk in the mainstream again for years, with blink-182 drummer Travis Barker leading the charge in ensuring that artists are preserving the integrity of the genre no matter their roots. While jxdn pays homage to the influence of blink-182 on the record (see: ‘A Wasted Year‘, a hark back to ‘Feeling This’), he also favours embracing what it looks and sounds like to have a modern take on an established sound, rather than replicating what’s been successful at Warped Tours of years past. We caught up with the prodigy about the virtue of patience, getting schooled by Travis Barker and punk never actually being dead.
You collaborated with Travis Barker on this record. What kind of guy is he in the studio? Is he the hands-on mentor? Does he sit back and let you do what you do?
I would say he’s a bit of both. I mean, it’s cliché to say, but it really is – I won’t say perfect, but a very close to perfect – blend of both. Of having the knowledge of what to say and when to say it, but not always feeling the need to say it. And he lets me grow a lot on my own, which I really appreciate because a lot of people, labels and direct signs, have a lot of issues with control over their music, control over whatever they want to do. Travis gave me complete control mainly because he’s like a dad figure to me, honestly, he really is. He stepped in, in a really cool way. I feel like his son, he sees me as another one of his kids – me and Landon are really close. He applies that when we make music. And when you have a son, sometimes you got to let him…
That’s what he did for the longest time. I just fucked up over and over again. But I still loved what I did, and he loved that. So when the time came, I came to him and I was like, “Yo, dude, I want to completely dive into this punk shit because I really think I’m ready, I just have so much inspiration.” I don’t think I could focus on anything else. Because there was a time in my life as an artist that I was kind of trying to do pop music, ’cause I sing, you know, I sing. That’s my instrument. I’ve always known how to sing pop music. And so that was an insecurity there from the beginning of my sign. And then finally when I was like, “Dude, I can’t run away from it anymore, I’m just such a punk baby right now,” he took me in and he showed me and crafted me as best as he could. And I tried to absorb all the information that I could. But he’s fun, dude. I say all this like it’s some business thing. This is the best part about him, he makes it so fun. We have a blast on all occasions. Every time, without a doubt, it’s going to be a good vibe and we’re going to get great music out of it.
I was picturing this kind of karate kid, Mr. Miyagi type situation. When you were writing the album, what were the stories that were interesting to you that you wanted to tell?
I wanted to talk about shit that everybody’s been through. I feel like my main goal with music is to create a space for people to be inspired by my music. People can relate to my music and people have fun with my music, and that’s what I got from Juice WRLD. He really showed me that it was possible to be extremely vulnerable and still make great music for people to lose their minds to. And that’s ill as fuck to me…I just try to let my brain work. I love taking moments in my life that connect with phrases. Like, for example, ‘DTA’: “Love is dead and I don’t trust anyone.” Those are two things in my life that I’ve been through, don’t trust anyone is the label that I’m a part of with Travis. That’s his label that he signed me to.
And then “love is dead.” Everyone’s had bad love stories. You know what I’m saying? I’ve met nobody that’s had a perfect like, “Oh yeah, the first one was the one I got and it’s perfect.” Shout out to those people. They got the golden ticket. But love is a really big issue. It drives people in our world. So we use things like that to connect with the audience. I’m extremely vulnerable. I talk about mental health a lot during this album because that’s really the premise of the whole thing. It’s talking about my journey with mental health, specifics as with love, specifics with your best friends. Talking about feeling alone. ‘No Vanity‘ was a time in my life that was extremely dark. You can feel it in the music.
Obviously that mental health stuff, the places that we fear the most, are really what’s peppered throughout the album. I want to put you on the spot and ask, what did you learn from that?
The album was like a therapy session for me, honestly. And that’s why I think the energy behind it is going to resonate the same way with the fans. And so [the] first is: Let moments be moments. That’s a really big one for me. Control is a big thing for a lot of people and it’s not bad to have control over your own life. But life is life, and not every time you have control over a situation. Sometimes it’s good to just let moments be moments. See what you can take from it. And that’s what brings the best memories and sometimes it brings awful pain, but at least you learn something from it. And so that’s what I learned, one.
Two: Patience is a virtue. Seriously, patience is a really big thing that I’m trying to apply to my life now. Because I’ve seen physical results that are positive just from having patience. I’ve seen actual good outcomes come from just being patient. Travis really taught me a lot of that. It’s better to do a song 70 times over again, and then go back to the beginning. Which we have done, by the way on this album, 70 different bounces. And going back to the first one, because you know what, it’s better just to check out your options and make sure that you feel comfortable with it. And there are so many things that come with it – an album is really a different piece of work and nobody can really understand except for anyone that’s working inside of it. And so I’m really grateful, man. I really am. I feel like another lesson is being grateful for what you have and appreciating the moment you’re in, because I have a lot of gratitude now for where I’m at.
Also, punk has always been cool – everyone needs to understand that. I had a very distinct conversation with Travis, this was like six months ago. I was like, “Travis, we’re making punk cool again.” And then he looked at me and he goes, “Dude, don’t even fucking say that.” He was like, “Punk has always been cool. People are just now getting it again.” And I was like, “You’re so fucking right.”