Poe Boy Music Group/Geffen Records breakout artist J Rand is truly an artist to watch in the year to come. This powerful young artist recently began to turn heads with his breakout video for “Up Against The Wall,” which was produced and shot by Malcolm Jones, the creative force behind videos such as R. Kelly’s “Hair Braider,” Mario’s “Crying Out For Me,” and Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss.” The video showcases this multi-faceted artists’ many talents, which range from as a powerful singer, skilled dancer, and overall engaging entertainer. The video follows J Rand through a Miami club as he turns up the “bad boy” sexy in an attempt to seduce his female counter part. By the end it is she who has him up against the wall. The club hit—produced by Joseph “Young Seph” Holmes and written by Nathan Harris, Corey Gibson, and J Rand—serves as the lead off his new project and is a nice introduction to what this trained vocalist and actor can do. “When I recorded Up Against The Wall, I wanted it to be something that people would want to dance to, I want to be able to go out and see people seriously up against the wall to my music,” said Rand. Outside the realm of music, J Rand recently appeared in the rocktastic feature film, “Rock of Ages,” starring Tom Cruise. He also has a role in the film, “Spring Breakers,” starring Vanessa Hudgens, James Franco and Selena Gomez due out 2013. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently chatted with J Rand where they discussed his musical roots, his songwriting process, the challenges of making his debut and much more! Get a first look at this artist on the rise in his own words!
What are your first memories of music in your life?
My first memories of music would be me locking myself in my room and singing one of my father’s old records, Hall and Oates’ “Maneater”! I was probably 5 or 6 years old. My sister would spy on me and I’d jump under the bed if I saw someone watching me. [laughs]
Who were some of the influences that have helped shape you, the musician, that we know today?
I grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, but my generation was so hip hop oriented that threw my teens I gravitated towards Eminem, Kanye West and even Bone Thugz and Harmony was a big influence.
What drove you to make music your career, as opposed to taking a different path?
I always had big dreams, but I don’t think I consciously knew I was going to do music. I originally started a rap group in high school with my friends, then I started working bar mitzvahs and weddings singing and dancing at those. I started developing myself through those crummy gigs and just blossomed as a writer through the process. Those are some of the toughest crowds so I’m ready for anything at this point. [laughs]
Your new music video “Up Against the Wall” has gotten you a lot of attention. What made you go with that song as a lead off single?
“Up Against The Wall” was chosen as the lead single because it was unexpected and we feel like it has legs to grow organically. It’s very Miami club oriented, and right now the strip club anthem down south here.
Tell us a little about how you approach your music from a writing process or bringing an idea to life.
There are two ways I write — Most of the time will go to the piano and pick out some chords then find a word or subject to latch onto. If it makes sense, I’ll try to think of a time in my life to write about. I like to write very autobiographical, so an ex girlfriend or two might sue me after hearing this album. [laughs] If I’m presented with a track, I’ll just go in the booth and freestyle melodies, and whatever sticks first is usually the one to role with.
You are currently working on your debut album. What can you tell us about the process of putting it together so far?
Putting the album together has been a long process. I sort of look at the process as chapters because I usually will have a block of 7 days with some producers and attempt to knock out 7 songs. I’ve done this many times so to me it feels like I have so many albums because my mood was so different for each duration, but it’s interesting and exciting to see myself adapt. My personal favorite records are the ones I wrote from scratch on piano and we built from there on.
For those who may not have heard your sound yet, how would you describe what they can expect sonically?
Sonically there are two things going on during album. It’s very piano driven in some parts, and then hip hop driven in others. I’d like to say I have some soul as a vocalist but lyrically and musically I think like a rapper.
Do you feel a lot of pressure to try to hit a homerun with your first release or to live up to any expectations for the album?
I do feel pressure to hit a home-run with this album, but I’m a gamer. The Bases are loaded right now and I’m gonna smash it over fenway fields green monster!
What was the biggest challenge for you as an artist on this project and what have you learned along along the way?
The biggest challenge as a new artist is that a lot of times you don’t have an opinion. You gotta learn to politic and mind fuck people. Make it seem like its there idea! [laughs]
How do you feel you have evolved as an artist since you first started out?
I’ve evolved tremendously! Have you seen my old videos? [laughs] What the fuck was I thinking! [laughs] But that’s the process. I mean, if I got signed back then I probably would’ve put out a wack ass pop album, but now I’m grown and don’t give a fuck about boundaries. Plus I can grow a beard now — Boss!
Everybody has their ups and downs. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist?
Its been a rollercoaster ride to say the least, but I just won’t quit. I said I was gonna do something in music, and I’m a man of my word. The journey and struggle makes for great music anyways, so bring on the bullshit. [laughs]
Your music was featured on “Step Up 3D”. How did that opportunity present itself?
“Step Up 3D” soundtrack was my first blip on the internet radar. I’m forever grateful for that opportunity. I wish I had a deal at the time that song was a smash. Poe Boy Music Group hooked that situation up.
You also appeared in the movie “Rock Of Ages”. What was that experience like for you?
“Rock Of Ages” was incredible to be on. When your at base camp with all the trailers it was a Who’s Who of Hollywood. I threw the football with Alec Baldwin, and high fived Russell [Brand] many times. [laughs]
Can we expect more film roles in your future?
Yes! My next film role comes out in Spring 2013. It is a film called “Spring Breakers” with James Franco, Selena Gomez, and Vanessa Hudgens. I got to be a real asshole and make out with one of the stars! Easiest job all time! [laughs]
What do you considering your most defining moment so far?
My most defining moment would have to be meeting with Jimmy Iovine. When I was singing for him I was like “Holy Shit! This is it!”
What is the best piece of advice someone has giving you in regard to your career in music?
The best advice I’ve gotten was from Will.I.Am. He told me even though your signed, you have to be creative on your own bc he you can’t rely on the label. So right now I’m plotting a supermarket tour! [laughs] Just kidding!
What is the best part of being J Rand these days?
The best part of being me is that strip clubs love my song!!! Last week I brought all of my buddies and we had free bottle and strippers all night — Enough said!
In your opinion, what does the future hold for you?
I’m gonna win a Grammy. It’s a huge goal of mine! Baby steps, but its written on my goal sheet. I already have my speech or if I don’t win I might pull a Kanye. [laughs]
Anything you want to tell your fans before I let you go?
Thank you to all the dirty-freaks! I love you guys, you will never know how much a simple tweet lifts my spirits!
Stay connected with J Rand by visiting his official website at www.jrandmusic.com. You can like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JRandHBK and be sure to follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JRandHBK.