Featured Image by Nolan Peacock & Michelle Renslo
Jack Kays is a name that will ring through the rafters after its all said and done. Possessing an abundance of talent while maintaining a humble mindset is a rarity from artists these days. Instead of blowing up and forgetting who helped him grow, Kays does a magnificent job of paying credit where it’s due. He’s a true student of music and looks at every day an as opportunity to expand his talents. Here at Chiefers, we wanted to showcase a brand new effort from Jack entitled “Bottom Of The Bottle.” Expanding on this new release, we took some to time to talk with Kays about the journey thus far, some background on the record and wide sundry of other topics. We appreciate this kid for his talents and his kindness and we have a strange feeling you guys will too.
This interview has been edited for timing and grammar:
DC: Washington, D.C. has recently become home for you, but take us back to what your life was like in the early years growing up in Cincinnati, OH.
JK: I grew up in Montgomery, Ohio, which is kinda like suburbia Cincinnati. But i was born in Toledo, I did from first grade to High school in Montgomery. I was really shit in school, but by the time I was 18, I had picked up 9 instruments. I had gotten a really good grasp of music theory and music production. I liked to spend my childhood doing that, then when I was 18 I moved down to the Clifton, Northside area. And i moved in with my best friend and producer now, who’s Lil Chinx. And we started collaborating together and making music together. It wasn’t horrible in Cincinnati, it wasn’t great though. Anybody who really lives here can attest that it’s a pretty bland place. As much crazy shit happens, you need a car to get around and even if you have a car there’s not much to do. My main take away from Cincinnati was learning about people and I think there’s a lot of horrible people out here and honestly i think the universe put me here to learn about that. There’s a lot of really, really great people, but there’s also a lot of really, really bad people, as much as it is everywhere, it’s very concentrated in Cincy.
DC: We can definitely attest to that. You have mentioned to me that you grew up around musicians in your family. Tell us more about who those people were and how your observations of them and their direct influence on you leading to choosing the path of being an artist yourself.
JK: Music has always been in my family, my Dad is a musician. He plays with a lot of the local groups in Cincy. Then my uncle is a great guitar player, so through that I’ve been exposed to some small industry things and the creative process. Like watching people form bands and put together shows and the motion of talking to labels and making the most of your music career. I think that set me up for success in a way, but a main lesson I took away from my Uncle and honestly my father too. I think they really taught me to love music. My uncle is a guitar teacher and my Dad has a day job and plays in his band at night. It shows me that they do music just because they love it so much.
DC: That’s important for therapeutic reasons for a lot of people. And if they don’t achieve notoriety for their art, it’s still their art and it can take them to another place where the stress doesn’t exist or it’s not as heavy.
JK: No matter how successful you are with it, it’s cathartic and its always gonna feel good to play your instrument. I always say if I didn’t make it as a musician it doesn’t mean I’m not a musician, it just means I’m not a successful one.
DC: What’s different now, as opposed to your life from 6-12 months ago, how have things changed?
JK: 6 Months ago, “Morbid Mind” wasn’t even out and now it has a million. Shit, a lot of shit is different now. I’m in DC, I live with my girlfriend now. I’m doing substantial numbers, my songs are actually get pre-saved now. I’m kinda starting to create this cool space where people are being more cathartic and really open and emotionally vulnerable within my IG lives, or in my DM’s and my comment sections. Like people are really responding to me well, I don’t know it’s really, really cool. It’s kinda like a dream come true because I was always wanted to make music, I’ve always wanted to inspire people to build a platform where people can come and congregate about what they’re going through. And feel less alone and I’m starting to do that, so I think that’s the main difference.
DC: We spoke about that yesterday, the sense of community your bringing to the table and how that’s only gonna improve your fan base and strengthen it.
JK: And also my mindset has changed so much. Like how much I’ve prided myself on having a healthy mindset. I feel like I’m seeing so clearly now. And as much as I’ve always tried to take the best care of myself that I can, I’m doing that ten-fold now, you know what I mean? I feel like I’m Jack 2.0 over the last 6 months.
DC: You have a rich musical background, being able to play 9 instruments. Will there be instances where your showcasing the full repertoire of skills on the next album and next projects?
JK: Ya know as much as I wanna play with a band for live shows, and do this and do that and work with other musicians. I do wanna get to a point where I have the resources to do all the live instrumentation on my own albums. So my next album, it has hints of things that I can do and other instruments that I can play, but I think that’ll really be showcased down the road and kinda expand upon that. I have some keys on there, I have some acoustic guitar on there, I have some electric guitar on there, like bass I’ve played, drums that I’ve played. It’s all self-produced also, so as much people are gonna say, Sampling isn’t an instrument or programming drums isn’t an instrument. You know Brick, it’s a fucking instrument, it takes skill to do that shit. Making beats is as much of a skill as playing a guitar and the piano, so I’m trying to showcase every part of myself that I can.
DC: What was the reason for removing your back catalog? There is a clear sonic shift in the music you are most recently putting out. Talk about that evolution of song-crafting and what you are hoping to do next?
JK: Well I’ve been making music for three years now and I’ve been uploading music that whole time. Oh yeah, four years now, I’ve been making music for four years now. So I had a shit ton of music up by that time that “Morbid Mind” dropped. When it came up and it started to do numbers and people reached out to me, aka my manager. And they were like maybe you should consider taking some of the old stuff down, so you can draw more attention to “Morbid Mind.” But, really to just kinda focus in and be able to drop some of the better songs of the old catalog and get those the recognition they deserve. Because as much as they’re old songs, they’re hits and I think they deserve to see the light of day in the right way. So like put a proper budget behind them, get them good videos, get good marketing and do it right. Just get those out there the right way. There’s a lot more that goes into releasing a song than people think.
DC: You work in different forms of art past music. You work with food so much and you’re very active with your cooking on IG. Is there any food in DC that you’ve tried or cooked that you’re just blow away by?
JK: Yeah me and Sam have been sampling all the food in DC. I’m really a sandwich guy and we’ve been going to this one place called Your Only Friends, that was really good. Went to a bagel place called Call Your Mother. I’m gonna sample every fucking restaurant I can because I’m such a foodie. Like I don’t eat a lot, but I love to taste food.
DC: What meal would you cook to get out of trouble? With your girlfriend, with the federal government?
JK: A good light pasta. And I thought about this all night, like was that the right answer? It was definitely the right answer. With a white wine and butter sauce, some garlic, basil and lemon juice. And some good crispy shrimps on top.
DC: Would you keep the tails of the shrimp on while you cook them?
DC: I would too, that’s a good call because it seals the flavor in.
JK: Exactly and ultimately you’ll get more flavor in your sauce if you’re cooking with shells, so I’m just gonna let it be.
DC: What feature would make you lose your shit, like scream in the car alone that you’ve made, total triumph shit?
JK: Travis Barker
DC: Right?! He tapped into the IG live obviously.
JK: We have a little line of communication going right now, but I wanna actually develop a relationship so, I’m working on it.
DC: It’ll happen man, if it’s meant to be. If he’s already reached out and he’s impressed.
JK: He just replied to my tweet. I tweeted about how I got million and he replied to it and liked it just now.
DC: That’s sick, oh yeah it gonna happen. You might as well be in Blink-182 by now. What are some tattoo goals? You’re pretty inked up, Adam said he doesn’t think you ever wore shirts, but you have a shirt on today.
JK: I never really wear shirts dude, and I’m trying to get like really fucking tatted. My girlfriend said when I start to see some success I can start to tat my hands up. I’m getting my hands tatted up here soon, I’m pretty psyched about that.
DC: How do your parents feel about the ink?
JK: You know my parents we’re really apprehensive at first, but now they really like my tattoos. I have this matching tattoo with all of my family.
DC: See that’s nice shit. So we have this brand new track “Bottom of the Bottle” that is both relatable and intensely charged on the lyrical side. Enough so that after we first heard it we wanted to make sure everyone that follows Daily Chiefers to get their ears on it. Tell us about the song and creating it and what it feels like now.
JK: So in my head I like to assign my songs colors. Like they seem like colors to me and “Bottom Of The Bottle” and “Morbid Mind” are red to me. They represent anger to me, red is really angry and those songs are really angry so they’re just red. And “Morbid Mind” is about being angry and self-destructive and falling into that pattern and doing it over and over again ya know. And “Bottom Of The Bottle” to me is angry, it’s more reflective that “Morbid Mind” is. It’s more like you’re angry, but you’re not trying to let it get to you, you’re trying to move past it. That’s what “Bottom Of The Bottle” is to me.
DC: Past music, what do you want to do? With life, with art, what do you think this will open up for you?
JK: Well first with my art, I really want to create a space where people can be cathartic and can be really open emotionally. I want to create a space where people can feel less alone and kinda create a community where people come and talk about their issues. I wanna take a stance for mental health, human rights and the environmental crisis. I wanna take a stance and actively fight for those things. And actually make real change happen. I think it’s really frustrating to our generation because we can actually see it openly now. And we see a lot of celebrities who talk this talk and walk this walk or ask this from their fans and they never really force or ask for real change from themselves. I wanna be somebody who flips that script and evokes real, active change.
DC: Nothing can happen if we don’t do anything.
JK: I see a platform that I’m building. Somebody in my position is going to have more resources than somebody on the ground level, who doesn’t have a shit ton of people listening to them. I hate to call it power, but to do something good.
DC: Well a lot of people avoid that responsibility all together, and you doing that is gonna create a sense of belonging and that’s what all of this is about. Your art makes people belong if they found a connection with that bro, they’re gonna be with you for the rest of their lives.
JK: That’s exactly what I’m trying to do.
DC: See that’s some heartwarming shit. Who do we need to know about? Which upcoming artist’s blow your mind and make you go harder?
JK: There’s two artists. First I’m gonna shout out my producer. Best producer. Go get in his studio before those prices go up. DJ Chinx, he’s right out of Cincinnati. And then also Mike Lavi, he’s got a feature on my next tape. And he’s got a couple songs and a couple videos out right now. He’s an insane lyricist and an incredible rapper and he’s got a great voice.
DC: So we knocked it out pretty solid today. Anything else you wanna say to the fans?
JK: I wanna thank my fans. I wanna thank, honestly anybody supporting me to this point because Jesus, fuck, it happened in like a month. It’s nutty, “Morbid Mind” was at 3,000 a month ago and now it’s at a million. Absolutely insane. Shout to Soul Serum for making the music come through. Shout to my girlfriend for staying with me for however fucking long of being dead broke and having absolutely nothing. And being the girl who’s like my boyfriend makes music.
DC: She’s gonna get a nice car out of the deal.
JK: And then shout out to my family for always believing in me.