Our conversation with saxophonist Jackiem Joyner
"Push" – Jackiem Joyner (2010)
Jackiem Joyner started winning early – and continued winning often – during his career (including, we humbly note, on this very site, where he was one of our very first Tonics of the Week!). The saxophonist, who has had four Billboard Top-10 Jazz singles, including two #1s, discussed his career, his influences, and his plans with JazzTonic. We pick up the story at the dawn of his professional career, after he'd already won accolades as a high school-aged musician...
JazzTonic: How did your early career as a professional musician evolve?
Jackiem Joyner: At first, I was a working musician playing weddings and receptions. I started to do more critical thinking about my career after I met up with Marcus Johnson. At that point, I began to really home in on my sound as a sax player. At the time I was a side man, but I had the urge to take center stage, so I moved out to Cali after working with Marcus and recorded Babysoul.
I released with Artistry Music, a label started by Rick Braun and Richard Elliot. I made the album on my own, but the label funded the distribution of the project, the publicity, the marketing. That's when I got radio play for the first time.
JT: Did you always know that you wanted to produce?
JJ: When I was doing the [music] competitions as a young saxophone player, I was focused on being a solo artist like a Kenny G or Boney James. Being a producer actually wasn't in the plan then, but I wound up producing all three of my records. I went into a Radio Shack at 16 or 17 years old and started playing around with some equipment. It immediately blew my mind when I saw that I could produce something and play it back. From that point, I wanted to be a solo artist and compose music, so I started writing my own songs and music.
JT: Lyrical songwriters are able to convey meaning and emotion with words. What is the thought process that goes into conveying emotion in an instrumental composition? How do you know if you've succeeded?
JJ: That's a pretty big question!
A lot of different ways. I love to play the keyboards, and a lot of times I come up with melodies just messing around in the studio. Then I experiment with how it sounds on the sax. Then I see how it sounds to play it soulfully, or change the key.
Sometimes I'm playing just for the heck of it, and then suddenly I find myself playing a little thing. And I record that thing, and then it becomes a bigger thing — and then it becomes a song. Sometimes in the morning or middle of night, I imagine myself playing something, and then I just go into the studio and play it. Sometimes you're just feeling happy, funky, hip — happens in a lot of different kinds of ways.
One of the songs that I wrote for my second release was really interesting because if you were in the studio, you would've heard me trying lots of things out, changing the key many times. But the version that came out is the version that worked.
JT: It seems every time you watch a movie about a musician who makes it big, there's always a pivotal scene when they hear their song on the radio for the first time. Inevitably, they're in their car and barely miss hitting someone because they're so excited by the experience. Where were you when you heard yourself on the radio for the first time?
JJ: It was mid- to late 2007 and I was just leaving my house. As soon as I got in the car and heard my song on the radio, I got so excited that I ran back in the house and got my wife and brought her to the car, and we listened to it together. The song was "Stay With Me Tonight". It's kind of hard to explain the emotions – I was ecstatic.
Jackiem discuss his plans and musical influences >>
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