Jaymes Young burst into the public consciousness with his 2014 EP Habits of My Heart, and a guest appearance on David Guetta's "I'll Keep Loving You" shortly after. In the ensuing three years, the weighty, starkly confessional Seattle singer-songwriter has built a particularly devoted following, many of whom have seen their own lives reflected in his poignant, strikingly honest lyrics. Indeed, the video for 2015 single "I'll Be Good" has been viewed more than 20 million times.
Next Friday, June 23, Young's enthusiastically anticipated debut album will at last see release (on Atlantic). Fittingly titled Feel Something, it finds him in his best soul-baring form, from the emotionally courageous "Stone" ("Give me all your shame / Put all your weight on me") to the affecting but infectious reggae-soul of "Black Magic" to the impassioned plea for meaningful connections ("Make me feel something / Show me that you're human") that is the title track.
Musically, it's all lush arrangements, majestic synths, exotic rhythms and irresistible melodies--setting him exceedingly apart from his quotidian pop contemporaries.
But perhaps the album's most compelling moment is Young's duet with Phoebe Ryan, "We Won't," a stirring recitation of shattered dreams, replete with all manner of vivid imagery ("We burn faster than a cigarette in my mouth"). One imagines it will be the soundtrack to many a summertime broken romance.
Young will also launch a 17-date North American tour at the Constellation at the Observatory in Santa Ana on July 10. But in the lead up to the album release date, we caught up for a chat with him to talk love, inspiration and making that ever important connection with his fans.
Your first full album is finally being released. What are you feeling right now? Nervous? Excited?
I spent a long time on this album. All the music I've released in the past and future just all blends into one timeline for me. That being said, I'm very excited - but am very focused on continuing to write and discover new sounds.
What were the biggest inspirations, musically and lyrically?
My inspirations are all over the place, it's really a mess, but I'm okay with it. I'm big on trying to write lyrics that are honest and come from a real place, and most of my biggest musical and lyrical inspirations do that very, very well.
"I'll Be Good" is the lead single - but it's already a fan favorite, isn't it?
That song snuck up on me. I didn't realize that it was going to have any success when I first put it out, so it's strange thinking of it as a single years later. I'm just excited for the album to live that long as well, and to see what comes of that.
What are some of the highlights of the record for you?
There's quite a few songs on the album that mean a lot to me: "Stone," "Sugar Burn," "Naked," and "Feel Something." Those songs all came from a very real place inside my head, and are based on personal experiences.
"Don't You Know" and "Sugar Burn" and almost like synth-disco-pop. Have you been listening to anything in particular that is inspiring that direction?
"Don't You Know" was like an overnight song, happened super fast and was just in the moment, both on the production and writing side. "Sugar Burn" however has been in the works for a few years. I can't say I drew specific inspiration from any one or two places for the creation of those songs. I think I was searching for sounds and they just turned out that way.
In "Don't You Know" you declare, "I would fight in a war for you." Then on "Stoned on You" you go even further: "I'll take a bullet for you right now." Any reason you associate violent imagery with love?
Love to me, real love that is, is a submission of self oriented desires; and in good relationships I believe that sacrifice is a big deal too. Actions speak so much louder than words - I think I just wanted to express to what limits I would go for that kind of love. And what better way for me to do that than to say I would face such evils for another person?
In "Stone" you seem to be trying to save someone from their own darkness. Do you tend to be attracted to broken people?
I don't know if I have control over the type of person I am attracted to; I either am or am not attracted. But I've met a lot of people in my life whose struggles and hardships really inspired me to write "Stone" - and there are plenty of people who have been that strong kind of person for me as well.
Your music is unapologetically visceral and confessional. Do you hear from fans who have made very emotional connections with the lyrics especially?
I do hear things from people sometimes about how a song made them feel or what it means to them, and I really appreciate those moments. I think it's a good reminder of what music and art is really meant for. I don't expect to change the world, but if one single person is affected in a positive way then I'm going to keep writing those songs and those lyrics. That stuff matters to me, probably more than most people know.
On "Feel Something" you insist, "I'm too young to feel so numb." You seem to have a fairly cynical point of view on human relationships. Or is it that you're just working it all out in your lyrics?
I try to be realistic about human relationships, but let's face it, nobody is out there listening to a song about how great the singer's relationship with the muse is - and is saying, "oh man, this really gets to my core and hits me hard right on the nose." It's the songs with pain in them that usually do that for people. But in retrospect, I think I was speaking on a different aspect of relationships in the modern age, as a younger person. I think what I was really trying to get at was the idea that as a young person, lots of romantic relationships will come and go with the seasons, and it's easy to burn out on those highs if you're just moving from one lover to another. That's what I mean by "touch me someone" - after awhile you can be immune to something that would have felt pretty great. I feel like it's even better to suffer a little bit sometimes instead of just feeling pretty bland about it all. It's so easy to lose your point of reference.
You duet with Phoebe Ryan on "We Won't." She seems like a little firebrand - what was she like to work with?
Phoebe is awesome, I loved working with her and will again in the future. She's the only other voice on my record and I couldn't say enough good things about her.
Are there any dream collaborations you'd love to see happen?
I won't be able to predict what a dream collab would look like and who it would be with. I'll let you know as soon as I figure that one out though - haha.
What are you looking forward to most about playing these songs live?
I'm just excited to get back out onto the road. Touring for me is really a feeling of energy and being alive. I'm starting to really miss that feeling, and the connection I get to make with fans.