Was there any sense of frustration that you’d been working so hard for so long without recognition?
Absolutely. I was impatient, seeing other artists come in at a fraction of the time and just skyrocket. It can be tough playing shows, breaking your neck and just working, working, working to get just a little bit of respect. Definitely there were lots of years of frustration. Even now I might have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder about it, but I think it established a lot of character for me. That time put in was necessary because I think I would’ve been unappreciative if it had happened really fast. I would’ve lost it very quickly, I don’t think I was ready. Now everything is in perfect timing and I’m able to appreciate everything that happened before because it took so long. I saw a quote once that said, “The longer it takes to get to the top, the longer you’ll stay there” – and I really believe that. People like Jay Z, Pharrell, they were grinding for years and years before they got to where they wanted to go. I needed all that time to clear my head, clear my vision and truly see what I wanted.
Do you worry about some of the younger generation and how quickly they’re coming up? It could be a concern that they get to promote themselves through social media and then get ripped apart by labels.
It’s what I see. Not only that but the proximity between the artist and the fan is so close, you can spend days looking at what everyone thinks. This wasn’t a concern of artists before. You made an album – a whole album – and to do that was huge, then you toured it for like a year and to know what people thought you got fan mail that would take who knows how long. I feel like a lot of stuff now gets real pretentious because they’re looking at how people respond so quickly and some people are highly affected by that. It’s rare you get music today that has staying power. It feels like an aesthetic makes more of an impact these days. But at the same time, I want to see what the younger generation is doing and appreciate it. I was always annoyed with older generations shutting out whatever new was happening. You don’t have to agree with what’s going on with the younger generation, but I want to have a conversation and have my opinion be part of the conversation. Something I will say for the younger generation – it’s way harder to fool these kids now, they know what’s going on.
Do you mean in the way they respond to the world around them?
I feel like if you’re a true artist you’ll be affected by the world around you. That’s why when people get rich, their music goes to shit, and when they’re struggling their music is fucking amazing. The people around them, the things they’re going through – their art is a direct reflection of that. They need to create in order to live. The people I respect aren’t just living life, seeing things and ignoring them.