Singer discusses his forthcoming album, video concept and touring.
Jline is boldly and unapologetically himself. Growing up, he faced unimaginable taunts and bullying'; instead of hiding in his shame, he has emerged stronger, more resilient and willing to share his painful (but inspiring) story. He has channeled all that blood, sweat and tears into crafting huge pop tunes. His latest single, Over, is heavy on the alarming club-pop influence and rattles with fury and grit. Shedding the Space Odyssey concept, the brand new dance-centric version of the clip -- which premieres exclusively today -- frames his remarkable talents and sheds new light on the song's meaning. "What I felt about the first version of 'Over' is the choreography is seen but it's not front and center. That's what I wanted," Jline shares with Popdust on a call recently, stepping away from the studio where he is working overtime on his new LP. "My director John [Pivko] was very concerned that he didn't put enough of the choreography in the original video. I said 'no, John, this video is not about the choreography. It's about the feel and the story we are telling. I am going to make a totally separate video that is choreography based.'"
He adds of the video, which stars dancer and fellow creative Carrie Lee, "This one is the top-to-bottom choreography video. I wanted people to be able to see the song and story in a different way and see how it is about two people struggling to push each other away but ultimately, they can't do it. They can't let go of each other."
Filmed in roughly 12 hours, the original video playfully examines the use of light and projection in driving home the song's powerful message. "I didn't really have a concrete concept in mind. I had a few references. I went through a few directors who didn't work out, which is how it usually goes. Eventually, I met up with Jon, who is a friend I have known for years. You know, you never think of the person who it ultimately winds up being," Jline says. "He was there the whole time, and I didn't know it -- until he said 'you know what? I have some great ideas. I'd love to direct this for you.' Of course, I was like 'no, not you, John.' Eventually, it really made sense."
What resulted was something Jline could never have imagined. "He went above and beyond. Most of all, with the Space Odyssey theme, he took it and ran with it. He took the little idea I had and the little references I had and really blew it up. He made it, artistically, something I've never done before. All the other videos I've done -- about eight or nine others -- were on MTV and were successful, but they were my concepts. I directed them. I got all the girls together on the streets of New York to produce it. I would edit myself. This was the first time, because I trusted John so much. I said to him, 'This is your baby. I trust you. I'm going to show up on set and I'm just going to be talent. I'm not going to ask you about lighting, about the cameras, I'm totally leaving this in your hands, especially with editing.' He told me it took 100 hours to edit that video because he was so meticulous. In essence, this is really a nod to him. The video was such an amazing experience. When I saw the video for the first time, I teared up a little bit."
Watch the brand new Over music video below:
Jline also discusses his influences, favorite dance style and his forthcoming new album. Dig into our exclusive Q&A session below:
Are you often inspired by other mediums in your own work?
"I am definitely inspired in my dancing. What happens now is I have so many references and ideas that I won't even know where most of my movements come from anymore. One thing I do make sure to do is stay in class. If you talk to any dancer, you will know you are not a dancer unless you are in class. It's not like college and you get a job and you don't study anymore. If you are not in class all the time, you are not learning and growing. Dance techniques and dance itself changes so rapidly that you can't expect to do the moves you did four years ago and think they're going to be relevant or think people are going to be interested. I definitely try to take as many different types of classes I can -- whether it's African or jazz class or I'll go into a street-jazz, hip-hop class at Broadway Dance Center or modern. I'll even watch YouTube videos. Sometimes, when I'm really feeling like I have no ideas, I will just sit down for half an hour and type in 'hip-hop choreography' and watch as many videos as I can and get re-inspired. With everything that's online now, it's so much easier to be inspired. For 'Over,' I watched a lot of modern pieces, Martha Graham, Ballet Inc and partnering choreography. That's what gave me a lot of the ideas I came up with."
What is your favorite dance style?
"I would say street-jazz. When people hear jazz, they think glossy and Broadway, and that's not what it is at all. It's sleek and sharp and harkens back to Michael and Janet Jackson but not as regimented and crisp. It mixes in a little Rihanna and Chris Brown. In those classes, you wear jeans and sneakers. You basically wear what you would wear to a club or on a music video shoot. It's a style that comes really easy to me. Modern and ballet, I have to work really hard on those."
What were some of your early memories of dance and music?
"When I was growing up, there were no dance classes in my hometown. If there were, I did not think boys could join. It's one of those things: if you don't see other people doing it, you don't know it can be done. I knew there were dance classes but I didn't even think it was a possibility that I could join them. I would watch videos online and teach myself choreography in my bedroom. I had no technique or training until I moved to New York City when I was 18 and discovered Alvin Ailey was three blocks from my school. I started taking classes there. Of course, when you get to NYC, there are no rules. Everyone can do whatever they want. I saw a lot of guys in dance classes, and it made me feel better. I felt like I wasn't such a freak for wanting to take dance classes. It's not as weird now to the 12 and 13 year olds. They think guys can dance. It's cool to dance. They see all these videos on YouTube of guys dancing. 10 years ago? I didn't see it. I only saw women dancing in dance class. If you were a guy in dance class, I'll be honest, you probably got beat up. I wasn't looking for any more reasons for people to beat me up and bully me. I just thought 'mhm, I'm not doing it.'"
You mentioned you are working on a new song. Is it similar to 'Over'?
"The album really runs the gamut of what I love. 'Over' is electro-pop and R&B. This song I'm working on now is trappy and definitely EDM influenced. Then, different songs on the album lean toward electro, house and more R&B. I'm putting all those together in one big pot. If I love different types of music, I know other people do, too. I love artists that can go from genre to genre and still be themselves and have their voice. Why can't I put all those styles of music to create my sound? This next album is hopefully going to highlight all that."
Did you have any specific influences on this new album?
"Right now, it's such an amazing time in music because I've always been an independent artist and saw it as my crown and my struggle. I was so proud of it but felt 'uh, it's a struggle.' But now, I feel like so many more people are independent artists. You can go online and hear all different types of music that never would have seen the light of day if a record company had been involved. I love underground artists like Dawn [Richard], who was in Danity Kane. I love the music she's doing now. I'm working with her producer. I think he's so talented. She's a person who definitely influences me. Troye Sivan makes great music, and I also love that he's so himself. He will wear nail polish onstage and put a whole bunch of pink eyeshadow on. People totally embrace him for it. A local band called Aster does great electro-pop. I love Karmin, too. I used to always love Top 40 and now, I like pop music that you can't put into a box and makes your ears feel on fire."
What stories are you sharing on the album?
"I know a lot of people keep journals throughout the day as they come up with ideas. I don't write unless I'm sitting down to write. Let's say, this song we are doing today, my producer sent me a beat and I started writing over it. I won't even know what I want to say until I start writing. It just so happened that this song wound up being about feeling lost and not knowing what you are doing or where you are going. It's also about not wanting to fall back into your old life. I didn't even know I needed to say that in my life until I started writing the song. It's almost therapeutic. You don't know what's in the back of your brain. Once I started writing, I realized 'oh, I'm dealing with that right now.' The words just flowed out of me. I try to be really honest with my songwriting and not censor myself or rewrite a lot. A lot of times when you are writing a song, you can start nitpicking and changing things. Anytime I try to rewrite a song, it never works out. I always go with my first instinct and that's usually my most honest."
What is your timeline for this album release?
"Well, I have a new single 'Too Much' and a video shot for that. That will be out late August or early September. Then, I have the third single 'Runaway' and video coming out in October. Then, the album will come out the third Friday in October. After that, I will have more singles and videos. I'm going to ride this album, hopefully, until next summer. I go out running in Central Park, and I'll listen to the album and constantly be like 'ahh, I gotta do a video for that song.' I'm not about to do three videos and say 'that was fun, let's go on to the next project.' I love this album too much to just give it three visuals. I want to give seven or eight."
What are your plans on touring this album?
"I definitely know in the fall I'm going to be resuming my I Stand with Jline Tour. I've been to about a thousand middle schools and high schools all over the country, just me in my little Honda Pilot with my two dancers and our costumes and sound system. I perform for the kids and then talk to them about what I went through when I was their age, the bullying and how it almost broke me down, how music truly saved me and how they need to find something in their lives they love and focus on. If you don't have a focus, you don't have a plan, and if you don't have a plan, you're just gonna flounder. You're not going to care about yourself and have a plan for your life. If I didn't have music, I don't know where I would be. Hopefully, when I come back from that tour in November, I will set up touring for the album in January through March. I love connecting with people. It makes it feel like it's all worth it."
Grab Jline's current single Over now on iTunes.
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