[Exclusive Interview] JAYGRDN on His Debut Album "Thru the Grapevine"

In this exclusive interview, we speak with JAYGRDN, a Korean-American artist whose lyrical prowess and unique perspective have been turning heads and capturing hearts, from the streets of Boston that witnessed the birth of his mesmerizing tracks. JAYGRDN's story is one of cultural fusion, artistic exploration, and an unwavering determination to paint his dreams into reality. JAYGRDN released his debut album "Thru the Grapevine" on Sept 29. The rapper poured his passionate spirit into the 7 track album for 6 months. We delve into the remarkable journey of this emerging talent who has been steadily carving out his own niche in the hip-hop and R&B scene.

"Thru the Grapevine" is an intriguing title for your debut EP. Can you share the story behind this name and how it relates to the themes of the music? 

Music is special because it contains a level of intimacy that is unique to each and every individual who encounters it. Thru The Grapevine is a collection of those thoughts and emotions that were always inside of me. All of those songs were written when I was living at a place called Grapevine Road, and the project encompasses my personal progression and self-discovery as an artist. 

How has your background influenced your music and the stories you want to tell through "Thru the Grapevine"? 

My relationship with music has experienced a transformation in the last couple of years. I always loved music. I remember stealing my dad’s MP3 player and downloading Earth, Wind, and Fire and Stevie Wonder albums. I grew up in church so gospel melodies have always resonated with me in a big way. I played a lot of instruments growing up like piano, guitar, drums, flute, violin etc. 

I grew up moving around alot. I was born in Seoul, lived in Hong Kong for a while, then moved here to the States. I dropped out of high school when I was sixteen. Just a year ago I was in the Korean military. I think I wanted to be as vulnerable as I could in my first ever project, telling my story. Thru The Grapevine encapsulates a coming-of-age that I think everyone can relate to in some way; it contains heartbreak, regret, self-discovery, happiness, wandering, and growth. 

In the EP, are there any specific tracks that hold particularly personal or emotional significance to you? Can you tell us about them?

My favorite track is 'Hold Me Down'. I wrote this song in a CVS parking lot after finishing my night shift as a pizza deliverer. “Hold Me Down” is about the things in life that ‘hold us down’, the things that hold us back and take away the light in our life. But at the same time it is also about the things/people that ‘hold us down’, and keep us grounded, and remind us of who we are. 

The nostalgic piano, the sampled vocals, the orchestral strings and the melodic atmosphere really transported me somewhere different -it made me feel like I was flying. I remember writing the lyrics and as cliché as it might sound, the song seemed to write itself. 

Debut projects often represent a significant milestone in an artist's career. What was the most challenging aspect of creating "Thru the Grapevine," and how did you overcome it? 

I think the greatest challenge was making the decision to share my music with the world. Up until Thru The Grapevine I was already making music for a couple of years, but it was a real personal aspect of my life. Meeting my friends at Nyte Works who were like-minded creatives, really solidified my passion, and gave me confidence in creating something that was worth sharing with the world. 

Could you describe a specific message or takeaway that you hope your listeners gain from "Thru the Grapevine"? 

It would be to face adversity with a brave face. Often times the greatest lessons we learn come from our most challenging moments. 

Your journey as an artist must have had its share of highs and lows. What's the most valuable lesson you've learned during your musical career so far?

I’ve learned so much in the past six months leading up to Thru The Grapevine, but the one thing that I’ve learned throughout this entire process that although people have different upbringings, struggles, and experiences, our unique journeys are what make us beautifully unique. 

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals as an artist beyond this EP? How do you envision your music evolving in the future? 

From a purely musical perspective, I feel as though I have so much more that I would like to share in terms of my range in genre. Melody and nostalgia are one of the biggest reasons why I began to write music in the first place, so I am planning to release an R&B project before the end of the year. 

Could you share a funny or interesting behind-the-scenes anecdote or interesting fact about the making of "Thru the Grapevine"? 

While creating Thru The Grapevine with my friends at Nyte Works, we’ve had so many funny moments that I couldn’t even count them. At the end of the day, it was important to remind ourselves that what we are doing is a joyful privilege, and we really tried to cherish the present moment. I think the best way to see all of these moments will be through the upcoming music video for the last song of the project “Get There”. 

What do you want to say to those who are supporting your music? 

It is still unbelievably amazing to me that there are people who I have never met, from across the globe even, that felt something from my music and loved it enough to listen to the things I had to say on “Thru The Grapevine”. The only thing I can say is ‘thank you’, and I hope people can also look forward to some really great music that I would like to share.

What can we expect from you next? Promote! 

Definitely more music! Some exciting new singles are already being planned, possibly in collaboration with some other really talented artists as well. And as the weather is getting cold, look forward to an R&B project that I hope will be playing in everyone’s cars on a late night drive.


 "Thru the Grapevine" on Spotify


Instagram @iamjaygrdn


Instagram @nyte.works
@NYTE-WORKS on YouTube 

Ciera Reeves

Ciera is the founder of KpopWise. She has been a fan of Korean pop culture since 2005 and writing about it since 2009. Her bias groups are VIXX and OnlyOneOf. She is a 2nd-3rd generation K-pop fan, but she is actively keeping up with the current artists. twitter instagram

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