Jacob Lee’s Savvy Seven

Jacob Lee

With no label, management or booking agent, Jacob Lee is in a league of his own. Primarily a Singer/Songwriter, at 23, Jacob has embraced the role of entrepreneur, surpassing 21 Million Spotify streams with just 12 songs released.

Known for his meaningful, emotive lyricism, powerful melodies & mesmerising live show, Jacob is one of the only independent, Australian Artists to achieve features on countless Spotify Official Playlists, esteemed YouTube Blogs & Commercial Radio.

Supporting the likes of Billy Gibbons (ZZ-Top), Jamie Lawson, Justice Crew, Uncle Jed & Foreign Figures, Jacob has independently toured throughout the U.K, Europe, USA & Australia multiple times. He will be slowly releasing his debut album ‘Philosophy’ over the course of 2018 whilst he writes & records his second record, ‘Prophecy’.

We were lucky enough to be able to have a yarn with the high-achiever for this week’s Savvy Seven feature.

Q1: Who was your first musical inspiration? Why?

Without a doubt my father, he placed an acoustic in my hands as soon as I could hold one… Being a full-time musician himself, I was fortunate enough to watch him often rehearse in our make-shift studio garage at home. He would be running over bass parts for hours at a time & it was always quietly special to me when I was invited to see it come together on stage. There was never a moment where Dad wasn’t willing to provide me a one-on-one guitar lesson, even when it was the last thing I wanted to do. Looking back now as an adult, I can genuinely appreciate the honesty & sincerity behind the willingness to teach his son new things & equip me for the life to come.

I’m so grateful that I saw first-hand what it was like to have an undeniable passion toward music. His example & dedication toward providing for our family shaped the artist & human-being I’ve become. However, it’d be completely remiss of me to not mention the unconditional support, guidance & warmth of my mother, Lee. I remember growing up to her self-proclamation that she knew everything, I realised once I got older that this was undoubtedly true. My endeavours at 9 years-old to take over the planet never fell to deaf ears & whether it was in the simple act of humouring me or actual belief (probably a mixture of both), I’d always leave our conversations inspired & with a little more common-sense than I entered with… I believe the hard-working qualities of my parents were placed in me & I’m very much looking forward to the day I can give back everything they’ve given to me.

Q2: What advice do you have for someone who is planning and setting off on their first tour?

I’m a soloist, so I’ll approach this one from that perspective. I answer this question at Gate A2 in Salt Lake Airport as I face the final week of my second independent tour here in the States. I’ve had shows in Los Angeles, Vegas, Phoenix, Houston & Utah & am nearing the end of an 11 week run. Though I’ve bunked with friends & new acquaintances the majority of my time here, I’ve essentially been touring alone. So, my first piece of advice for any solo artist looking to travel with their music is to be okay with extended time alone. As artists, we’re generally quite in tune with our emotions & I’ve found loneliness to be one of the most frightening & overwhelming of them all. However, if you can be aware of these feelings & embrace them as a necessary part of the journey, you’ll end up discovering parts of yourself you never even knew you had.

My second piece of advice would be to keep your windows wide open to opportunity. Actively seek it out. New experiences are in abundance when you’re on the road & there’s a high probability you’ll find yourself in situations you could have never predicted. If you’re consciously willing to accept & embrace change at a moments notice you’ll land safely back home with some of the most surreal experiences, new friendships, contacts & opportunities that you just wont believe. It’s also important to legitimately believe in your abilities, & even more important to project that confidence upon your audiences & the people you meet off stage. Hold close the thought that only you can create your art. No one is like you, you are unique, you are extremely talented. Believe these things & watch others believe you.

My final piece of advice, as I probably shouldn’t write a novel, is to try your best to stay healthy & fit. It’s way too easy to choose the fast options & make excuses when it comes to diet. I feel as though anyone that travels can relate… If you’re on a 3 month tour or longer, eating out everyday unfortunately catches up to you, as tasty as it is. Keep an eye out for more organic options, seek out gyms a few times a week if you can & you’ll not only look better but feel more motivated, creative & energised, I guarantee it.

Q3: What has been one of your most defining moments in your career?

I’d say the peak, defining highlight of my career thus far has without a shadow of doubt been the emails, DM’s, paragraphs, sentences & messages I receive each & every day from people I’ve never met, telling me I’ve changed, improved or saved their life. Reading messages & answering life questions from those that follow me has, over the past year, become a daily activity that I absolutely adore. Even though 99% have never met me in the flesh, I often receive notifications stating that they feel as though I somehow personally know them. They often say that I’ve directly explained their struggles & hardships & have provided solace in the way that someone out there finally understands their situation. It’s so exciting seeing the lyrics & meaning behind my music impacting them in such a way where they feel empowered to now progress & grow in life.

To me, that’s honestly all I’ll ever need. I’ve realised that the ‘defining moment’ in my career happens every single day. It’s so special when someone feels comfortable enough tell me, a stranger who writes songs that he’s made a positive difference in their life.

Q4: How has your music practice changed over time?

To be honest, it hasn’t really… I’ve always written songs on my left-handed acoustic guitar & that still remains my songwriting catalyst. Over time, I’ve become much more confident & self-aware on stage. I’m able to tell when people are completely engaged in my performance or losing interest & I’ve taught myself how to draw them back in if that does occur. It’s important as a solo act to become well-versed in audience engagement & make the show feel intimate even when it’s 1,000+ capacity. I’m glad to say that I’ve developed further in regard to knowing exactly what I want to project lyrically & poetically, which then leads into how I portray those songs visually as well. In 2016 I met Matt Bartlem, a producer & songwriter in Burleigh Heads, QLD. So far, he is the only producer I’ve ever worked with to truly understand my vision. He’s taught me a lot about the technicality & philosophy behind production & how to not only speak of my songs in an emotional sense, but know how to find the sounds to properly portray those emotions.

In regard to live shows, I’ve been slowly upgrading in gear over the past 3 years. 2017 was the year for pedal board experimentation, where I’ve found coincidentally that my board is riddled with Strymon & Boss pedals, they’re just so good. I spent a lot of time practicing the art of looping, which is not only an intriguing aspect on stage, but a magical songwriting tool. This year though, my most recent addition is a Live Playback Rig running Ableton. This set-up has been a blessing for me as my shows have grown in capacity & it takes a bit of the pressure off trying to replicate my recorded sounds with just my acoustic guitar & loop station… Which I’ve found is absolutely impossible.

Q5: My top business tip for new artists is…

I think artists fall amongst the misconception of only working when revelation or inspiration strikes… My tip for any independent artist reading this is to do the absolute opposite. In this day & age your art can act as an entrepreneurial business. In saying that, I suggest organising a daily schedule, where you plan what must be accomplished each day & ensure it’s done. Whether that’s emails, connecting with PR, pushing your management team along (If you have one) or simply writing music. Holding yourself accountable to various goals & seeing them through is honestly what’s gotten me to where I am today. Another rule of thumb I follow, is to not undersell myself & my art. If you’re self-aware, & your music is objectively good, it’s perfectly okay to turn jobs down that are paying you in exposure. The days of payment through exposure & a free meal or drink are long gone & if I’m honest, I find those offers insulting. You deserve to be paid for the hours upon hours you’ve spent honing your craft, writing music & purchasing expensive audio equipment. You’re providing a service like anyone behind the bar, in the kitchen or cleaning the bathrooms so quoting a price is absolutely okay.

My last piece, (Sorry! I know you only asked for one) is to establish & know your brand. Know your message, determine your ideal demographic, understand your market. Your image, message & demeanour sits just behind your music & songs in importance. Spend time knowing yourself & what you’re actually bringing to this industry. How are you providing value to those that listen? Once you establish that, you’re good to go.

Q6: My biggest career mistake has been, how did you overcome it?…

I’m actually very lucky that I haven’t made any detrimental mistakes that have negatively impacted my career… I’ve been consistent with genuine content & have always made sure to keep authenticity at the forefront. Although, if I was to mention something I’d change if I could rewind, it would be to organise contracts with anyone & everyone I’ve worked with professionally. Friendships are secure until they’re not, & malice can overcome some people when things go south. I had a YouTube Channel back in 2009/10, back when cover artists weren’t as prominent as they are now. I built a strong independent audience at 17 years-old when a bitter teenage altercation occurred with one of the boys who filmed a couple scenes for a couple videos. He decided it best to contact YouTube & managed to get my channel permanently removed after I’d acquired over 100,000 subscribers. It was rough at the time, but a perfect lesson to learn whilst I was still young in the industry.

Q7: In my opinion, the most important issue facing the music industry is, what do you think will fix it…

It took me a moment to properly ponder this question as I never allow myself to focus on the negative aspects that linger throughout our industry… The reality of the music industry is concrete, & dwelling over what could be better never got anyone anywhere. However! I’d say the recent notion plaguing the industry is that everyone wants to be involved. It’s absolutely oversaturated, which makes it somewhat difficult to stand out, even if you are unique. Everyone is either an ‘Artist’, YouTuber, DJ, Influencer, producer, etc… Claiming that they grind 18 hours a day & deserve recognition. I think many people are jumping on board without the right mindset, forcing themselves to become a particular persona to flex or show off, where artistry was never about that. I’m unsure if this is a fixable issue, however I do think the trends on this planet come through in cycles & the time is near where people will start looking for substance in music again. My fingers are crossed that people begin to search for deeper meaning in songs & albums. I’m hoping they seek out music with an actual message, or find stories developed to leave an impact & change the lives of those that listen, instead of tracks written solely for radio, whipped up to acquire as mush personal fame & wealth as possible.

I endeavour to be a role model for those who strive to be real artists. I want to show that it is possible to be a successful player in the game without selling out or disregarding your truth. In reality, this method will take longer, & if you’re not practicing patience & willing to grow organically you’ll be knocked out. I want to prove that emotive lyricism, high quality, well thought out production & the deliverance of an actual message is still relevant & important to society… I aspire to leave a legacy that doesn’t fade after my generation has passed.

If you’re reading this as an aspiring artist & you’re convinced this is your career path, please take my advice & don’t cut corners. Spend your early years writing music that is special, unique & emotional to yourself & those around you. Aspire to be a knowing individual & open your mind to the concepts that are quietly waiting to flood in. Be as real as you can, fans can smell inauthenticity a mile away. Always be humble, loving & don’t take success for granted, you’ll find so much fulfilment not only as an artist, but a human-being.

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