With a new wave of pop artists redefining the genre everyday, there are those that have been at the forefront of what this new take on the sound truly is. One of those artists is Illinois native, Jack Larsen, whose work over the past few years has been proof of the raw talent that these DIY musicians possess. As the newest signee to Chicago based label, Closed Sessions, Jack has taken the next step in his career. With modern pop sensibilities and a cinematic approach to making music, Larsen's style is different from the others on the Closed Sessions roster, but easily maintains the level of professionalism we've grown to expect from them. Having recently released his excellent label debut EP, Push Ups, Jack Larsen is riding high as he prepares for live performances and the release of future music videos.
I was lucky enough to get into contact with Closed Sessions and have a conversation with Jack about his music, what he listens to in his free time and his favorite activities outside of music. Keep reading below to see what he had to say!
The following interview has been edited for clarity.
So you’ve been signed to Closed Sessions for a few months now, how has that experience been for you?
Well any backing is good backing, because they've allowed me to do things that I couldn't normally do on my own. Being managed by Alex [Fruchter] and Mike [Kolar] has been a really cool experience, them being such heavily respected people in Chicago. They provide guidance that's been really good for my career, so it's been really nice so far.
Your music is a notable departure from the sound that Closed Sessions has normally signed in the past, what do you think originally drew them to you?
Alex was actually my teacher at Columbia. He was my marketing teacher and I was presenting my EP, Push Ups, for a project and it just caught his interest. We started having meetings and he ended up wanting to put out the EP. So it all just kind of goes back to Alex being a teacher of mine.
I know you started off making the music from your room, what was it like for you to release, Push Ups, through a label?
Yea it was cool. I did make the EP in my room, but part of the label deal was that Mike Kolar would professional mix and master it. So by taking it to him, he was able to beef it up to a very professional sound, something I couldn't have done on my own. It really just helped me get out of the bedroom and more into a studio sound.
And for all my next releases, everything I record will be in SoundScape Studios, which is the studio that Mike runs. So because of the label, I can get out of the bedroom and record in a professional place, which is like really, really f***ing cool. I mean, I still come up with demos in my room, but now I have the ability to flesh them out in the studio, if that makes sense.
I still feel really comfortable in a bedroom setting, and I probably always will because that's how I started making music. So I don't want to get rid of that kind of, bedroom magic persay, but it's still super nice to be in a studio *laughs*.
What music were you listening to while the project was being made?
I was listening to Surfjan Stevens', Carrie & Lowell, the album was crazy. I don't know if you've heard it, but it's just a very innocent album. It's almost like his coming of age story and his lyrics just stood out to me because he's super blunt with with lyrics and he just tells it straight up. He uses them in a way to tell a, you know, very straightforward story and I wanted to incorporate that into my work. I was listening to a lot of Flynn Mick, which is cool because with my EP I do some... quirky things in a way and some of that was definitely inspired by that kind of sound.
Those were the two main acts I was listening to, but obviously there was some Frank Ocean, I mean I'm always listening to him. He has the ability to make music in a very spacious way, which I love. I also really like King Krule, his lyrics are incredible. So those were definitely inspirations for, Push Ups.
It's funny you say King Krule, because like with his music, yours also feel very cinematic to me. Do you aim for that visual feeling?
Yeah, so I'm involved in every aspect of my art. I think the fact that I'm involved in creating videos and all that, the music to me is almost like, I want it to be a soundtrack rather than an album. I don't know if you saw the "Break" video, but I was making the video before I even finished the song. So like the song was bouncing off of the video idea. I kind of work on my art, hand in hand and all at the same time.
Do you have any sort of ritual that you do before recording a new track?
Usually when I'm working with someone, producer wise, I try to get like an eight bar loop going and then I'll write to that. After a bit, I'll hop on the mic and you know, get my vocals down. Then we'll build the rest of the production around my vocals.
You’ve worked with the likes of Kevin Abstract and Brockhampton in the past, what did you take away from those collaborations?
From Brockhampton I just realized that collaboration is huge. When everyone adds their ideas it really helps to build up a song in the best way it could be. And with Roy, who I was just in LA with, one thing I learned is that it's okay to just completely scrap something. As long as there is an element that you know you can build off of, that is all that matters. Roy isn't afraid to just scratch a verse and create something new, which is something I need to start doing. I can't be so attached to something, I gotta be open to completely getting rid of stuff even if I put in hard work. If I'm not feeling it, I just gotta get rid of it and I just can't get attached, that's something I learned recently.
How did you link up with these guys originally?
Well I met Kevin through Twitter and then we did the song "27" together for his first album, MTV1987. Then in like 2015 I got to meet the rest of Brockhampton, I already knew them all from the internet, but that's when I met them in person and we've just been friends since. And with Roy, I met him through Twitter just like Kevin Abstract. All of it was pretty much done through Twitter.
It's crazy cause the internet is so big, but it's also such a small world. You can see people all over the world, but there's always those connections, mutual friends. Like I think Kevin tweeted out Roy's first EP, [sunsets], and then we just started talking. When I'd go out to LA I had seen him a few times and then Roy came to Chicago when Kevin was doing his solo tour. So I hung out with him here in Chicago before helping him out with his album, Cat Heaven, on the song, "September".
We would just talk you know, text back and forth. And then last week I went out to LA and stayed with him to collaborate. So it's all through the internet. I grew up in the suburbs so I didn't really have a community to help my career, but I had the internet.
Since a lot of your connections were made through Twitter, how do you view the internet's importance to the music industry today?
Man the internet is huge *laughs. You can't do shit without the internet and the coolest thing about it is that it's worldwide. Everyone can hear your music and if you get a good presence you can totally build a career, I mean it's totally changed the music industry. Now anyone can, you know, start in the bedroom and really do big things.
But you can't be on the internet forever, at a certain point you really have move away from that scene and move more into a professional, music industry kind of setting. Internet artists, they use the internet to get big, but eventually they got to use that bridge to get into the industry. You know, like labels are still a huge part of the industry, it's just changing. You hear about Spotify offering advances and that's just one of the changes that happening right now. In my opinion the internet is just a tool to get into that bigger setting.
Outside of music, what inspires your creativity?
I like gaming a lot.
What games do you play?
I'm on Playstation and I grew up playing Kingdom Hearts, a really big part of my childhood and getting me into music. Nowadays, I've definitely gotten bit by Fortnite bug so I've been playing a lot of that. I'm super excited for the new Red Dead Redemption and the new Kingdom Hearts of course.
It's just something I do that really helps destress me in a way. It helps me get my mind going. I also love to just hangout with my girlfriend, she definitely brings a lot of inspiration to my art. It's just real life experiences that inspire me, so hanging out with friends and sitting in a quiet setting just to talk to them. I don't really go out to parties or to bars that often, I just love talking to my friends and getting philosophical in a way. We discuss the craziest concepts and that's what I really like, being with people with open minds and talking.
If you could work with anyone, dead or alive, across any genre, who would it be?
Dream collab... I have to say Sufjan Stevens. Yeah, that would be a dream.
Finally, I know that the release is still fresh, but what are the next steps you’re taking to further your career?
You know I just gotta keep the momentum going. I don't want to work any other job, so I just gotta keep it pushing. I'm working on new music and shows, I have a date lined up, but I cant release that yet. But that's coming soon. You know just typical stuff that an artist does. I just gotta keep creating! If my friends have time and there's a studio open, we'll be in there.
Make sure to follow Jack on:
And download his EP, Push Ups, on all major streaming services. today!