K’Jon Rides ‘Ocean,’ Describes Debut as ‘Audio Documentary’
We’ve all heard artists lament about how long they’ve “been in the game,” but Detroit-based R&B singer K’Jon is a true testament to the tired-but-true cliche of paying your dues. The singer has been building a steady following for years, after touring with stars like Ne-Yo and Ludacris, but has had trouble fording those tricky mainstream tides.
Now, 2009 could be his time to shine, as his first single ‘On The Ocean’ — which co-incidentally addresses his struggle to break into the music game — is topping the charts, and propelling him upwards. K’Jon’s first studio album ‘I Get Around,’ will hit stores nationwide on August 4.
The BoomBox: Back in 2004 your song ‘Miami’ made it onto the ‘2Fast2Furious’ soundtrack. Was that your first big break?
K’Jon: Yeah, that was my very big break right there. I got a chance to get some exposure, and the movie is still doing it’s thing around the world, so there are people still watching it and hearing the song.
The BoomBox: You’ve opened for artists like Ludacris and Ne-Yo but sometimes it’s difficult to engage the crowd when you’re opening for headliners. What’s your experience been like with the crowds?
K’Jon: As I went along the audience became more receptive, but you’re right — when you’re new out there, it’s tough. But because I was able to build a fan base while opening up for these bigger names, the crowds were expecting me, they started following me and the fan base grew. It’s becoming more of a great thing because people are actually looking for me now, but it’s still a difficult thing as a new artist.
The BoomBox: What happened after you toured with Luda and Ne-Yo, did you end up back in Detroit?
K’Jon: I wasn’t comfortable, I wasn’t satisfied with what was happening, I felt like it wasn’t happening fast enough for me as an artist, so I went back home to Detroit and I put out indie releases and just tried to get a better understanding of the music game. I honed my skills, and I put out better product, and I really got an understanding of the retail and the touring and here I am now. The record started growing up under my direction and got the attention of Universal Republic, and now I can put it out across the country.
The BoomBox: Was the support of your hometown important?
K’Jon: Support comes in different ways. Everyone always want to look for radio support, and I didn’t automatically get radio support from Detroit, but I did get support from where you really should get it — the clubs, the street DJs, etc. I got a lot of respect from going that route and eventually radio did take notice. That’s frustrating for most artists in their hometowns, but I wasn’t counting on radio to give me that support. I wanted what’s real and that’s real people — the real fans, the household people.
The BoomBox: You’ve been doing this for such a long time. How much has your music evolved, even since 2004?
K’Jon: I actually think I know how to put a record together now; it feels like second nature now. I’ve been writing for a long time, I’ve cut maybe four albums in the last few years, and even extra songs. You call it exercising, you keep doing it, so you never lose the process. So by now, I think I’ve mastered it — at least how to put a record together that you’ll like — i didn’t say love, but like. Definitely not hate.
The BoomBox: So far you’ve been compared to Robin Thicke, Maxwell and artists along those lines. What’s your unique factor?
K’Jon: It’s a great thing to be compared to big names like that, but I think I’m unique because of my experiences. I think R. Kelly, Robin Thicke, and Marvin Gaye are all unique, so what makes me different is my experiences. Although I’m going to get those comparisons, I think you’re going to find that I’m a unique artist. Not just by the tone, or my sound, but by what I sing about. That’s what separates me from everyone else.
The BoomBox: So what are you singing about? What is the album about?
K’Jon: It consists of a lot of things. We didn’t make fifteen “On The Ocean”-type songs, but we also didn’t want to abandon that lane because all the fans said, “Please, please do not get away from doing songs like ‘On The Ocean’,” so I’m going to stay in that lane. On the album you can find songs of hope, then we switched over to tracks for you to let your hair down in the club, but it comes full circle because it ends with a positive message again.
The BoomBox: Why is the album titled I Get Around? Where are you getting around to?
K’Jon: ‘I Get Around,’ is pretty much the audio documentary of where I was before ‘On The Ocean,’ blew up. When I was going to each city, performing in front of 500-1000 people, sometimes 200-250. I found myself getting around and I was doing it without radio at the time, so it’s kind of a sarcastic song and title — it’s just what I was doing before everyone knew who I was because of the first single.
The BoomBox: The first single ‘On The Ocean,’ is about your struggle in the business so far. You compared it to being on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Are you still on that raft, or have you upgraded to a yacht at least?
K’Jon: You know what? That ship is coming. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I say it’s coming in because I’m able to put my music out to a world wide base now. I Get Around will be in stores everywhere, August 4th, but just being able to get the music out there for everybody — the mom & pops stores, the FYEs, and the Wal-Marts, makes me feel like the ship is coming. I get to get the music out there to everyone.
The BoomBox: The single has been on the top of the Urban AC charts for a couple weeks, what has that done for your morale?
K’Jon: When I look at the names of the people below mine on the chart, it’s like — “Yo, this is really happening!” So I definitely appreciate that blessing and it does wonders for your confidence. Sometimes there are doubters, so that definitely helps. The people have spoken, so it makes me feel like I belong here.
The BoomBox: Are you very involved in self-promotion on the internet like other up-and-coming artists?
K’Jon: I do check the MySpace and I respond to the fans but I’ve got to start Twittering. That’s real new to me, I’ve got to download the apps for my Blackberry and take a crash course so I can say, “Hey, I’m doing an interview in NY, check me out!” I want to be able to do that.