Jovanie Talks New Album, Following His Dreams and Fred Astaire’s Influence [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Turn on the radio, hit iTunes or watch countless videos on YouTube and there's a song giving instructions to do the Whip, Nae Nae, Milly Rock, Dab and Hit the Quan. DLow, Silento, iLoveMemphis and Migos are just a few of the artists capitalizing on the dance craze this year and 14-year-old singer Jovanie is following their lead with a dance ode of his own called "Whip," a track featured on his new project, What's the Move, Pt. II.
The track served as the Brooklyn, N.Y native's official introduction to the music world being that it received the visual treatment earlier this year -- his unique moniker and solid vocals were finally put to a face in the video. But die-hard fans knew him well before the "Whip" clip debuted. Jovanie has been steadily making a name for himself with songs like 2013’s “Heartbreaker” and the role he landed in Wale’s “The White Shoes” video.
Five years ago, the crooner told his parents he wanted to follow in the footsteps of guys like Chris Brown and Justin Bieber and give this music thing a shot. Some parents might have scoffed at the idea, but luckily for Jovanie, his support system was down from the start -- even his 10 brothers and sisters were throwing a thumbs up in his direction. Now he's got a deal with Atlantic Records, What's the Move, Pt. II out for the masses to hear and a new album in the works. Not bad for a kid who hasn't even hit his 16th birthday yet.
While his age may deter some R&B fans that are more familiar with the sounds of Trey Songz and August Alsina from giving him a shot, his music speaks for itself. His lyrics detail the ups and downs of relationships, turning up the confidence levels and celebrating his lady. After all, love is a universal language that speaks to everyone. Plus, he's stiff competition for the likes of Breezy and Biebs when it comes to flexing on the dance floor.
Read on as Jovanie opens up about his new music, Fred Astaire's influence, his love for history and the one skill he needs to perfect by next summer.
The Boombox: Tell us about the process of working on What’s the Move Pt. II.
Jovanie: I'm actually really, really excited. You know, it took us like, two months to finish the project, back-to-back in the studio, working with different producers, different writers, you know, getting it done. And then it has like different styles, different moods, a different vibe to each song. A different part of me to each song. So it was actually a really good experience. It was fun, you know.
Most people when they think of you, they're most familiar with "Whip." What song aside from that are you really excited for your fans to hear?
Well, everyone's favorite song right now is "Hypnotized." I can't wait for my fans to hear "Hypnotized." It's actually a really good song.
Why does that one come to mind?
As I said before, you know, the vibe is just like, it's like crazy, it's a really good vibe. And it kind of tells a story. So it just has like a really good vibe to it, which makes you like it automatically. "Hypnotized" is more upbeat -- it can be a dance track -- but it's more upbeat like, more like you just sit down and just rock to it. I get hypnotized by a girl. Yeah, she was really hot I guess.
For this project, did you collaborate on the songwriting or did you handle a lot of that?
Well, you know, let's say I don't like a few different things, I would always change it, you know, and add my own little swag to it and switch it up. Like different melodies, we would always switch it up and make it more "me" than like, the track I guess.
Watch Jovanie's "Whip!" Video
You did a few songs with the Featherstones. Why do you feel like you have a solid connection with them as producers?
I feel like their beats were just unique in a certain way, you know what I mean. And they had a good vibe to it. We could always work on something with them.
Let's talk about growing up in Brooklyn. Coming up in that area of New York, how has that influenced your music?
Well, actually I heard today, "Why? What made you want to be a singer, not a rapper?" But growing up in Brooklyn is different, you know what I mean. I don't know all the artists that came from Brooklyn but in my prior knowledge not a lot of artists came from Brooklyn. But the ones who did were like really huge like Biggie, Jay Z. I actually just love music so much. Like growing up my mom and my father always played like R&B, like singer music and then me and my brothers and sisters would all get in a circle and just start singing.
I'd always be the first person out and then, you know, practice makes perfect and over time I got better. [My brothers and sisters] got worse [laughs]. Yeah, so over time I just got better. I've seen like Justin Bieber started as young as he did, Chris Brown started as young as he did, and then that just showed me if they could do it, what makes it any different if I tried. Why can't I do it?
Did you have family supporting this interest in a singing career from the start?
Well, that's a funny story. So I used to sing for my sister -- my older sister. She would always like have me sing some of the songs she liked and put my little swag onto it. And then one day we were going to the movies and I sang for my father. Well, I didn't really sing for him. Justin Bieber was playing on the radio.
So he heard you singing along?
Yeah, and then he turned off the radio. The song was like acoustic so he turned off the radio and he thought that the song was still on. And then I just sang for him. I was like super nervous and he asked me like, "Do you really want this?" And then from there my father just, you know, he helped me get a manager and then from there we just, we've been working and now I'm here.
Watch Jovanie's "Ooh Girl" Video
Many artists travel on a bumpy road to the top. Have you experienced any roadblocks or obstacles so far?
I feel like, with starting this young you would always go through like, a lot of roadblocks and obstacles. But my manager and my team was always like, with me and then behind me so it wasn't really like, it wasn't really much of a struggle, you know. It was just like, hard work and going to performances. I was actually really nervous [in the beginning]. Like one time we went to the park and then my manager tried to make me sing. And then like, I was just like so scared. I was actually crying. I think I cried. But you know over time, I'm just doing it over and over and over. It got better, I started losing my nerves. Just my team, since we know how to like communicate, it was not really hard going through obstacles.
Where does school come into play?
Well, this is actually a really good question. So basically, two years ago, three years ago, when I was like in regular school just going, you know, from performance, school, performance, school, performance, school, back to school. And then last year I started homeschooling. And it's actually like way harder. It's like really different. Probably because I'm not used to it. And then now since I'm in high school, the work is like a billion times harder. This is actually another obstacle that I'm fighting. But as I said before, you know, my team is behind me and we will always have time for school.
How do you dedicate the time to it?
Well, throughout the day, whenever I have time, like let's say before I go perform or before I go do anything, I'll do school or when I get home I'll do school. Or just probably in the morning only because like, you know, after my day is finished I'd be like really tired.
Is there a certain subject in school that you gravitate toward?
History and math. I actually really love history because it teaches you about... just different things, you know. Without history, I wouldn't know my background. I wouldn't know like, what happened before me, you know what I mean. Like I had a day in Brooklyn and I actually love Brooklyn way more than I've ever did in my life, you know. And then math, you know, what is that word? It's like a competition. It's like me and my brain competing with like the numbers. It's just so fun and interesting. So I actually really like those subjects.
But with math too, you're exercising your brain in a whole new way. It's kind of the opposite of art and being creative. It's also similar in a way to formulating songs.
One heart plus one heart.
Exactly. So who are some of your musical influences?
Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Usher, a few other people, Prince. Someone who really inspired me in dance is Fred Astaire. I compare him to Michael Jackson; they're both so light on their feet. That's what I really look forward to in dance.
So the Fred Astaire connection, how'd you get turned on to him?
Michael Jackson, I was always told you gotta know whoever influenced you, you gotta know who they got influenced by.
Did you watch YouTube videos to get connected with how he operated? How did that work?
I've seen a few videos. As you've said before, practice makes perfect. I'm still practicing to this day, how to get so light on my feet and just look so fluid. Just by going on the internet, watching him do what he does, same thing for Michael Jackson, Chris Brown. Dance moves, just over time -- I think I'm getting there.
Watch Jovanie's "Who Knows" Video
With any of those artists you named, is there a song you can remember that when you were young you heard or just watching someone on TV and say, "That's the person I want to be like and aspire to be"?
When I was really young, my favorite song in video, you know B5? "All I Do"? I was like, this is what I really want to do when I watch that video. It was just so amazing to see all of that.
Now that this project is going to come out, what is going to be next for you?
We just started a tour.
Awesome. Does it have a name?
It's just my tour. A Boys and Girls Club tour.
Are you working on an album in between? What are you doing after the tour?
I'm focused on this [project] right now, but my album is most definitely coming soon. But, we're just promoting this as much as possible.
So what do you want your fans to get from you after listening to this project?
Basically, each song is a part of me. So it has a piece of me and a piece of my personality so I guess, I really want them to really know me and my style of music and what I really like. They'll just get to know me better from this project, because it's just a piece of me.
When you said your style of music, and I know it's hard to describe, but can you pinpoint the type of music that you feel you make?
Kind of like more upbeat, mid-tempo but most of them are dance records and some of them are acoustic and -- it's just different. It's versatile. But I guess all the songs are about girls.
Outside of the music, what would your fans be surprised to know about you when it comes to any interests that you have?
There's shows that I love. Teen Wolf, The Vampire Diaries. I think I watched a few episodes of Girl Meets World. I watched a lot of Nickelodeon. I play basketball, football, table tennis, pool and I'm not a good swimmer.
Is that something you want to try too?
Yeah, it's something I really want to focus on. I actually want to be a really good swimmer.
Listen to Jovanie's "What's the Move Pt. II"
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