Polaroids are a very unique form of memorabilia because they provide a completely raw and unembellished snapshot of a moment in time, void of fancy filters or captions that might skew outside perception. Josh Jacobson exemplifies that principle of authenticity behind the title of his latest single, "Polaroids," in the From The Roots rendition of the song, premiering today on Ones To Watch.
The Brooklyn-based singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist officially adds performer to that growing list of talents as he demonstrates genuine vocal and piano prowess in the intimate studio performance. While the original "Polaroids" features sweeping synths and anthemic drops, the live session truly takes us back to Jacobson's jazz-y roots, backed by the organic instrumentals of long-time band members and friends.
While most fans may associate Josh Jacobson with dance music, his goal with the From The Roots videos is to transmit "the magic that only happens when people are in a room playing their instruments together" to fans who may not necessarily be exposed to the jazz and instrumental music he grew up on. From the start, he's worked to bridge the gap between electronic music and jazz fans with his self-coined genre of "future soul," a happy medium between jazz, pop, and modern bass-infused dance music.
"Polaroids" explores the universal reality of "coping with this idea of meaninglessness in our lives," but it provides a positive outlook by juxtaposing that with "the notion that by doing what makes us happy in the moment, we are able to move forward and grow." The track gives us a glimpse into the larger narrative of Josh Jacobson's debut EP, First Light, due summer 2017. In the meantime, vibe out to "Polaroids (From The Roots)" above as you get to know Jacobson in our exclusive Q&A below.
OTW: What does "future soul" mean to you, and how did you land on this particular sound?
Josh: I'm inspired by a diverse range of soulful music from the past and present, and "future soul" to me is the idea of bringing all these different musical ideas together in my own way.
At the core, I'm a jazz pianist and a singer/songwriter, and adding electronic elements allows me to create new sounds and fully express myself, but it's all rooted in the jazz tradition. There's a common thread to be traced all the way from jazz and gospel music through the classic soul and hip hop records I grew up on, all the way to the new sounds I'm creating today. There are many different ways for music to be soulful, but it all feels very connected in my mind.
Dance music also resonates with me because it connects with this fundamental, rhythmic nature of what music is and how it can literally move us. It's important to me to make music that people can feel and relate to in a direct way, so my goal is to find that perfect balance of live instrumentation and electronic elements. I'm using forward-thinking production to build out these songs while staying true to my roots every step of the way–that's the idea behind "future soul".
OTW: Tell us about the meaning behind "Polaroids." What was the making of the acoustic like and can we expect more From The Roots sessions?
Josh: "Polaroids" is about coping with this idea of meaninglessness in our lives. Experiences and relationships are often fleeting, and sometimes they leave us feeling lost, searching for something important while drifting through the darkness. "Polaroids" is a snapshot of that feeling, along with the notion that by doing what makes us happy in the moment, we are able to move forward and grow.
I named the live video series From the Roots because this project really feels like returning to my roots as a musician. We recorded everything in a single morning session at a studio in Brooklyn with only 1-2 takes of each song, so all the videos have this very organic, live energy about them. All of the instrumentalists I featured in the session are people I've been playing with since I was a kid, so they are also part of my musical roots.
There's a certain kind of magic that only happens when people are in a room playing their instruments together, and that feeling is what I love most about being a musician. My goal with From the Roots is to share that feeling with my fans, many of whom aren't necessarily into jazz or instrumental music. I hope to build bridges with this project–maybe some of the dance music heads will be encouraged to check out more jazz, and vice versa. This is just the first of several FTR live videos I'll be releasing this year.
OTW: Where does "Polaroids" fit on the overall thematic/storyline of the upcoming EP and what can we expect when we hear the full album?
Josh: I like when people interpret my music in their own way so I won't give too much away here, but First Light is a song cycle that explores the idea of relationships as a means for self-discovery. "Polaroids" is the second song on the EP, and fits into that part of the overall narrative.
OTW: With so many emotional songs about love and heartbreak, what would be your number one relationship advice?
Josh: The biggest thing I've learned so far is to try to share your whole self. I think that's true in creating art too, but especially in relationships. It's scary to let go of the feeling of control enough to actually be vulnerable and open with someone else, but that's when we're able to build something truly meaningful.
OTW: We heard you had a pretty interesting SXSW experience…tell us about that.
Josh: Yeah! Stella aka Snowpocalypse 2017 hit New York on the day we were scheduled to fly out to Austin, and everything got canceled. I had two shows scheduled the next day and no flights were going out, so we rented a Kia Soul and drove all night through the middle of the blizzard to get to Texas. The drive was pretty rough, over 30 hours in total because the snow slowed us down so much, but we got there just in time!
It was an insane way to start my first South By, but I had a blast and played 5 shows in 4 days before heading to Miami Music Week for a couple more. The highlight was probably my live show with KJ Sawka on drums at the Beautiful Buzzz showcase.
OTW: What's happening on the live show front? What's your setup like and any shows planned after the EP release?
Josh: I love playing live! Getting to perform with other musicians is really what I live for, and it's amazing to be able to perform my own music this way. The live setup includes me on vocals & keyboards along with a full band of jazz instrumentalists on bass, drums, trumpet and other instruments.
My live show is all about expressing the elements that make up my sound and sharing a ton of energy with the audience. It's loud and dancey at times, but also has this distinct core of jazz improvisation that comes through in a way that really distinguishes the live show from the records. There's all this synthy electronic stuff going on, but at the same time we're really playing together as a band and vibing off of the energy of the crowd to create an amazing experience for everyone in the room.
I have a few more shows lined up for this spring in New York, LA and Miami, and we're planning a full tour for after the EP release. As you can see in the From the Roots videos, there's a whole side of what I do that only comes through in the live context, so I'm really excited to get to share that with more audiences around the world.
OTW: Who are 3 artists on your Ones To Watch list and why?
Josh: NAO is definitely at the top of my ones to watch list. I'm such a fan! I love her songwriting, and her combination of soulful vocals and electronic production is just flawless. I'd love to make a record with her someday.
On the dance music side, Jonas Rathsman is one of my absolute favorite producers and I think he deserves way more hype in the US.
Finally, my close friend and collaborator Skela is making beautiful music and has so much to say as an artist. I'm excited to see her do amazing things in the near future!