Jez Dior Wants to Be for Others What Eminem Was for Him [Q&A]
Growing up, you're constantly finding those idols to look up to. Someone you want to be like, someone you resonate with. Whether it's a parent, athlete, actor, musician, you have that person you aspire to be. For Jez Dior, it was artists like Eminem and 50 Cent who let him know he wasn't alone. Now, Jez is on a life mission to pay it forward to fans who are going through similar struggles he was living through not too long ago and evidently still dealing with today.
With over 50 million streams to date, Jez Dior is using his platform to spread a hopeful message. Jez touches the hearts of millions of fans daily delivering the simple yet necessary moral that you're not alone. His music as a therapeutic outlet to channel through, a shoulder to lean on during your time of need and despondency.
Jez recently released his debut full-length album Handle With Care earlier this fall. The album touches on losing loved ones, life struggles, and heartbreak. We were able to sit down with Jez and get to know why he creates music that resonates with so many.
Ones to Watch: Who is Jez Dior? Take us back to the beginning.
Jez Dior: I started making music around 11 or 12. I basically would go in my mom's car and record on this little, tiny voice recorder, saying raps that I had written when I was super young. I was just, like, obsessed with Eminem and 50 Cent at the time and wanted to do everything they were doing. I started writing music around that time, and ever since then, it just became an obsession of mine. That really grew me into the artist I am today.
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
No, but my mom has a bunch of lyrics of mine that I used to write. I used to write them on white computer paper, and I just never threw them away. I used to literally write as if I was in G-Unit and like some gangster from New York shit, like from Jamaica, Queens. I used to just emulate what 50 Cent and Lloyd Banks were talking about. it's very embarrassing to read that, but it's hilarious.
That is gold. Tell us a bit about your musical journey thus far.
J: I've always been innovative when it comes to music. I use music as a form of therapy; it really helps me get my feelings out. I've always been super personal when it comes to writing, and I haven't been scared to show that side of me to the world. Early on, I would write a lot about when my dad left. My dad left when I started writing around 11 or 12. So, the content on my earlier projects sort of kept going in that direction and are a lot darker I'd say. It was a much darker time in my life when I first started actually putting out music.
With that being said, I think people were really able to relate to the content of the songs. That's what really kick-started my career. I was just putting out music and talking about things I was going through, and in turn, I think people were going through or had been going through, similar things throughout their life. I think I was able to build a core fanbase off of those earlier projects. A lot of those kids still ride with me 'til this day. Fast forward to today, things are a lot different, being with a label and having multiple people on your team. It's just been an ever-changing story, and one that's still developing, you know?
Definitely. What would you say is the biggest self-realization you've had during your career?
I'm sort of an anxious person. Growing up, I was always pretty timid. When it comes to music, I've found this fearless side of myself. I've always been very honest in my music. So, throughout my career, when it comes to my art and making music, I've always just been careless. There's really nothing about myself that I'm scared to showcase or provide to my fans.
How does it feel to know your music has impacted so many people?
It's honestly still crazy to me to this day. Since my music has such a personal tone to it, I've been getting so many messages from kids all over the world throughout my whole career, but it still blows my mind to this day. I was at dinner with my homie, and this person named their cat after me. I get messages of people who got "Funeral Crew" tattooed, which is what my fans call themselves. Or just that my music has saved their life. Everytime I get a little message like that from anyone about anything, it still is mind-blowing. Just to see the words that I write and record reach the distances that they do is just mind-blowing, and quite frankly the reason I keep making music.
That's amazing man! I can only imagine how it must feel to have someone look up to you as a hero. It must be such a rewarding feeling.
Yeah, I mean, that's what I define success as. If it is just one person reaching out to me saying I saved their life, that alone is success to me. But the fact that I literally get messages every single day while I check my DM requests on Instagram, it's just like paragraphs on paragraphs about how and why my music means so much to them. It's really really cool and humbling.
Take me through your writing and recording process.
It all starts with production. So, that just depends on who I'm working with that given day. For a long time, and my first couple of EPs, I worked with one dude. His name is Danny Score; he did all my earlier stuff. So our process was kind of just like, you know, we'd have a conversation about what's going on in my head and where I'm at. Like I said, it's always been a form of therapy for me, and my music has always been real to what I'm going through at any given time. From there, we'd always pick up a guitar and I'd tell him what I like and don't like. That's really where I learned how to form a song, just working with him.
I carry that same vibe with me today when I'm in the studio. I don't play any instruments, but I'm always very hands-on. It's always different depending on who I'm working with, but I do work with mostly people who know me well on a personal level still. My dude Chris Wallace, Rome from Sublime, and Matt Radosevich are all close friends of mine and did my whole first album.
Walk me through the process of your debut album, Handle With Care, and where did the name come from?
J: Yeah so, I came up with the name because the album to me is basically myself wrapped up in to a very fragile package, you know? I start the album off talking about suicide that has happened within my family, my mom's depression, my dad's drug abuse, and how it affected my little sister. There's been overdoses in my family; My uncle passed away in my bedroom, in my bed when I was younger. Just all of the shit that I've been through in my life, I really take head-on in the album, so I just came up with the name because I really feel like I want people to handle it with care.
As for the process, it was really just a lot of conversations discussing what I want to talk about, how far I want to go with the stories that I feel like need to be heard. It was a lot of that before the recording process started, and that continued on throughout. But yeah, it was just a super personal album. I think we have some hits on there. We got some sad songs. I think there's something for everybody. I couldn't be more happy with the way it came out.
I'm a huge fan of the album, specifically your song "Please Don't Go." I really resonate with it on a personal level. Can you tell me a bit about that song and why it was the first single released off the album?
Thanks man, that means a lot. You know it's funny, I think I'm guilty of the thing that a lot of artists are guilty of, and it's your new song is always your favorite. That was the last song I recorded for the album, and also the song that was resonating with me at the time of my ex and I breaking up prior to writing and recording that song. I felt like I needed to get that song out for my own healing. I also just really love the song. Chris Wallace and I spent a couple of days working on it and it was the last song we submitted for the album. I don't know; I really love that song. Not only you, but a lot of people can connect with that song.
No doubt. What's the overall message you want to get across to your fanbase?
J: Just that you're not alone. There are so many times that I've felt that I'm alone in my feelings and that I don't have anywhere to turn or go to. I just want my fans to know that they're definitely not alone and things do get better. That's why I try to go so deep, honest, and really dive deep down to get to what I'm feeling when I'm making music. That's basically what Eminem did for me. I could relate to him so much when I was younger, he made me feel like I wasn't alone with what I was going through. I want to be able to give back and give these kids the same sort of feeling. There are people out there going through the same thing they're going through. Things do get better. There's always a light at the end of the tunnel.