Raised in Massachusetts, electronic producer and guitarist extraordinaire Micah Jasper moved to New Orleans for college in pursuit of its thriving music scene. Less than a year out of undergrad and he’s produced a full-length record for his six-piece hip-hop band YUGEN, toured the country with Matisyahu, and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a solo career. Now Micah is premiering his debut solo project SAFARRI, a five-track collaborative EP of experimental soul featuring four exceptionally talented underground acts.
Days before leaving for Austin’s SXSW Festival to perform with Coast Modern, Micah and I video chat. He’s temporarily sleeping on a friend’s couch in L.A. (makes a joke about being certifiably homeless) and plans to tour more or less completely through the summer. L.A. looks good on him: He’s happy, focused, and appears to be absolutely primed for the future.
Read our conversation and stream SAFARRI below.
Indie Current: How do you feel about this project coming out?
Micah Jasper: It’s cool, it’s kind of like why I moved here in the first place, because I wanted to finish the project and be closer to the publishing company that I just signed to, all the writers, just try to get it off the ground. In New Orleans, I couldn’t really finish it. I just needed to put myself in a different space to finish the record.
Who did you sign with for publishing?
MJ: It’s this company called Mirrorball Entertainment. It’s run by that dude Tony Maserati that mixes a bunch of Beyoncé and major label pop stuff. I wanted to be closer to him and work with him and other Mirrorball writers because there’s a lot of bad asses on that team.
So when you finished the entire EP you were living in L.A.?
One of my questions was going to be if you feel like the city of New Orleans inspired the way your music sounds. So now that I know you finished the project in Los Angeles, I guess I want to ask that same question in regards to both places. Do you think either of those cities inspired the way the music sounds on your EP?
MJ: Yeah, I feel like New Orleans inspired it in a more creative way, and L.A. kind of inspired it more in just the way it sounds, like the mixing or the mastering. I don’t think it would’ve been mixed or mastered or maybe even the production would not have been as good, because the people I was around… Most of the content and subject matter is all New Orleans. It’s super influenced by New Orleans.
Can you remember what you were doing roughly a year ago, with music and with YUGEN and your solo project, as far as you can remember?
MJ: Damn. My year has been so crazy, just in general. I was not, like… I had no idea. I had fucking no idea that I would ever be in L.A.. I had no idea that I would ever be finishing an EP. I met Matisyahu April 11th and then all that shit happened from there and I just came out here and the other touring shit. I had zero idea. I was probably low-key applying for jobs, music jobs or I don’t know. I have no idea.
How did you meet Matisyahu?
MJ: He just came to one of our shows in New Orleans and was like super into it. He was standing side stage and I somehow found out that that was him. And then I asked him to come sit in and he like, sat in. And then he asked us to come on tour with him for a few tours.
June through November I was with them and then November I came out here. I was on tour when I got the publishing deal. So I stayed in his tour manager’s spot for like four months, and I was just writing and writing and writing and then I got hooked up with this other band that I’m currently playing in. More recently I got hooked up with this other singer and I’m playing in her band.
What’s the singer’s name?
Have you been working with Maggie in New Orleans or do you do stuff together online?
MJ: I’m building all of her tracks for her live set and playing guitar and bass and keys for her. The tour starts April 1st but I’m going to New Orleans on the 23rd just to finish all these tracks and do stuff with that.
So can you remember roughly when you started working on tracks from the EP?
MJ: I mean, “TABOO” came out so long ago, like months ago. And then “Wait” took the longest and the more recent one “Bandana” but that is definitely the clearest one. I definitely feel like I leveled up on that track, I feel like that’s just better production. Who cares how long it took? That song just sounds better. “Jamie” was the second one. “The Shore” was somewhere in between.
What do you look for in a vocalist? When you have the production all laid out and you’re trying to find someone to collaborate with, is there something specific that you’re attracted to about a voice?
MJ: Definitely. For this EP I tried to pick the most interesting voices, no matter what part of the country that they’re in. I’ve been working with some artists in L.A. that I could have just had on the EP, but I kind of.. I don’t know, when the instrumentals were done I was very, very sure who I wanted on it. Whether it’s with Rachel [Raia Was], who plays in Autre Ne Veut‘s band and is super tapped into the experimental stuff. I don’t know if you know Fishdoll but she lives in New York.
I sent “The Shore” to two people. One person I was, like, not down. And then her’s was f**king brilliant. That was just that. And Mulherin, they’re my homies, I recorded that track a while ago. “Honey Savage” was probably the least-thought-out one. I put the least amount of thought into pairing those two. It was natural but it wasn’t this kind of eureka moment that happened with the other track . It was cool. She definitely did a really good job and I like the song, it just felt different that the other ones.
Did you contribute to any of the lyrics on the EP?
MJ: Yeah, I definitely did. Not “TABOO.” I wrote most of “Wait,” except for one verse. “The Shore,” she just sang it in gibberish and I like deciphered her words. She did the whole vocal melody and all the chorus and I just filled in the words. It was awesome. “Jamie,” I wrote. “Bandana,” I also wrote.
Would you ever consider including your own vocals on a track?
MJ: Yeah, “Bandana” actually has my own vocals. It’s like super in the background, but I’m definitely easing into it. It’s like a process. I don’t want to just plop my own vocals on it like, here I am, you know?
Were any of these collaborations done face to face or were they all done by sending files back and forth?
MJ: “TABOO” and “Jamie” were done face to face. “Wait,” “Bandana,” and “The Shore” I sent to New York. It’s kind of like an internet project.
Did these vocalists have input on the production as well?
MJ: I think Fishdoll did. She shaped the song a lot, just with what she put down as vocals. It was more fleshed-out than it was when I sent it to her.
How many unreleased, unfinished would you say you have lined up for your solo project as Micah Jasper?
MJ: There’s a lot. Like ten done and a bunch of others not completely done.
What time of day are you usually working on music? Is there a certain time of day, or is it more of just whenever you’re free?
MJ: More recently, I’ve been a day person. But I always consider myself kind of staying up all night making shit but I don’t know. Yeah, I’ve been waking up earlier. I look super tired right now. (laughs)
What’s your best musical memory of the past year?
MJ: My best musical memory of the past year was being able to do a trio show with Duncan and Dillon in a club in Tel Aviv. The owner of the restaurant was super amped to have us there and said he owned a club near by. They got us instruments and like the sound was dry af but it was hella fun to play like Dilla beats in a random club in Isreal.