ABOVE: JAKE TROTH
How Jake Troth went from studying Fashion and Accessories at Savannah College of Art and Design to performing with OutKast’s Big Boi on David Letterman late last year is strangely straightforward. Though he sometimes misses the elaborate craftsmanship of leatherwork, music turned out to be the 25-year-old’s ticket to a life of art and travel he had “always dreamed of.”
Troth’s debut solo album, Double Black Diamond, has been a long time coming—the Los Angeles-based North Carolina native has been singing since he can remember, playing music since he was 14, and producing since he was 17. For the self-described chameleon, who at school hung out with everyone and anyone (“thugs, druggies, nerds, jocks, babes, thespians, whoever”), blending music with art and fashion has always been a way to “make the world a little bit brighter.” While gearing up for his album’s fall release, Troth is splitting his time designing “some cool goodies” for his upcoming online store, and creating film pieces with friends.
We caught up with the excitable singer to discuss the real-life romantic inspiration behind Double Black Diamond, a three-year musical project for Troth; working with Big Boi; juggling music with making money; and where his adventures will take him next. We’re also pleased to exclusively premiere his track “Ross and Rachel.”
OLIVIA FLEMING: First off, tell us about performing “Apple of My Eye” with Big Boi on David Letterman last year. That’s got to be a career highlight?
JAKE TROTH: I got to achieve a dream alongside a legend, it was so surreal. Very, very special. One thing I’ll never forget is just before we went on when I was backstage, the other guest, Chris Pratt, turned to me and said: “Don’t blow it.”
FLEMING: How did the collaboration come about? You produced the song?
TROTH: I was working with MR DJ in Atlanta on Double Black Diamond, and I came in to the studio one day and warmed up with a random sketch inspired by all the Joy Division I was jamming at the time. Fifteen minutes in, after putting some drums, guitars, and vocals down, DJ came in and immediately said, “What is this?! I’m gonna play this for Big tonight!” Three months later, I’m skating up to Steve Vai’s house in Beachwood Canyon to put final touches on the song while Big is making turkey burgers. Again, surreal! With the help of DJ and Big Boi’s band, the song came out awesome.
FLEMING: How long has Double Black Diamond been in the works?
TROTH: Some of the songs on the album are three years old. While I have completed a handful of EP’s since 2007, this is my first full length offering to everyone; and I guess now seems to be the right time to grab the mic and sing to the party.
FLEMING: I feel like the album is one big ode to love—or heartbreak. Is it written from personal experience?
TROTH: Double Black Diamond is the soundtrack to a heart that’s been through a lot in a short time. The goal was to make something intimate, bittersweet, simple and yet unpredictable. It’s honest and meant to be shared with all different types of people.
FLEMING: The title “Ross and Rachel” is obviously a reference to Friends. But who or what is the song really about?
TROTH: Friends was, and still is, a pretty popular show. The girl I wrote it about is from London via Bangladesh, and she loved the show. We had to break up and I hadn’t expressed my feelings about our relationship until I was at the market, about to leave, waiting for my food. Sitting across from me was this couple making out; they were so into each other. It made me feel like a stupid, lonely loser. That plus the very rare rainstorm we were having in L.A. at the time put me into a place I had only seen on TV when Ross tried to dedicate a U2 song to Rachel via the radio and she shut him down on air. I went home and wrote “Ross and Rachel” thinking of rain, John Hughes montages, and Jennifer Aniston.
FLEMING: What about your first single, “On My Way”? It has a captivating music video.
TROTH: Thank you! Austin Saya directed it; he and I were roommates during art school. That song is so fun and positive. Austin and I wanted to make something that felt good that we could show to anyone. It’s silly and meticulous, just like us. My picky art friends liked it, and so did my grandma, so I’m pumped.
FLEMING: Is the song’s backstory as romantic as “Ross and Rachel”?
TROTH: Mmm, maybe. [laughs] The song is about how a guitar can sometimes make me feel like a superhero.
FLEMING: You studied shoe and luggage design at college. What made you go down the music path instead of following fashion?
TROTH: I went to art school in Savannah, Georgia for three years. I made shoes, wallets, belts, briefcases, toolboxes, laptop cases, and even dog collars. I learned a lot about the design process and made a lot of great friends I still create with regularly. I left early because I knew I didn’t want to interview and get a job in the fashion industry. Working within the confines of forecasted trends would drive me crazy, because I just wanted to bring to life the random ideas I had. I liked working on individual articles instead of complete collections. Plus, when I would get stressed over deadlines, I’d make music to calm my brain. People in class enjoyed my music, which was at the time based off materialism and daydreaming. Music was what made me happy. But I do very much miss the trade of leatherwork and using my bare hands to build things.
FLEMING: What inspires and shapes your own music?
TROTH: Music inspires my music. Hearing what’s already possible helps me look for new territory. I have been fortunate to come from, in many ways, a very diverse place. I want to spread peace to as many people as possible, so I pay a lot of attention to pop culture in hopes of understanding how to spread goodness. Once I find a good melody or sound that I feel is universal, I write what I’ve experienced, or what I wish to experience.
FLEMING: Do you have a particularly fond musical memory that sticks out?
TROTH: I remember looking at OutKast album artwork in the back of my brother’s Jeep as a kid, which made standing next to Big Boi on The Tonight Show so cool. I remember headbanging my way through death metal sets in dive bars back home in North Carolina, and then toe-tapping on national television in a bowtie while shaking an apple. It’s crazy where music takes me.
FLEMING: As someone who is a relatively new artist, do you still have a day job to pay your bills?
TROTH: I make music for money sometimes to pay the bills—like a golf ball commercial here, a bra commercial there, whatever can get me safely to the next 30 days of creating original and progressive stuff for non-commercial occasions. Jimmy Page did it, I don’t hate it.
FLEMING: And what about your online store?
TROTH: Initially it will be my own merch store on my website, except I want to do more collaborations with artists and small companies. Eventually I hope I can open an actual shop somewhere back home in North Carolina—kind of like Colette in Paris, except everything in the store is an exclusive collaboration.
FLEMING: You’re a busy man! Where to from here? Any tours in the works?
TROTH: Yes! I’m getting a band together that I can take out on the road to spread my songs. The shows are going to be so fresh. I want to have fun while spilling my guts, so expect nothing short of a good time. I hope I get to sing these tunes with a lot of people soon. I’m also making a ton of tracks for various artists that do something different than me, like rap or dance, or really belt it out like a diva.
JAKE TROTH’S DOUBLE BLACK DIAMOND IS COMING SOON. FOR MORE ON THE ARTIST, PLEASE VISIT HIS WEBSITE.