For a guy who didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 21, Milwaukee singer-songwriter Jake Paul has already advanced further than musicians with far greater experience. He’s released two albums in three years and — now touring and recording ¬as Jake Paul Music— has quickly become a Midwestern roots-rock favorite and makes annual appearances at Milwaukee’s Summerfest, an 11-day event hailed as “the world’s largest music festival.”
With influences ranging from the Grateful Dead to G. Love, Jake Paul Music’s authentic and memorable songs rise above the disposable rock ’n’ roll heard on mainstream radio. The quintet features fresh musicians from southeastern Wisconsin who’ve built a loyal fan base playing honest, evocative music. The band’s 2011 full-length debut CD, The Jailbreak, includes “Hollow,” a song about Jake’s mother, whose 1988 murder at the age of 33 remains unsolved more than 25 years later. Jake’s first-person retelling of the killing is as haunting as the song’s title suggests: “Remember just to say goodbye/’cause you’re never too young to die.” A video for “Hollow” was filmed in the cemetery where his mother is buried, and a harmonica-drenched denouement echoes Springsteen classics. Jake also intends to write another version of “Hollow” from the perspective of the bullet. “That’s therapy, for sure,” he says. “But it’s also art.”
The Jailbreak and 2013’s The Providence EP showcase a band bursting with meaningful songs about resiliency, love, hate, and moving on and letting go — all anchored by clever wordplay, flashes of reggae and hip-hop, and bright melodies that belie the weight of Jake’s often bold and raw lyrics. In early 2014, Jake Paul will return to Milwaukee’s Studio Z to re-record The Jailbreak with new, more radio-friendly arrangements that don’t diminish the legitimacy of the songs. Additionally, Jake Paul Music will be recording new original material with accompanying vocalist Kristin Urban from the reggae-rock band Urban Empress and the UrbanItes.
The music will be released by Anomaly Records, Jake’s own label, which helped finance his band’s first two albums and may eventually sign other artists, too. For now, though, Jake Paul Music is all about playing music — “good music that people enjoy,” Jake says. “It sounds so obvious, but that truly is our goal. In fact, I still take guitar lessons. I want to master the fretboard just like Jerry Garcia.”
— Michael Popke