Whenever I do one of these interviews, I usually start off; “I recently sat down with…” This is typically just a colloquialism, but not this time. Having hosted the Air 1 “Club Awesome tour” at the church I work at, I was actually able to truly sit down with the man himself and get his thoughts on the industry, his career path, and why TobyMac is “the Great White Whale.” I also got the honor of running to the store to buy him some Mountain Dew for the set… just saying.
So, Kj, how you doing?
Excellent. So good to be in Oklahoma. Base place of all things Braum’s related.
So, we reviewed your album Dangerous, and gave it a 4/5. It’s been getting pretty good reviews across the board. How do you feel it’s been getting across with the people?
You know, it’s funny, in 2012 the way people digest music is so different, so I’m still educating people on the new record, even though it’s been out for six months. So, a lot of times, my fanbase tends to be about one or two records behind. They’re like, “man, I just picked up your new album The Yearbook,” and I’m like, “No, that’s not the new one.”
So you’ve still got people going “Hey fifty-two”, and you’re like “I already wrote 10 songs about that…”
Absolutely, I think I’ll be dealing with that forever. Yeah, I mean certain songs have been really well received, like the song I did with Lecrae, that was talking about racial issues. Even a reason that I’m here is the “Brand New Day” getting spun on Air 1. Air 1 has picked up that one and Dangerous has really helped a lot. I didn’t usually get a lot of spins on Air 1 up to that point, so that’s kinda one of the reasons why I’m here. Things like that, and then, um, a lot of times I just base how the record goes over live. And, it’s been great live, so…
So, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a Soul Purpose or a Piece of Mind, when are we going to see KJ-52, the country album?
That would be amazing. You know it’s funny though, being here in Oklahoma, I make a joke in one of my songs about being in a Snuggie rocking out to Garth Brooks. Garth Brooks is a fan. He was quoted in an interview, saying that all he listens to is whatever his kids listen to. When they asked him what his kids listen to, he was like “Avril Lavigne and KJ-52.” And so, my jaw just hit the floor when I heard that, but then my old bass player met him in Tulsa at a Hideaway Pizza. So a Garth Brooks/ KJ collab would be hilarious. I think that would be about the most I’ll ever do.
So, speaking of collaborations, you had a lot on this album, is there anyone out there you’re still dying to work with?
To me, the great white whale is TobyMac. He is the great white whale I’ve been hunting down. I try to get him and he sneaks off somewhere… The closest I’ve been able to do with that is to impersonate him on the Newsboys record. Toby would be great. I’d love to do something with Matt Kearney. Trip Lee would be really dope. MuteMath, I’m a huge MuteMath fan. Brit Nicole is really dope. I’ve been around a while, so I’m running out of people, but those are some of the people, definitely.
Any thoughts on new album work, or any things coming up?
Yeah. Generally, my process is that I’ll start compiling concepts. I’m in the concept stage now. Sometimes I’ll come up with little song bits. Like a couplet phrase or a chorus idea. So that’s usually… and, I always say, “I’m not ready for a new record,” but once I start to get those things start flowing, then I start getting into the mind set.
So, last question I can think of. I always ask a silly question to close it out. Who’s better, Batman or Superman?
Depends on what you’re trying to get them to do. Now, we all know that Batman, obviously, is great… but he can’t turn his head. So, that is a detriment. But, you know, all you’ve got to do is show up with some Kryptonite underwear and you’ve got Superman crushed. So, personally, I don’t know if this is a reflection of my sad personality, but I lean towards the darker side of things. So, I like the Dark Knight. Superman, he’s just a little too clean cut. I like a guy with a little bit of angst and a little bit of history. So, I’m gonna go with Batman.
12/2/2012 – KJ 52 Interview (Check out the audio from the interview here)
Now, though it wasn’t a part of the interview, I was also with KJ as an aspiring rapper from OK asked him “how to break into the industry.” What follows is a paraphrase, and not a direct quoting, of what KJ’s advice was. That being said, I have a pretty strong memory, and feel comfortable posting this “out of KJ’s mouth.”
First of all, don’t try to break into the industry just to get a record deal or anything. The music biz has changed. Cd album sales are almost non-existant, unless you’re like KeSha or someone like that. Really, when I first started, compared to now, album sales went from being the bulk of your product, to really just a way to make the live shows happen.
The live shows are your goal. That’s why I sell silly little things at my shows, like glasses and fuzzy gloves, and stuff. And the record companies are hurting, because they used to base their profit entirely off record sales. Now, you have much fewer labels. The ones that are our there still are less willing to take a risk, and they can’t plan to make money off your albums anymore. So, it’s almost mandatory for a new artist that they make you sign a 360 deal, meaning they get a cut from your merchandise, live shows, endorsements, and all that. They’re just trying to survive.
So, my advice is to stay indie. The guys doing the best are the ones who have like a regional or territorial following. In order to break out, nowadays, you have to have something unique. You have to do something big. But for most, the best plan is to stay indie and just do some hard work. That’s how I got in, initially.