June 21, 2013

With a life time of experiences to shape his art, Jackson’s AJC, 28, and his band, The Envelope Pushers (Frank White, Brandon Jackson, Keith Pennymon, Rob Rigsby and Chris (duece) Johnson), take to the Duling Hall stage Sunday night for a performance of their latest project, Fallen Star, and the launch of their Kick Starter campaign. We sat down with AJC days before the show and talked to him about life, inspiration and following a dream…

Who is AJC – before the music?
“AJC is a guy that gets up and works a 9 to 5 everyday. That’s who I am. I’m a banker by day, a musician by night. I’m a 2009 JSU graduate with an accounting degree, but that’s not really me. I’d rather be a musician slash writer. Even now, I’m working on a blog and magazine that no one knows about (until now). I’ve probably written over 40 articles for that already, I’ve written about 15 chapters of a book and I wrote this record.”

What was your start in music?
“I was 3 or 4. Music wasn’t something I really wanted to do necessarily. I could sing and my dad would pull me up in church, but it was nothing I wanted to do. I think by the time I was 15 or 16, I started wanting to sing more. I started writing a lot of poetry. The books were stacking up because I was writing so much (he says it was horrible), but I was still writing it.”

What shaped those writings?
“It was all about the different things happening with the family (AJC says his family was at poverty level, but making it work). I needed an outlet at that point. (A big part of his story was his mother leaving at a young age and his time in New York where he saw drug use and illicit sex first hand.) It changes you, when you’re that young, and you actually see these things. That sparked something in me to become a writer. I needed a way to talk about it. When I really started writing, I was probably 17 or 18 and I wrote about all that stuff to get it out.

Who has supported and inspired your dream?
“My dad, you know, when I first started rapping, he liked it but he didn’t understand and he wasn’t necessarily a supporter. Where we’re playing Sunday (Duling Hall) is the fist time he ever saw me perform (several years ago.) He snuck in that night and watched me and he’s been crazy over it ever since. I even told him I was getting ready to go back to school and he said ‘You may want to wait a little while. See what the music’s gonna do. Give it a year.’ That means a lot because most people would say you need to go back to school because you’re not making any money at this. We just got through playing House of Blues in New Orleans and we’re going back in August. It’s starting! It’s slow, there’s no money yet, but something’s in the water. It’s kind of happening.”

(AJC also cites saxophonist Ezra Brown and his mentor, JSU professor, C. Leigh McInnis, among those who have shaped him and given him a chance with his writings and music.)

What’s in this record?
“If you think about it, it took me five years to write this record. I have a decade’s worth of material in it. The record will be between 10 and 17 songs. The title, Fallen Star: so picture me – it talks about everything from death to spirituality, life, abandonment, drugs, alcoholism and depression – all the things I’ve had to deal with. Think of a kid fighting for a dream. He doesn’t believe it, but for some reason he’s fighting for it. That was me. The lyrics ‘Do you know how to catch a fallen star, It’s so sad that they’ll never know who you are; Your light will fade away with time, This is the fight we fight to keep our dreams alive.’ I’m fighting for a dream. The dream keeps me going.

When you cry when you make it, you cry because of the journey. It’s not the trophy; it’s your remembering all the pain you went through to get the trophy. That’s what the album is about. That’s the main theme that pushes it. We all need a dream; everyone needs something to believe in. The possibilities are endless. I thought it wouldn’t happen.”

What’s the record sound like?
“It’s a fusion record. We’ve got jazz, ska, rock and classical music and we have a strong presence of poetry and hip hop because the base is poetry and hip hop. And of course R&B and soul. Some people know me for rapping, some for singing, some for poetry. I fused them all together. There’s no song that sounds like another.”

Why a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project?
The people in the community were asking for the record. Since they were supporting me, it makes me feel good to know that, if they are giving to it, they are no longer spectators. They are a part of the process. People want to be a part of something great. So, I’m like, why not give them a chance? If there’s something they want, they’re not going to be reluctant. At the same time, it’s a test: who believes in me enough? I believe in you, do you believe in me?

I’m a product of this area, of everything you are doing here. If I’m a product of yours, and I become that person that turns into a super star and comes right back into Fondren to see what’s going on here? Those are the people you want, so why not support them?”

The AJC is the Fallen Star Kickstarter Launch and Concert is Sunday June 23, 2013 at 6pm at Duling Hall. There is a $5 cover charge for the show. AJC gives special thanks to Fondren Church “for being behind him on this incredible journey.”