His Passion Is Contagious, His Talent Undeniable
Pell grew up in New Orleans, and was eventually forced to uproot when Hurricane Katrina devastated the region. He landed in Jackson, Mississippi with his mother and her extended family, eventually attending college there. Now he’s splitting time between NO and LA, drawing inspiration and livelihood from both city’s booming creative economies.
I met Jared Pellerin about two years ago. We did an episode of my podcast, and it was an easy conversation. He can’t help but feel familiar. He’s a warm, jovial, loquacious, Southern gentleman, wise beyond his years and genuinely curious about you as an individual. He was barely drinking age, had a recent release in Floating While Dreaming that was gaining momentum, and decided to quit school to chase the music.
Pell’s music is dynamic. I would qualify him as a phenomenal rapper. He easily flips multiple styles and has the ability to rap in modern triplet staccato or traditional boom bap cadences, but he’s also a powerful singer. His booming, soulful voice almost surprises you as it jumps from his lanky frame. Recent recordings have found him loosening up and playing with different pockets in the beat, finding melody everywhere, experimenting, and growing.
The realization that making music, like anything else that makes money, eventually becomes a job which can be daunting for many young artists.
Now 24, with half a dozen national tours under his belt and millions of streaming plays to show for it, Pell appears less innocent and more weathered than we last met, but he’s not at all jaded. He’s got a good balance of artist and businessman, with a solid team around him as he ventures the music industry independently.
As an indie musician you have to grind it out. You have to work. Big breaks are hard to come by, and that sort of success is often fleeting. Artists like Pell are the heroes of the industry, figuring it out as they go with a blue-collar work ethic and a passion for craft. I talked to him at his apartment in Silver Lake (LA, CA) about his music…his job.
luck plays a factor but, when it comes down to it, you just gotta work.
my eyes have opened completely in comparison to the time when Floating While Dreaming came out.
How’s life changed for you in the past couple years?
It’s accelerated. I think that happens, as you get older. I feel like these are the years, your early 20s, where so much change is happening around you it seems to be the only constant in your life. I moved to LA, I’ve been on tour probably 6 times, and I’ve seen a lot of the world and gotten to write about it in my music. I feel like my eyes have opened completely in comparison to the time when Floating While Dreaming came out. Before that my only experience outside of the South was going on family vacations.
Have you felt any pressure from the industry trope that “you have your whole life to write your first album, and a year to write the follow up?” Have you had time to process everything you’ve been learning?
I feel like that’s a myth though…that you HAVE to put out a follow up in a quick succession of your last project. Artists get into this thing where they’re so excited because they’re finally getting told, “your shit is nice” – because it’s different when you’re in a small pond and everyone likes your stuff – when you see that other people around the world like it while you’re touring. Being in the public eye, and noticing how people perceive you, I think it encourages you and fuels you to FEEL like you need to put something out, even if you actually just need to live some more.
I WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE GET TO HEAR THE MUSIC.
As you’ve been living the life of a career musician, has it been what you’d thought it would be or something completely different?
I’ve found it to be mostly what I thought it would be, but also it’s what you make it. In a lot of ways luck plays a factor but, when it comes down to it, you just gotta work. I always knew that’s the main thing I’d have to do. I enjoy the work because it all comes back to getting to make music. That’s why I’m still here doing interviews and trying to create partnerships because I want it all to call back to the music. Like yes…fame is always a goal, but that’s because reach is the main goal. I want to make sure that as many people as possible get to hear the music.
Did Floating While Dreaming (your initial breakout project) open doors for you to meet other musicians or producers you’d hoped to work with?
IT BASICALLY TRAINED my brain to think differently and approach the music differently
Definitely. It opened up the door for me to link with Dave Sitek (of TV On The Radio) who was an idol of mine. He’s the greatest. We linked up through a mutual friend who introduced him to my music and he ended up doing a remix to my song “11:11.” I ended up going to his studio one day while I was in LA, and I just remember being so inspired. He’s got all this analog equipment, and it’s him and an engineer, and it’s really like Willy Wonka toy factory for music. You’re able to shuffle ideas there and be like “this sounds nice, no throw this out” and that was new to me because usually I’m really meticulous. But there I felt like I could challenge myself to like write something on the spot, or freestyle something, or come up with hooks on the spot. It basically trained my brain to think differently and approach the music differently, and that made it a lot of fun for me. Dave’s great and really opened my eyes creative possibilities.
Did tapping into that gut instinct help push Limbo farther creatively?
That and just being inspired by living more life. We experimented a ton more. I didn’t feel desperate to create a new project at the time, I was desperate to create. Dave saw the vision and was like “we’re gonna push this til the wheels fall off” and we were able to take my process on Floating While Dreaming and flip it on it’s head, but still make sure it was me.
nobody can tell me how to do me but me.
THERE ARE TIMES WHEN YOU HAVE HUGE IDEAS AND YOU’RE MET WITH A REALITY THAT A LOT OF THEM CAN’T HAPPEN.
Do you ever feel like the artist and the businessman within you are at odds with each other?
Oh they’re always at odds with eachother. There are tons of times where the ideas just aren’t economically feasible. You have this understanding of what you want to achieve creatively, and then you have the knowledge of the reality and business side of things that starts to shape what you can actually do. And that’s where things come at odds. Like yeah…I want to perform on an elephant or something, or I want to perform at the zoo. Then you try to actually make that happen and you realize there’s liability and permits and all that. So there are times when you have huge ideas and you’re met with a reality that a lot of them can’t happen. But you have to know you’re going to be met with adversity and still have the creative mind to churn out ideas.
After Katrina forced you to move to Mississippi as a teen, you end up in college in MS. Now that the music pays the bill you seem to be back and forth between LA and NO a lot. What made you pick New Orleans over Jackson as an adult?
The art culture in New Orleans right now. There’s a boom of great creatives that I’ve met in the music and art world that inspire me and keep me coming back to the city that raised me. It’s inspiring to see the support they’ve given me, even when I was a transplant at one point, because I hadn’t been back in so long. I felt welcomed back with open arms because it’s a city built on family. So I’ll always have love for New Orleans and, you know, the majority of my family is there so it feels good to be home.
How’s the music you’re working on right now feeling to you?
It feels more focused. I’m harnessing the experimental face of Limbo and partnering it with the smooth soul of Floating While Dreaming. Taking the best parts of both and combining them. And I’m producing now — I have a little set up in the apartment, so it’s easy to start something from scratch, and I feel like I’m starting to find my own sound by doing that. So nobody can tell me how to do me but me.
Teaming up with Google Play Music, we’re hosting a one time only, experience with Pell at the YouTube Space LA in Culver City on Tuesday, November 1st. Stay tuned for more details on how you and your friends can come to this intimate concert with Pell!