Radio Active

JET Interview with Lyfe Jennings

Music has a way of connecting and evoking emotions. Lyrics, however, tap into the psyche, enabling its fusion of melody to rescue us when our words may fail.

Since the beginning of his career with 2004’s Lyfe 268-192, Lyfe Jennings has used his skill of melody, instrumentation and lyric as an aesthetic of storytelling. Crafting social messages that encourage the bettering and growth of self, the Ohio-bred musician pulls from personal experiences and life observations to curate music that feels just as good to the ear as it does the heart.

With the recent release of his single, “Pretty Is” from the upcoming album, “Tree of Lyfe”, JET caught up with the singer-songwriter to get a few of his latest Lyfe Lessons.

JET: You always come with a message — especially for the ladies. What are you serving with Tree of Lyfe? Should we prepare for new Lyfe Lessons?

LYFE: Definitely new life lessons. We have a lot more planned for this album, more videos and songs coming out. I feel like I’m the only artist out here that’s putting messages on the radio so, the album is just really more of that – what cats have come to appreciate about Lyfe.

JET: So many men are out here hurting whether it be from societal situations or just learning how to become a man. What messages of realism do you have for the fellas?

LYFE: It’s always on the album. I think that a lot of times, men are made better by women. So catching the woman’s attention at first, kind of demands and brings the man up to her level. That’s why I release a lot of stuff first, catering to women.

JET: Being a father, how does creativity spark from observing your children’s growth and progression?

LYFE: Some of my songs are actually about them and some are about a man needing to become a better father, a better person and then I just write about that experience because at the end of the day, you gotta know something about something to be able to teach them. So I write about those “somethings.”

JET: You posted a message on your Instagram a while back that stood out to me, “When you are happy you enjoy the music, but when you are sad, you understand the lyrics.” When was the last time it took a sad moment to fully understand the lyrics to a song you’ve been listening to for years?

LYFE: I think I go through drama everyday. It’s very few songs on the radio that you can really listen to and draw something — I guess meaningful lessons from. So, to answer your question, I don’t really know the last time I heard a song that I just really listened to and felt like ‘wow, I got something from it.’ And that’s what Lyfe Jennings is for.

JET: Dig. Speaking of social media and music messages, a few months back, artist Tank posted on Instagram about people wanting real music, but not buying it when albums are out and labels not fully supporting. What’s your take on that and how do you maintain relevancy and a loyal fan base in the midst of such obstacles?

LYFE: Well, it’s kind of hard to speak on that because at the end of the day, no matter how good your music is, if a person doesn’t want to buy it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t support you. Think of this as just a different atmosphere of music where people are more poised to buying singles as oppose to albums. I think for me, my fans have given me permission to be me so I think it would just be going backwards if I didn’t give them permission to be them. Now that doesn’t mean don’t buy the album (laughs), [it’s] important to support our families! But I would just say that I’m thankful for the great things in my life that I don’t really have time for the negative things, you know. Me and Tank are really cool, we always talk about doing music together and we actually do a lot of shows together too, so I’m quite sure the [music’s] coming.

JET: All of your albums have a personal aesthetic to them, however you’ve stated in previous interviews that Tree of Lyfe is your most personal. What’s different with this body of work? What has happened over the course of the last few years that makes you want to go even deeper?

LYFE: When I say “most personal project” what I mean is personal in the now. I’m quite sure when I wrote those other albums, up to that date, it was the most personal that I’ve experienced. I truly want to do music where I touch on every situation that there is to touch on so at 25, 35, 65 years from now folks will still be able to listen to it and get something from it.

JET: You’re very instrumentally skilleD. If you had one go-to instrument, voice included, that sparks creativity when you’re feeling that block, which would it be?

LYFE: Oh that’s definitely guitar! That’s where most of my music starts off and ends on the guitar and then I put music around it. The guitar is definitely my major instrument.

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JET: When it’s all said and done, what’s something that you would want people to know about Lyfe and if there’s a separation in identities, about Chester Jennings?

LYFE: Lyfe is just still growing and that’s what the music is about, just growing. And I think with other artists, – most of the music right now is fictitious – people want to be happy – most of these songs are dreams [aspirations] of what we want to be – happy, in love, I’m beautiful this and that. But, I don’t always feel like that, you know what I’m saying? So when we talk about Lyfe, I want to talk about what we’re going through right now and this process where we’ll be able to help somebody else get through what they’re going through at the time.

As far as Chester Jennings, I don’t hardly differentiate between the two because I still am that person that is writing it. I just want cats to know that it’s from a real place man. Not because I want to get heard on the radio or something like that. I just want to hit with your heart, you know. So continue to support things that’s going to change your life as oppose to things that are going to complicate you.

Tree of Lyfe is expected to drop in late summer. Below, check out the visual to “Pretty Is!”

*Photos: Will Sterling