As other musicians have adapted to working in a pandemic, 19-year-old jxdn has launched his entire career in one. It was only last February when he released his first song ‘Comatose’ independently, before getting a call from Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker the very next morning. He soon became the first signee to Barker’s label DTA Records just before Covid swept the globe.
In a whirlwind year, jxdn has gone from being a member of TikTok content hub Sway House to releasing five singles, breaking into the top 10 of the US rock charts, and collaborating with Travis Barker, Lauv and Machine Gun Kelly.
Ahead of the release of his debut album ‘Tell Me About Tomorrow’ in spring, we sat jxdn down for a video chat to discuss his first record, his love of punk and how his mentor Travis Barker talked him out of a neck tattoo. Here’s what we learned.
He’s all about punk music
“I don’t care what anyone says, punk music is the best music in the world,” says jxdn. Bursting on to the scene with debut singles ‘Comatose’ and ‘Angels & Demons’, he loudly let the world know that he came here to rock. “The goal I had with the singles was rock – but also to be able to do punk rock, pop rock, active rock, and more. I think it just perfectly set myself up to come up with a punk rock album”.
The focus on punk was clinched when Machine Gun Kelly (or ‘Kells’, as jxdn affectionately calls him) dropped ‘Tickets To My Downfall’ – a departure from his established rap sound and instead deeply rooted in pop punk.
Describing his sound as ’00s Paramore or All Time Low with a “new charm”, jxdn’s take on punk has found an audience ranging from teenyboppers to those old enough to have rocked out to Blink back in the day, which he calls “the coolest feeling in the world”.
A Juice WRLD gig changed his life
After not going to any gigs while growing up, everything changed for jxdn at one of his first shows when he caught Juice WRLD in Dallas. On a social media tour with his TikTok house, jxdn saw that the rapper in town for the last stop on tour. “I knew we had to go, and it changed my life,” he remembers. Having existed in a weird dichotomy of being in love with music but never surrounded by it, that show saw jxdn realise his destiny. “Two weeks later, I was in the studio, because I couldn’t get off my mind how much music meant to me.
“The moment something changes is the most powerful thing in a person’s life, because no one knows what it is until it happens. That’s how it works. And that’s how it was for me.”
He’s open about mental health
Part of the magic of jxdn’s experience at the Juice WRLD concert also stems from his relationship with mental health. Having battled severe depression, the rapper’s music helped pull jxdn out of it. “Juice just laid out his life so people could connect to him and find a safe place to sit in, in such a hard fucking time. And that’s where I was, and how I connected to him.”
From that point on, there was no hiding for jxdn. A part of a generation talking more openly about mental health, jxdn says there should be no stigma: “I know a lot of artists that are using their platform to talk about mental health. If someone doesn’t have anxiety today, that’s a rare thing. So I think we need to find a better, more synergised way for everyone to work together, and ultimately get to that goal of mental peace and freedom”.
He’s not ‘a TikTokker’
Blowing up on TikTok before he even started to make music, it would be easy to pigeon-hole jxdn into a typical TikTok teen. However, in his own words, it’s where he came from, but not who he is.
“I couldn’t have got where I am without TikTok,” he says, “but I’m not a TikTokker, definitely not. I am so grateful for it, but I knew I had to showcase what I was really about, and showcase my authenticity.”
On people who write for TikTok, making music with a catchy hook in the hopes it’ll blow up on the platform, jxdn says he’d never do that. “Are you reaching a dream, or are you reaching a reaction? I don’t think a one-hit-wonder song is your dream. The journey is small steps. It’s not going to happen in one day. If it happens in one day, it usually goes away the next”.
Travis Barker talked him out of a neck tattoo
Working with Travis, says jxdn, is like “winning the lottery, and having the number one accountant in the world”.
Not only does he work as a producer and give jxdn advice about music, he’s also “like my dad, like my best friend, and like a brother” – with some words of wisdom about the big wide world too.
“He shows me what cars I should get, what tattoos I should get,” says jxdn. “I was about to get a fucking skull hand on my neck, and he told me no, I’ve got to save that space for something better.
“I had no idea that Travis would have ever hit me up. And he did. And it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”
jxdn’s debut album ‘Tell Me About Tomorrow’ is due for release later in 2021.