It’s a snowy day small-town Rhode Island and Jake Lawson is sitting at his mom’s electric piano wearing a worn-in bomber jacket he’s lifted from his dad. It’s the same black piano featured in multiple viral TikTok videos of the singer-songwriter and producer, who creates under the moniker JVKE. It’s also the instrument he used while writing his first Billboard Hot 100 hit, ‘Golden Hour’. The slow-burn love song, brimming with keys and strings, peaked at No. 11 in the US charts, pushing the singer into the spotlight.
“I remember the day I was working on ‘Golden Hour’,” he tells NME. “I was uninspired but then I started messing around on the piano and adding notes.” He starts to play the melody, calling the sound “perfectly complex”. “I had that melody repeating and I knew I had to record, because if I waited any longer I might lose the inspiration.” He played the song on loop for 15 minutes before putting on his headphones and singing over the arrangement. “I had the pre- chorus and that built up into the chorus,” he says, singing, “With the love of my life / She’s got glitter for skin” over rising keys. “This song felt like it needed to expand so I kept adding and eventually it became ‘Golden Hour’.” That expansion has only continued, first when the glittery ballad soundtracked more than 200,000 TikTok videos, and now as it becomes a new orchestral version for ‘Bose x NME: C23’.
“It’s insane. I’ve been a huge fan of Bose and their headphones for a long time,” Lawson says of the compilation. “Also, NME is legendary, this collaboration is just crazy worlds colliding. I love it.” For him, choosing to add a new version of ‘Golden Hour’ to ‘Bose x NME: C23’ was easy. “It’s any artist’s dream to make a song you love and everyone else loves it too.”
Lawson worked with the Swedish super-producer and songwriter Max Martin on the new iteration of ‘Golden Hour’. Martin, known for his work with Taylor Swift, Britney Spears and more, tapped his orchestral team for the song. “I’ve been a fan of Max for so long,” says Lawson. “I’m such a student of the craft and he’s one of the best at writing great songs. The orchestral team was impeccable. I’d always imagined a more grand version of ‘Golden Hour’ and this was the opportunity to do that.”
JVKE is looking forward to going out on tour, writing new music, and bringing songs like ‘Golden Hour’, which started in his childhood home, to the world stage. “I’ve been writing songs since I was 14. I thought I was just going to produce for other artists, I didn’t think the world would really want to hear my perspective,” he says. “Just being able to put my own spin and own perspective on my music has been truly amazing.”
Working with an orchestral section and realising how many instruments he could access was a new experience for Lawson who typically sticks to piano, drums, and guitar. “Things I imagined but couldn’t even put into words, they knew,” he says. “We’ve done a few remixes but this is the most intricate and grand presentation of ‘Golden Hour’.” For Lawson, creating “grand presentations” of his work starts with going inward.
Earlier that day, walking through the park near his childhood home where he would come up with ideas and listen to early mixes, the artist tells us about his creative process and how much of it involves quieting the outside world. “To me as a producer and songwriter, it’s important that I’m able to hear my music during everyday life,” he says. “I’ve always found it helpful when I can cancel out the noise, and just hear the music clearly.”
Stay tuned to NME.com/C23 for the latest on the return of the iconic mixtape