An entertainment icon in the making, Actor, Model, R&B/Hip-Hop/Pop singer, songwriter, producer and music engineer born Eric Jerome prophesized his fate when he branded himself EJ iiamlEJend. Raised in the sunny state of Florida, the musical prodigy knew he was destined for greatness when he began singing at the age of 4, penning lyrics at 5 and was an active member of his church choir at 11 years old. Raised on a musical diet of Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Toni Braxton, EJ developed an ear for quality music early, which laid the foundation for his current success. Now a little over a decade of paying dues later, the 18 year-old crooner has performed to enthusiastic crowds all over the country in addition to the Bahamas and Jamaica. EJ recently spoke to Jamsphere in an exclusive interview.
1. How long have you been in the music game and how did you get started in the first place?
EJ: I’ve been a musician all my life, however in the past 5 to 6 years I’ve just really stepped into the music industry. I got started by working hard and knowing that this is what i want to do.
2. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
EJ: Growing up, my first musical influences were Michael Jackson, Toni Braxton, brandy, Joe, and my all-time favorite Usher.
3. Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anyone of these that you’d like to collaborate with?
EJ: Currently, I am still listening to those people. Of course with new additions such as Ryan Leslie, Timbaland, Rico love, Eric Bellinger, and Kevin cossom. Artistically, I’d love to collaborate with all of these artist. They all play a monumental part in the creation of my music.
4. Old school R&B and Soul as done by the fathers Al Green, Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye or Urban R&B by Usher and R.Kelly, which do you prefer and do you think there is any difference at all?
EJ: Honestly I love them both. I’m not a fan of genre I’m a fan of music. I think urban R&B is the evolution of old school R&B and soul. With that being said, without old school R&B we couldn’t have had urban R&B.
5. Have you suffered any ‘resistance’ or skepticism from within the industry, or from other artists?
EJ: Honestly, from other artists not at all. I try not to take things personal in this business. Having tough skin is a must.
6. Studio work or performing live, which of these do you prefer most and why?
EJ: I love performing live. It not only gives me a chance to perform a song, but it gives me a chance to connect with my audience. I love my fans and anyone who listens to my music can grasp that from me. However, studio work is more organic because the process is a really emotional process. Each has its pros and cons, however I couldn’t just choose one without the other. I love them both
7. Tell us something about the beats and music production on your releases. Who does them and do you work with other producers
EJ: I’ve worked with other producers, shouts out to my brother Magic. However 95% of my music is produced by myself.
8. On which of your songs do you think you delivered your personal best performance so far, from an emotional and technical point of view?
EJ: I can’t really choose. Each song comes from a different standpoint a different period in my life. So, when I perform them I perform them all differently. It’s more organic and personal that way.
9. Which ingredient do you think makes you special and unique as a performing artist?
EJ: My connection with my crowd makes me different. I don’t mind having a conversation while onstage performing a song with someone in the audience. I’m really transparent when I’m on stage. I allow my fans to really see who the real Ej is.
10. If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?
EJ: If I could only choose one emotion it would be passion. I love what I do. My music is all I have. Though this business is tough, without my music (my means of existence) I’ll cease exist. Ill only be alive but not living.
11. Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
EJ: I think the aspect of I can do basically whatever I want to when I want to do it. I don’t have to wait on a label to tell me when to go. However the flipside is, people won’t take you serious. They’ll categorize you with all the other upcoming artist. However I don’t mind being the underdog, because calling me an upcoming artist just means I’m up and I’m coming for your spot.
12. Tell us something about your songwriting process. What usually comes first the lyrics or the beats? And do you prefer the piano or the guitar when writing?
EJ: Honestly, I can’t really say if either one comes first or second. Sometimes the lyrics will come and I’ll create the beat or I’ll here A beat and go create the lyrics. Not really an order. I love my guitar, however I love working with the piano. Both are the basis of all my music. I try to incorporate either one in every song.
13. How involved are you in any or all of the recording, producing, mastering, and marketing processes of your music. Do you outsource any of these processes?
EJ: I record, produce and mix all of my music. As to marketing, my label markets my music as well as myself with Twitter promotions, Instagram promotions, etc. we try to keep everything in-house it’s better that way.
14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
EJ: The best piece of advice given to me that I followed was “learn how to do everything so that I don’t have to rely on anyone”. However, when I first got into this industry I took everything personal everything was critical to me. Until I learned that I must have tough skin. Having tough skin and being told “don’t take things so personal” has helped me not only grow as an artist but grow as a human being.
15. At this point, as an independent artist, which is the one factor you desire most, and feel will undeniably benefit the your future (for example increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, bigger live gigs etc…)?
EJ: I have to choose more media exposure. Only because people react to what they see. Meaning if I were to get picked up on a show my name would be instantaneously buzzing. Some artist often complain about television shows, however, I feel television is only a platform like a bike. It can go where ever you take it.
16. Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
EJ: I think Internet has helped all artists in general not just indie artists. It’s made the artist fan relationship more personal. I can reach out and talk to a fan anytime of the day that I want to. As far is mediocre artist I never really judge anyone music. Simply because who am I to say that there music is mediocre. Music is music some people just hear differently. I support the hustle of all artists. “Mediocre” or not.
17. How and why did you choose the name EJ iiamlEJend?
EJ: Well I’ve been called “EJ” my whole life it was given to me. The name “IIAMLEJEND” came from me watching The movie with Will Smith I am legend. To others it was just a great movie. However to me it showed a man willing to do whatever he had to do in order to survive & protect his “life”. He understood that tho there were human eating monsters outside he would still walk those streets. It’s how I feel in this music industry. There are sharks everywhere. There are people who will say that I’m not good enough or try to put my music down. However I’m not afraid of them and even though I know those human eating monsters are there…I, like will smith will still walk this world and create my music.
18. Which song (or songs) in your catalog best describes the sound and style you ultimately prefer and why?
EJ: All of my music plays a vital role in the understanding of EJ. Every song from “I swear” to “Showout” displays a different side of me. Each of them can be purchased from iTunes as well. I don’t have a particular sound because I try not to be limited to one genre. However when listening to my music, people understand that I do have an R&B background.
19. What do you think is the biggest barrier you have to face and overcome as an indie artist and performer, in your quest to achieve your goals and wider spread success?
EJ: That’s actually a really good question, however, I don’t see barriers only obstacles and obstacles can be beat or else they wouldn’t be obstacles. I’ll achieve my goals because I love what I do and I know for certain in my mind that I’ll be successful.
20. What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do EVER, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
EJ: I will never in this music industry or in my musical career sell myself short of what I can do or give my fans music that I don’t approve. This isn’t just a business for me my music is my baby.
21. Can you tell us about any new projects or ideas you will be working on in the near future? And do you have any shoutouts?
EJ: Yes I just dropped a mixtape named WTTDS it’s available on dat piff as well as world empire online. I’m working on my upcoming album as well as ideas for a five track mixtape that will have one song from five different genres of music. Shouts out to God, my label Favored ENT, my label mates K.I.D. Nation and my fans. I love you all and last, but not least shouts out to Jamsphere Magazine and radio for an amazing interview.