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Melii Breaks Down the 'Phases' of Her Debut Album

By Billboard

From the time it started out as Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr nearly a decade ago, JR JR has prided itself on being clever -- even downright smart. The Detroit-formed duo has pondered the pros and cons of that over the years, and now "Dumb Myself Down," premiering exclusively below from the group's upcoming Invocations/Conversations double album, puts that conversation into music.

JR JR's Joshua Epstein tells Billboard the inspiration was a dinner conversation he had with Lenny Waronker, the group's former A&R rep during its time with Warner Bros. Records. "He was like, 'Man, sometimes I think you're just a little too smart, trying to be a little too clever for what you're trying to accomplish'," Epstein recalls. "And I thought about it and started to try and write this really simple song -- and it turned complicated, dammit! (laughs) It was almost a joke. I wish I could do something that was just a vibe. I guess a lot of it is ego that makes you get in the way of your own simplicity and over-complicate things. I'm trying to work on that, and that song is just making fun of that."

Rest assured there are plenty of smarts on Invocations/Conversations, a 16-track set that marks the debut of JR JR's new label Love Is EZ Records, in partnership with Secretly Distribution. It's Epstein and Daniel Zott's first new album in nearly four years, and it follows a complicated period during which Epstein overcame some mental health issues, Zott became a father and JR JR ended its relationship with Warner Bros. Some of the new album's material, in fact, hails from sessions during the fall of 2016 in the wake of that year's presidential election, with Epstein and Zott "trying to process" the sharp division they were seeing in the country. But the group found a lack of support for its digital single "Some Dark Places" as well as a lack of any kind of communication with the label, which made JR JR "nervous about doing anything with them moving forward."

"There were things in the past that had been red flags," Epstein notes, adding that "it's fair to say the record label kind of pressured us to change the (band) name, and when we decided to do it they gave us three days to figure out how to do it and that was it. There were a lot of ways in which working with Warner Bros. felt really constricting and we were kind of getting really weary of it and felt like it was taking a lot of the fun out of creating. So we needed to figure out a place where long-term we could have control over our career and our output."

Having its own label, Epstein predicts, will result in more JR JR music in short order, starting with but even beyond the May 31 release of Invocations/Conversations. "I think perspective on this is still being gained, but it's freeing," Epstein says, "Last week Daniel and I wrote three new songs, and it's cool to know we don't have to wait, that as soon as this album's out we can put out songs as we record them. It's going to be nice to have a steady flow of music coming out and not feeling like we're disappearing from the world waiting for something to come out."

JR JR doesn't plan to be quite as busy on stage, however. The duo has three shows booked for June, in Brooklyn, Chicago and Los Angeles. Epstein promises there will be more dates, but full-fledged touring is not necessarily part of JR JR's new world order.

"I think that whereas a lot of record labels want you to go and use your concerts and touring as a way to promote your music, we kind of want to do the opposite," he explains. "I want to give people as much time with the music as we can before we go out and play shows so they know what we're playing and they're invested in it. It's never been a comfortable or fun experience to go out and play a bunch of new songs when someone's only had the new album for three days for something. So I think we're going to use touring less as a promotional tool and more as a chance to go out and connect with people, which should be more fulfilling for everyone."

Billboard

Billboard is the world's most influential music media brand reaching key executives and tastemakers in and around the music business through Billboard Magazine, Billboard.biz, Billboard Conferences, Billboard Bulletin, and other targeted newsletters,...

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