callmejimmee Gives Listeners A Piece of His Soul
Written by Vocalo Radio on January 18, 2023
Chicago artist callmejimmee, formerly known as Jimmee Music, is back with new music and more self-awareness than ever. After it was featured on Vocalo’s “In Rotation” playlist for January, the artist broke down their new single “imperfect” — and new releases on the way.
Jalen “Jimmee” Eskridge, also known as callmejimmee and previously known as Jimmee Music, is back in the studio making music, writing lyrics and diving deeper into the meaning of relationships in their life. Growing up in Chicago, they were heavily influenced by the diverse sound of soul, R&B and jazz. From riding in the car listening to the radio to giving free performances on the train, Jimmee always knew they were going to be a performer.
“When I was three years old, I would perform the ABCs on the blue line for everybody in the car to hear,” Jimmee reminisced. “My Mom would just be smiling and looking around in the car like, ‘This silly boy.’”
When they first spoke with Vocalo in August 2021, callmejimmeee was finding their voice as an artist while creating music about love — but now their idea of love and its relationship with music have evolved. In their new song “imperfect,” featured on Vocalo’s “In Rotation” playlist for January, Jimmee explores love’s nuance, and how there is no such thing as “perfect” love.
“Humility is what ‘imperfect’ is built upon,” Jimmee said. “Being conscious to know that you are an incredibly flawed human that is going to have to work day by day to be able to meet whatever standards you aim for yourself, as well as the standards brought by your partner, is what ‘imperfect’ is about to me.”
This exploration of love led to Jimmee expanding both their image as an artist and changing their name. Once known as Jimmee Music, they came to the realization that they made more than music: they give listeners an experience.
“I want people to ‘call me Jimmee’ because I believe every time someone listens to my music, they’re listening to a piece of my soul,” Jimmee expressed.
Jimme is excited to give listeners more music about love and its many nuances, and to work with other Chicago artists. In their interview they spoke about their musical influences, staying motivated and learning to express themself through collaboration with the music duo Smiles & Miles.
Where are you from originally, and what music did you listen to growing up?
I was born and raised on the West Side of Chicago, near Little Italy, then moved around a lot growing up, from places like Oak Park, all the way to Bolingbrook. But my heart, my soul and my mind will always belong to Roosevelt and Ashland Avenue.
My parents always had on the radio, and it was either one of two stations: 102.7 V103, or 107.5 WGCI. I remember driving around downtown with my Ma or up to Rush for a doctor’s appointment and listening to the Steve Harvey Morning Show, laughing at Uncle Tommy while we rode the Eisenhower. But what really made me love those stations was the music. The soul of V103, playing oldies, new joints. I would sing Kem and Stevie in the car one moment, then after would be rapping to T.I. and Chamillionare on WGCI.
It didn’t even matter, to be honest, if I felt the soul in the sound, I immediately gravitated towards it. Of course, that was until my Pops let me use his walkman and I got my first ever iPod Nano. I was rocking with Gospel, R&B, funk, neo-soul, jazz, video game music, pop, rap at 7-8 years old, it didn’t even matter. I just loved hearing stuff that felt like it had some heart put into it. I blame my Pops, who has a music taste so wide, I’m still learning new things about his palette.
How did the music you listened to during your formative years influence your musical sound?
So when I was a kid, I didn’t take performative singing seriously until maybe late middle school, early high school. But there was never a moment where I wasn’t listening to some music or singing along to a song for fun. Like I said earlier, my Pops’ music taste was eclectic, to say the least. My father was a big fan of soul and rap, showing me how varied in execution and style that both genres could be. Not only that, but he introduced me to classic rock, house music, jazz, reggae, blues, all sorts of different things.
Before finishing my time at college, I was primarily an R&B and jazz vocalist, doing student shows and performing in vocal jazz ensembles. Being invested in all those different sounds really inspired me when it came to finding my own signature sound. I wanted to be able to make a sound that represents everything I love about music, and to honor what my Pops had introduced me to, as well as honoring the city that made me.
What got you started in making music, and how do you stay motivated?
So, when the pandemic first began, like a lot of other people, I spiraled a little bit, not going to lie. Cabin hit like a trucker muffler, and I was definitely going a little insane in the membrane, you feel me? I was still doing my studies as a music student at the time, so all of that performance learning I was supposed to be doing just paused, and, at the time, didn’t really know when it was gonna resume. On top of that, I was getting over a tough breakup, and I was broke. I was just miserable. I started to get really depressed, and started to lose a sense of purpose.
Then one day, I just said, “You know what? I don’t wanna keep feeling like this.” I decided I wanted to write an EP, just to feel like there was some goal I could accomplish, with being restricted by the world at the time. I was listening to a lot of Lucky Daye, Mac Ayers, Giveon, Daniel Caesar, Bruno Major and Snoh Aalegra (all of these artists being some of my all-time favorites). I wasn’t anywhere near as experienced as I am now, so that first project, in my eyes, is pretty barebones, but I still love it to death.
I think what motivated me to keep going and what still motivates me is being able to see how my sound progresses. I remember back in 2021 when I released the – the immaculate vibes, that project felt like a full evolution of what I had released since the pandemic started. Then, looking back on that project, my music now feels even more refined and developed than ever before. Hearing that progress, that’s a huge motivator. That, and just being able to make good-sounding music. What I tell a lot of people, and what I still believe to this day, is that I don’t want to be famous. All I wanna do is make music that I would like to listen to, and to one day make music with the ones that inspired me.
Which came first for you, singing or songwriting? Which do you prefer now in your career?
The singing definitely came first. When I was 3 years old, I would perform the ABCs on the Blue Line for everybody in the car to hear. My Mom would just be smiling and looking around in the car like, “This silly boy.” But that was the thing about growing up. Music was always playing in the house or the car, or if I got some playing in my ears. So if I knew it, I’d sing along to it.
The songwriting didn’t come until the pandemic hit, and at first, to be honest, the songwriting part was the part I loved less than singing. I’ll sing anything all day long, but the writing portion used to take a while. Now, I love it. I love songwriting just as much as I love singing, when a melody comes in my head, and then my words start flowing, it’s one of the most gratifying experiences for me. I’ve actually been freelancing as a songwriter for the past few months, it helps a lot with practice when I’m not working on my own stuff.
Since the last time we heard from you in 2021, how do you personally feel you have grown as an artist?
2021, I felt like that was a big turning point for me. I began taking being an artist “more seriously,” I guess? It was never that I didn’t give being an artist much weight, it was more that I never thought that it would go anywhere than just a few friends listening to whenever I released something. If you would’ve told me in fall 2020, that my songs would be on the radio, I honestly wouldn’t have believed you. That was just a pipe dream. Now that dream is reality, and it honestly scares me a little. I think that’s why I took such a long break after I released my first album, the fear of managing expectations as an artist and developing and adapting with trends and times were so daunting, I just had to take my own break.
During that time, I was able to work with an amazing duo, Smiles&Miles, and we made LVRBOI, that joint with “HYL [(hit yo line)]” on it. That project, for me, felt more like a product of everything that I listen to than what I had released before, and Smiles&Miles really helped make that come to life. With oh me, oh my, that was a love letter in a metaphorical and literal sense. I wanted to have one more swan song with the Jimmee Music moniker, before changing to “callmejimmee,” and I also wanted to write an album full of love songs, with some sort of progressing narrative behind the track listing. My past projects, I never really considered that to be an element of them, save for LVRBOI. There is a story in this new one, a developing relationship behind the lyrics and I’m proud of it, as subtle as it may be. But, things such as that, I like to think that’s real growth that I have going on.
RELATED: Jimmee Music’s Universe Implodes And Expands With -The Immaculate Vibes
You’ve also decided to change your artist name from “Jimmee Music” to “callmejimmee.” If you feel comfortable, could you share with us why you decided to make that change?
So back in fall 2021, I started to consider a name change. I felt like Jimmee Music, just wasn’t sticking to me as much anymore, as if it was a different person. I would hear my name being announced at shows, or referred to by friends, and at some point, it began to show its wear and tear for me. I liked the name Jimmee Music simply because I needed some second name after “Jimmee,” like Bruno Mars, Lucky Daye or Cautious Clay. However, I also chose Jimmee Music because, well, it was “Jimmee” Music: music that I made, melodies and rhythms from me. Almost like I was my own subgenre.
I think that’s when I started to feel disconnected from it, as if I was only promoting the type of music I make instead of myself. That’s why I’d rather people “call me Jimmee,” because I’d like to pretend that I’m not just releasing my music, but I’m releasing a new side or new form of self-expression, or a new representation of myself. Through the sounds, the words, through it all. I want people to “call me Jimmee” because I believe every time someone listens to my music, they’re listening to a piece of my soul or something. I don’t know, that might be a little cheesy.
How has your musical style changed or evolved over the span of your career?
With the Vibes Trilogy in 2020/2021, The Vibes EP, vibe & chill, VIBES & HEARTBREAKS, that felt more like me just experimenting. Seeing what I like, what people like, what I don’t like, all that good pizazz. Vibes EP had rode out that chill midday summer car ride vibe, while vibe & chill felt more like the late summer, early fall, late night club vibe. When I got to VIBES & HEARTBREAKS, that was like a night at a fire pit, chilling with friends and bonding over romantic problems and missteps.
I have these kind of images in my head when I think of my projects. When I finally got the immaculate vibes in the summer of 2021, it felt like watching Saturday morning cartoons in a packed venue. It was the most grand project I put out at the time and I’m so proud of it. The Vibes era was some of the most fun I’ve had making music, just the newness of it all, the learning as I go. The innocence, for lack of a better word; it just felt so fun. When me and Smiles&Miles did LVRBOI, that felt like a deconstruction and revelation that, yeah, I can really start trying out things I’ve been wanting to, but was too nervous. That was the biggest takeaway from that EP, to be more bold and to imprint my identity into my music. I think that’s so important as an artist, for it to contain your metaphysical DNA in it. That’s what makes listening back to it all the more rewarding. And now, I’m not afraid to try anything. Music is my playground, and there are so many places I can go with it, that I’m able to be confident enough to release whatever I feel like.
With this most recent project that I released at the end of 2022, this is the last “Jimmee Music” project released, now that the name change has already been underway. It’s a representation of everything I’ve done as Jimmee Music, and everything I’ve learned as an artist, musician, performer, songwriter, vocalist, recording engineer. It’s the big finale to the beginning chapter of my career.
Talk about your song “imperfect,” featured in Vocalo’s January “In Rotation” playlist. How did you go about creating it? What’s the meaning behind it?
So, “imperfect” was something I hadn’t planned on writing. When I started work on the project, which at first was released as an EP, the vision for it was intended to be a healthy perspective of romantic love. I feel like a lot of the music I had released in the past had this view of love that was very one-sided, as though it was me in love and when wrong was done to me. But that’s not how love works, it’s always a 50/50 transaction; it takes two to tango, you feel me?
So, this relationship that’s being described in the album, neither me or my partner are patron saints. We have our faults, we have our shortcomings, but I think mine were more apparent. I definitely had inner work to do, and still do to this day, and so do they. But, the point of it all is that I’m not this perfect partner, or this amazing person that does no wrong. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve done wrong, too. I think I wanted to detail that in a song, as well as the second half of the original EP.
When “imperfect” first comes on, produced by the wonderful Fred Irie, you hear this somber guitar performance with nature and a river flowing in the background. Then the verse starts, “Searching for Nirvana, realign my Chakra. If I go tomorrow, would you stay or follow?” Looking for self-peace, coming to love yourself fully, confronting the baggage you brung with you — that’s what inner work looks like to me. Coming into a relationship with that can be hard, but it’s only up to you to be able to unpack it all, and it’s up to your partner whether or not it’s worth it for them to stay or leave during all of that. Asking them if they’re willing to stay, even though all the bullsh*t that you have to work through, if only for the sole reason is that you love them. That humility is what “imperfect” is built upon, to me. Being conscious to know that you are an incredibly flawed human that is going to have to work day by day to be able to meet whatever standards you aim for yourself, as well as the standards brought by your partner, is what “imperfect” is about to me. It might mean something different to another, but I think that’s the joy of songwriting.
Is there a song you’ve written that you think is close to “perfect”? What’s the story behind it?
That’s such a hard question, because I’m constantly judging every little thing that I write. But, if I had to choose one, it would have to be “no other.” I know, I know, “Of course, you choose one of your newest songs that you released.” Well, yeah. Like I said earlier, most, if not all of my songs are about being in love or loving somebody, or losing love or finding love. But this song in particular was the song that took the least amount of time to write, probably about 20-ish minutes. Everything just flowed perfectly from the pencil, and into the vocals.
It has my favorite background vocals I’ve recorded for a song, my favorite pre-chorus, and the different vocal performances within each section feels like I’m listening to a story or reading an actual love letter. I also loved how I mixed this song, everything feels like it sits in place nicely and feels full. Regarding the lyrics, like I stated, it’s a love song, but it feels more appreciative of the person I’m in love with, rather than saying, “Oh, I love you so much, because you’re pretty and nice.” I love this person because they’re patient, they help me find ways to become more of [a] complete human on my own instead of them filling a hole that I could’ve filled on my own through self-work. We complement each other, not complete each other. That’s something I struggled with in past relationships, but with this one, there’s a sense of maturity that I haven’t found before in those previously.
What concept are you working on for your new projects?
This upcoming album, callmejimmee’s first album, I’m working with Smiles&Miles again. They’ve really, really helped encapsulate the sounds I’ve wanted to be bold in having and expressing, but always felt too nervous to tread on. The concept is love again, but not just romantic. There’s self-love, there’s toxic love, there’s physical, there’s plastic love. It was before this most recent project, and I’ve been working on it since the summer of last year. That project is looking to be my most honest project to date, and revealing some sides of myself that I’ve been afraid to be transparent about. I released “comeover,” and that was about unfaithfulness. The next single, “indica,” is about love/dependency on things that may or may not be good for you, even though it’s extremely stimulating. It’s a wildly vivid project like LVRBOI, that expands upon the gray area that I’ve been having a lot of fun tackling lately. Mixed with that, is this nostalgic feeling for me of Saturday morning cartoons and anime.
If you could describe your sound to a new listener, how would you?
To anybody [who] hasn’t listened to any of my music before, I want you to imagine finding a portable cassette tape player, loading in a tape, and hearing a mix of old school, new school and alternative R&B, mixed with indie, jazz, and gospel vibes. Then, dip that all with the sauce of Bruno Mars, Prince, Smino, Stevie Wonder, Dixson, Adi Oasis, Mac Ayres and all things Chicago soul, and you got me. I’m a product of all my inspirations and experiences as a human being.
Do you prefer performing live or in the studio? Why?
I love singing and performing. I just had my first show of the year recently in Orland Park, and it was such a fun experience, creating my own backing tracks to go along with me playing guitar and singing live. The response you can get from a crowd is so alluring.
I typically record all of my stuff in my bedroom still and if I’m in a studio, I’m behind the board more often than behind the mic. But, I love all of it. I just have a stronger bond with being in a room full of people, singing intimately to them and sharing my original work with them. The amount of compliments and praise that I’ve gotten from doing live performances are overwhelming, but so uplifting, because I always get nervous before a performance. I want to give the audience the best and most honest representation of myself, not just with my original work, but with my vocal performance as well. I want to leave some sort of lasting impact upon them, that’s the joy that music can bring to the listener, I want to be able to, at the very least, deliver something similar for them as well.
What are you up to next creatively, any more virtual tours? What can we expect in the coming year?
This year, I’m releasing my first album as callmejimmee soon, as well aiming to connect and collaborate more with the local Chicago scene! I wanted to make some sort of following for myself before I tried reaching out to some people in my neck of the woods. Now I feel it is the right time to start doing more of that, as well as performing live much, much more than virtual touring. I want to get outside more, now that it feels a little bit safer to do so! Chicago is home to some of the most creative people in the country, hell, the whole damn planet. I want to meet more, learn more and share more of that creativity with and from artists and creatives living in the best city in the world.
Interview by Joshua X. Miller
Introduction written by Joshua X. Miller and Morgan Ciocca
Answers edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca
More from Vocalo: