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GATHERING THE PIECES

Becoming a star in this generation seems to be a complex puzzle for most, while many can't seem to fit the pieces correctly in this lifetime, for others it's as easy as pie. This seem to deem true for teen star Jacob Whitesides. At the tender age of 13 Jacob picked up his first guitar and taught himself to play and soon after he found the courage to sing, perform and write. Today, at age seventeen, Jacob released his smashing EP, titled "A Piece of Me" – a name chosen by almost 150,000 of his impressive 1.5+ million Twitter fans who voted for it. The six-song body of work debuts a young singer/songwriter who exhibits the skills, maturity and poise of a seasoned veteran performer without losing the conversational authenticity of his age.

INTERVIEW BY Sharif King
GFX / CREATIVE DIRECTOR Bagio White
PHOTOGRAPHY BY William Hereford

From modest Tennessee to reigning internationally, Jacob has become international musical spectacle on his own with the added bonus of doing it all without the backing of a record label; all starting with a string of YouTube covers that attracted fans all over the world setting the stage for the next chapter of his career and life.

A Piece Of Me, was released on Valentine's Day 2015 through his own label JW Records and was the result of a fan enacted Twitter request to name and support the album. It resulted in a barrage of twitter responses that allowed Jacob to unleash his social media Dopeness and control over three of the four trending spots on the social media (Twitter) platform on night that the 2015 SAG Awards aired.

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I knew it would be an adventure, writing my own songs…But it turned out to be pretty natural and things I've been feeling about myself and being my age, I got to put out there. It's a real privilege, you know? And after touring so long with just me and a guitar, it was great to record with a band and to feel that energy around my songs.

Jacob's music demeanor can be characterized as a young poet in the persevering style of John Mayer and Jack Johnson. Jacob's EP marries his velvet gravel pipes, the clear strum and finger picking of a talented acoustic guitarist with the same fresh pop elements you'd find from The Lumineers, American Authors and, needless to say, a young John Mayer: live drums, bass, piano, banjo and easy melodic hooks to hold onto. Most of all, Whitesides doesn't ever talk down to his fans but rather speaks directly to them with authentic lyrics from a best friend.

"We're all growing up and we're all trying" is his youth in "Ohio's" end refrain, followed by the blue collar truth "We're all growing up and we're all dying" -- not a young YouTuber.

Jacob will be direct support for the upcoming R5 tour this July and August in the US. He is currently in Europe headlining dates and playing there for the first time. The Paris and London shows sold out in only 8 minutes, talk about fan loyalty!

Dopeness Magazine caught up with Jacob amidst touring with Epic Records' group Fifth Harmony; that tour was sold out, To talk about his career, life on the road so far with touring and how his fans and success has impacted in life.

I knew it would be an adventure, writing my own songs…But it turned out to be pretty natural and things I've been feeling about myself and being my age, I got to put out there. It's a real privilege, you know? And after touring so long with just me and a guitar, it was great to record with a band and to feel that energy around my songs.

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We're here with Jacob Whitesides, how's it going?
It's going man; I'm sleepy. I haven't been home in like 70 days. I've been touring, recording, and I'm exhausted but I've got a little bit of energy in me. I had a good sleep last night, had a good meal, I woke up this morning at about 8:00 AM and I ate a cheeseburger for breakfast.

You eat cheeseburger for breakfast?
its a athlete's diet.

(laughs) I got to try it. Alright man, let's back up a little bit, you were 13 when you started this, what is it like at 13 to get things into your own hands?
It was really awkward, because I was a little kid, like with hair down to here (nose area). No joke! I never flipped it out of my face, like most kids did; I kind of just left it there so I looked like a little emo kid. I was playing classic rock in my dad's rock band that he was doing around town in bars, restaurants, and like nasty, nasty places that I never want to go back to. Thankful for it now because it kept me grounded like I am more appreciative for that.

So do you always think about that stuff, like always doing tours?
Anytime I'm looking at the audience, like seeing all the faces, it's like wow, I remember when I used to play for four people eating dinner and they were obnoxiously loud. Obnoxiously. (Laughs)

(laughs) That's amazing. So you pick the guitar out of all things, why the guitar?
My dad played the guitar, so that's kind of the direction I went for. I wanted to play the electric guitar, but he made me play acoustic, which I'm thankful for now... I played the acoustic and now I play electric.

So you can actually pick up any guitar you want and just go to work.
Absolutely! Actually they made this instrument that I played on my EP called the Banjitar. It is just like a guitar but it sounds like a banjo, so you can play it, It sounds amazing!.

What was the first melody you played when you picked up the guitar? Do you remember?
I played Justin Bieber's "One Time", I was sitting there in front of my webcam setting up my dad's laptop, it was right when webcams were big, it was like the new thing, and this video took six hours to upload. I set it up, hair down to my nose, kitchen in the background.
[Sings] When I met you girl my heart went knock, knock… [Sings]
No emotion whatsoever…It was beautiful, it was beautiful for what it was.

When doing that, what made you choose Justin Bieber out of all people?
Well, I had this girlfriend at the time, it was long distance and she lived 20 minutes from me and neither one of us could drive; cause we were like 13, so her dad hated me. I called her one time, and I was like "Is Charlotte home?" He just hung the phone up...(laughs).

Was that your first heartbreak?
Yeah, but she was obsessed with Justin Bieber, it was right when the craze was going on, right when the cardboard cutout phase was big. She got one for her birthday; Pissed me off. Why was she so obsessed with this kid? Why did she want him to sleep in her room in this freaking cardboard cutout? And she's taking selfies with it and I am like what can I do to get that attention on me? So I picked up the guitar and started singing Justin Bieber and she loved me again.

So you can actually pick up any guitar you want and just go to work.
Absolutely! Actually they made this instrument that I played on my EP called the Banjitar. It is just like a guitar but it sounds like a banjo, so you can play it, It sounds amazing!.

She loved you again, do you still speak to her?
I do not speak to her and I have no idea where she is; It was a middle school love.

Now your numbers are incredible, phenomenal! I mean you well over one million on Twitter. What's it like being a young dude and you are doing adult numbers?
Well, it gets stressful. I mean it is so many people negative and positive, at all times looking at you, so I mean like just now, I posted a picture of my shoes and I didn't realize that Zayn from One Direction just quit One Direction. Every single reply was like
"Why are you on Twitter right now, why are you tweeting pictures of your shoes, Zayn just left, we are crying and you're posting pictures of your shoes."
I was like "Hmmm, let me get off Twitter for a minute."
There are so many people and so much is going on sometimes, it gets stressful. But I'm thankful for it, I love it, I'm always on Twitter.

You are always on Instagram too.
Oh Instagram dude, I love it, I love it! I love all aspects of it. Especially having a photographer capture cool pictures and it is so easy to have access to your fans 24/7. I mean back in the day your favorite band will drop an album or a mixtape and you wouldn't hear from them for about a year but now you drop your music and you can hang out with them all the way up until the next process.

Do you give credit to social media?
Absolutely, I mean it's not been easy. I used to post three videos a week, use to go through the comments for all of them, and it's not easy but it is a lot easier than how it used to be back in the days when you have to go out, you have to bust your butt, plan all these different venues, while going around the world just to get your music out there. Now it's just a click of a button, you can access millions and millions of people. I am just thankful for it.

You are thankful. Now you've been doing this thing for a while, you are seventeen now correct? Four years later, what does it feel like knowing that at any given time, you can just drop the music and do what you want?
It's a great feeling, especially because I've been doing covers for so long and finally finding myself as an artist and being able to go to Nashville and write and record music. And people actually care about, no matter what I put out there caring about just supporting my dreams, so I mean it's an awesome feeling to be able to experiment and find myself an artist and still have the fans there to support no matter where I land.

Now coming from out of Tennessee, not a lot of people make it from out of Tennessee, what's that like?
I'm thankful for it because… I say I'm thankful a lot because I am very thankful.

You are very humble.
I'm very! Hmmm, coming from Nashville, there are so many incredible country artists and they tell stories in their songs; I love telling stories in music. I feel that some people get so lost in like cool beats and I love the story aspect of it, so going to Nashville and sitting down with co-writers, that are incredible country writers even though I am not country, the lyrics and the combination together make for really interesting songs.

Well, it's amazing to me that you are not a country singer, I find that a lot of country singer, sing about love. That's your main focus, why do you focus on love so much?
I don't know man, I'm a loving person, I love to give hugs and I feel like it is definitely a relatable thing to the teen atmosphere; Seventeen, eighteen even fourteen when you finally start experimenting. I haven't gone through a lot in life yet, I have, but not as much as the adults do. So I am going through my love phase right now, but I do have some songs on my EP that are about my relationship that I had with my dad that didn't work out. I have a song called Rumors and a song about traveling so I try to keep it diverse.

Keep it diverse, I mean that's really really cool. Now being a young guy, and talking about relationships and love and stuff like that. Do you ever get criticized about that?
I mean there are always critics, and there are always a lot of positive especially on Twitter and I see there's always people there that are going to always try to bring you down obviously.

Haters! (Laughs)
Yes, the haters! (laughs). The positive outweighs the negative so it's been easy for me to kind of ignore it.

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Let's talk about the project for a second. "A piece of me". Exactly what part of you were you giving a piece of?
It's kind of like I had a bunch of EP names all of which was kind of the theme of finally finding myself as an artist, finally bringing everything together to give me a piece of me to them; but I love the fans vote actually. I came up with five hashtags on Twitter and I let them pick their favorite. Now it's trending number one worldwide and had the most tweets so we went with "A piece of me" and I'm really glad with where I landed.

Were you nervous about giving more influence in social media to let them choose?
No, they are the people downloading the songs and people listening so I felt like letting them pick was the best route to go and I always love including them it was so easy to do it on social media.

This is basically all acoustic right?
Yes, it is a lot of acoustic. so everything on there (EP) is real instruments though, like the guitar and the piano. We used a mini piano and then we sent it off to a guy who records it. He plugs it into his piano and it plays it itself like a real piano. So we have all real instruments on there.

It sounds different!
It sounds different, it's still pop but it's indie.

What's it like being an executive and an artist?
I mean it was stressful at first only because I didn't have a huge team helping me out but now I have an awesome support team, I have an awesome management. I don't have a label yet only because I wanted to find myself as an artist and find my sound before I let the industry have anything to do with the making of the music that I'm putting out right this second; but I have an awesome team behind me that's being helping me out. So It does get stressful sometimes especially being on tour, having to balance tour and social media and business.

And doing this all by yourself, You are a boss kid, you are a boss!
(laughs) thank you.

Let's talk about a label you mentioned, you're not on a label right now. Is there any label you want it to be specifically?
I mean I really wanted to build a solid fan base, there's been offers over the years but I really wanted to build a solid fan base, a solid family online and find myself only because I'm now just starting recording original music. So I really wanted to find myself as an artist before that, a lot of people go into the music industry with no original music, they sign with a label from YouTube because they are doing covers and they are really popular and then the label turns them into what they want it to be. I want to find myself and what I have to sound like before they have anything to do with it.

The thing about you being an independent artist you do have a platform to do things yourself, are you ever nervous about putting out your first song?
Oh yeah, I was so nervous going into the EP only because they are so many people right now that have the big machine helping them pump out radio songs and all this other stuff but I ended up surpassing my expectation and with number five overall on iTunes [top album chart], number one on the singer/songwriter charts, so I was really, really thankful for all of that.

Now you dropped the project on Valentine's Day man. I don't know what the reason was. Something says red and white man. On Valentine's Day what made you do that? People are scared to do that.
I mean… first off, I am a hopeless romantic, so I had to put it out on Valentine's Day, but second off the EP release tour. We planned the EP release tour before we had an actual EP. So it was crunch time getting the EP written and produced and everything and it just happened to land to where it was going to be finished by Valentine's Day and the day after that was the start of the EP release tour on the 15th, So it worked out perfectly.

You got a song called "Ohio" and you touched on a lot of the teenage pressures. Are you facing any of that right now?
Of course, growing up I had both my parents in my life until I turned like 13, which was when I started the music. So I was planning in advance with my dad when my parents were together. My parents split at 13, I went with my dad because I felt that was my only hope for music, because that was the only thing I was doing, was playing in bars and stuff with him. So I went with him and he and my mom had kind of a bad relationship obviously they split, the negative energy kind of focused more on to me after he left. So it ended up turning into a nasty relationship. So I went back with mom. Which my mom is a warrior like she has been here since the beginning.

Working Three jobs!
Yes, three jobs dude! She was a personal trainer, she waited tables, she baby sat our autistic neighbor and she was working her butt off and always managed to find time for me. So going through all of that, plus I know a lot of kids can relate with the troubles they are going through. I have talked to fans before that have had their moms and dads pass away, living with their grandparents, not having that love in their lives. So it was just really cool talking to the fans and hearing their stories and I saw how it has touched them.

Cool, let's talk about your dad for a second. We talked about the teenage pressures, but as a musician how much pressure is it knowing that your dad did this and now you have something to live up to.
Well I mean my dad never was big time or anything. It was a lot of pressure at first because I was playing in a band with my dad and he was obviously a lot better musician than me, but I'm thankful of what he taught me and I'm thankful for the opportunities presented because I use to hate it back then but now I am really thankful for the fact that playing for so many people that didn't care and now going to where I am now.

Now they care so much. If we could look for a project from you and your dad, would that ever happen?
I don't know we don't talk much anymore, so we'll have to see, maybe one day.

Sorry to hear that man. Let's focus on New York, here in New York City you were touring, Jasmine V was on the tour, Fifth Harmony was on the tour. What's it like working them?
It's so cool, I was really nervous going in because it is a lot of girls and it is a lot of girl things.

And it is just you.
Yes it is just me, and I thought the fans were going to be a little bit hesitant at first because I am a guy and they love the girls obviously, because it a big girl tour, but the fans have been awesome. It was super hectic at first getting everything together and learning the EP because there wasn't much rehearsal going in because everything was so fast, but every show got better and better. Ohio was incredible, Chicago was incredible and New York City was incredible. So everything just got better and better as the days goes and their super awesome girls.

let's go a little bit back to behind the scenes of the tour. What's it like behind the scene when no music going on, it's just us, we are having a good time. How do we have fun?
How do we have fun, well everyone loves to sleep [laughs] A lot of times after the show we all get on the bus we turn on some Drake, we turn up, we have some fun dancing around. Turning up consists of dancing to two Drake song and passing out [laughs]. It's awesome by the end of the day, so we get our little dancing on.

I'm glad you mentioned Drake, who else are you listening to right now?
I mean I love Drake and Big Sean. I just started listening to some J Cole he's awesome too. On the other side of things John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, Damien Rice, and I just found this artist, Matt Corby, this Australian guy, I love the singer/songwriter stuff, and all those stuff, and it inspires the sound I have now so listening to all that stuff and it coming together, it happily influence my sound.

What would you say the craziest thing a fan has done to you on this tour?
On this tour we had a really crazy experience in LA actually, we showed up to the venue and we didn't tell anyone we were coming on accident and we just kind of showed up sooner than we thought we would. So we were like running around all these different doors and my security guard actually was just joining us that day, and he was there and so it was just me and my tour manager who was smaller than me. Running around with hundreds and hundreds of girls like chasing us, like trying to find a door that was unlocked, we had no idea where we were [laughs]. They were all following us. We ended up like three stories down in a parking garage with like 300 girls surrounding us.

Does it ever get like too outrageous where you were like I really don't want to deal with this right now?
I don't know, I think… No, I really enjoy the fan interaction especially on a like on a personal level. I just started this actually that after each show five people that buy my EP, get to come backstage and eat cereal with me after the show and we all get to sit and talk about our problems about the show, and about everything. So spending times with the fans, I know they're the ones who are responsible for all this. I always enjoying spend time with them.

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