Interview: Jacob Lee on exploring new soundscapes and trailblazing the world of music NFTs
04.04.2022

Interview: Jacob Lee on exploring new soundscapes and trailblazing the world of music NFTs

SHOT BY @thenameshaun
Words by Talia Rinaldo
In partnership with Jacob Lee

A rare talent that is fearless and unapologetically himself, Gold Coast singer-songwriter Jacob Lee has broken open a new chapter within his career with confidence and catapulted back into our music-loving hearts with his new single ‘Break My Heart Again’.

Eight years after the release of his debut single, ‘Chariot’, and merely two months after the release of his spell-binding EP ‘No Longer Hollow’, this is the first single from his forthcoming third album, marking an innovative departure from Lee’s familiar sound.

While the song was initially released late last year as an acoustic track, the official release of ‘Break My Heart Again’ sees Lee pull the listener into a trance from the first note with vibrant synth beats signifying a brand-new chapter in the artist’s discography. Once Lee’s vocals take hold, you know you’ve lost the battle and are powerless against the new sound of swaying melodies, catchy lyrics and hypnotic beats.

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Innovative and meticulous when it comes to his craft, ‘Break My Heart Again’ is yet another example that demonstrates how Lee ingeniously creates a diverse range of songs throughout his career. You can hear the similarities to previous songs, building on the dreamy fusion of balladry and electronica in tracks like ‘Silhouette’ and ‘Conscience’, but there’s new energy, with demanding layered soundscapes and a whirlwind of electronica and pop that makes the track sound fresh and unique, which can be credited to Lee’s recent introduction into the world of producing.  

“I’ve watched the progression of multiple artists who began their career with acoustic music. It’s interesting to witness the majority of them undertake a similar trajectory, from stripped back music, to more pop-centric and commercial. 

“After a certain amount of albums it’s easy to feel stagnant as an artist. I feel like artists generally hold an innate desire to discover new creative territories which were previously unexplored. Due to this, during COVID I taught myself production, and discovered I was pulled toward more electronic sounds, even though the idea of production scared me at the time” Lee explains.

“With my tours cancelled I decided to give it a crack, and true to my personality, I became obsessed. I’ve now been producing music for two years and have found my songs naturally gear toward electronic soundscapes, which surprised me.”

Highlighting this affinity for lyrics and Lee’s masterful storytelling ability that we’ve come to know and love over the years, lyrically the track is a charming, gut-wrenching tale about the ending of a relationship, and how you just want to feel again, even if that means feeling the pain that the relationship once brought.

One for the brokenhearted, it’s the relatability of Lee’s words and his down to earth honesty that takes you to the cliff’s base with the chorus stating, “…I want you / To break my heart again / So I can feel / Something that I’m used to…”

‘Break My Heart Again’ is an audible mountaineering adventure and Lee’s vocals are on full display amongst the beautiful electronica. With a soft, almost R&B-esque flow and cloudy, ethereal beats, it’s a soft catchy tune, with a soothing synth sound that will swirl around your mind. See for yourself below. 

Beginning his journey busking on the streets in Surfers Paradise, taking out the third spot in The Voice back in 2014, and releasing his debut single in 2015, Lee established himself early as a singer-songwriter on the rise, demonstrating what he was capable of and what is yet to come.

Dropping music non-stop ever since, Lee released his first EP Sine Qua Non, in 2016, followed a year later by ‘Clarity’. In July of 2017, he launched ‘Demons’, which was the leader for the debut release of his independent label, Philosophical Records, and his first album Philosophy, which concluded at the end of 2018, with ‘Reality’. ‘Demons’ has since become a playlist staple for over 50 million people globally. Lee’s second album Conscience was released track by track in 2019 and 2020.

Supporting the likes of Billy Gibbons (ZZ-Top), Jamie Lawson, Justice Crew, Uncle Jed & Foreign Figures, Lee went on to independently tour throughout the U.K, Europe, USA and Australia multiple times.

The independent singer-songwriter’s career has been nothing but exemplary – but that was merely the beginning.

“It has been the most exciting, yet arduous process. I’ve been making progress in a multitude of areas, though most of that progress is in fields I never thought I’d explore.

“I’ve been working nonstop. The progress has been gradual but meaningful. Gathering a community, fostering my fanbase and creating content which resonates with a vast array of different people.”

In more recent years, Lee has broadened his scope, talent and impact, creating new music that will impress and surprise the masses.

“I’m super excited to do something new. I wouldn’t want to release another acoustic album. People have heard that from me and I think it’s time for something more evolved.”

Known for his intricate ability to capture the delicacy of human emotion, the Gold Coast quiet over-achiever has long championed creative freedom with sheer commitment to bringing his visions to life, both from inside the studio and beyond. The beauty of Jacob Lee is that he intentionally flies under the scope of the industry, channelling his energy into developing meaningful and lasting relationships with fans and consistently innovating to take his music to the next level.

With hundreds of millions of streams and views to his name alongside running his own label Philosophical Records, Lee has spent the last year trailblazing the world of music NFTs.

NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) are essentially unique, exchangeable digital items that are saved on a digital ledger that provides proof of purchase, similar to an authenticity certificate. As they are deployed on large scale global networks such as Ethereum, counterfeiting these certificates is almost impossible. Invading all types of media, they’ve slowly been seeping their way into the music world too, with artists creating music, artwork, or any form of digital media, chucking it on a digital ledger, and enabling fans can buy it using cryptocurrency, which is usually Ethereum because of its smart contract infrastructure.

Joining the likes of Kings of Leon, Jay Z, Aphex Twin and Steve Aoki, Lee became immersed in the world of NFTs, building on his explorations into Discord, YouTube, Twitter and Spotify Marketing over the years.

“Being entirely independent, I’ve had to continuously brainstorm how to compete with those who have representation and connections. I often find myself uncovering avenues which are yet to be adopted, to see whether they could potentially be the future for music. NFTs, in my opinion, are one of those avenues.

“It’s a brand-new landscape where artists are able to release their music in ways which were historically unavailable. I arrived in web3 by watching Beeple in 2020. Web3 brought a newfound excitement to his work, and I began contemplating how one could implement music into this.

“So I went and taught myself the technology, which was a massive learning curve as a singer/songwriter. I honestly didn’t think my brain was wired to understand things of this nature, though I’m glad to say I proved myself wrong, and now I operate in it more frequently than that of traditional platforms.”

After familiarising himself with the technology, Lee released The Conscience Cards in August last year, his first NFT collection on the Ethereum Blockchain – 12 fully animated collector cards representing Lee’s second studio album. Generating $50,000 in revenue in the first 48 hours, holders were entitled to free access to live shows, early access to new music and exclusive entry into the area within Lee’s online, virtual ecosystem.

Lee then went on to release an NFT collection representing his entire music catalogue, where fans could own digital tokens to the songs which may have made an impact on their lives, allowing fans to invest in tracks they believe will grow in popularity, potentially making money alongside Lee as they hang onto this asset.

“An NFT is a way for fans to invest in an artist and potentially see a financial return. The blockchain is a public ledger, which permanently displays the time and date someone buys into a project. Therefore, fans can now prove they were actually an early supporter of a particular artist. If an artist you’ve invested in goes viral, or reaches a new level of success, the holder of that collectible has the option to hold for the sentimental value, or sell and accrue a profit. This is just one very minor use-case for NFTs.”

While the discussion surrounding music NFTs is evolving rapidly as artists begin to figure out what NFTs are and how they are valuable, the main hurdle was the lack of education about NFTs amongst fans, especially when it came to the cryptocurrency/digital wallets. Driven by an authentic and genuine love for his craft and his fans, Lee created a ‘Familee Key’ token which he gave away for free, gifting fans official, unlimited and exclusive access into Lee’s community.

“There were 6,775 people who claimed this key for free. Those people are legitimately now my priority, and will receive exclusive items, music and content others won’t. Through NFTs I’m able to identify my most loyal and engaged supporters. I can provide them things like free access to shows, early access to music, token-gated access to virtual hangouts. It’s pretty limitless.

“The term ‘fan-base’ has been suffocated in web3. What was once a fan-base, is now a community, and everyone within that community rises and succeeds together. This mentality is something I’ve carried for years, though I’m glad to see others catching up.”

For the first time, fans can invest, with dividends, into their favourite artists and feel like they’re along for the ride.

 

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As of January, Lee had generated over $80,000 (equivalent to approximately 16 million streams) through NFTs alone after just five months and it’s continuing to grow by the day, merging creativity and artistry into a whole new experience.

Now with five NFT collections, more than 200 Spotify streams, and incredibly adept self-awareness, Lee has continued to prove that he is in a league of his own. Establishing himself as a poetic and intrinsic songwriter, Lee is forever on a journey to strive for new perspectives and strategies, learning more about himself in the process.

“I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but that’s fine. I feel as though I’ve cultivated a sustainability mindset which doesn’t crave instant gratification from the industry. Balance between artistry and entrepreneurialism is important to me, and the only way to cultivate that balance is through independence.

“I’ve always been my own manager, and through that I’m now able to sit in business meetings with confidence. Where most artists aren’t able to. For the longest time, I was extremely introverted, though through a decade unrepresented in this industry, I’m now more than capable enough to head my own business, and run it successfully.

“I’m grateful for the fact that I haven’t had people vouching for me. I’ve been able to grow quietly and properly.”

Even after the incredible success and his newfound fame over the years that he’s reaped independently, it’s refreshing that Lee will not moderate himself for anyone – or any label – as he continues to use music as a vessel for self-expression.

“I know who I am and what I want to convey through my music. I know what I want to leave behind. I’m genuinely obsessed with reaching higher levels of success, as I want to eventually transform my career into philanthropy.

“Let’s be real, the majority of the western world is experiencing some form of anxiety or depression. Music is, and has always been, an avenue to provide solace, and I want to continue providing that in my small way. So I’d never let anyone take my creative control, I’d rather quit music.”

Making the most out of his career on his terms by creating music that is unique, powerful, and reaches an equally diverse audience, for Lee, it has and always will be his music—not his platform—that matters most.

 

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A post shared by JACOB LEE (@jacobleemusic)

Now despite the string of international tour cancellations and eventful moments of the pandemic, Lee forges into 2022 with his head held high, looking forward to the new avenues he can take with his music, particularly in exploring bringing live musical performance into an immersive interactive experience.

“I’m excited to try and develop as much immersion for the people that follow me or the people that listen to me as I can. And what I mean by that is almost mixing this virtual stuff that I’ve been spending a lot of time on with the real-life stuff.

“If I can’t go and see the people who I want to see and who want to see me, I thought how can I bridge that gap. And that is by developing immersive experiences online where I can create, say like a bonfire area where my fan base can come and sit with me within that area, whether they have a computer or a virtual headset and perform.”

Taking cues from Justin Bieber’s interactive virtual concert last year, Splendour XR and Billie Eilish’s virtual concert in 2020, Lee is looking to level up his offerings more so with immersive visuals and XR effects to further create epic and intimate musical journeys for his fans.

“It sounds lame and taboo, but trust me, it’s where it’s heading. In a few years, people will be implementing this all the time. So, for now, trying to implement a bit more budget into developing that immersion is something that I’m interested in just to see how real and visceral a virtual performance can be.”

Listen to ‘Break My Heart Again’ on Spotify here and dive into Jacob Lee’s Web 3 store here