Published on December 4th, 2017 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Ernest K. On Nashville, Jay-Z, His Upcoming EP, And The Influence Of The “Space Jam” Soundtrack
Ernest K. is a genre-defying artist now signed to a label partnership between Big Loud Records, music mogul J Erving, and Brian Kelly and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line. Ernest has been releasing singles, in advance of his debut EP, and “Bad Boy” is now over one million streams on Spotify. Announced upcoming collaborations for Ernest include Jim Jonsin, DJ Mustard, Charlie Handsome, The Stereotypes and Yung Berg.
On behalf of The Hype Magazine, I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with Ernest K. himself. Ernest — who was writing for other artists before inking his record deal — came across as a fun, motivated person yet is clearly a superstar in the making. More on the Nashville-based singer and songwriter can be found online at www.ernestk.com.
Your bio mentions the Space Jam soundtrack to be one of your first musical influences. Was there a particular song on that soundtrack that grabbed you most?
Ernest K.: Mannnnn, it’s tough to pick just one! I’ll have to give you a couple. The first one would be “Hit ‘Em High Hit ‘Em Low.” That song was packed with B-Real, Busta [Rhymes], Coolio, LL [Cool J] AND Method Man. Salt-N-Pepa had a song on there called “Upside Down” that I love too. Let’s see, oh s**t — Monica’s “For You I Will,” “All Of My Days” with Jay-Z, and obviously “I Believe I Can Fly” also. (laughs) All of these songs changed my life early on, for sure. I was hooked.
What specifically inspired your jump from being a music listener to playing an instrument?
Ernest K.: Honestly I can’t remember a time in my life I wasn’t AT LEAST banging around on my grandmother’s piano or playing on a drum set. I took about three months of banjo lessons in the 3rd grade and ended up quitting because I was teaching myself to play by ear, rather than reading the music I was given. I picked up a guitar around the same time and just started playing around for fun with it. I don’t play banjo much anymore but it’s a fun party trick if there’s ever one around!
Your music straddles the line between country, R&B and hip-hop. Was there ever any pressure to just pick one genre and stay within those lines?
Ernest K.: Ehh, I wouldn’t say so. I’ve always been passionate about just making music, however it comes out of me. Of course it’s unorthodox to brand myself as an artist that isn’t bound to ONE genre, but I believe this is a great time to be an artist because with playlisting being such a huge part of the way people are consuming music today, the more diverse you can be, the better.
I’ll also say, I wouldn’t consider country music a part of my sound as an artist. Though I grew up in Nashville and have been around it enough for it to have positively impacted my songwriting skills. Good country music has some of the best storytelling.
As the story goes, you landed a publishing deal after battling health and personal issues. What did your music sound like before things got serious for you? Did your struggles essentially turn you into a real artist?
Ernest K.: Yes! A crazy couple of years there for sure! My music has been evolving my whole life, but at the root, it was either me singing and rapping while playing my acoustic guitar or recording myself rapping verses/singing hooks on garage band, usually to beats I found on YouTube.
My whole life I’ve been up against the odds and have managed to keep my head down and work twice as hard, knowing it’s an uphill battle. I don’t know if I would say “my struggles” turned me into a “real artist,” but they DID give me an appreciation for what I have and a drive to get to where I wanna be.
“Trouble With Us” is part of an ever-expanding “waterfall release” that will eventually lead to an EP. Around how many songs do you currently have recorded?
Ernest K.: That’s a tricky question. (laughs) Hmm, master versions ready to go? Six or seven. Total demos, etc.? TOO MANY TO COUNT!
Do you have a favorite song of the not-yet-released batch?
Ernest K.: Damn, there’s a few, but I got one that I think will catch people off guard for SURE, in a great way though. It’s called “Cuss Fight Fuss.” I’d love to tell ya more about it, but you’ll have to wait. Hint: I wear bellbottoms and a wig in the music video.
Where did the idea to record in St. Thomas come from?
Ernest K: One of my friends — now my brother-in-law, but that’s for another time — Matt Royer’s dad, Robb Royer, decided to buy a house down there. I had just dropped out of college and decided “what the hell, why not?” So I wasn’t going down there to record necessarily. I really went down there to get out of Nashville for once and try to figure out what in the world I was gonna do with my life.
I figured why not do that on a beach far, far away from anyone!? I stayed on the island for a year, playing little beach bar gigs with just me and my guitar, freestyle rapping to whatever words the small crowds would drunkingly yell at me. I wrote several songs over the course of that year and recorded SOME of them at a small studio on island, BASROC. I still go to St Thomas often. Robb still has a home there though it got destroyed by hHrricane Irma and is currently being rebuilt.
Now that you have a label deal, will you still be writing for other artists?
Ernest K.: Absolutely, that’s a big part of what I do for sure. I enjoy writing and producing with other artists in mind. Collaboration is always fun, bringing two or more vibes together and letting the magic happen. I will say though, there is a time and place. Sometimes I just enjoy locking myself in my car with my headphones on and writing by myself for hours.
When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?
Ernest K.: I like playing Madden 18 and watching movies, but honestly if I’m not “busy with music,” I feel like I’m getting behind. So even if I’m just chilling, I’m probably building some loops on Ableton. My wife Delaney will make me get outside and play fetch with the dogs or go to Home Depot. She makes me be a normal human sometimes.
What’s the last concert you attended for fun?
Ernest K.: Jay-Z! IT WAS AMAZING. He’s incredible. Before that it was John Mayer. I put both of them on a “music god” level. Both have influenced me so much.
Do you have a favorite album of 2017?
Ernest K.: Probably have to say Damn, but there were some other great ones, too. I really love the SZA album and 4:44. John Mayer also put a good album out. I’m definitely looking forward to this new Eminem album. I know the reactions were mixed when it comes to “Walk On Water.” It’s Em, you know? He’s always got something up his sleeve.
Finally, Ernest, any last words for the kids?
Ernest K.: Why not? Ok, kids listen up. Believe in yourself. Invest in yourself. Love yourself. Don’t ever let anybody tell you what normal is, there is no such thing. Find something you love and do it all the way. Oh yeah, Santa is real, and don’t do Xanax. Love, Ern.Tweet