Written By: Niki Jones of Houston TREND
Jack Freeman is a 24 year-old R&B singer born on the Northwest side of Houston. His soulful voice and sultry style intertwined with and old soul, has differentiated him from many young R&B singers. A familiar blend of Marvin Gaye and D’Angelo would best describe the way he’s able to capture a crowd of all ages. That would explain why his favorite singer of all time is the great Donnie Hathaway. He explains, “Vocally he was perfect. I never heard a bad note come out of Donnie Hathaway’s mouth. Then going into the musical side of it, when you look at the credits of his albums, he wrote it, performed and produced it. His musical talents were off the wall.
Being the son of a singer and the youngest of three children, Jack’s ears became a forum for classical, jazz, gospel, hip-hop and soul music. He grew up experiencing all facets of music, from James Brown to Michael Jackson to EPMD to Rakim; he witnessed it all. “My dad’s musical taste was of his era. Everything was Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway, The Temptations and anybody from that time. Being the youngest, I would come out of my room and across the hall was my sister, who’s six years older than me, and she would be playing her R&B music. Then I would go down the hall and my older brother would be blasting all kinds of music but mostly hip hop. So my influence of music became a mixture of all of that,” says Jack.
Jack discovered his ability to sing at six years old, singing a few times in the church choir. Not the typical youngster, performing and dancing for a crowd of individuals to get them to listen to his voice; Jack’s passion wasn’t necessarily to sing, but to be an athlete. He reveals, “When I was four, I begged my dad to play football, but I wasn’t old enough yet. So when I turned six, I signed up and just played. That was my life for a very long time”. Jack pilfered his football skills on a full ride to the University of Texas at El Paso. Once he reached his sophomore year, he discovered the life he played so vigorously for, wasn’t what he’d hoped for and no longer conveyed the same passion to continue on that path. “I wasn’t having as much fun playing football anymore. I pride myself in being able to do what I want to do and football and college didn’t afford me that opportunity anymore. Everything was such a job, everything was centered on football and not the enjoyment of actually having fun and playing ball. One morning I woke up and decided I didn’t want to play anymore,” tells Jack.
Jack turned back to singing making music his focal point. A gift he slated early on in life was now his motivation to succeed as a singer. Jack was introduced to the independent scene in 2009, when he graced a rising Houston rap group, The Nice Guys’, track “Not at All.” The song would be featured on their EP, The Green Room. His subtle raspy delivery would catch the ears of many and left lingering inquisitions of who this guy was on The Nice Guys’ song. “I knew The Nice Guys through my cousin. I knew them when they were starting out and would always keep in touch and ask to be on a song. Finally, Yves [member of the Nice Guys] heard me sing and was like we need to do something. So I came back home and we recorded our first collaboration and things just took off from there,” says Jack.
In 2010, Jack dropped his first EP entitled Dark Liquor. A little over a year later, he released his first album Lynnie’s Juke Joint produced by a few talents including Free of The Nice Guys. Dark Liquor and Lynnie’s Juke Joint are both mixtures of old school soul with a new age flare. “I try to put a lot of jazz in my music, there’s a lot of blues elements and a few traditional R&B sounds. I love the element of having hip hop in my music without it being completely hip hop. I try to incorporate as much of it as possible because once you place yourself in a box, you will never get out of it,” explains Jack.
Not only is dark liquor a mature brand of drink, but is also the muse behind Jack’s music. “Back in day many American black men mostly drank dark liquor, like Cognac and Whiskey and their music reflected it. The music was lower and richer and didn’t seem so processed and that’s the approach I take with my sound; it’s a dark liquor feel. There’s a slower, smoother feel when you drink it. It’s potent, but once you get accustomed to it’s a good feeling. That’s what I like with my music; you keep that feeling all the way through.”
Jack has done features for some of the hottest Houston underground artists, including rappers Le$, Propain and The Nice Guys. “I try to put all kinds of elements in my music, which is why I do so many collaborations with rappers because I realized I was a lot of different people partially due to my musical taste. I was able to take their taste of music and expand on it. At this point in R&B, none of it really sounds like R&B. I try to keep it as traditional as possible, but bring the progressive element into it because they did it with hip hop by incorporating jazz, blues and funk.”
Jack’s originality and unwillingness to conform to the typical R&B persona of today, keeps his voice intriguing and his lyrics symbolical and passionate, no matter the topic of his affection. He is able to fuse it all into one.
Everything that encompasses my music, is what I enjoy as a person. If you took D’Angelo and Frank Sinatra and put them in a room together, I would like to say I’m the happy medium of that. It looks as clean, jazzy and ritzy as Frank Sinatra would have had it but it’s still soul and gritty as D’Angelo.