Singer, songwriter and one-man band Jhameel has been on the scene less than two years, but already has a musician’s lifestyle that any amateur would envy. The 21-year-old’s career encompasses a publicist, a merchandise manager and an in-progress music video — not to mention his degree in Arabic from UC Berkeley and his experience in the military.
Jhameel’s debut album, “The Human Condition,” is a poppy and heartfelt compilation that lends meaning to his bipedal existence. But don’t take him too seriously. His covers of top 40 songs such as T-Pain’s “Buy You a Drink” and Cee Lo’s “F— You” show that Jhameel can laugh at his own melodrama.
Mission Loc@l huddled away from the rain with Jhameel before his Noise Pop show at Bender’s on Thursday night to discuss his career and what’s next.
ML: How have your experiences in the military and ROTC helped influence your music?
J: My music has a little bit of political influence, so what the military did was solidify my views not only of the military but of the global views I have. I’m not saying it’s sufficient to do ROTC for a year and get a solid view of the world, but it did help me expand. It made me less conceptual and be like, ‘OK, I know how to shoot a gun. I don’t want to do that again to another person,’ and made it more real for me.
ML: Did that help you come up with the concept for “Human Condition?”
J: A little bit, but the human condition is a totality of my experiences as a human being. The military made me a new person, but it wasn’t the thing that made me who I am. There’s a lot of self-identity issues I had going into the military, and it made me sure of myself, of who I want to be and what I want to do.
ML: Why did you decide to make your album free to download online?
J: I don’t think it’s fair to sell something that’s infinitely replicable. It’s free to replicate MP3s, so there’s no production cost in that. [From] a business standpoint it’s not smart. Plus, nobody really buys music nowadays, especially just to download. I have something to say and I want as many people to hear it as possible. A physical album you can sell because that’s artwork in itself — the artwork that goes on the front — so I’m selling something.
ML: What ideas are you brewing for another concept album?
J: I wouldn’t limit myself to [only making concept albums]; I don’t think they have to be conceptually driven, but they do have to be tightly wound by a theme, because I wanna call them an album as opposed to a bunch of songs I put together. It doesn’t have to be a political theme; it could be just a sound theme or an instrument, maybe.
ML: Which artists have influenced your music? And who would you love to play a show with?
J: Sufjan Stevens, Jonsi, Phoenix, Sigur ros have been influences. I’d love to play with Yo La Tengo. I love that band.
ML: What’s the hardest part about starting out in your music career?
J: Separating your personal life and your career life is particularly hard, because so much of your personal life goes into being a musician. Maintaining who you are as a person, when you’re with your friends or onstage. What’s the line? Are you the same person there?
ML: What are the struggles of being a one-man band?
J: Sometimes you’re like, ‘Whoa, this would be easier if I had a few other people to help me out with it.’ It’s nice because I have full creative control. Whatever is in my mind, I have the power to put that on the recording. But it would be nice to have someone to support [you], because when you’re on your own, you have doubts and there’s no one to help you out.
ML: What’s next? Where are you playing next? What are you working on?
J: I’m playing Bottom of the Hill on March 3. I’m working on a music video for a song called “How Many Lovers.” It’s taking a long time. It’s been months since we started it. The concept is just going to be a series of crazy scenes compiled in a “how-to get-over a-breakup” video. I’ll be directing and my friends will be filming it. Everything in my head right now is about that music video.