C: So was it hard to adjust to moving to a big city like Los Angeles coming from the Midwest?
JR: It was. I went from Iowa City straight to LA. I dropped out of college at the University of Iowa and went out there when I think I was 20. I remember having my 21st birthday there on Hollywood blvd and thinking that was really fancy. It’s crazy how much of a change that was, you know? It totally ruined my perception of humanity. I mean, I love it now, but it took me three years to not go insane.
C: Let’s talk about your new album “The Lovesick”. What makes this one different from your past albums?
JR: This one is produced differently, but the songs are the same. I still write songs the same way, which is on an acoustic guitar or a piano, so they come from the same place. And this album gets a little dark also, but it has really happy points too so it kind of goes up and down and back and forth. It’s also more hip-hop infused I suppose. It goes back a little bit more towards that and it has far bigger rhythmic sections in all the songs. I used a lot of different beats and combined real drums with electronic drums. I just wanted it to sound different because I’d been making a lot of acoustic guitar records and it’s not fun to do the same thing over and over again.
C: How else has your musical style evolved over the years?
JR: Before I ever learned how to play guitar I was rapping. My friends would make beats and we had a little group of us that would write raps and record them. We never put them out or anything. We didn’t necessarily want the world to hear them yet, but that’s where I started from. But once I discovered the 1960s, I wanted to start writing songs so I got a guitar and started writing folk songs and made a few albums where it was basically just a guitar and a few other instruments and from there it’s just started growing to where I’ve been adding different sounds and trying to find a new way to express the songs rather than just keep it really simple. I’m sure I’ll go back to that and just make very raw acoustic recordings again, but I’ve kind of grown from that to what “The Lovesick” is. That’s probably the biggest sonically I would go, maybe a little bit further, but after that I’d just like to go back and forth between “nothing” and that.
C: What kinds of things inspire you in your lyrics as well as your melodies?
JR: Life. My inspiration is my life. I don’t ever write anything that isn’t real, so it’s just whatever is happening to me is my inspiration, and just the things that are going on around my perception. I think love is the strongest form of that. If you’re either falling out of it or into it, those are the two moments where the best songs come from for me and I think for everybody else. If you’re heart is breaking or drifting away from somebody and you write a really good, sad song and then if you’re falling in love with somebody and you’re really inspired by that you write a really happy love song. Everything else is kind of in between there, but I think the best of songs are written in those highs and lows.