BWW Interview: The Jungle Talks About the Labors of Love, the Seattle Music Scene, and His New EP, INFERNO
Back in Sacramento and ready to enter the California music scene is Troy Jagan, better known as The Jungle. His sound is an appealing mix of jazz, funk, r&b, and pop music complemented by a falsetto that brings to mind a young Michael Jackson. BroadwayWorld Sacramento spoke to The Jungle about his return home and the upcoming release of his new EP, Inferno, on April 17.
You've recently moved back home to Sacramento from Seattle! What took you there and what brings you back now?
I had an uncle that lives in Seattle and he would send for me every summer. I grew up going there. In the middle of the Sacramento summers when it's 105 degrees, I would get to Seattle and it's pouring rain. When I graduated, all of my friends were moving and I wanted to live in an area that was completely different than what I was used to. When I was 14 or 15, I got to see folks doing music and composing and I realized that you could go to school for music. That's kind of what drew me up there. Then you get into the Seattle scene and find out what Nirvana was, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Seattle was it. Young jazz musicians would go there to make their name on the west coast.
We're happy to spotlight new, local artists. Can you tell me about how you got started in music and what your journey has been like so far?
I played in bands when I was 15 or 16. I didn't play in a professional band until I was in Seattle, so I was around 22. The one thing I realized is everyone knew someone who was in a band. You'd go out and see a show but more than likely it was your family or a coworker. That was the one thing I loved about it. I realized that this is my chance to learn and not be pressured to make it right then. I was lucky to find guys who had been in bands who could teach me. Those early sessions basically told me everything I needed to know about myself. Could I work with other people? We'd come in with an idea and a week later we're playing in front of people. This is what pushed me into the idea of wanting to do it for real. I learned what scales my favorite keyboardists were playing. Why did I love Stevie Wonder, Prince, or Michael so much? Pharell and Timbaland, those producers gave me the formative idea of how to make records. I love jamming but learning how to make songs I would want to sing or hear other rappers sing, that tutelage is necessary for any musician. Why do you love the things you love? You realize it's all been a cycle. The biggest thing for me was to get that first at-a-glance knowledge and then go back and figure out what was going to work for me.
Your music has something for everyone. There are elements of jazz, 70's funk, and electro-pop, to name a few. What artists have influenced you?
I call them the holy trinity-Michael, Prince, and Stevie. If you listen to those three, you're set. We love to put labels on the new stuff, but back then they were doing the same thing. Michael was looking at hip hop for influence. The idea of mash-up is nothing new. The feelings are all going to be the same, it's how you're communicating the message to the listener. Alicia Keys, in her early days-the idea of playing on the piano. John Legend, even the newer stuff on the production, house/disco producers lay a brilliant foundation for everything. That influences me. The house music of the 90s-Orbital and Black Box and C&C Music Factory. Keeping the beat going is the idea with funk like Parliament. Everything to me starts in the bass. I'm a keyboardist but I feel like I was a bassist in a past life. All that music is wrapped around the drive of that rhythmic foundation.
Your new EP, Inferno, comes out on April 17. It's been described as a "fiery dance between love and obsession." Can you tell us what your inspiration has been?
I think that first bit of "I like that person." I fall in love hard, so that first instant of "this is a feeling and I don't' know what to do with it." It's all-encompassing and it just grows and grows. The cliché "the fiery passion of love" is real. You get so wrapped up in the good and the bad of what it could potentially be. In the early moments you're so lost you don't care. I wanted to put listeners in the place of it's a new love and it could go anywhere.
What is it like releasing new work during this lockdown? Are you doing things differently than you normally would?
I feel like I'm starting to plan stuff for as soon as it hits more so than I did. The most recent stuff is only a year ago but because I know folks aren't going to go out and see a show, I'm planning on maybe going live and talking to people. Being engaged right after it drops. We're all sensitive about the art so right away we can be a little standoffish. People are more apt to have a conversation now because they have the time. I've done Club Quarantine for DJ D-Nice. The collective feeling that you can provide is the biggest thing I look forward to. Keeping folks engaged because I can pop in and say, "I'm here!"
You're scheduled to play at The Viper Room in Los Angeles on May 29. Have you heard anything about whether the venue will be open? Do you have an alternate plan?
I'm just waiting for the state to lift restrictions and see what L.A. is going to do. The thing I've taken away from it is, what will be, will be. All of it is out of our hands. If you put energy into it and think, "I want to play in May," that's energy that's wasted that could be put somewhere else. You plan for the release and what you're going to do to get the word out. At the end of the day I realize that I'm thankful to be able to still put out music. To have people be able to be at home and listen to it.
Where can listeners go to access Inferno on Friday?
It should be streaming everywhere. Apple, Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon.
What is next for you? Are you hunkering down and making new music?
That's all I've been doing. I had to stop making music until 3 or 4 in the morning. As soon as the world started to close up, I thought I could stay up a little longer. I had to pull myself away because that's all I was doing. I have five songs that I want to do vocals on. I have to buy a new mic. I have to figure out how to record by myself. My engineer has been amazing with the direction that I bring to him. The fact that he's not here makes me have to learn. That's the beauty of it-forging new paths. I'll probably do some live stream of cutting the vocals and demos and get that feedback. Get your listeners involved, get your fans involved.
More information on The Jungle can be found on Instagram @the_jungle_deep and on Facebook at The Jungle Music.
Photo credit: @Alexanderimagerystudios