“I don’t know what the mystique is, you can go back to Bob Marley or you can go back to Desmond Dekker & The Aces, there are just cool things that this island does.”
SXSW had so many good artists that we couldn’t possibly get to all of them. One such artist that I missed was Jovi Rockwell. Luckily, I was able to link up with Jovi post South By. Hailing from Jamaica and now residing in LA, Jovi has been putting out soulful and authentic reggae vibes via her own tracks and an impressive list of collaborations. Jovi embodies the spirit of reggae culture and through our conversation, I have a better sense of why this music connects with so many people around the world. In this Jovi Rockwell interview, she talks about one of her most memorable moments in her career and tells us the different styles of music people listen to back home. You’ll never guess what genre she mentioned!
:: JOVI ROCKWELL INTERVIEW ::
SONIC HIGHLARK: Good morning! What’s going on Jovi?
JOVI ROCKWELL: Hey! Just enjoying this nice Sunday morning.
SONIC: Sorry we missed you at SXSW, we wanted to catch you perform. How was that whole experience for you?
JOVI: South By was amazing. The energy was just incredible. There’s so many things going on and the showcases that I did were really great. I had so much fun. People were coming up to me and telling me how much they enjoyed the show, it was an amazing experience.
SONIC: Were you able to check out any artists while you were there?
JOVI: Yes! I checked out Anderson .Paak, some punk rock bands.
SONIC: Of course Jamaica is home to reggae music and dancehall music especially from an outsider’s perspective but being from there, what is the music scene like there?
JOVI: The most popular thing that people may not think we listen to is EDM, tons of that going on. Hip-Hop obviously and another surprising one is Country Music.
SONIC: Country Music!? Wow, never would have guessed that. What’s in your headphones right now?
JOVI: I listen to Chronixx a lot. I listen to Steel Pulse, Pink Floyd.
SONIC: The best EDM style song for me last year was “Too Original” (Major Lazer), how did that track come together?
JOVI: Ohh yay!! That’s interesting that you ask that. Wesley (Diplo) reached out to me and sent me a ska beat, some years ago. I just did the “Too Original” hook on it. He was rushing to put together an album and he asked me if I can do something with it real quick. I sent it back to him with a scratch track and he said “No, no, this is great! I have to spend some time with this. I promise we’ll do something with this.” We worked on other tracks after that, but he kept saying he’ll do something with it. Then one day he came up with “Too Original.”
SONIC: It’s hard not to dance when you hear that song. It’s a great song. It’s how I discovered you by the way.
JOVI: Yay, too original!
SONIC: We cover some fashion on our site, how do you put your look together whether it be for a show or just out and about in town?
JOVI: First of all I have to be comfortable. It’s always in the moment. I just throw it together depending on the mood I’m in. I might want an easy look, or sometimes add some fun. A graphic that really pops or something. Maybe a hat or just something to be more…
JOVI: Yeah, original! There you go.
SONIC: I know you’ve been playing some instruments, what’s coming up for you this year?
JOVI: Lot’s of live shows, some singles. A lot of collabs. I’ve been playing guitar and use my loop pedal for shows. I use a RC-300 Roland and I select the songs and have a DJ with me if I don’t have a band with me. If I have a band it is just a drummer and a bass player usually. It’s kind of scaling it down to just the raw elements.
SONIC: Were you nervous at all when you started playing guitar live and using the loop pedal?
JOVI: You know funny enough, I had such a desire to perform and have been teaching myself for about 8 months at the time. I kind of felt like I had to go up there and just do it. It can be a little nerve racking, since I’m performing and singing. That’s why I like the loop pedal because I can put the guitar down and loop something and build it. For a gal like me who was new to playing instruments the loop pedal gave me an opportunity to have fun.
SONIC: Cool, the loop pedal can be tricky though. From the videos I saw on Facebook you sounded great!
JOVI: Thank you! Yeah, it’s sort of like playing another instrument but I like it.
SONIC: Was there a moment in your career when you felt like something was happening with your career?
JOVI: What really stood out for me was when Snoop Dogg had become Snoop Lion and had taken a track from me that I did with Diplo. He sang it word for word and left me in on the background vocals. Then he called me to tell me how much he loved me and how much he loved that track. He told me they took out my vocals from the track but he said “You better put that back in!” How enthusiastic he sounded and everything it meant a lot to me. When I heard the finished track I think I was driving and I had to pull over. Snoop Dogg is iconic and it’s just little ol’ me and he’s calling me. From what he told me he had come to a point in his life where he was really drawn to the reggae culture. The way he explained the experience to me, I was so happy to be a part of that. That was really cool. That’s when I said to myself “Hey, you might have something here kid!” That was a really cool moment for me.
SONIC: That’s amazing! Can’t mistake that voice on the phone. Diplo is very good at finding great talent, but how did he first connect with you?
JOVI: I was doing something with Mr. Vegas and that’s how he discovered me. He reached out to us and wanted to do a track with me and Mr. Vegas. So we worked on that, and then we just continued to work together. We always linked up and have a good rapport, and it was great for both of us.
SONIC: It’s so cool that reggae type music is appreciated from around the world. Elliphant is from Sweden, there is a scene in London and of course here in the states. Why do you think people connect with that culture?
JOVI: Jamaica is one of those places that gives birth to a lot of creative expression. I guess people kind of identify with it and it resonates with people. I don’t know what the mystique is, you can go back to Bob Marley or you can go back to Desmond Dekker & The Aces, there are just cool things that this island does. People then have their own interpretation of what we do. It’s really cool what our culture does for the world.
SONIC: Yeah, like ska which connects it with rock music.
JOVI: Yes, ska has been around for decades. It’s beautiful how music evolves into different things and movements even into popular music.
SONIC: There was a good representation of reggae music at SXSW this year as well.
JOVI: Yeah, I think next year it may be even better!
SONIC: Is there an interesting or funny fact about you?
JOVI: Well, I don’t have a TV. Even when I had one I never watched it. It was for guests mostly. I usually go on YouTube and watch learning type stuff. How to play guitar or something like that. I do like Ancient Aliens though, that’s dope. I like documentaries or things that make you think.
SONIC: Do you ever watch your own videos on YouTube?
JOVI: You know what? I don’t do it, I really don’t. Every now and then I say, “Oh yeah, I’m on YouTube. I’m kind of cool!” (laughs). I’m never like “Yo, this is me.”
SONIC: (laughing) Well, if you ever make a trip up to New York let us know! Thank you!
JOVI: Thank you so much!