Elliot Friar ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Contributor
If you haven’t already heard of Jacob Whitesides, you’re about to see him everywhere. The 17 year old whose online presence and YouTube covers gained him wild popularity is on his way to becoming music’s next big star. His first EP of all original songs, A Piece Of Me, which was released this past Valentine’s Day, reached number five on the iTunes albums chart and has over a million streams on Spotify. The singer-songwriter, who describes his music as indie pop, has over one and a half million followers who are a part of his growing army of devoted fans. Even with such growing success, Whitesides remains humble, quite charming, and funny. Emertainment Monthly was able to chat with the up-and-coming artist while he was in Boston for The Reflection Tour in which he opened for headlining girl group Fifth Harmony.
So, the tour’s coming to an end. How has the experience been so far? Do you have any memorable moments?
It’s been so good, like, the beginning of it was super hectic and rough because that’s how any tour is. They always start out really crazy because everyone’s trying to figure out the flow and everything else, but then it really thinned out. Everyone started chilling. It’s been really, really amazing. Fifth Harmony fans are kind of intimidating, so I was super nervous going into the tour. But, it’s been super cool having both of our fans getting along and hanging out at the shows. It’s been a cool tour.
At the beginning of the tour you said you didn’t really know the girls of Fifth Harmony quite as well, but have you gotten to know them better?
Yes, I have. They’re all so freaking sweet! Like, the sweetest girls I’ve ever met. It’s been really an honor to hang out with them and be in their presence.
You talked about how your fans were intermingling, how has it been, since you kind of came from the internet, and now you’re touring, and you have your original music now… so how has it been to see them react to your original music?
It’s been such a cool process only because I did so many tours. I did like, four tours before this one where all I was playing was cover music. which was fun. They were singing along and I got to go out and meet my fans. But, now being able to go out and play in front of two thousand, three thousand people and hear my original songs, all of which I wrote… So, it’s a great feeling to hear your own lyrics singing back to you.
Is there a particular song that they react to the most?
“Ohio” has gotten pretty big. They’ve been singing along to that one because it’s a personal song, but the hook is super catchy. So, it’s really cool.
How was the response to that song in Ohio? Because you were recently just there.
Best show ever, actually. It was the most incredible show I’ve ever had. We actually filmed for the music video, so the music video is going to be like all of the performance… and then the end of the music video is going to be me singing “Ohio, Ohio” and the last line is going to be fire.
Have you ever played Boston before?
I played Boston one time. I played at the… what’s the small room? I can’t remember what the room was called. But, it was incredible. It was actually one of my favorite shows. Boston fans are really chill and cool, and it was a really intimate setting so I sat down and played slow songs and everybody chilled. It was livestreamed. It was really, really cool.
So, talking about your relationship with fans, you do the “cereal squad” every show. Can you tell me about that?
The cereal squad is so fun! Before, what I was doing was everyone that bought an EP could meet me outside by the bus which got super hectic because everyone was buying EPs and there were like three hundred people by the bus. There was no time to really talk or take pictures because there were so many people and we were really rushed. So, I wanted to come up with a more intimate, personal idea. So, we came up with the cereal squad. After every show, five people come back stage and we just sit and eat cereal with no milk, because I never have milk because it always goes rotten in the bus. We chill and talk about our problems, how the show went, and it is just really cool to get to know the fans on a more personal level. Meet and greets can be so rushed sometimes because there are so many people, so it’s really cool to just sit down and talk with them like real people.
Where did your love of cereal come from? Because it’s on your EP cover, you sign boxes…
I don’t know! See, the EP cover was so random. I was doing a photoshoot in New York City and the photographer was super creative, and weird, and awesome, and we literally just took that picture and we were like, so cool! So, I was a pop tart guy growing up, I ate a ton of pop tarts. I probably ate like 15,000 pop tarts during my childhood which is actually disgusting.
What’s your favorite pop tart flavor?
Growing up it was always… I went through a chocolate chip phase. So, I like the chocolate chip ones. And then I went through a cookie dough phase, those were amazing! My sister and I went through a fudge phase, those were really nice. I went through so many pop tart phases, and then one day I was like, I will never eat a pop tart again. I am so sick of these. So gross, I ate one every day before and after school, like from when I was 7 to 12 years old.
There must be a thing with talented people and pop tarts, because Taylor Swift loves pop tarts too. She posted on Tumblr about it.
Maybe there’s some magic potions in them.
I should eat them.
So, your music is kind of eclectic. You always say it’s indie pop, singer-songwriter, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer… If you could pick a cereal that would describe what your music is like and why, what would it be?
Probably… I’m trying to think of, like, an indie cereal… I’m like the off brand, raisin bran, organic. I’m like the not popular cereal that’s organic and edgy.
But, becoming more popular?
Yeah. I’m not edgy at all. I’m so white.
I was thinking Honey Nut Cheerios. Because you’re becoming more popular, your music is sweet, good for your heart… and humble rhymes with bumble.
Damn, see that’s a better answer. I’m just gonna go with that answer.
Speaking of you being humble, you always talk about you try to stay humble… you’re becoming more and more popular, you have one and a half million followers on Twitter, your EP has over a million streams now on Spotify…
Really? I didn’t even know that. That’s amazing!
Yeah! I checked today. But, how do you stay humble? Especially on tour with all of these fans being obsessed?
It’s really easy, only because when I started, it wasn’t an overnight thing. It was nowhere near an overnight thing. It has taken me like a solid three years to get to where I am now. There were no steps skipped in that process. I started, before I started YouTube, I was playing music in my dad’s band in smoky restaurants and bars, and nasty, gross patios, for like four hours and twenty bucks. Like, a really shitty situation where no one cared about the music. They were just there to drink and have fun, and we were just kind of the background noise. So, coming from that and going to having fans that I’ve been talking to forever online… before I toured I was on Twitter and YouTube for, like, two years, so being able to have that relationship with them online and then going out and meeting them, it’s really easy. They keep me straight. Not only the fans, but my mom and sister keep me really humble. Anytime I get a big head, they squash me.
You’re also going on an international tour soon all around Europe. You must be excited for that.
I’m so excited, because I have a ton of fans over there that have been so incredibly patient. I know it must be super difficult being an international fan and living that far away from all that is going on in the States music wise. So, it’s really cool to be able to go over there and meet them and see them face to face. And I’m in love with all of the accents, so it’s going to be really incredible to go over there and explore.
For more information on Jacob Whitesides and to view upcoming tour dates, visit his website.