Jack Littman is one artist we expect you will be hearing a whole lot about in the very near future.
Littman, a Los Angeles native, is not your typical singer-songwriter. What separates him from the other artists out there is that he brings the biggest social issues to the forefront. Whether it is the LGBT movement or the many issues of the prison system, Littman uses his brilliant songs to raise awareness on a wide variety of problems facing humanity today.
Recently, The Hot Zone was luckily enough to speak with Littman for an exclusive interview, where he discussed his family’s long history in music, his new EP and what he has in store for his fans in the very near future.
THZ: How did you get your start in music? When was it that you first realized you wanted to be a musician?
JL: I watched my father play piano when I was a little kid. He played me some of these songs he’d written. He used to sing me to sleep, these spiritual songs, like “Amazing Grace.” My dad had a real slow, soothing voice, like a baritone.
Then I found out that my dad’s grandfather was a famous lyricist back in the day, who wrote songs like “It’s a Hap-Hap-Happy Day.” In the ‘30s, it was a big deal. The story of my family grew in my mind that music was a part of our history. When I was about 13, I picked up a guitar, and I just started writing music then.
THZ: Who were some of your favorite artists growing up? Which artists inspire you today?
JL: Growing up it was folk. It was Neil Young, Tom Petty. I loved Bob Marley. I loved reggae when I was growing up. Now, more of my influences come from—I love the production of Kanye West’s new record, I love Kendrick Lamar’s stuff. Those are the kinds of influences that I pull from. The sampling that they do of the old soul records is still something that feels so immediate today. That’s kind of what I’m trying to get at nowadays.
THZ: In your music, you draw inspiration from the many social issues facing or that have faced humanity, such as your song “Stonewall” about the Stonewall riots at the New York bar of the same name. In a lot of mainstream music, these problems are not addressed. What made you want to sing about these issues in your music?
JL: [I sing about them, because] they’re not addressed. In popular music, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be. These things are being addressed in the real world all the time and in the political sphere, so it seems only natural that [they are addressed] in music. I really want to try to take the forefront and try to influence others to tell these kinds of stories that are important.
Also, in the folk traditions of the past, you had people on cars singing to workers in communities, and I love that. This generation, they’re not aware of that history. I want to be aware of that history. I want to share that love.
THZ: You have a new EP coming out soon called the ad.dress. What social issues did you draw inspiration from in the new songs?
JL: One of the songs is called “Judgement Street,” and it’s about wrongful convictions. With the documentary Making a Murderer and, of course, the judicial system has gotten a bad rap lately. That’s one of the most important things I wanted to be socially conscious about for this record.
But, “Stonewall” as well. The reason I wrote it is because I wrote about this transgender activist named Marsha P. Johnson, who was black as well, and so in the black community back then, she was fighting against her own prejudices in her own community and the community of the police fighting transgender people and not allowing them to even exist. I wanted to write about that forgotten history. Of course, the [shooting] at Pulse only brings the events at Stonewall closer to the forefront nowadays. It’s just tragic that these stories keep coming up. I wanted this EP to battle those issues and be a space where people can feel like it’s not a topic that can’t be addressed.
THZ: How is the new EP different from your previous music?
JL: I’ve been reaching out more, and I have been lucky enough to partner with The Children’s Lifesaving Foundation or CLF. This is a wonderful organization dedicated to helping homeless and at risk children and families in Los Angeles. I first developed my love for performance in after school programs that mirror the work CLF does! The kids of this organization are going to be creating the album cover for this EP, and that’s an example of something I’ve never done before. That’s just to illustrate that this is the first time where I’m really coming out with something that is the work of a lot of years of storytelling and really honing these songs.
The most different thing to me is that a percentage of the proceeds from the album sales on iTunes will be donated to CLF. It feels great to be able to give back and support CLF. I’m really proud of the record, more proud than I ever have been.
THZ: Is there anything else you’d like to mention about your new EP?
JL: Every song on the record, because it’s called the ad.dress and the address is a double entendre. On one side, it’s like me addressing a crowd, maybe being the role of a preacher. On the other side, every song is a location. “Judgement Street” is a prison cell, “Stonewall” is the Stonewall Inn. There’s also this song called “Home,” and it’s inspired by how people in comas can be triggered to actually come out of them by hearing certain familiar sounds. It’s kind of the magic of music. Every song has a story to tell and a location with it.
THZ: You recently performed at the legendary Genghis Cohen venue, and many notable tastemakers covered the show. What was it like performing there and to have those prominent names there?
JL: I’m still riding the high! It was a really fun show, and it feels like I just stepped off stage. It was really cool. I felt really honored to be in the presence of people like that. Producer Bob Robinson of Tim & Bob was there. He produced Boyz II Men, The Isley Brothers, Earth, Wind & Fire. He’s worked with Prince, who is one of my biggest idols musically. I’m feeling so honored that I could play my songs in a space like that. It’s such an intimate venue, too, so it was really fun.
THZ: What do you hope to achieve with your new EP and any other music you release?
JL: I want people to be more socially conscious. I want people to open their hearts more, so I would hope that this music acts as something that people can use to stand on to maybe speak more about these topics that really matter.
Being a socially conscious artist, it is great to know that I am in line with what Quest Love had to say about the artist of today. He wanted more artists to be more socially conscious in their work.
THZ: What is next for you? Will you be taking your new music on the road? Is there anything else you would like to tell your fans?
JL: The album is coming out September 21st. I can’t wait for people to see the album cover that the children have created. I’m going to be playing more shows. I’ve got a show coming up on September 15th at USC. I’m just going to be playing more in L.A., spreading the message.
Fans can follow Littman on his social media pages, which are listed below:
Littman’s new EP, the ad.dress, will be available for purchase on Wednesday, Sep. 21, 2016 on iTunes.