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Jesse McCartney reflects on 20 years of 'Beautiful Soul' ahead of new EP 'All’s Well'

The new EP, out April 5th, features the single 'Make A Baby' featuring Yung Gravy

Image credit: Jon Premosch @jonpremosch

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From performing with former boy band Dream Street, to creating hit singles like 'Beautiful Soul,' to appearing on screen in series like Summerland, and even lending his voice to a beloved video game franchise, Jesse McCartney is no stranger in the world of music and entertainment.

With over a decade in the industry, Jesse's journey as an artist has evolved, tapping into new takes on the pop genre. Now as we are approaching 20 years of the song that started it all, Jesse has new music to share with fans.

Popverse had the chance to chat with Jesse ahead of the release of his upcoming EP 'All's Well,' and tour starting April 12th.

Popverse: Can you discuss what fans can expect from the new EP and how it compares or differs from your previous music?

Jesse McCartney: From this album to the last, I wouldn't say that there's that much of a departure. These next four songs that are coming out in April are just sort of an extension from the 'New Stage' album, which I released in '21. .

Musically, it's to me a little bit even more interesting, in the sense that we recorded really everything live. I got back in the studio for the first time in a very, very long time and played a lot of these songs with live musicians and a rhythm section and live horns and basically played them the way that music used to be played in the studio. It occurred to me that we can do that after writing these songs and realizing that they had this sort of 70's overtone and thinking they would sound even better if we just played them live and with great musicians. I think that's what separates these from earlier songs.

It's just fun to do that, and it hasn't been done for so long in pop music, with the exception of Bruno Mars. I just haven't heard it done in a long time because of the modern technology. It was just like, 'Oh yeah, we can do this.' Like people can still make music live in a studio and it can sound great.

You've kind of already taken us behind the scenes a little bit, talking about incorporating live music in a studio, but is there anything else you can tell us about the behind the scenes making of the new EP?

In terms of the songwriting, I spent a lot of time working on the lyrics and as far as like the actual process goes, not much has changed. I mean, 'The Well,' which is a song on this record, was kind of one of those cliche moments. Not cliche, it's just like one of those things you hear about, but it actually did happen... I woke up out of a dream and had this idea for a song, and it just kind of flowed out of me.

I picked up my pen and paper at like 4 in the morning and just started writing down all these ideas I had, and it wasn't just ideas - it was a full-on poem that I had written down in like a 20 minute period, went back to sleep and woke up the next day thinking like, 'I know that I wrote something last night. It's probably going to be trash.' It was like this whole poem, and I read it to my wife. She's like, 'You wrote that last night?' I said, 'Yeah.' She's like, 'That's really good,' and also like, 'Are you okay?' Because there's like this heavy, heavy lyric that I had written.

That was a fun little sort of anecdotal story about behind the scenes, but for the most part, it was pretty much my normal routine where I write down different lyrical ideas or record different melodical voice notes and then bring them into the studio and try to develop them with writers and producers that I love.

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The EP will also include your upcoming single 'Make a Baby,' featuring Yung Gravy. Can you discuss how that collaboration came about and what that experience was like?

I had worked with Yung Gravy on a college show probably back in 2020, 2021. It was during the pandemic, and he and I met backstage and we totally hit it off. He had this really interesting delivery and style that I liked and connected with for the same reason I think a lot of people do. He's just a very original guy, and we became fast friends.

And after working with him, years went by and I was in the studio working on this song about starting a family. It was getting a little serious and heavy, so I wanted to lighten it up and make it more pop and out came this chorus for 'Make a Baby,' and I remember thinking like, "This would be such a Gravy kind of record."

We had talked about doing something together, so I texted him the song, and I said, 'Hey, I know we talked about maybe doing something together. I'm just throwing this out there. Like, what do you think of this chorus?' He wrote back immediately, 'This sounds like a smash. I love the hook. This is exactly what I need. I love this style. Like when can I work on it?' So he came back to L.A. I sent him all the tracks and all the files, and he basically put his verses down with his producer and we just kind of went back and forth for months until it was right.

Eventually we had to do all the promo and stuff for social media, which was hard and difficult because we have crazy schedules, but it was really worth it, and I think the song is just a really fun, playful, catchy song about making a baby.

It sounds like due to your schedules, you recorded this separately. Was there ever a time you were able to maybe come together in the studio, both of you [and Yung Gravy], to collaborate on it?

Yeah, we had one moment where [laughs] I love Matt. His name's Matt, but Gravy, I guess we call him, right? He's definitely in a different place in his life. I remember he called me and he's like, 'Hey, bro, I just got home. You want to try and work on this record?' It was like 10:30 at night, and I'm not even kidding, I was in a bath, like taking a bath, like on a Tuesday, and he calls me. He's like, 'Hey, man, we're just having drinks and hanging out at the studio.' And I can tell in the background it was getting rowdy, but I told my wife, 'I got to go to the studio right now.' She's like, 'What? We have a flight tomorrow morning.' I was like, 'I know, but I know if I don't go over there now, I don't know that this project's going to get finished.'

So I'm putting on my clothes and heading over to his place. Meanwhile, I was wiping bubbles out of my hair, and walking into a studio with a bunch of 20 year old kids who are partying and having a great time.

Ultimately, it was good that I went because we did end up carving out what we wanted his verses to be about, the story, how he wants to be. Is he going to talk about loving having a family? Is he going to be apprehensive about having a baby? What is his point of view going to be versus what is mine? We ended up carving that out and spent a few hours just workshopping that, and then eventually he did just write his verses on his own.

We did end up having a few hours together in the studio, which was really nice and also just connected us a little bit more and got him, I think, more invested into the track. But it was one of those things where I just was not prepared to walk into the studio at 11 at night on a Tuesday. Those days are way over for me.

2024 marks the 20th anniversary of 'Beautiful Soul.' Can you take us back to how that experience was for you? Working on that single, and in larger part, that was also your debut album and how that whole experience impacted you.

I was this kid growing up in New York, came out to Los Angeles to work on a television show, simultaneously signed a record deal. I recorded that song back in New York. It was recorded for over a year before it even saw the light of day. It was released like on the Disney radio. It got a lot of traction and all of a sudden these people in Hollywood were calling us and saying, "Hey, we want to sign you." They signed us. The song blew up, and all of a sudden I was traveling the world and thrown into this like different level of notoriety and fame.

It was amazing. It was like everything I had dreamed of as a kid, wanting to be in the arts and wanting to be a musician or a singer. I mean the idea that it would have such a lasting impact - like Gravy's audience, for instance, I went and did a show with him, and he pulled me onstage to sing 'Beautiful Soul,' and like kids that are like 17, 18, 19 years old are now singing that song. Lyric for lyric, word for word.

It's definitely become this sort of nostalgic record for me and my fans. It's gotten another set of legs and has been able to sort of cross over into the next generation, and I think that's really incredible, and so rare for pop songs to be able to do. The fact that I have had one of those songs is pretty special and something I'll be able to talk about the rest of my life.

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I wanted to ask you about some of your voiceover work. Kingdom Hearts 3 came out a few years ago in 2019, and you return as the voice of Roxas. What was it like returning to that franchise, considering, the previous game [Kingdom Hearts 2] came out way back in 2005, and now, the game has grown, the fan base has grown, and the video game industry as a whole has even gotten larger?

I mean, obviously it's grown enormously since then. At the time, if I'm being honest, the first one I did was just another voiceover job where - that's what I did. That's how I make a living, and then when I saw what it was becoming. I was like, 'Oh wow, this is an important thing for a lot of people.' I started getting more and more into it.

Now it's just insane what it's become. I have people showing up to my concerts now that don't know my music. They're simply Kingdom Hearts fans, with their Kingdom Hearts outfits on. They have all their air gear, their key[blades]. It's just wild. I mean, it's just exciting to be a part of it and to have been on that journey. I hope they make another one. I have no idea if they're going to. They never tell us. Yeah, it's just another thing in my career that took on a life of its own, and I'm just along for the ride.

You did get to voice multiple characters in Kingdom Hearts. Who did you feel was more fun to record? Roxas's lines or Ventus's lines?

Are you a Kingdom Hearts fan yourself?

Yup!

I mean, I still love Roxas in general. I just think like that's where it all started. For me, it was the beginning of it all. I think also it was just such a fun experience. It was my first time translating from Japanese to English and learning that whole process. And I remember doing it the most with Roxas. That experience is how he shaped his personality. I think I just connect with him the most.

To learn more about Jesse McCartney, visit https://www.jessemccartney.com


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Veronica Valencia avatar

Veronica Valencia

Popverse video producer

Veronica Valencia is a Popverse video producer. She has written for Crunchyroll, hosted the Anime Expo live stream, managed the English dub of Neon Genesis Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time, and appeared on Maria Menounos’s Afterbuzz TV, where she hosted and produced multiple after-show discussion panels.
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