Lee Jean Jr. had a whirlwind start in the music business at age 15, when he auditioned for American Idol. Not only did he make it to Hollywood, the Raeford, North Carolina-based musician made it all the way to top 8. “Looking back on it, I don’t feel I was really ready. I wasn’t sure of my musical identity and how I wanted to go about my career,” he says, though he does acknowledge the benefits of such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Since then, he has been working on finding his own voice and point of view as a songwriter. “As of now, I am focusing on my own music and trying to establish myself as an independent artist,” he says. “And here I am.”
We asked Lee Jean Jr. some questions to learn more about his songwriting process and his artistic vision.
I get these random bursts of musical inspiration, and I go straight to my guitar and voice record as much of it as I can metaphorically vomit out before I tap out. It’s a very figurative vomit-based experience. Then I take that rough idea of a song, and, over time, I nitpick and polish until I come out with something that I love.
I can draw inspiration from pretty much anywhere because I listen to so many different kinds of music. With that being said, I have a lot of musical role models because of it. I look up to people like SRV and Hendrix and John Mayer, as well as people like Billie Marten, Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard. Marcus King, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kurt Cobain obviously, Dave Grohl, Greta Van Fleet, Fleetwood Mac, Hippocampus, Young in the City, Led Zeppelin, Coldplay. I could go on for hours naming musical entities that I look up to for so many reasons.
I’ve never thought that I was a good songwriter. That’s the main reason that I hadn’t really gotten into it until these past couple of years. I’ve always thought that my music was juvenile and that no one would ever like it because it was just plain bad. Over these past couple of years, I’ve been getting a lot more comfortable with my songwriting, but it’s still something that I’m very self conscious about. Being picked as a finalist for this competition is more redeeming than anything. It’s definitely given me a lot more confidence in my songwriting ability.
I write and produce all my music by myself in my bedroom, and I’ve taught myself everything I know, with the help of YouTube, so they are all quite literally my brain babies. Although some songs are based off of my real life, others are just hypothetical situations that I have gone through in a way or can relate to. These are all very close to my heart and a direct product of who I am.