Interview: Jesse Boykins III Talks ‘Love Apparatus’, World Soul And Working With Machinedrum


Since making his musical debut in 2008, Jesse Boykins III has captivated the hearts and minds of music lovers worldwide. His unique blend of soulful vocals laid over uptempo rhythms are what make his sound not only distinctive, but also timeless. The Chicago-born crooner’s latest work Love Apparatus is no exception. Teaming with famed electronic producer Machinedrum, Jesse has put together a collection of songs that are a true reflection of his creative freedom, love for love, and love of life. We sat down with JB III in New York City to learn more about the man behind the romantic movement. —Kai Miller

“It was pretty strict coming up. I always had to do homework, read and maintain my grade levels to be above average and be creative as well. I took a lot of classes in dance and I was very active when I was younger. All my cousins did music, either some form of dance, singing or playing an instrument. So, music and expression was always in my life. I sang in church, was in chorus in middle and high school. I was in a couple singing groups when I was coming up.”

“It’s a term that I coined. I’ve been a lot of places in the world and I’ve taken influences from different genres and cultures of music. I put ‘world’ in front of ‘soul’ because when I say soul music I mean making music from the heart, anything that’s the truth. Adele is soul music, Ellie Goulding is soul music, the Weeknd is soul music. It doesn’t matter [where the artist is from] as long as it’s from the heart and has some sort of emotional evoking content.”

“Love is life. People always think of love as a fairytale or ‘happily ever after.’ But love is like challenging people. It’s hard work. It’s putting people to the test and maintaining that support. Love is when you’re mad at somebody and you need to get over it but you don’t know how to because you love them, because you care. I feel like once you care about anything there’s some degree of love involved. That’s why I say love is in everything. It doesn’t really matter the degree of emotion. Love is the reason why you have an issue with it. Love is life.”

“‘Schwaza’ means to acknowledge an amazing moment, to be appreciative of the present. I find people are always on their phones, and no one’s actually thinking, ‘Wow. I’m here. I’m alive. I should be appreciative of this moment right here.’ So, I always say ‘schwaza’ to remind myself to be present and to be in it, to be involved.”

“I finished the album around 2010. We just didn’t finish mixing it until 2013, and in that process we did two extra songs. Everything else we had recorded already in 2009, 2010. It was just about getting with Machinedrum, who produced most of the album with me and us actually coming to agreement sonically about each song, whether he thought it was done. Cause we used to live in Brooklyn together and then he moved to Berlin in 2010 and that kind of messed up our process. And he was touring and I was touring. He was in the States and I was in Europe. It was just not working out as far as timing goes. We stayed patient and kept on believing in the music and made sure that it was polished when we got ready to finalize everything. So, it took about four, five years.”

“After I put out The Beauty Created, I did a lot of soul searching and traveling, tried a lot of new experiences. I tried to discover things more so than just being comfortable with my environment. I did a lot of freeing of myself, things that I was fearful of in this process of creating Love Apparatus, i.e. shooting a documentary and asking women questions men would never ask women. In doing that I became more free in my songwriting, fearless in what people would think if I expressed myself in a certain way, or if it was too poetic or not poetic enough. There were no boundaries as far as my creativity goes—that’s what I would like to continue with my creative freedom.”