Jerry Paper On His Growth and Creative Process
Los Angeles-based artist Jerry Paper (real name Lucas Nathan) released his first album on Stones Throw Records, Like a Baby, in October. It is a further crystallization of the persona he has crafted over the better part of the past decade. His bright music hits hard when weighed against the sometimes existential and morose content of his lyrics.
Recently featured on Tyler, the Creator’s EP, Music Inspired by Illumination & Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, Nathan spoke to TIDAL on the evolution of the Jerry Paper persona, growing through limitation and more.
How do you feel about the Jerry Paper persona and project just about six years removed from your initial release?
I feel lucky that I started doing this when I was younger. I don’t think I really understood at the time what it meant to take on a persona. When I first started doing it and performing, I think it came from a place of fear and uncomfortability with putting out music as the raw me. I was trying to take who I think I am and present it to the world without being too tied to it. Everyone has their own sense of perception towards the project, but I am happy it landed in a place where I can be like, “Okay, that’s Jerry and I’m Lucas.”
It seems like on each Jerry Paper project, there is a palette of sound unique to that album. Is that an intentional move?
I think it’s equal parts available resources and my intent going in to the album. I think a key part to framing life is going with limitations and understanding that this is me, and I’m doing what I can with what I have. I tend to figure out as I go along when I record an album. Through those limitations, I feel I can be more creative, and I learn it from it as well. I think, throughout the years, I learned how to layer and record myself a little better each time. I think, with the help of friends and the label [Stones Throw], I can push the music to be something a little bigger than me. I learned how to bring more people in and help take the music somewhere else.
What inspires you to wear silk robes and dress up on stage? Is that informed by what you see the Jerry Paper project as?
When I first started playing live, I always had a safety blanket with me. I would have always wear a purple Hawaiian lei. I needed to find a way to differentiate Jerry and feel comfortable on stage performing. The dancing then entered as another mechanism to make me feel comfortable. Then, I needed comfortable clothes to dress in. Ultimately, it’s a ceremony of transforming to free myself and literally giving my legs room to move.
Now, I wear simple dresses to feel free on stage because I feel the better I feel on stage, the easier it is to feel an out of body, cathartic experience. I always want the audience to be able to get to my level. It doesn’t always happen.
I think one of the more engaging parts of your music are these really pleasant, pop-leaning sounds against these heady sort of thoughts about existence that follows Jerry’s worldview. Were there any formative experiences that shaped how you wanted to speak about life in this project?
I think my therapist could probably tell you (laughs). If I thought about songs like “So Fresh, So Clean” by OutKast, it shaped my love of quirky songs. I think the music comes across that way because that’s how I just experience the world. I like the enjoy the pleasures of being alive, while also considering the anxieties about being a person in the world today. I think about it in an intense way; the joy and the pain of being a person, so that kind of drives me to create the way I do.
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