DIY Strategy: Jacob Whitesides Goes His Own Way

If you don’t remember Jacob Whitesides from his appearance on TV’s The X Factor, don’t feel bad.
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If you don’t remember Jacob Whitesides from his appearance on TV’s The X Factor, don’t feel bad.

“I didn’t make it very far on the show,” says the guitarist and singer/ songwriter, “but I had friends who went on to sign big record deals and lose all control of their careers and creativity. That was a huge red flag to me at an early age.”

This realization led Whitesides, as a teenager, to turn down major label offers and start his own label (Double U Records). The results can be heard on his as yet unnamed full-length debut, as well as in concert on his current Lovesick tour.

What was the songwriting process for this record?

I toured Europe for the first time prior to this album, and I was going through a lot, and missing my family. I didn’t have a lot of time to write songs, but I journaled for the first time ever, writing down the things I was going through. Once the tour ended, I hung out with my producer and cowriter, Dave Spencer. We talked about the vision for the record, which was to take my early inspirations—the James Taylor/John Mayer singer-songwriter stuff—and mix it with some newer pop influences. Then, Mark Pellizzer and Alex Tanas from the band Magic, sent over their demo for “Lovesick,” and we fell in love with it. We went to Nashville to cut the song, and that helped guide the rest of the album. From there, the ideas flowed effortlessly.

You did an EP of cover tunes a couple of years ago. Was it scary making the transition from doing other people’s tunes to recording your own stuff?

Definitely. I’ve seen a lot of YouTube-ers that really didn’t know how to make that transition. They were doing covers, and then they would sign a deal, and the record company would tell them exactly what they needed to sound like in order to sell records. That was one of my biggest fears. I wanted to be able to establish myself as an artist and get my songwriting down first. The most nerve-wracking part of doing original material was being in writing sessions with multiple people. I had never done that before, but now I love being in a room where everyone is bouncing ideas off each other.

What advice do you have for beginning songwriters who are struggling to find their own voice?

Consistency was really important for me early on. I was writing almost every single day. Another thing is, although I love writing sessions with others, every once in a while, I need to sit down by myself to find inspiration. Walking into another room to get some space can help you come up with ideas. The other big thing was finding co-writers that I was 100 percent comfortable with. All of the people that I write with are my best friends. I think that’s crucial when it comes time to open up about big things.