What can't JASPER do?
The self-taught producer and songwriter just dropped his first single, "Redefined," on Trans Day of Visibility. The song is an ode to queer people's rage and capacity for change, in a time when so much feels uncertain and out of our control. Besides that, it's also incredibly catchy.
Born in the small Irish Catholic town of Pearl River, Jasper launched Peace & Power, a clothing brand featuring shirts and jeans emblazoned with the question: "DYKES ONLY. Men... who needs 'em?" He tapped into fashion design when he began his transition, which became a vehicle for self-expression for his fully realized self. "There was not a single top I felt good in until after I got top surgery," he tells PAPER. "So you can probably imagine how when I started feeling good in clothes for the first time it was like, 'Woah! Wait a minute!'"
During the pandemic, Jasper told himself, "I have all this time now," and got to work on crafting how he always wanted his music to sound: "I'm gonna sit in this chair until something doesn't sound like shit." Soon, he moved to LA, where he began collaborating with other artists and "quickly fell in love with producing for people with similar stories."
Below, read PAPER's interview with JASPER below and check out the exclusive premiere of his first single, "Redefined."
Congrats on the new single! How does it feel to have your first track out, officially?
I feel like it’s a moment in my life I’ve been waiting on for so many years. This whole thing happened pretty fast actually. I thought everything I did just sucked or something. But then I showed my now-manager "Redefined" and didn't think much of it. They just went, “You have to release this on Trans Day of Visibility." They helped me get everything together and now the beginning of February feels like a different life. I’ve been looking for this first single for years.
I just never thought anything was good enough. I’ve been way too precious about my music and you can only ever really say that in hindsight. I haven't released anything since before I transitioned when I was a kid, so it’s my first step into the industry and my artistry as my real self. It’s huge! I honestly couldn’t be more proud of the song.
I hear you're self-taught as a music producer — how’d you get your start?
During the pandemic, I decided like... I've always known exactly how I want my music to sound and I have all this time now. I’m gonna sit in this chair until something doesn’t sound like shit. Which ended up being really clutch timing because I had just started hormones and producing my own voice became essential to me not just cleanly giving up on myself after my voice started to become really hard to sing with. It was just tight all the time and my confidence really plummeted. I wondered how I would ever be who I wanted to be since I couldn’t sing how I used to. I think that’s why I started producing. Once I got to LA and started working with other artists, I quickly fell in love with producing for people with similar stories to mine. Now it’s like I can’t imagine not being a producer.
The shared personal histories of trans people who grow up in hateful places, and the anger they can foster in us, feel potent in a time like this. What experiences did you tap into while penning “Redefined?"
I really was sitting with all this anger from growing up in a town, like so many of us came from, where we didn’t seem to really fit in with anyone. Feeling so misunderstood, you just start to feel angry at everyone, and then you finally find that one queer person that you can share everything with and for the first time life feels not so heavy. It’s half a love song to everyone who has been that for me and half a love song to the community in general.
As queer people, we’re all in some way taught that we’re not good enough. And we have to then spend a huge portion of our lives “redefining” who we are to ourselves. Even if we had accepting parents, the culture is still so hostile to us that we have that shared trauma together, even if it’s not from our own homes. In a time like this, accepting ourselves and finding joy in who we are is completely revolutionary. It’s survival, especially in a small town. The song is, over everything, an expression of queer joy.
The heart of the song, to me, is the bridge. “I wanna drive with you right through the south screaming out 'come on try to hurt me now.' The song is about not letting anger consume you. Not letting anger rot us from the inside out and weigh us down every day of our lives. It’s a reminder that our biggest strength is staying soft. Being tender. And finding a rage that wants to empower, push forward and build, not devastate. The only way to get through to all of these people building these spaces to keep us out, I think, is by leading with the heart.
One of my favorite lines from the song is: “I’m finding out that God’s a pretty shitty excuse for saying anything you want.” Did religion play a big role in your life growing up?
I grew up in a very Irish Catholic town called Pearl River. My parents really weren't religious but it’s hard when it’s all around you. If they were religious, it was more out of being scared to not be than actual belief in all of it. I mean, eternal damnation is some don’t-mess-with-it type of business. I find myself writing so much about religion, less because of how I grew up and more because of how people use something that is so loving and benevolent, something that’s supposed to connect us all, to be so full of shit. There’s barely a place on earth some sort of anti-LGBT religious ideology hasn’t touched. I think a person's idea of what they think god is and what god wants is most closely going to embody who they are and what they want. And they’re gonna hide behind religion to say it.
You also have a clothing line, Peace & Power, which has been worn by the likes of Halsey. Were you always interested in fashion?
Looking back, yes. But I’d never thought about fashion for the first 20-plus years of my life! I only really tapped into this love for it, which I guess had been there the whole time, when I started my transition. Which was only about three years ago. It was like when you figure out you’re gay or trans or something and you look back and go, Oh wow, how did I not see that one? I think it took me so long to figure out because fashion, to me, is this relationship with yourself of adorning your body, and I barely even liked looking in the mirror.
There was not a single top I felt good in until after I got top surgery. So you can probably imagine how when I started feeling good in clothes for the first time it was like, “Woah! Wait a minute!” Especially after I started hormones and my face started changing, I started recognizing myself for the first time. I found my style for the first time, instead of just covering up and wearing things only to hide what I didn’t like. All of the clothes I had worn as a "girl" that didn’t quite feel right on me all of a sudden felt so right after transitioning! Like skirts and even makeup! I finally got to wear things the way I wanted. Fashion is a love I’ve always had but never got to explore until I went on hormones.
What’s next for you?
That's a crazy question to hear because five weeks ago I had absolutely no plans to release... and now I’m doing an interview with PAPER. I couldn't possibly imagine what’s next! These past weeks have been the craziest weeks of my life between promo and keeping up with the shop. I just hope people love the song and find it cathartic, and that if I ever get to play it live for a bunch of people it feels like gay church. My hope for this song is that some kid in a little town in Alabama can hear this through their headphones and feel so so enamored with whoever they are and so, so tearfully happy to be queer.
Photography by Ren Shelburne
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