Where are you currently based and what is the music scene like there?
I am currently based in Brooklyn, New York. The music scene here is the best, every type of music exists in this borough, luckily for me if there is something I can’t find it is a short ride to Manhattan to see whatever artist is in town. However the artist I love to see the most are the other indie artist in New York, some of my favorites right now are Kathryn Allison, Deonte Warren, Janelle McDermoth and Cassondra James.
How did you first start playing music?
I, like many black singers and writers started in church. My Grandmother is a professional gospel singer and writer; I remember sitting at her piano, which at the that time was in her second living room. That living room no one was allowed in, it was a special room, frozen in beauty. Silk curtains perfectly separated to highlight the hill on which her home was built. The shadows from the trees gentle caressing the ancient authentic cultural rugs. Glass bookshelves that held awards, and pieces of art, all so intricate and beautiful, yet fragile and in need of protection.
A room of more records than my young mind could truly comprehend, and a treadmill hidden to give illusion and lesson of effortless beauty and a work ethic that was being done to create results; not to be seen. A gramophone sits proudly in the corner beneath a house tree of some sort. Around it and around the piano sat books so many books, in scribbles I didn’t comprehend, that I now know to have been Italian Aria Books and binders filled to the brim with Musical Theater songs, Gospel Hymnal Books and song books of Patti Labelle and Gladys Knight.
I knew that somehow this all connected to the beautiful wooden box of white and black buttons in front of me. I felt that somehow, the bigger picture, what I now call the realm of access, was in that wooden box. I didn’t know what to do, or how to do it, but I knew I was in the presence of something infinite and divine. Slowly but steadily in this room, separate from family dinners, the boys playing in the yard, and adults playing spades, is where I learned what music was, and how it could be an escape to something that just felt like breathing for the very first time, every time.
What’s been happening recently?
In my life?!? Well so much, I am fortunate enough to be drowning in art right now. The muses continue to bring me inspiration and fire and light. I have been designing clothes, writing TV shows and Films. Working at a job with people I love and where I get to be creative everyday in different capacities. No love yet, but I hear that comes in time, I am hopeful for it. Plenty of sex, but in New York that is as easy to find as decent coffee. Oh yes, so so so much coffee, cold brew is amazing.
I have been reading a lot recently about the people who have inspired the people who inspired me. Doing that daily grind that begins to feel like home when you are an artist in New York. Also planning my 25 birthday party, it isn’t till November but I am extra so I have start getting ready now.
You’ve released ‘Becoming’ your new EP, what influenced the sound and songwriting for this EP?
This EP is the result of growing up as a black, gay, fat man, with a high voice, in a religious, separated, black family in America. Every musical, lyrical and sonic aspect of this EP is a reflection of the experience of growing into myself. For better or worse I had to deal with a lot of heavier concepts growing up; the idea of queerness, blackness, fatness, otherness. These different layers of simultaneous struggle and release were the goal in terms of the arrangements of my music.
Lyrically I wanted to offer up the sticky chorus and hooks, but also I wanted the versus to be story oriented. The songs each needed to feel like a story and each needed to feel different because they are centered around different chapters of my development. The realization of who I could be if I was authentic, the rejection of what I was being told I had to be. The celebration of the parts of me I was made to believe were bad. The need to revisit the foundation of myself, and get in touch with my spirituality, sexuality and the simple reality of being Juwan but in a positive light.
Lastly the confluence of the two versions of me who had come to be. The Authentic me and The Acceptable me. The goal was to reflect that sense of journey. The game of lost and found, in very lush and full arrangements and a sonic world that feels like swimming, but almost drowning, however always with that clear, bright inner voice I was lucky enough to be born with, lose and find again, proudly and forwardly guiding the listener through the journey of my self realization.
How did you go about writing the music?
I was fortunate to work with Dominic Fallacaro both as a Co-Writer and Producer. We wrote 7 songs total, our process for each song was different. I have this thing I think all creators have, but we call it by different names. I call it gaining access, which for me is when you get to touch that eternal space.
When you get to peak into that other worldly place of everything. Sometimes Dom would send me a track and it would trigger that connection and the lyrics and melody would flow out, entire songs in maybe 2-3 minutes. All from a 30 second or minute long demo track, that seems to, from the beginning of time, have been meant to cradle that melody and lyrics.
Those songs on the EP for me where I Am That I Am and I.D.C.4.U. The songs were written in under 5 minutes, melody, lyrics structure. Some songs we toiled over, Extra and Revival were written the same day, but Extra started out as a political song about the capitalization and rejection of gay culture, but turned into Extra. Revival happened because one of us, I forget who now, but one of us misheard the other, and thought we said Revival then boom.
Who I Are, was the most painful and freeing to write. It is the story book of my journey from realizing I was gay when I was young enough to have a Pink Razor flip phone, and growing into the man I am now. That song was a combination of the access experience and the laboring over hours and hours of changes and tweaks.
Where and when did you record/produce and who did you work with?
We recorded these songs at The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn. I had the dopest team, obviously Dom, but also Nolan Thies was my engineer who made the impossible happen over and over again. Dom and I were introduced to each other on January 10th, 2018 by the dopest of dope people Bill Sherman. We met up to write the songs for a few months and started recording July 16th of 2018. I worked with the highest order of musicians and technicians, far too many to name right now but they are all listed on my website!
What does this EP mean/represent you and what stories does it tell?
This EP for me represents the triumph of the authentic self we all can have. It represents the beauty that comes when you dare to be who you are instead of who you should be. It is my way of honoring all of the people who inspired me to be free, and my reminder to not retreat back into what is comfortable for people around me, or honestly what is still more comfortable for myself at times.
Hopefully it tells the story of what many queer people of color are experiencing, both in terms of the uncomfortable pressure of our existence but also in terms of what lies on the other side of that pressure, the blossoming. The story I know it tells is the singular story of Juwan Crawley, the fat, gay, black boy with the particular voice who found his light in the darkest parts of himself.
What do you have planned for Becoming?
I would love to tour the world opening for a major artist, write my full album, and continue to tell new stories of new experiences and create new art. I am doing a concert in New York at City Winery, July 15th. There are so many things, the dreams don’t end, they expand.
What did you find most rewarding and challenging through the process of creating this EP?
The most rewarding part of creating this EP was finally getting to share my perspective and my thoughts and experience. As an Actor for the past three years I have been telling someone else’s story. Using my abilities to give life to someone else’s narrative. I am lucky in that I have been able to that on Netflix, Broadway, and Off-Broadway, but the most artistically rewarding work I have done as an artist so far has certainly been getting to share my voice and perspective the way I want.
Being able to tell the stories I want to tell, and that for me is this EP. The most challenging thing about this process has been being a 23/24 year old heading a project of this magnitude with people who have already accomplished so many of my dreams. Being an actor has trained me to always be the person going to people and asking, “Is this what you want?”, “How should I change this?”; and all of a sudden, a room full of people I look up to are turning to me and going, “Hey Juwan, is this what you want?”, “How should I change this?”. That was a mind fuck, and a different level of freedom and responsibility.
Being the guy, being the creative source of the thing everyone is lending their talents to create, upholding that vision, saying no and yes, and knowing when to ask for help, and also knowing when to ignore advice from people you look up to, and to follow your gut. That at first was certainly a shock, but once it settled I really loved the freedom and the amount of dedication and responsibility it took to be the person holding up the dream. I want to do that all the time. Hold up the dreams.
Where can we Buy/Listen to Becoming?
You can listen to it on all the major free and purchasing platforms!! Spotify, Itunes, Youtube, Deezer you know the works! Also you can come to the concert July 15th and check it out live.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
In this very moment I am listening to the Score from Life of Pi, I know I am a nerd. Artist I am currently obsessing over include, Jeremy Dutcher, Laura Mvula, Beyonce cause duh, Georgia Anne Muddrow, Anthony and The Johnsons, Lizzo, J. Hasan & Anderson Paak, as well as the local artist I listed earlier.
What do you like to do away from music?
I love to drink coffee, travel, design clothes, poetry, I am currently writing and scoring two TV concepts, as well as an indie film. I really love to wonder around with my headphones on and get lost, I know, kinda weird but it keeps everything refreshing and new. Love a good House of Yes trip as well!
Any secrets that you care to share?
I am both proud and ashamed to say that many peoples favorite lyric from Extra is not my own. When I was learning the choreography for the Broadway show I am currently in my dance captain taught me a section, and I went home and I practiced but I got in my head during our next rehearsal. In other words I was a hot ass mess, my feet weren’t working with my hands because I had tricked myself into believing I was only a singer and actor, but certainly not a dancer.
She gave me permission to be more than what I have given myself permission to be. We ran it over and over again, and she yelled over the piano “FULL OUT, NO MARKING, YOU BETTER DANCE!!!” I nearly broke out laughing because she was right, I just had to give myself permission to do it. It has kinda become my mantra, anytime I doubt myself. I can hear her voice, FULL OUT JUWAN. So thank you for the life lesson Mrs. Ariel Reid, and a lyric line that will echo down the generations.
What’s planned for the remainder of 2019?
I don’t know how many times I can mention my concert, but yes, my concert is July 15th, at City Winery, I plan to launch my fashion line in the fall of this year, as well as get at least one of my TV Concepts up to pilot. I will be part of a concert series at National Sawdust in October. Art aside it would be lovely to fall in love, so if you are reading this and would be compatible with a double Scorpio with a Gemini moon hit me up! I’m kidding; but also maybe not… you know where the DM’s are.
Favourite food and place to hang out?
My favorite place to be in New York is on the patio of the Dumbo House, with some turmeric fried cauliflower and a glass of Pinot Noir.