Growing up making beats while most kids made paper airplanes and learning banjo while listening to rap, Nashville’s Ernest K. has always bent the rules and eschewed the predictable. Continuing his streak of unpredictability, K. has released a series of singles leading up to his debut album, released via Big Loud/Human Re Sources/Tree Vibez, a label partnership between Brian Kelly and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, and legendary music mogul J Erving (Nelly, Jeremih).
K. was adopted at three weeks old and the victim of a freak heart attack at age 19. He also overcame a battle with addiction while in college. Ernest K. embraces surmounting, ridiculous odds as a gift, not a curse. Bold, brave and daring, Ernest K’s sound is a diary of his experiences, mingling tropical beats from the year he spent writing on the island of St. Thomas with his southern roots. His verses fuse the effortlessness of Eminem’s wordplay, the complex cadences of Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper, and an enterprising pop spirit into something thoroughly unique and infectious. And while his songs may be danceable, there’s always a story resting beneath the surface.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with K. to discuss his infectious optimism despite the odds, his lofty goals and God’s plan.
You realized pretty early on in life that you had an affinity/aptitude for music, right?
Yes. As long as I can remember I’ve been having melodies in my head, singing harmonies to anything and making up songs.”
You’ve had to deal with some pretty heavy shit during the course of your life. Do you find that you are more of an optimist or pessimist as a result of your experiences?
Ha! This answer can vary, depending on the day. Over all I would say I’m an optimist though. I try to always see things from 30,000 feet and keep the bigger picture/long run in mind… but I’ll admit, some days I can find myself in a “Fuck this, fuck that, fuck the industry and fuck YOU” mood [laughter]. But I have lived through a couple of “shoulda died” moments and didn’t. I’ve had odds stacked against me and beat them. I’m here for a reason and I try to always keep that in mind.
How does your time in the tropics and the south influence the sounds that your produce?
I grew up on a little bit of everything, music wise, so my influences are from all across the board. I definitely had my intake of ‘90s country music when in the car with my dad growing up; if it wasn’t sports talk radio. [laughter]
I was seeking out everything else on my own, from rap to RnB, oldies… name it.
My time in St Thomas did more for my soul than it did influence the music I’m making today. I’ve always had a little acoustic beach vibe in some of the stuff I make. The islands were a great place for me to experiment with no one watching. I would go play four nights a week to drunks at a beach bar who wouldn’t know if you dropped dead on stage… but I eventually got to the point I could command a room… that was a big breakthrough for me. Plus, who doesn’t wanna spend a year in the Virgin Islands making music and figuring out why you landed on this planet?
Are your songs mostly autobiographical or first person accounts?
98 percent of the time it’s all me and my experiences. It’s my way of telling my story. I have several different sounds, but all of them are real to me. I’m not trying to be anything I’m not. Anything I write that isn’t something that I’m currently doing or have experienced is either me stepping out of body to channel an experience someone else has told me about or a scenario I’ve seen firsthand and feel compelled to write. I will also write in a “day dream” phase sometimes; this is when I can say anything cause I believe I can manifest it. I haven’t popped a thousand dollar bottle of something, I can’t hop on a jet headed to somewhere I can’t pronounce… but I dream about it… I can taste it…I can smell the leather and feel the cold cabin air…I write about that shit though cause that is where I’m going.
What is “Bad Boy” about?
Go listen. It’s pretty specific. Not to be a dick, but I could just answer with the lyrics. [laughter]
What have your favorite parts of your creative journey been?
Simple, I get to make music for a living.
I’m constantly experimenting with new sounds and new flows. This is my life. I’m very blessed to get to meet, work with and learn from some legends. I love every bit of the journey. There is no “end goal.” This whole journey is what I’m in it for; every day I wake up, get to the studio and get better. There’s days that suck and days that rock. Not quitting is the trick. “
The EP was the result of a label partnership? How did that come about?
God’s plan for real. A sequence of events landed me in front of the right people at the right time a couple different times. Big Loud saw something in me they hadn’t seen before and wanted to get behind me. The rest is history, or the future? [laughter]
If you were to be able to design a dream collaboration, what would that look/sound like?
The Roots/John Mayer/myself/ Kendrick. You’ll hear what it sounds like sooner than later.
What are your loftiest goals for your music?
Grammies…several genres, several categories. Would be cool to win an Oscar for best song too.
They say you die twice; once when your heart stops beating and the other when no one remembers you anymore. I’d love to be in the small group of those that only die once. I wanna write and create music that lives forever.