We met singer Jacob Whitesides after seeing him in concert recently. He was back in the studio working on new music when he took some time out to talk to us.
Do you ever wish you were just a regular teenager?
Sometimes, but I surround myself with people who treat me normal. My fans are really chill. I can go outside before a show and talk to the fans, and they won’t scream in my face. Everyone makes me feel really normal.
What inspired you to write songs and start singing?
I was actually doing cover music for a very long time. I did tours for like two years, but all I was doing was singing other people’s songs. It just didn’t feel very fulfilling. I signed with my current management, and I had a couple of songs that I had written but never really did anything with. They set me up with a couple of writing sessions in Nashville. We started making music out of it. It became very natural and I had a lot to talk about. I was very emotional for a 13-year-old.
What was your life like growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee?
It was really awesome. I love my family. I didn’t have a ton of friends, but I did have my close friends. It was really, really normal. I started playing sports, playing soccer when I was little. I spent my time doing sports or following my sister around because my sister was a cheerleader. I went to a lot of her competitions, which was not so much fun, but it was cool.
Where is your favorite place to perform?
It changes every day. Europe is its own thing. The fans are really passionate about the music over there. There is a language barrier so it is sometimes tough to talk to the fans. In South America it is hard to talk about the songs on stage — they don’t really understand what I am saying, but they really like it and there is a lot of energy there. America is more laid back, and it is easier to communicate with the fans and stuff. I really loved Paris. I played three shows in Paris in one day. In the [United] States I really love Nashville and San Francisco.
Did your parents also have a musical background?
My dad was in a lot of bands and would play guitar and sing. That was how I kind of got my start. I sat in a lot with his band, and we played a lot of local gigs together.
If you could choose only one, would it be singing or playing a musical instrument?
That’s really hard. Probably singing. Singing is fairly easy; playing an instrument is pretty difficult sometimes. I am not a great guitar player — I have learned enough to get along. Singing is my favorite thing to do.
Do you ever get nervous before you perform?
I do. A lot of the times if it is a headlining show and it is all my fans out there, I am a lot more comfortable because it is a lot of people I have met before and who have seen me before. I played a show in Spain where I opened for Iggy Azalea and there were 15,000 people there, and that was a very nerve-racking moment for me. Usually I drink lots of water and try to stay hydrated. I do some push ups to keep my nerves away.
How often do you get to spend time with your family?
My family follows me around quite a bit.
Do you ever forget the words to your own songs, and does the audience help you out?
All the time. I blink more than I should. I am more forgetful when it comes to covers of other people’s songs, but I do forget my own lyrics — but the fans always have my back, which is awesome.
Do you like making music videos?
I do. Some of my first videos were on the boring side. It was just me looking into the camera and singing. Recently I shot the “Lovesick” video, and we were able to spice it up a little bit. My second single is “Focus” and I shot that recently. I put a 30-pound snake around my neck, and I am really afraid of snakes and spiders and all that kind of stuff. Recently I have been trying to add more stuff to make it more fun, and I think people can tell.
How do you feel when fans take videos or pictures while you are performing?
I like it to an extent. I have talked about it online before. I think it is important to be in the moment. It is hard to connect with people when they are like hiding behind their phone screens. I like going online later and seeing how I sounded, and did I look all right? Did I look ugly? I like it half the time.
What song do you like to perform best?
On this tour, “Lovesick” has been really fun. It is a real upbeat song. And then “Faces on Film,” which is the title track on my last CD. It is a slower song and it is more personal. I like to talk to the fans and the story behind that.
Is there anyone you would like to perform with?
Most definitely. Ed Sheeran is my absolute favorite of all time. He is my favorite person, performer and songwriter. It would be a dream to collaborate with him, but I would probably be like standing really far off the stage while he performed.