Meet J. Buck: Whitehaven’s Rising Soul Star
Ed. Note: We have special #ManCrushMonday on the blog today! I’m happy to share this Q&A and original photography from new ILM contributor Kirstin Cheers. You’ve probably been seeing some fresh faces on the I Love Memphis Blog lately. Be on the lookout for even more in the coming weeks. – Holly
Memphis is undergoing a rise in ‘bucks’ lately.
First, there’s Lil Buck who went from jookin’ battles at The Shell nightclub in 2007 (it’s closed now, along with my childhood) to Apple’s new commercial and the Lexus commercial during the Super Bowl. You go, Glen CoCo!
Now, Memphis can open their ears to the classic, mellow R&B sounds of J. Buck. Born Joshua Buck, this native Whitehaven-ian is on his way to adding his contribution to Memphis’s music legacy.
At first glance, I confused him for the ghost of David Ruffin of The Temptations, and at first listen I thought late Maurice White from Earth, Wind and Fire released never-heard-before music.
However, it’s the 25-year-old soulful phenom who took home the grand prize from Southern Living’s Meet Me in Memphis contest. This meant that J Buck and his band performed at the grand opening of IKEA in December.
I’ve never heard of J. Buck before his IKEA preview, and gave him a call after hearing his single Find Another You. As a millennial stuck in the 90s as well, this song deserved to be apart of the Love Jones or Crooklyn soundtrack.
Buck bridges the gap between our parents’ A-Tracks and our older brother’s cassette collection under the front seat of his Monte Carlo. When I called him, even his speaking voice sounds like the taste of honey gold wings from Ching’s Hotwings.
Q & A
Kirstin: So you’re 25 and have a vibe like you’re 45. What attracted you to this style, steeze, and sound?
J.: *laughs* Honestly, it was my upbringing. My whole family inspired it. I grew up listening to my mom’s music which was a wide range of genres, from Whitney Houston to Dolly Parton. My dad is a Funk guy-Frankie Beverly and Maze, Parliment, Funkadelics, and The Spinners.
In middle school, I played the viola. I knew I could sing, but I truly wasn’t into singing yet. I did listen to a lot of Black male singing groups, from The Temptations to the Delfonics. I clung to styles inspired by the Stax era and Al Green. I was the kid walking around school singing Stevie Wonder while others were rapping Project Pat.
Kirstin: I’m sure your peers recognized you were different when they heard you sing Stevie Wonder in the hallway. When did you realize you were different and how did your peers adapt to you?
J.: It didn’t take long. I never wanted to be a follower. I was a very calm child. I had an “old people vibe.” I had an uncle who listened to Elton John and The Beatles all the time, and I gravitated towards him. He made it ok to like different things.
Kirstin: How much of your writing is influenced by your life?
J.: I’m a reality writer, so nothing I write hasn’t been influenced by my experience or someone else’s. I saw my parents struggle and work hard to make sure we didn’t want for anything. My song What We Gone Do talks about that and my own struggle like when I was 20 and only had $20 for the month and borrowing from others.
Then there’s Soulmate which is about a woman who told me I was her soulmate, but broke up with me later. It’s more of an upbeat tempo because I wanted people to not feel sad about relationships ending. Sometimes it’s funny, and this experience was funny to me.
Kirstin: What’s your ultimate goal and vision for yourself, your music and Memphis in the next 5-10 years?
J.: My ultimate vision is to help Memphis. It taught me everything I know, because I know I can go anywhere in the world and be successful. I want to be a catalyst for moving the culture forward. I believe this is fertile ground for the next solid music and artistic era since Stax.
I want to build a real hub and institute where kids can come and learn how to improve their craft and skill from professionals.
Kirstin: Talk about winning IKEA’s Meet Me in Memphis Award
J.: It was all God. A friend of a friend reached out to my business partner Kim. I did a pre-interview before the video interview which almost went viral.
At the event, I was just having a good time entertaining the crowd at Lafayette’s which was my first time performing there. I didn’t think I was going to win at all. So when I did, I had the biggest smile on my face.
Kirstin: What’s next for you? Where can we find you?
J.: I’m working on my next album. I have my next four albums already planned. This next one will be called “Bar Talk” which raises the question, “why we turn up?”
It’s about the story of a young man who is out with his friends and having a good time, but suddenly gets depressed the more he drinks. He gets pulled over and now he’s in jail. Then he gets out and is focused on healing from why he got depressed in the first place.
I’m shooting the video for Soulmate soon.
I perform at Onix on Madison every Monday night for their Martini Monday. It’s a chance for me to reach out and touch people and also receive instant criticism just to see what people are thinking and feeling.
About The Author
Kirstin Cheers is a native South Memphian who has a knack for writing everything worth writing about for the greater good. She’s the curator for Humans of Memphis and newly published in the Huffington Post. She loves Jesus, shellac nail polish and every bit of her Black Girl Magic.