Mutli-talented Jarid Root is taking on the challenges of the entertainment industry from almost every possible angle. The 21-year-old Illinois native seemed to have always been a big fish in a little pond who has now found his ocean. He was raised in a town with about 6k people in it, where he cultivated the many skills that have turned him into a performance artist, singer, songwriter, model, director, and producer.
Acting is a big part of Jarid’s life. He began acting professionally at age 11 in theatrical, commercial, and voiceover work. He would go on to book roles in everything from Criminal Minds, The Fosters, Nickelodeon’s Deadtime Stories, and various roles on Cartoon Network.
For as much as the young artist has achieved already, it’s clear that he’s just barely scratching the surface of his talents, so much so that we’re fortunate to be among his first interviewers, and we’re even luckier that we get to do it when he’s just releasing an incredibly solid debut EP titled “Devil’s advocate”, a record that is hopefully the start of a rich and diverse catalog of music for many years to come.
Was caught a bit off guard by the cohesiveness of the whole EP. They tend to be somewhat scattered collections of songs that don’t necessarily fit together for artists, but with “Devil’s advocate”, you took a more conceptual route, why was that?
I wrote these songs all around the same time when I was in high school and a year or so after that. Each song deals with social and/or political issues that I happened to deal with personally all in that same 3-4 year time frame, along with, I feel like, the rest of the world as well. I decided to frame this first EP as a strong concept piece, because I want the world to know about me that, right off the bat, my goal is to say something important and speak on issues today that are still in discussion, but in a way that can make you bop your head. It’s almost like indoctrinating sensible ideas into people’s heads by making them sing it over and over again, in the least sadistic way possible, haha!
I chose the title “Devil’s Advocate,” because in talking about these very complicated, multifaceted topics, I’m almost acting as the spokesperson, playing a Gen Z devil’s advocate, in deciding who and what is right regarding these controversial topics, and getting down to the grit of these conversations, instead of just grazing the surface to look good and save face. I want people to be able to connect to me as an artist through my ideas, and my beliefs as a person, knowing that, at the end of the day, I just want what’s best for people, and hopefully, my music can provide clarity.
How would you define yourself musically right now? You’re clearly driving at something much more than Pop, even though Pop itself encompasses a wide variety of sounds and influences now more than ever before.
Musically, I think my sound sticks to either hard-hitting synths or dinky pop melodies, but I think lyrically, it is definitely more like musical theater or even slam poetry. I fit a lot of words into one stanza consecutively for almost 4 minutes of each song. Which in a way kinda represents how I speak about these topics. I’m super passionate about all of them, and when I’m passionate about a topic, I speak a lot on it, and since music has been such a huge part of my life, it provided a pathway for me to be able to merge those two aspects of me together. I think, in this day in age, there are so many musicians in such a convoluted industry, that people want transparency, and that’s all I know how to do. I’m a terrible liar, so everything that comes through me comes through my music, and it’s all truth. And soundwise, I love adding little flourishes, such as small laughs and cackles, reverb-ed breaths, and more sound effects to keep things fun and interesting.
“Locked ‘n Loaded” is pretty heavy. There aren’t that many songs out there touching on such a difficult subject as school shootings. When these terrible events happen, we tend to hear a lot from psychologists, pundits -people from a generation that never really had this happening on this scale- What are your thoughts like when they happen? What do you feel like is not being focused on by society at large when it comes to these incidents?
2019 was the most tragic year for shootings in the U.S., housing the most in U.S. history at 417 total shootings. I was still in high school at this time, and school shootings were happening at every county around me until it finally happened to mine. I’d noticed a lot when these events would happen, headlines loved to use the term “troubled” for the next teenage boy who shot up his peers on a Tuesday. There was never an emphasis, in my memory, on the very horrid acts that made them criminals.
These boys mindlessly, but intentionally killed their friends with no thought to how it would affect other innocent families, yet they were still receiving some sort of reputation protection, using their best photos and the most harmless verbiage when addressing what these boys did. Meanwhile, simultaneously, there were several teen boys of color who were falsely accused and not receiving the same treatment. Anyone, no matter what age, who takes innocent people’s lives doesn’t deserve any ounce of sympathy from the public. However, thinking about what to do moving forward in trying to prevent this tragedy from happening to more kids, I think there needs to be more of a push on mental health in youth, focusing a lot on the parents and family dynamic at home. What happens at home affects what happens on the outside, and if we can make sure that we are consistently reminding our inner and outer circles how much they are appreciated and loved, we may be able to stop another kid from losing another blossoming future.
You talk quite a bit about your sexuality and the struggles you’ve had with your identity along the way. Do you feel like this compilation has helped you take a weight off your shoulders? Do you feel more at peace with that aspect of your life?
100%, oh absolutely. Considering that I wrote every one of these songs before even coming out of that struggle of sexuality, these songs were one of the bigger catalysts that helped me be okay and content with who I was, and coming out to people as gay in general. This concept EP, I treated a lot like my angry diary. With the environments that I was in at the time, that suppressed me down to the macho, straight man I thought I needed to be, I wasn’t able to express myself fully, and I remember at a certain point, I had gotten so tired of that suppression and lack of understanding from others, that I seriously had no choice but to write out and sing my grievances away. Writing this music was one of the first steps in telling the people in those environments that I was not okay, and something needed to be said or else I’d off myself living this massive lie. This body of work is almost like a trophy that screams ‘I made it out.’ Like I’m able to look back on these experiences and say it was worth it, because I have these songs. And these songs provide listeners and viewers with a big chunk of who I am as an artist today.
Another big subject -and perhaps the biggest- in this EP is Mental health. This is a topic that I often see covered in music nowadays in a way it didn’t use to be, and I’m curious: Do you think it’s because society is now more open to discussing such things or is it just that the world is such a mess right now that it’s inevitable that more people are having a harder time staying healthy?
I think it’s a little bit of both. Mental health definitely was not talked about in earlier decades, but at the same time, social media did not exist back then the way it does now. I think people are subjected to depression, anxiety and extreme self-image at such a maximum intensity now, that it’s almost impossible for people to explore who they are without being clowned. Everyone’s opinion about anything and everything is at the world’s fingertips now, and I don’t think the world was really ready for that. I don’t think people online (me being someone who is chronically online myself) truly realize the impact they have on users on the other side of the screen, simply because they don’t have to deal with the consequences of making that other person feel bad or embarrassed.
I think a common trend amongst all ages is that mental health and trauma often comes from inside the family, so there has always been an inside factor of where mental turmoil comes from. But now there’s the addition of the entire world being an external factor that also contributes to the decline of mental health, one of the biggest being self-perception and how everyone’s life timelines are lining up. The new age is so self aware now, but I think to an extent that’s detrimental. And even though social media really does help spread amazing messages, political beliefs, and insight change, just like I’m trying to do right now, I have also fallen victim to that same system where all I do is compare my progress, my body, and my entire self to everybody else online. And I think that isn’t talked about enough.
My main goal as an artist, musician and overall entertainer, is to shed light on the shadows. To highlight those dark times that many of us feel, and let other people like me know, that they are enough. Simply put. And always will be. It’s a cliche, but everybody is beautiful in their own way, especially when we focus on bringing each other up instead of praying on each other’s downfall. This world’s too competitive for that.
You’re pretty much a multidisciplinary artist already. Is there some facet of arts and entertainment you want to dip into that you haven’t got the chance yet?
I definitely want to dip my hands into more of the music industry. I’m just getting started and there are so many more musicians out there trying to gain big platforms, so it’s definitely a saturated industry. I just want to be one of them who isn’t doing it solely for themselves, but to contribute something meaningful to society that comes from a true place in my heart and soul. I also want to get more seriously integrated into the acting world. I’ve done guest spots on several TV shows, and this year, and just had my first feature film debut as a supporting character. But I want to get involved in more leading man, leading character study work. That stuff really speaks to me.
In that regard, how would you like your career to proceed? Do you want to keep focusing on music or do you want to continue balancing all these things you’re involved with as they come? it seems like you’re really interested in directing!
I, for sure, want to continue balancing acting and music, because they really do go hand in hand. Unselfishly and with the most humility possible, I really do think I’m a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment world, and my time to shine is soon to come.
My experience with directing has been interesting because before I started writing and directing my own music videos, the constant thought was always “I want to see myself on camera, I want people to actually see me doing it”. And so I did everything I had to do in order to make that happen.It just so happens that I learned how to write, direct, edit, schedule shoots, get teams of people together, coordinate finances, etc. all at the same time. So in a sense, I sort of had no choice but to learn all of these extra skills unless I wanted to see myself performing for people on the big screen. My whole life has been entertainment, and art just naturally exudes from me. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Always a pretty standard question, but one that I find always fair and revealing: Who inspires you? Who are your icons and heroes?
Definitely the underdogs. Tonya Harding, Richard Williams, Molly Bloom, the people who had a hard come up, but had such an undying faith in themselves that they were gonna make it. I’ve had a lot of missed opportunities, a lot of work gone unseen, and a lot of no’s with my time in the entertainment industry, and I know what it’s like to be second-best on a lot of things. To have your soul crushed, but get right back up again. Those are the people I look up to. But stylistically, I’d definitely say Melanie Martinez, Troye Sivan, and Lady Gaga have been a huge inspiration to me, artistically and musically as well. I hope to inspire people as much as the people who have inspired me.
Story: Samuel Aponte Photos: Shannon Steger
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