While many of us roll out of bed in the morning two minutes before our Zoom lecture, ambling to the kitchen in pajamas for a cup of coffee, Thornton School of Music senior Jairus Edwards is already up and exploring his creative side.
The jazz vocal performance major feels most creative in the morning and takes advantage of this opportunity, spending the time after waking up by meditating and writing down song lyrics.
“Morning can consist of a lot of writing and meditation to fuel creativity,” Edwards said. “Throughout the day, whatever inspires me, I take notes and write them down on my pad, or if I get melodies in my head, I’ll record them.”
This dedicated process is clearly effective — Edwards, who performs under the name JAiRUS, has a repertoire of groovy singles.
His identity as an artist is aided by his impeccable style. He is often seen sporting a clean-cut look with a ’70s vibe, block coloring and a knit beanie. No one could ever wear a beanie quite like him.
“My Way,” JAiRUS’ latest release which came out Sept. 16, is a compelling exploration of the story within the book of Exodus. Beneath soothing melodies and almost ethereal vocals, Edwards crafts a narrative that examines the journey of Moses to free the enslaved from Egypt and calls an audience to follow their dreams — to take inspiration and resolve to do things their way.
JAiRUS’ dreamy, mellow vocals and lyrics to “My Way” start with “A forward motion, parted through a dead sea of soulless composure seen by God in me / Forward emotions, tears of ambrosia fall runnin’ down streamin’ holes burnin’ in my eyes.”
Edwards’ impressive display of daily creativity comes as no surprise to friends and creative partners who work closely with him. Since Edwards’ freshman year at USC, he has had a circle of friends who adore him.
Jordan McClure, a senior majoring in communication and occupational therapy, met Edwards on Somerville Floor in Fluor Tower. The two had an immediate connection, and they became inseparable best friends.
“He’s caring, he’s understanding, he’s the first person I call if I need something,” McClure said. “Vice versa, if he’s going through something and he needs something, he knows I’m always there for him. All of our deepest darkest secrets, we share with each other.”
The pair are thick as thieves. When Edwards isn’t in full-time artist mode, he and McClure spend their time laying around, watching movies and relaxing with one another.
“Jairus is fearless … Jairus is fearless,” McClure said. “Jairus is a very unorthodox person. Jairus is someone who does things 100% his way and he’s not somebody that gives into peer pressure. He does what he wants to do and he lives 100% of his truth.”
Edwards is also close with recent Roski School of Art and Design graduate Caleb Griffin. Griffin and Edwards were brought together by a crush. One of Griffin’s close friends fancied Edwards, and the two met at a Black Student Assembly cookout.
Griffin and Edwards are usually the quieter two in social settings and know they can depend on another one another when things get hectic. Not only are the pair great friends, but they are both artistically inclined.
“We’ve been able to bounce ideas back and forth about our journeys and how we want them to entwine,” Griffin said. “We want each other to both succeed. So it’s very much if I get put on, he gets put on.”
Before the release of “My Way,” Griffin shot the promotional images. This wasn’t the first time they worked together, but it was the first time the two worked one on one. The shoot culminated in mutual respect for one another’s art.
Even more exciting than the soulful sound and inspiring message of “My Way” is the promise that it holds of future music from JAiRUS. The artist disclosed that “My Way” is not a stand-alone project, but rather one piece of a larger project that is currently in the works.
“I just know how powerful music is and how inspiring it is,” Edwards said. “I was given a gift to be able to sing, so being able to share that with other people is my biggest inspiration to do music.”
JAiRUS has a unique knack for commanding the energy of the room without being an overwhelming presence.
“He is so sure of himself and in his own power,” Griffin said. “He doesn’t have to do a lot to grab people’s attention.”
Prior to the release of “My Way,” JAiRUS accustomed himself to the unfamiliar process of quarantine music production through the creation and release of several other singles. As many artists can likely relate to, the transition to quarantine made the continuation of creative activity difficult.
Edwards explained that most of his creative inspiration comes from the regular activities of his day — things he sees and people he interacts with. Quarantine put these things to a halt, and Edwards mentioned a time when creating music was difficult due to a lack of inspiration. However, the pause did not last long enough to prevent JAiRUS from having an artistically fruitful summer. Edwards learned to adapt to the situation and sought out revelations from sources beyond his everyday routine.
As cries for social justice erupted around the United States and throughout the world, JAiRUS was inspired to weave the movements for racial equality into the music he was producing. This new focus helped Edwards hoist himself out of his creative rut and get back into the artistic grind.
“Once I got out of that, I had something to create about and guide my bearings about what I wanted to say,” Edwards said. “And then I got things flowing.”
JAiRUS’ song “For Colored Girls,” which he released in July, drew inspiration from social justice movements happening around the world but also from the Langston Hughes poem “Song for a Dark Girl.” The process behind the making of “For Colored Girls” exemplified JAiRUS’ dedication to his craft. Though quarantine seemed to have driven creativity into a dead end, Edwards adapted, expanded and began to weave his passions into his songwriting in a more powerful display than ever.
Edwards’ music evokes a relationship between senses in the softest, most emotional way. His ability to play with feelings is reminiscent of a select few male artists.
“The thing I like most about his music is that his voice is so rich and soulful that you’re brought along as a listener for this journey,” Griffin said. “It’s very intimate and I think a lot of male artists shy away from intimacy. Obviously we have our Frank Oceans now, but in terms of being able to back that up vocally and sonically is what I enjoy the most.”
Even as quarantine stretches onward, JAiRUS is hard at work, planning his next release. Listeners can expect to see a larger project from the artist coming soon. As we continue sleeping in and showing up to class with eyes half open, JAiRUS will be up and at ‘em, working toward more new music. To stay up to date with his new music, JAiRUS’ songs and recent releases can be found on Spotify and Apple Music.