Inside Jonas Brothers’ ‘Like It’s Christmas’: Songwriter Freddy Wexler Breaks Down The Festive Bop

It’s hard to imagine Jonas Brothers‘ comeback going any better. Since rebooting the band in March, they’ve scored a No. 1 single, notched a chart-topping album, kicked off an ongoing world tour, and won their first VMA. Then, last week, they capped off their incredible year with the release of a holiday instant-classic, “Like It’s Christmas,” proving that the Jo Bros reunion is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

But the song almost never made it into Kevin, Joe, and Nick’s hands, as songwriter and producer Freddy Wexler told MTV News. Wexler, 33, has worked with everyone from ZAYN to Post Malone, in addition to releasing his own music under the moniker Jackson Penn. He’s also a screenwriter, and has been developing a Christmas movie that needed an original song for one specific scene. So during a songwriting session in August, he asked two songwriter friends, Annika Wells and Gian Stone, to help him craft a fresh holiday tune. Never mind that it was the middle of the summer in Los Angeles; they ended up with “Like It’s Christmas.”

“The result was an idea that perfectly fit into the movie,” Wexler recalled. “And the craziest part of the whole thing is that upon hearing the song, my wife, who’s a former music manager and A&R said, ‘I could see the Jonas Brothers being in this movie and singing this song.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, OK, whatever.'”

With Wells’s voice anchoring a demo version of the song, Wexler and Stone sent it off to the super producer Jason Evigan for some feedback. Apparently sensing the bop’s festive magic, Evigan put his own vocal on it and passed it along to Jonas Brothers and their A&R exec, Wendy Goldstein. The band ultimately decided to collaborate on it as a single for themselves, and Wexler believes that’s because they saw the potential in a song that’s not just about Christmas, but more broadly about love, actually (no pun intended).

“I love the idea that Christmas is not only one day, but it’s also a state of mind and a feeling,” Wexler said of the song’s theme. “So I think this idea of, ‘You make every day feel like it’s Christmas,’ resonated with them on a very human level.”

Once JB were locked in, Wexler and Stone flew to Austin, Texas, where the band was cutting vocals for some new music (“a bunch of incredible music, by the way,” Wexler added). It was there, during a few days in October, that the brothers turned “Like It’s Christmas” into “a fully realized classic record.”

“The Jonas Brothers took a good idea, and turned it into something really special,” Wexler said. “I was pretty blown away. They’re incredibly talented. The way they interpreted the melodies that we had written, and the way they interpreted the groove, and their ideas for modernizing it… all of that was really instrumental in the record that we got.”

Not only that, but “Like It’s Christmas” sounds like a legitimate Jonas Brothers tune — strip away the festive sounds and lyrics, and you’re still left with the bones of a song that feels authentic to their sound.

“Having them in the studio really helped us arrive at a sound that’s both classic and modern, and ultimately, one that is authentically Jonas Brothers,” Wexler explained, adding that all three brothers were pros in the studio who really embodied that “birds of a feather” concept they sang about in “Sucker.” Nick and Joe, for example, seamlessly sensed who should tackle which verses and harmonies, while Kevin coached his little brothers on their vocal takes. “They’re a unit, which is awesome,” Wexler said.

Freddy Wexler

Aside from JB’s golden touch, the record was produced by Gian Stone and bolstered by co-producers Wexler, Evigan, and Mike Elizondo, as well as by Jerry Hey, a legendary horn arranger who notably did all the horns on Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The original demo, Wexler said, had an obvious Christmas vibe, but finishing it was a matter of pulling together the right group of collaborators to take it to the next level. That also meant pulling back the reigns at certain times, like when there was a passionate debate over when the sleigh bells should enter the track.

“We all wanted to make something classic and timeless, yet still modern, and something that didn’t feel forced,” he explained. “If it’s starting right off the bat with sleigh bells and horns and everything you want to build toward, it can be too much, too soon.

“We wanted people to feel warm and fuzzy and happy and tap their feet at every second,” he continued. “If there was a moment where we lost that magic, then we changed it. Everyone knows that feeling in December when people are bundled up but can’t stop smiling. It’s inexplicable joy. We wanted to capture that.”

Judging by the enthusiastic fan reaction thus far, it seems that mission has been accomplished — and Wexler said everyone involved is basking in the positivity. They’re also, rightfully, celebrating the fact that the song got made in such a tight time frame; it was started in August, sent to Jonas Brothers in September, recorded in October, and released in November, in time to thoroughly lodge itself into fans’ ears throughout the entirety of the holiday season.

“Hit songs are amazing, but this is a different feeling. The Jonas Brothers with an original Christmas song just makes you smile,” Wexler said. That attitude aligns with Wexler’s own life — as Jackson Penn, he wants to “put happy stuff into a world that could use some happy stuff” with new songs like “My Girl” — as well as with Jonas Brothers, who have been all about that Happiness Begins mentality this year. Now they’re just doing it in Santa hats.

Camila Cabello Is Releasing The Ultimate Guide To Young Love Next Month

It’s official. Save the date. On December 6, Camila Cabello will be releasing her sophomore album, Romance. Everything that you’ve ever wanted to know about modern love will be there. And then, next year, Camila will be going on tour in support of her forthcoming LP that features her previously released singles “Shameless,” “Cry For Me,” “Liar,” and “Señorita” with Shawn Mendes.

Cabello made the reveal on Instagram with a picture of the LP’s cover (that’s already been revealed) and a lengthy note that offers the first details of what the LP will sound like. “I just wanted this album to sound like what falling in love feels like, pretty impossible thing to do but I can say I gave it all I had,” she wrote. “I’ve never lived as much life as I did writing this album. It was messy, and beautiful, unforgettable and at times so painful I wish I could forget, it was excruciatingly consuming and impossible not to get lost in, it was mine…and now it’s yours.”

Along with the reveal, Cabello also announced The Romance Tour that kicks off next year on July 29 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and wraps it up on September 26 in Miami, FL.

Check out the tour dates below.

07/29 – Vancouver, British Columbia @ Rogers Arena

07/31  – Everett, WA @ Angel of the Winds Arena

08/20 – Portland, OR @ Moda Center

08/04 – Sacramento, CA @ Golden 1 Center

08/05 – San Francisco, CA @ Chase Center

08/07 – Los Angeles, CA @ STAPLES Center

08/11– San Diego, CA @ Pechanga Arena San Diego

08/12 – Glendale, AZ @ Gila River Arena

08/14 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Vivint Smart Home Arena

08/16 – Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center

08/20 – Fort Worth, TX @ Dickies Arena

08/19 – Houston, TX @ Toyota Center

08/21 – San Antonio, TX @ AT&T Center

09/04 – Toronto, ON @ Scotiabank Arena

09/05 – Detroit, MI @ Little Caesars Arena

09/08 – St. Paul, MN @ Xcel Energy Center

09/09 – Rosemont, IL @ Allstate Arena

09/11 – Boston, MA @ TD Garden

09/12 – Laval, Quebec @ Place Bell

09/15 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center

09/16– Washington, DC @ Capital One Arena

09/18 – New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden

09/22 – Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena

09/23 – Duluth, GA @ Infinite Energy Arena

09/25 – Orlando, FL @ Amway Center

09/26 – Miami, FL @ American Airlines Arena

Selena Gomez And Julia Michaels Got Matching Tattoos After Their Surprise Performance

A day after Selena Gomez served up ’90s hotness at Julia Michaels‘s prom-themed birthday party, the pop stars continued defining BFF goals with another epic night.

On Monday (November 11), Michaels brought her Inner Monologue Tour to L.A., where she and Sel treated the sold-out crowd to the very first performance of “Anxiety.” Sitting casually on a bench with their arms around each other, the duo bopped through the candid collab, in which they open up about their experiences with anxiety and depression. And even though Gomez adorably flubbed a lyric, they got the crowd singing along before ending their performance with a warm hug and a kiss.

After the surprise performance, Michaels wrote on Instagram, “I’m kind of convinced these last few days aren’t real. Thank you @selenagomez for the most epic headline show I’ve ever played. I love you beyond words and I’m so happy we finally got to sing our baby together.”

But that wasn’t the only notable part of the pair’s night — after the concert, they got matching tattoos. “It’s tatted.. my arrow points to you forever,” Gomez wrote on her Instagram Story, alongside a photo of her and her BFF at the tattoo parlor. The “Look At Her Now” singer also uploaded several behind-the-scenes snaps of her and Michaels getting inked with matching arrow-shaped designs on their thumbs.

Michaels, of course, has been an integral part of Gomez’s evolution as a pop star, having co-written much of Revival, as well as Sel’s recent No. 1 single, “Lose You to Love Me.” It’s only fitting that Gomez returned the favor by joining her BFF onstage — and then making that intimate relationship permanent.

Will One Direction Reunite? Simon Cowell’s ‘Gut Feeling’ Is Yes — Maybe Within 5 Years

Ever since One Direction went on an indefinite hiatus in 2016, fans online have been theorizing about when and if they’ll ever get back together. But as each member began to find solo success, the odds of a reunion started to feel even slimmer. Still, the fandom hasn’t lost all hope, and who better to comment on the likelihood of a 1D reunion than Simon Cowell, the man responsible for putting them together on The X Factor in 2010?

“My gut feeling is yes,” Cowell said when asked about the possibility of a reunion on 96-107 FM’s Heart Breakfast. “I mean, they’re all doing great solo-wise at the moment, but they had a lot of hits. You know, they could do tour after tour after tour. You know, you could sell out a One Direction gig — a stadium tour — in about twenty seconds.”

But Cowell didn’t stop there. The America’s Got Talent judge even gave us a timeline, guessing that the band would likely hit the road again together “within five years.” Before you get too excited, though, you should know that Cowell’s statement is “only a guess,” and that nothing has been announced or officially decided on. Still, we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t exciting to think about.

Cowell isn’t the only one to have uttered the words “reunion” and “One Direction” in the same sentence recently. In September, Liam Payne told Sirius XM Hits 1’s “The Morning Mash Up” that he thinks the band is “ready to go whenever.” Louis Tomlinson shared similar sentiments, explaining to Metro‘s Guilty Pleasures column that he “wasn’t really ready for the band to go on a break.” “As far as I am concerned, I am happy doing what I am doing,” he said. “But the day that [a reunion] does happen, and everyone is ready to do it, I am ready.”

Niall Horan doesn’t seem opposed to the idea of a One Direction reunion, either, telling Metro that he doesn’t think “any of us would need major, major convincing.” “We are all clearly enjoying what we are doing at the moment,” he said. “I think when someone is ready they pick up the phone. Or I make that phone call … I’ll be ready to go and I’m sure everyone else will too.”

Last, but certainly not least, Harry Styles is also not ruling out the possibility of putting an end to their hiatus once and for all. “I don’t think I’d ever say I’d never do it again, because I don’t feel that way,” the “Lights Up” crooner told Rolling Stone this past August. “If there’s a time when we all really want to do it, that’s the only time for us to do it,” he said. “because I don’t think it should be about anything else other than the fact that we’re all like, ‘Hey, this was really fun. We should do this again.'”

Well, what do you say? Should we put five years on the clock?

Lil Peep Flips A Bed Sheet Into A Green Screen In Creative Everybody’s Everything Clip

In a new clip from Lil Peep’s new documentary Everybody’s Everything, a bed sheet is the breakout character. The magnetic late rapper is there, of course, performing “Repair,” his collaboration with (who would come to be) one of his closest friends BEXEY. But behind Peep, this olive green spread covers 80 percent of the wall, and it takes a second to realize its purpose.

“When he sent clips through, he had the dustiest green screen,” BEXEY says in a cutaway interview, grinning, and also revealing that he used green cardboard for his own scenes. “We didn’t know what we were doing. You can see the green line around us when I edited it.” Sitting beside BEXEY is Rayn, a videographer and another Peep collaborator. “It was perfect, now that you look back at it,” he says, reminiscing.

The short scene isn’t more than 30 seconds, but Everybody’s Everything directors Sebastian Jones and Ramez “Mezzy” Silyan included it because it goes behind the veil to show Peep’s drive and creativity long before he became a household name. “He was going to make it work with whatever he had – whether it was a shitty VHS camera, bed sheet, or something else,” Mezzy tells MTV News over the phone. “You don’t really know what people are working with when making music, and everyone might assume that you have access to more resources than you do. It’s amazing to see his lack of resources.”

At heart, Everybody’s’ Everything is a documentary about context. Lil Peep’s rapid public ascent from 2015 until his 2017 death (although he’d been seriously making music for four years) brought along a fascination after everything was already congealed, missing out on the journey from the bottom to the top. His music was a roller coaster of bleeding emotion, not identifiable as any particular genre but containing shades of multiple at the same time.

“He’s not the first person to combine rock and hip-hop, but he was the first person to combine aspects of emo, screams, and trap music in a way that sounded so effortless,” Jones says. “It wasn’t chemically concocted in a lab to please those audiences; he took aspects of what he liked and made it work.”

“Repair” is one of those early records that contains the sound that Lil Peep (born Gustav Åhr and known as “Gus” to friends) would grow more comfortable with over the course of his brief career. It was thick and rough, lo-fi in a way that was naked and honest. So it makes sense that the video was equally bare — costless but creative. “It shows the DIY attitude that he continued to stay the course of his career,” says Jones. “It also shows exactly how much work was getting done from his bedroom in Long Island.”

“Seeing that behind the scenes moment of Gus with the green sheet, it takes you there in a way,” Mezzy says. “It kind of warms you, putting you in that particular mind place because you’re approaching it from this angle.”

The clip also details a larger message that Everybody’s Everything works to tell, that money and access aren’t the only ways to be authentic to your creative self. Authenticity and real creativity come from inside your skull. “It was great seeing all these examples, music videos, and behind the scenes footage that showed that he couldn’t be any more true than how he already was,” Mezzy says. “There’s nothing that should stop you if you’re trying to create something.”

Everybody’s Everything hits theaters on Friday, November 15 – an album of the same name also comes out the same day – after a special one-night-only advance screening for fans on Tuesday. Check out an exclusive clip from the film above.

Grace VanderWaal Loves You, But Doesn’t Like You In Her Emotional New Music Video

If you like Grace VanderWaal, get ready to absolutely love her. The 15-year-old singer-songwriter — who got her start by winning Season 11 of America’s Got Talent in 2016 — just dropped the music video for her new single “I Don’t Like You” today (November 12). And if you’re someone who truly loves their significant other but doesn’t always like them, well, this one’s for you.

From the start, VanderWaal’s video perfectly represents the chaos, confusion, and anger we often feel in relationships, particularly ones inundated with stubbornness, bickering, and constant arguments. In a style reminiscent of Sia’s best videos, VanderWaal dances aimlessly about as she ponders whether or not the relationship is even worth fighting for. Wise beyond her years, VanderWaal shows that this video is more than just a form of expression for the teenager, but a careful cultivation of the type of artist she’d like to be known as in the future.

Nearly halfway through, VanderWaal appears on a couch, getting her hair braided by two clones of herself as she tries to decide how to move forward. “And every single thing you say is gonna start a new war,” she sings before looking herself in the mirror. “And I’m exhausted from this tug of war of words.” We’ve all been there, but more often than not we continue to put that person first.

It’s hard to believe that with such deep-cutting lyrics (superstar songwriter Justin Tranter is listed as co-writer) and sharp visuals that VanderWaal is just 15. But while she might be a teenager, she’s one who’s keen on looking ahead. “I have such a clear vision of the art I want to start leaning towards,” she told Now This in a recent interview. “I love seeing the visuals of artists, as well as the music and the lyrics and the performances and the set design and the photo shoots, and all of these things that go into making an artist who they are. I’m so interested in that and I’m so kind of sick of seeing the same thing.”

Watch the “I Don’t Like You” music video above, and catch it on mtvU and MTV Live today (November 12) as well.

Doja Cat And Tyga Are Nature’s Candy In Fruity New Seth Meyers Performance

Doja Cat and Tyga gave a fruitily hot performance of “Juicy” on Late Night With Seth Meyers last night (November 11). They channeled the video’s obsession with nature’s candy for a sweet and sexy outing that should count as one of the five servings of fruit you need per day, as recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The show started off with two gyrating lemon-headed dancers making way for Doja Cat to strut on stage, the singer herself paying homage to the curviness of a fresh watermelon with her seductive outfit. Flashing lights lit up the fruity festivities as the show went on, making Doja’s popping legs and sensual movements even hotter. Tyga snuck on stage for his verse wearing another watermelon-themed outfit. He was enchanted by Doja Cat’s presence and entertained the idea of making a fruit smoothie as the performers got extremely close at multiple points. When it ends, you’ll want to wipe the accumulating sweat off of your brow and maybe even grab an apple from the fridge.

“Juicy” appears on Doja Cat’s recently released album, Hot PinkHer sophomore LP also features recently released singles “Bottom Bitch” and “Rules.”

Check out Doja Cat and Tyga’s healthy helping of fruits in their “Juicy” performance up above.

Reese LaFlare’s Journey Has No End In Sight

Reese LaFlare immediately corrects me.

I ask him to list his favorite anime shows and he instantly rattles off My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, and One-Punch Man, but there’s one sitting on the tip of his tongue that he can’t remember.

Hunter Hunter,” I suggest, because it’s my favorite. He pauses.

“You mean Hunter x Hunter?” He emphasizes the X, then continues to name Robotech, Voltron, and more.

Reese, as he’s largely known, is like a museum of pop culture who just happens to be able to rap. The 31-year-old lyricist and former pro skater from Atlanta – once sponsored by Nike SB – is eight years into his rap career and yet only just released his self-titled debut album in 2018. Everything happens right on time though, according to Reese. He’s right where he needs to be.

Growing up on the halfpipe, Reese hit kickflips and ollies more than he went to school. He was really good at it, which put him in a position to meet people like Kanye West, Chris Brown, and more due to his rapidly growing connections. He started rapping in 2011 after someone bet him $200 that he couldn’t record a mixtape and actually make it sound good. Four days later, his first project, Reese Vs. the World, was born.

The success of the tape helped spur the creation of Atlanta’s Two-9 hip-hop collective when two guys, Curtis Williams and Key! (together originally going by Pilot Music) came into Reese’s skate store as fans of Reese Vs. the World. They made music together for a few years before Reese departed in 2014 when the relationship began to dissolve. Two-9 signed to Interscope; Reese released his fourth project DSNRTRAPN2 in 2015 and went on hiatus. When he returned three years later with an eponymous debut album, it was with a reinvigorated spirit.

Now, Reese is back with another new album called Final Fantasy that is, you guessed it, an homage to the award-winning video game franchise of the same name. “I would think, growing up, ‘What would I do if I was one of the characters?’” he says. He’s already aware that the game is being rebuilt from the ground up for the PlayStation 4; he plans to buy it.

At 31, Reese has a few more years than other rappers in his lane, but he doesn’t think about age when it comes to crafting his brand of music or pushing his particular aesthetic choices. “[Age] puts a label on people,” he says, and it’s easy to lose sight of the goal if “we’re too busy listening to [trolls] say what we can or can’t do on social media. Trolls are reflecting their insecurities on other creative people because their life isn’t going the way that they wanted.”

This comes into play especially in hip-hop, a lane of music currently dominated by a slew of icons well into their thirties but also where a majority of rising rappers are seldom over 25. “We’re the only genre that people tell you that we’re too old to make music if you’re 30,” he says about making a lasting imprint in the field. Jay-Z tackled the idea of maturation on “30 Something” (from his 2006 album Kingdom Come) with “Thirty’s the new 20, n—a, I’m so hot still,” as if the very idea of approaching the age suggested that he would be out of touch with the culture he helped shape.

Thinking of aging as policing creativity is a danger to art everywhere. After a male executive told Bebe Rexha, who turned 30 this year, that her brand was “confusing” and that she was getting too old to portray herself in a sexy manner, she responded with a kick-ass picture of what 30 looks like (hint: it features a black thong) via the agency-claiming “Not 20 Anymore.”

Reese, similarly, abhors the idea of altering his image. “We need to break that mindset,” he says. “People put a stigma on others to do things by 29, 30, and 31, making some people give up and lose sight of their dreams. Successful people don’t see that. They keep going.”

So for Final Fantasy, Reese didn’t think too hard about trying to change up his process outside of what works for him – spontaneity. “I made music according to the mood that I was in that day. Even what I wore to the studio impacted what I made,” he says.

If Final Fantasy’s first single, “Hol’ Up,” is any indicator, Reese was gargling Red Bull in the car on the way to the studio before recording it. The roaring, bass-filled track features Reese spitting rapidly, yet in a relaxed and poised manner. In a video that he says is inspired by Limp Bizkit and Method Man’s “N 2 Gether Now,” Reese keeps the adrenaline high by slicing up bad guys with a katana, Kill Bill-style. Like Rexha’s sexy selfie, it’s the perfect middle finger to what the world expects from him. “I love Tarantino,” he says. “I want to shoot videos for all of the songs on one of my projects and I want him to make a short film with me one day.”

This confidence and boldness have helped Reese stay relevant in rap’s constantly altering landscape. He’s the same as he was 10 years ago, maybe a touch more sure of himself. He does have a message to his 21-year-old self, though: “Everything is just going to play out fine. Never change. Just keep doing it and everything is just going to be alright.”

Sech’s Soulful Reggaetón Is Helping His Dreams Come True

By Lucas Villa

Given the sustained popularity of Daddy Yankee (especially after the crossover smash “Gasolina”) and Luis Fonsi (propelled by the immortal “Despacito”), it’s easy to tell how reggaetón music has long had ties to its home in Puerto Rico. But as history shows, the genre is also well rooted in Panama as well; often-overlooked pioneers from the 1980s and early ’90s El General, Nando Boom, and Renato all hailed from there. The sound they helped cultivate, originally called reggae en Español, spread to the Puerto Rican underground music scene and eventually hit global commercial success, forever linking the music and the place.

But cultural historians have also noted a blanqueamiento, or whitewashing of the genre, that saw Black artists’ influence in molding the genre downplayed as lighter-complexion superstar Latinx acts have taken the music to greater heights. Because of this, the genre’s association with Panama has waned through the years. But one rising Panamanian reggaetón maestro is putting his country back on the map.

As a producer and songwriter, Carlos Isaías Morales Williams — also known as Sech — is stepping out from behind the console and into global success that those before him could only imagine. Though many reggaetoneros were shut out of this year’s Latin Grammy awards nominations, prompting a backlash on social media, the rising singer-songwriter managed to nab three nods. You can hear why: Sech’s voice is giving música urbana a distinct Afro-Latinx soul that it’s been lacking.

At the beginning of this decade, Sech was one-half of the production duo El Combo de Oro. He got his feet wet in reggaetón and música urbana at large while helping create hits for other artists. In 2017, he got the itch to go solo and pursued his own career with the buzzy single “Miss Lonely.” “One of my friends told me, ‘Bro, you write these songs and you sing them better than the other artists. Why don’t you sing?’” Sech told MTV News. “So five years ago, I started to sing.”

As a Panamanian singer with a dream of superstardom, he named his 2019 album Sueños, which translates to Dreams. The cover art accurately depicts Sech as a cuddly bear planting his flag on the moon. “It’s a dream to have your first album on the Billboard charts,” he said. Sech opens it with “Soñando Despierto,” or “Dreaming Awake,” which sees him acknowledging the struggles he’s overcome at home in his quest for success. His powerful voice switches between sweet and sultry on the rest of the tracks. The heartache on his breakthrough single “Otro Trago,” or “Another Drink,” is palpable as he sings of a woman forgetting her troubles in the club.

Sech has reached No. 3 on Billboard‘s Hot Latin Albums chart with Sueños while nabbing a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Urban Music Album. “Otro Trago,” which he sings alongside Darell, peaked at No. 37 on the all-genre Hot 100 chart and received nominations for Best Urban Song and Best Urban Fusion/Performance. (It also boasts a remix featuring Ozuna, Nicky Jam, and Anuel AA.) Ahead of the awards on November 14, Sech talked with MTV News about his dreams coming true.

MTV News: After writing and producing for other artists, how does it feel to be your own artist?

Sech: I think that’s the first thing you need to learn: to be a good songwriter and producer. Not a full producer, but to be someone that knows something about music. To play piano and some instruments. To have that experience to be an artist.

MTV News: What’s the difference between when you write for someone else and when you write for yourself?

Sech: I do everything with my heart and with feeling. I always do the best that I can do. There’s no difference. I write the song and if it’s for me, good, and if it’s not for me, still good. [laughs]

MTV News: Who are some people that influence your music?

Sech: Daddy Yankee, Drake, Post Malone, and Justin Bieber. I would like to work with them too. I love R&B. I hear R&B, jazz music, and blues. That’s me: a fusion of reggaetón with R&B.

MTV News: How did your song “Otro Trago” come together?

Sech: I started playing piano in the studio. It was a romantic song, and later, Dimelo Flow told me he could put some reggaetón on it to make it stronger. That song was an experiment.

MTV News: How do you feel about your Latin Grammy nominations?

Sech: I feel so good. It’s my first time at the Latin Grammys. I always saw them on TV. I never thought that I would see myself there.

MTV News: What do you think about Latin music being so big right now?

Sech: It’s great, but all the musicians have put in a lot of time and work to make that happen. That’s something that needs to be respected. I feel like we’re in one of the best moments for música urbana and reggaetón. For the music to be global and everywhere, it’s amazing.

MTV News: With reggaetón having roots in Panama, how do you feel to be representing your country?

Sech: I feel very happy to be representing my country. You already know the story with Panama and Puerto Rico. There’s so much talent in Panama and I’m very proud to be one of the people representing where I come from.

Jupiter Styles Wants To Connect With You

By TJ Kliebhan

For just about every musician, music is more a labor of love than a career, and it will always be that way. Thanks to the internet, recording music on a digital audio workstation and uploading it to a centralized platform like Bandcamp or SoundCloud means it’s never been easier to be a part-time musician, but being a part-time musician who balances full-time work is still far from easy. You wouldn’t know it from following Sean Neumann, freelance journalist, bassist in indie rock act Ratboys, and solo artist behind Jupiter Styles.

Neumann’s constantly promoting his work on social media, whether it’s articles he’s written, music he’s tinkering with, or musings on baseball and wrestling. It’s clear that the Chicago local engages in a balancing act of responsibilities, yet his unwavering positivity makes it seem simple. For Neumann, being a workaholic is a means of survival.

But on Jupiter Styles’s  latest record Ultra St. Opera, which Neumann released last month, he takes a step back to observe how quickly life can pass by and how important things can start to blur and lose shape in the daily grind. The album’s lead single, “Supermodel,” finds Neumann recalling the death of a close friend and how that catharsis of the experience begins to fade as time passes and life’s other demands begin to take effect. You hear this in the first words Neumann sings on the song — “I’m getting scared I don’t remember that my friend’s dead” — immediately announcing itself as one of the album’s essential cuts.

“The song is about someone I worked with and who I saw multiple times a week,” he tells MTV News. “You take those people that you see in your life every day for granted because you see them every day. I remember I was driving, and his suicide was on the news in Urbana, Illinois. It was big news, but the broadcast didn’t say who it was. That kind of thing — you never think it’s tied to you. And then I saw people posting about [him] on social media.”

Throughout the album, Neumann laments how wrong it seems for those feelings of missing someone to fade. “I’m getting scared that my brain is changing in ways I don’t like. Maybe this is something that happens to everyone as we get older, but I wonder if I’m losing who I am,” he says. “It’s stupid and upsetting to miss important things because I’m so focused on surviving to the next day.”

In Neumann’s case, surviving means using his time wisely. Without coming from extreme wealth, being a young indie rock musician demands a devastating amount of time. “My 9-to-5 is pitching news all day, pretty much,” he says. “Maybe I’ll land a story every couple of days, and I spend my time working on that. I do a lot of music work after 5, too. That can mean anything from writing songs to pitching my album, to writing a bio of the album, to digitally distributing the album. Even if I’m on tour though, I’ll continue working in the van while someone drives, or if we’re at the venue, I’ll ask for the Wi-Fi.”

While his lifestyle would probably be hectic for most, Neumann sees every new task as another chance to chase a story, even if he’s just listening instead of telling it. He credits this to his belief that he comes from a family of storytellers. “I grew up sitting around a table with my grandma and she would exchange stories with others,” he says. “I like to tell stories, but I really like to listen to stories. Everyone has a story and I really believe that.” Ultra St. Opera is proof that Neumann has refined his storytelling craft to a professional level.

The 14-song collection — which he wrote and sings, in addition to handling guitar, bass, and keyboard duties — weaves ripping guitar solos and black-metal blast beats with somber acoustic ballads. Crucially, the entire project is connected by a clear themes of loss and change. Neumann excels at taking moments that deal with those themes and hyper-analyzing them into universal stories. This is most evident on what Neumann considers the climax of the album, “Now I’m Here.” The minimal track is carried by Neumann’s exasperated vocal performance where he croons, “I sat at the back of his funeral, late, but I caught the end,” and “I know there are times when I just want to go and be like him.”

Neumann also wrestles with social media’s never-ending assault on self-worth with the track “Haunted,” capturing a common feeling: “Two-thousand fucking friends now / Ain’t a one wants to hear from me.” “Songs should have an openness where you can place yourself in,” he explains. “I think people need to connect to shit or else it won’t hit them in any emotional way.”

Neumann pulls off the album’s sound, bigger than anything he’s done yet, thanks to his musical background. A musician since high school, he’s played “everywhere from basements and barber shops to clubs and parking lots,” as his Jupiter Styles bio reveals. His past work with acts like Single Player likewise proves Neumann’s always been able to write full-throttle catchy hooks that can stand next to the late-‘90s and early-2000s rock radio he grew up adoring. But Ultra St. Opera finds him leveling up with a more polished sound than what his previous releases captured. “People always compare me to Third Eye Blind, and I always say that’s probably accurate because I listened to a lot of Third Eye Blind growing up. I’ve started to realize I have more resources. I don’t need to record on the eight-track anymore. Pretty much all of my spare cash goes into music, and so I was more aware of what I can do.”

Neumann’s  Jupiter Styles project greatly benefits from existing in a musical incubator. He’s been friends with Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan of Ratboys, who both play on the album, since high school, along with Chicago rapper/multi-instrumentalist Nnamdi Ogbonnaya. Both Ratboys and Ogbonnaya have seen their popularity grow outside the Chicagoland area in recent years, and with Ratboys, Neumann has played to crowds of over 2,000 people — good numbers for an indie act. He’s set to take Jupiter Styles on the road this month, too, for 15 dates across the midwest. “I’ve seen [Ratboys and Ogbonnaya] achieve something I didn’t think was possible before. I’ve seen them succeed, and it made it real and possible for me. I feel like if I can get people to hear [Jupiter Styles], I know they’ll like it because I believe that the music I make is good. Otherwise there would be no point in putting it out there,” he says.

Whether it’s as Sean Neumann, freelancer, or Jupiter Styles, musical project, it’s clear that Neumann invests in stories. Ultra St. Opera is a collection of real, specific, and yet often universal ones. He sums up this need to surround himself with stories on the album’s closer, “Orbiter”: “Tell me everything that you know, I want to see the way the world goes.” “I still want to sit around my grandma’s table and tell stories with people,” he says. “You can live and go to work and die, or you can seek meaning in this life by connecting with people.”