A lot of things changed in 2020. While the worst case scenario happened for most, the pretty much best came through for budding artist JVKE, as his world literally turned upside down in just a few short months.
Taking to TikTok at the beginning of the lockdown, JVKE teamed up with his mom — an elementary school music teacher — to make original remixes from some of the platform’s most popular sounds. The beats were just so good, that creators like Charli D’Amelio and Loren Gray started making videos to them, and the rest is history.
Now with almost 4 million followers on the platform, the 19-year-old’s original tune “Upside Down” is the 3rd most used sound on TikTok, #4 on Spotify’s US Viral and Global Viral charts, the soundtrack for TikTok’s global TV commercial, and has a remix with the one and only Charlie Puth. JVKE also does a lot of work behind-the-scenes, as he’s got a publishing deal that’s previously landed him cuts with global superstar Jason Derulo, South Korean-Chinese boy and EXO and K-POP pop group Super Junior.
Just in time for the holidays, JVKE dropped his own Christmas bop “Ho Ho Ho,” which you can listen to here. Featuring the talented musician’s signature pulsing synthesizers and emo-pop melodies, the track is a must-add to your playlists that will instantly set the vibe for your Zoom holiday parties with friends and family.
Celeb Secrets sits down with JVKE to learn more about his musical journey, creating infectious beats with his mom, the viral success of his smash “Upside Down,” and what’s to come from him in 2021. You can read the full conversation below.
Celeb Secrets: I want to start by address the fact you joined TikTok this year and you already have over 3.9 million followers, 6 billion plays and 14 million videos created with your single “Upside Down.” I just want to know when you first started putting out content, did you have any iota of an idea that something like this what’s going to happen?
JVKE: “Honestly, not at all. I originally had this idea where I would make a beat with my mom on the spot. I ended up trying it out and It didn’t really do too well (laughs). And then we started to morph the idea and it turned into this thing that started blowing up, which I didn’t expect. We kind of hit the sweet spot and I just kept posting more stuff out with my mom and that got me started.”
CS: That’s so cool. So what does your mom think about all this?
J: “Oh, man, she loves it! She’s actually a music teacher for an elementary school. All of her students know her from TikTok. She hasn’t been back to school yet with quarantine and everything, so she’s been on Zoom meetings and the other day she told me in the middle of class, one of her students yelled because they realized who she was because she was talking about me and her student was like, ‘wait, you’re that person.'”
CS: I could imagine that’d be cool for your mom regardless, but then to be doing all this with her son has to be a whole other level. That’s amazing.
J: “Yeah. I love doing everything with her. She’s amazing.”
@jvkei might just have the coolest mom ever. ##fyp♬ Rockstar Remix AYO MOMMA ON THE BEAT – JVKE 🌩
CS: She seems like an absolute blast. So can you tell me a little bit about JVKE before the millions of fans? Just a little bit about when you started making music and what led you to be so passionate about it?
J: “So I actually grew up in church. My mom is obviously a music teacher, my dad’s a pastor. They had me taking piano lessons from the age of three and then I got kind of got sick of it. I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ I wanted to play the drums. So I switched over to drums and then guitar and by the age of seven I was playing every week in my church band. So that was what got me introduced into music. I was just doing Christian contemporary music but then I had snuck onto my brother’s iPod where I discovered Kanye and Drake and I really fell in love with that sort of music. I took lessons all the way up until I was 15 and then I started making my own music.”
CS: That’s amazing. And you actually went to college and ended up dropping out because you got a publishing deal, right?
J: “Yes. I was in college for about a year and a half to do the same thing my mom was doing, which was to be a public school music teacher. And I just realized I didn’t really want to do that. And that if I wanted to be a musician, well, a full-time artist, not just a musician, I would just need to go all in. That was about two years ago when I dropped out. So, yeah, it was a big step.”
CS: Well it seems like it’s paid off pretty well!
J: “Yeah, it has!”
CS: Talk about stepping into your faith, right? That’s huge. What gave you the initial idea of making mash-ups? Have you always been passionate about blending different songs together or was that just an idea you had on a whim?
Jake: “It actually came when I was trying to make the videos with my mom better. At first we were just making the regular beats. But then I had the idea of taking a native TikTok song that had just blown up and matching it with one of my songs. We tried it a few times and that created ‘Upside Down,’ which was the song to do it. I had never really done mashups before then, but it seemed to work really well because it brought that TikTok aspect to it and made it feel like it belonged on the app.”
CS: That’s brilliant. So now Charlie Puth has remixed the song. I know you’ve said that he’s one of your biggest inspirations, so what’s that like?
J: “It’s insane. Surreal. I don’t fully understand yet what’s actually happened. Cause, I mean, I’ve been listening to Charlie Puth for years now just loving his music. When I was mentioning he was one of my biggest inspirations, we had never gotten in contact with him. We hadn’t reached out to collaborate. I was hoping one day I would collaborate with him, but I didn’t think it would happen so quick. I have done a couple of interviews where they were like, if you could work with anyone, who would it be? And every time I said Charlie Puth and it just happened. So it was crazy.”
i made a song w this tiktoker, he’s actually pretty good @charlieputh ##WellDone
CS: That’s nuts! Like seriously, wow. Just saying you grew up in church, that’s so cool how all the pieces fall together. So let’s talk about your upcoming music. You are being rapidly recognized as a recording artist, but then when you go to your Spotify, you only have one song out, two now with the remix. The world is your oyster! Now you get to go produce as much music as you want and you have an audience who will listen. Are you currently working on new music? Is that something that fans can look forward to?
J: “There’s a little piece to my story that I don’t think I told you. So basically when I dropped out of college, I wanted to be an artist but I didn’t really have the opportunity or the exposure to do that. I didn’t have a fanbase or anything. I was just songwriting and producing for other people. So in that time period, I built a catalog of over 400 songs. So I have tons of music ready to go and I was just waiting for a platform to push it all out. So I’m super excited to get some of that out. That’s like my bread and butter, writing songs.”
CS: So have any of your songs been placed with other artists that we would know?
J: “Yeah, so I’ve had a few placements with some KPOP groups. Then I have some notable cuts with like Jason Derulo and a few other people. But outside of that, I’m actually still working on the songwriting stuff, working with some other TikTok influencers. When I went out to LA recently, I got to work with a lot of really cool people, which I’ll be updating everybody on very soon, but, I’m still kind of keeping in touch with that side of it too.
CS: That’s so cool. So what’s your creative process like when writing a song? Do you initially have a lyrical idea? Does the beat come to you first or is it different every time?
J: “It typically differs between songs. My main thing I try to stick to is always needing to start with an amazing idea. Whether it’s a lyric idea that really sticks out or it’s a melody that I really like I build the song around it. Typically if you have a really good idea and you have that inspiration, the rest of the song you can just build around and highlight that piece. So that’s typically how I do it. It’s not the same every time, but I always make sure to have something special to start off the song. It kinda inspires me for the rest of it.”
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CS: You’ve broken as an artist at a time when live performances aren’t really a thing. Having grown up in church, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of experience performing in front of an audience. But have you ever performed your original music in front of like a large audience? Either at a festival or opening for another artist?
J: “Not yet, actually. I’ve been thinking about it recently just because beforehand I obviously didn’t have plans to be an artist because I just didn’t have anybody who cared enough to listen to my songs. Now that I do, we’ve been working on some sort of set so that I can perform live. So that’s definitely a side that I’m really excited to experiment with and just see what that would look like for my music because I have a lot of cool ideas I want to try out. So that’s really exciting for me.”
CS: We’re so excited for you. We feel like there’s so much that we’re going to see from you after this first song. We’re not joking — like it is such a banger that I cannot even wait to see what you do next.
Talk about an unprecedented year, not just in the state of the world, but for you in particular your life rapidly changed in a lot of ways. Particularly in the sense that you’re now very much in the public eye. What is that been like? Is that something that excites you or has it been hard?
J: “I really started posting in quarantine, and at the time I gained a small following. I think I was at like 30,000 followers. I had started off with that on TikTok and right when March hit, I started posting more with my mom and I think over the course of 30 days I gained 1.5 million followers and a hundred million views. And I was just like, this is crazy. I just kept posting and it all just worked. So it’s definitely been a little bit of a transition just because I wasn’t really focused on the artistry stuff. All I was doing was writing songs but I’m really enjoying it. I have a lot of fans who I get to interact with, tapping into their ideas and saying hi and stuff like that. It’s just so much fun for me cuz I was never able to do that before.”
CS: So last but not least, our outlet is obviously called Celeb Secrets and therefore we cannot end this interview without asking you for a secret.
J: “So with quarantine we haven’t had any shows for people to see this or anything, but I’m actually six foot six inches tall. I’m a giant. I’m really tall and no one actually knows that.”
CS: We noticed that in one of your videos. We were like, either he is super super tall or his mom is like really really small. So your dad must be really tall right?
J: “Yeah, I get it from him.”