Full interview with JR SPECS and Rita Plante

I had the pleasure of sitting down with University of Connecticut senior and hip-hop musician Josh Redmond to talk about his brand new release “GETCHA GEEKED.” Redmond has been releasing self-produced and self-recorded musical projects under the name JR SPECS for over five years. The new single, “GETCHA GEEKED,” is his last release as a student and comes as a follow up to his summer 2020 album “99 DAYDREAM.” In his final year of school at UConn, JR has set his expectations high as he is looking to pursue music full time after graduation.

RITA: How’d you get your start? What led you to begin making music? 

JR SPECS: I first started recording in middle school, and honestly, it first started as a way to get attention. You know, I was about 12 or 13 and I just wanted to do something to be cool…so I thought I’d sing, but I wasn’t very good at singing and didn’t play guitar, so I figured I’d rap because I was a pretty good writer. So I started doing that, and obviously, as you grow up, it becomes less about, for lack of a better word, clout, and more because you just fall in love with it…

RITA: Can you describe what your music style is now and how it’s evolved since then?

JR SPECS: When I was really young…I was listening to a lot of Eminem and Rosta 59 and rappers that are really focused on being clever and rhyming as much as possible in every line, and there’s a lot of competitive aspects associated with that. You want to say you’re the best and sound like the best, and that was how I came up. But as I made music more and more, playing jazz in school and broadening my horizons as a listener of music by listening to more pop and neo-soul outside of listening to people just rapping as hard as they can, I started to dabble more in love songs and dance sounds. So I think now, I’ve left a lot of things behind that motivated me to make music in the first place, so now I make things that a crowd can enjoy without making something that’s cookie cutter. 

RITA: In summer of 2020 you released your new album “99 DAYDREAM.” What was the inspiration behind that album, and how did it lead to your new single “GETCHA GEEKED?”

JR SPECS: They are kind of connected in terms of timeline. Back in January of 2020, right before the pandemic, I was starting to do real shows for the first time, and I did a small show in my hometown of Bangor, Maine. I just recorded “GETCHA GEEKED” in December 2019, and I played it at this show and the crowd just loved the song, so I thought “wow, I really want to put this out.” But then a couple of months later, we get sent home from school and suddenly I have a lot of time to record. So I recorded a bunch of narrative songs for my album called “99 DAYDREAM,” and it felt like “GETCHA GEEKED” wasn’t really fitting because it’s more like a freestyle or bragging and just getting bars off, it wasn’t like the rest of the songs on the album. So I held onto it, and now here we are about a year and a half later, and I’m finally putting it out, because it’s a more opportune time. 

RITA: Can you explain your artistic vision behind the “apricots” theme and all the visuals that have been associated with “GETCHA GEEKED?”

JR SPECS: At the time of recording the song in 2019, I was incorporating a lot of real sounds from videos that I happen to have on my phone or Snapchat into my songs to give it a more personal touch and some dimension. So I thought that I should throw a funny sound bite of my friends in here, just to give it that extra touch. I was looking through my Snapchat memories, and I found this video of my friends Sam and Wyatt arguing. Sam was saying that apricots are dried peaches, making an analogy like raisins are dried grapes, and we were trying to convince him that he was wrong. It was funny and random, but I happened to just put it at the end of the song. …So originally the song was called “GETCHA GEEKED (APRICOTS)” but we scrapped that from a title and decided to pay homage to the original title by making it the theme of the promo.

Photo by: Maggie Chafouleas

RITA: How has UConn influenced your career? What opportunities and communities has UConn introduced to you? 

JR SPECS: The biggest thing that UConn gave me was, in terms of personal lessons, I learned how to reach out to other people and just accept help. I used to try and do everything myself. As far as specific opportunities, sophomore year, I picked myself up and decided I was going to meet people and stop making music alone in my room. I joined [UConn Entertainment Group] that had just started fall of sophomore year, and that’s where I met Jacob Stockman, who’s a part of my team now and the president of UEG. That was really great, we had some small shows we put together in the beginning, which have become bigger in scope, we got to do a socially distanced showcase this fall…That has been the biggest thing, just having that community of creators.  

RITA: Can you explain UEG to anyone who is not familiar with it? 

JR SPECS: UEG is the club UConn Entertainment Group, which started out as a student run record label. We started out partnering with a few artists on campus during the first semester, including myself, this jazz band The Commentary and Kids That Fly as the original roster. We would put our heads together to help come up with ideas to put shows together, promote projects and things like that. Over the course of the past years, we’ve tried to restructure it in a way that makes more sense, maybe gets the word out more and involves more people in the project…Really what it is now is a networking opportunity. You come and meet producers, people who know how to put social media together, and people with good ideas and you can gain support and level up your own music and promotions of the music through meeting people. 

The “GETCHA GEEKED” music video released on Wednesday, March 3 at noon.

RITA: So, how have these communities and your team of other UConn seniors contributed to your new single “GETCHA GEEKED?” 

JR SPECS: This is the first time we’ve done something as a team musically. For “99 DAYDREAM” my good friend Eric Wang, who does most of my photo/video, was helping to put together promo. But for “GETCHA GEEKED,” I now have a couple of guys who manage me; I have Jacob Stockman, who has been involved with my digital marketing for a long time, I have Eric who is kind of my videographer and editor and I have Jakub Pirog and Maggie Chafouleas who do photography for me. I have Mike Carosielli and Caleb White who help with creative direction and animation. It’s taken a huge weight off my shoulders to know there’s people who want to be involved and put the work in and really present it in the right way. There have been times where I have thought, “wow, this is a really great song,” but I lacked the skills to present this and do this justice so people have really helped me out a lot and it’s really been a team effort. 

RITA: It’s really inspiring to see all of these great projects come out of the UConn community. However, you are a senior, and you are graduating soon. Are you planning to pursue your music career full time?

JR SPECS: Graduation is complicated for everyone, not just those pursuing music. We’re graduating into the tail end of a pandemic which is tough. The best way I can put it is I know that what I want to do with my life is be as creative as possible as often as possible, whether the end goal is creating music, writing music, producing music or recording music…But between where I am now and where I want to be, I want to be expressing myself. Everywhere else in between, as long as you try your best everyday and aren’t afraid to get after what you want it’ll figure itself out one by one.

RITA: If the pandemic wasn’t a thing, would that change your steps after graduation? 

JR SPECS: I don’t know where I would be if the pandemic hadn’t happened, because I don’t know how different the last nine months would’ve been. The pandemic, as much as it hurt in booking shows, gave me a lot of extra time to record, which is how my album and some of my biggest songs “TURF” and “BABY KNOCK ME DOWN” came together. 

JR SPECS performed for a WHUS live studio session in March 2020.

RITA: I’ve seen a couple of your live performances through WHUS, and I’ve noticed you’ve always brought in a lot of different types of musicians including an upright bass. What are your favorite types of musicians to accompany your performances? 

JR SPECS: It’s actually really interesting how those live performance groups came together. My drummer Maxx Meether goes to the University of Hartford…so anytime I needed a live band for a show I would hit up Max, “do you know any guys who would want to play some hip hop?”… It’s been a blessing to have a good friend who’s in a really astute jazz program nearby. It’s like, I have no choice. There’s all these talented people who can pick up my music quickly, so I might as well take it in a jazzier direction for the live performances…

RITA: Any closing thoughts? 

JR SPECS: Honestly all I want to say is thank you Rita and everyone at WHUS and the Daily Campus and elsewhere who’ve helped me get the word out about this song. I guess I’ll just end with “GETCHA GEEKED” is out everywhere now on Spotify, Apple Music and wherever now. Thank you. 

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