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  • aapimusicians

JT Gagarin

1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Jared Tyler Gagarin - I’m primarily a Recording and Mixing Engineer but also a Live Playback Engineer/Live Show Programmer when I go on tour.

2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? Filipino-American. Born and raised in the States.

3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? Nope, we just did a lot of karaoke like every other Filipino family, lol. (I was trash tho ngl)

4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. Overall I would say it was chill. Was fortunate to grow up in San Jose, CA where it’s very diverse and generally accepting of all cultures. There’s hella AAPI out there. Also my parents have been in the states since they were kids, so them being pretty Americanized already helped smooth everything.

5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? Pretty strong. Through middle school and high school I was part of Hiyas Philippine Folk Dance Company where I was a musician in the group. There I learned a lot about the Philippines’ history and culture. In addition, I was president of the Filipino-American Student Association in my junior and senior years of high school. Other local high schools also had pretty sizable Fil-Am clubs and we would regularly gather every year for events.

Despite all that though, I can’t speak a lick of Tagalog lol that’s the main language of the Philippines. My parents came to the States when they were kids, so they basically grew up here and never stressed me and my brother to learn it.

6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? To be honest, how I started doing music was very nonchalant, lol. At the start of the 6th grade, my best friend at the time said I should join the middle school band and play the drums too. Literally, I just figured "Why not?"--it sounded cool. I didn't know it’d end up being one of the best decisions of my life.

I already loved music before that but playing the drums in school really solidified it. Went on to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston and got a B.A. in Music Production & Engineering.

6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? It was my junior year in high school when we had to start thinking about what we wanted to major in and what school to go to. I was literally doing some sort of music practice or activity literally every day of the week at the time and felt like a part of my soul would melt away if I lost that, lol. My stubborn ass made up my mind at that point I wanted to go to music school.

Their reaction was definitely mixed, but for sure way more on the side of “You shouldn’t do that.” They did, however, want me to do something I enjoy; they just didn’t want it to be music because, you know, “That’s not a real job.” But when my career got off of the ground a little bit, a couple nice gifts for Christmas had them forgetting about all that real quick, lmao. I feel like our parents simply want us to be ‘successful’ regardless what profession we end up, ya know?

7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Engineering Free 6lack by 6lack and Ctrl. by SZA. Both were super special times (2016-17 were some fire years for music imo), and both artists were still on the come up when I started working with them.

IIRC, 6lack only had about 3000 followers on IG in August 2016 when I met him, now he has about 1.9 million. So to see him blossom into what he is now coming off Free 6lack is truly inspiring. We spent a month and a half straight locked in the studio working on that album.

SZA was the first artist that I listened to and was a fan of prior to actually working with them. We really trusted each other (which is super important for any musical relationship) and oftentimes it was literally just me and her in the studio working on many of the songs that made the album.

Both albums were nominated for grammys too, giving me my first two grammy nominations of my career. (With hopefully more to go!!)

Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. 6lack is the primary artist I work with at the moment, and I’ve pretty much touched everything he’s released since we started working back in 2016. I engineer/mix his vocals on all his features, and recently mixed his last EP, 6pc Hot.

My most recent major project was mixing the album More to Life by Swedish artist, Yasin. It was a dope project to be a part of; it actually just got nominated for a couple Swedish Grammys too. Still can’t speak any Swedish though lol

As a freelance engineer I’ve also had the opportunity to record numerous other artists including Roddy Ricch, Jhene Aiko, Chloe (from Chloe x Halle), Lauren Jauregui, Jeremih, Ty Dolla $ign, and more. [TBH, a lot of these were semi-random, one-off sessions, but still grateful to have worked with some artists I genuinely admire].

8. Describe to me your dream project. Honestly, working on any new album whether with an artist I’ve known for years or one I just met is a dream project. a new album is like a new chapter for an artist and every single one has the potential do something crazy.

9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? More often than not I’m the only AAPI in the room, especially given the fact I work in R&B/Hip Hop. This could have been due to a lot of reasons, but early on, people who weren’t the artist would automatically assume I’m an intern or runner, lol.

10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? Russell Elevado is a big one for me. He’s also of Filipino descent and is the engineer and mixer for D’Angelo, one of my favorite artists ever. There’s also Chad Hugo who’s had an incredible influence on me. He’s the counterpart to Pharrell in the legendary production duo, The Neptunes. He’s of Filipino descent as well, growing up in Virginia Beach, VA.

10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? There’s so much talent waiting to be tapped from the AAPI community that I feel hasn’t been fully fostered yet because of the natural inclination of immigrant parents to not condone pursuing fields in the arts. If it’s not this generation, I really hope the next one has the liberty (and acceptance from their parents) to really express themselves in all forms of art, especially music.

11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Continue to always trust your gut. Don’t let other people’s opinions affect you. Keep your head down for now and always stay grinding. Your time will come when you’re ready.

12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? 6lack’s next album of course, lol. Last album was in 2018, so we've been in the lab.

13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. Shoot, a little bit of everything. Been into politics since high school and I can browse wikipedia for hours on end, lol. Snowboarding’s a big hobby of mine, every season always trying to hit the slopes. Sports were actually my first passion; so, I always tell myself if I was taller, I would have been in the NBA, lmao.

Oh and I’m nice AF in Call of Duty, so come see me in verdansk if you want a dub.

14. Any final thoughts? Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? Just because there aren’t many who look like us in the music world doesn’t mean our place isn’t waiting for us! Keep hustlin’ and I really believe the AAPI community has something crazy in store for the culture.

Instagram: @jtgagarin

Twitter: @jtgagarin

Photos provided by JT Gagarin

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