Newcomer Jack Newsome Talks About Songwriting and Growing Up Down the Street from Bruce Springsteen
It was 10:15 in the morning here in Manila when I got on a video call with international singer/songwriter Jack Newsome, who was winding down a Thursday evening from his Studio City residence in Southern California. Before the bright lights of Hollywood, the 24-year-old musician used to call Rumson, New Jersey his home.
There must be something in the water in those parts. The musical talent coming out of this Garden State borough, which you probably have never heard of before reading this story, has been quite impressive. Charlie Puth was born there, Queen Latifah lived there for a time, and just last year, Jon Bon Jovi put his Middletown waterfront home up for sale. A $20 million mansion just across the river from good ol’ Rumson. A few other familiar names populate that list but none bigger than The Boss, Bruce Springsteen.
The Springsteen connection
Whenever I go and stay with my uncle in Jersey City each year, it’s been tradition for us to drive to Upstate New York. Without fail during each long car ride to and from, every time we’re driving anywhere near Rumson, like clockwork, my uncle always brings up the fact that Bruce Springsteen is from there. Springsteen is the borough’s favorite son.
This is gospel truth for Rumson natives including Jack Newsome.
“I grew up down the street from Bruce and every year on Halloween, he would get dressed up in this gorilla costume and come out and nobody would know it was him,” he says. “He would just scare people and it was just really, really, really funny. He’s had more influence on me than I probably would even know because my parents worshipped him and we played his music in the house all the time.”
That house down the street from Springsteen’s was where Newsome’s musical journey would begin.
Coming from a musical family and having a background in theater growing up, Newsome always showed promise as an artist. Aside from The Boss, his musical influences include Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga. With the help of his mom, the Newsomes transformed their garage into a studio, where Jack would write and produce music with a computer and recording software. His mom was all in on the dream her son had chosen to chase, driving him to New York City for rehearsals and auditions herself.
Songs from the Garage
Newsome independently released an album in 2011 aptly titled Songs from the Garage. He also had a little bit of help outside their home while starting out with his music.
“I had a good amount of time by myself to learn it and then I had a mentor in New Jersey for a few years and he taught me a ton,” he says. “He wrote for Alicia Keys and he settled down and had a family in New Jersey. He saw me shoot a music video when I was independent and invited me to his house where he has this crazy music studio in his basement and he taught me everything I know. We sat there and wrote hundreds of songs together and I basically watched him produce over his shoulder and learned so much from him.
“I think having a mentor in this industry is very important and I hope that at some point I could pass on whatever I learned to someone else because I think that’s the right thing to do,” he adds
After high school, Newsome took it up a notch and enrolled in Berklee College of Music to major in music and production. At the age of 21, he made a big decision to switch to online studies so he could move to Los Angeles to pursue his dream. He drove cross-country to where he could still continue his Berklee education albeit from afar, focus on making more music, and have a better shot at getting to the next level.
A boost from Songland
It wasn’t long until the NBC reality show Songland took notice and Newsome became part of its first season in 2019. With the help of country singer/songwriter/producer Shane McAnally, the pair came up with the track “Lying (Next to You),” which was hugely successful on streaming platforms, eventually breaching the one million mark on Spotify.
Newsome’s appearance on the show led to more recognition and opportunities, which included writing the song “Hurt Me” for Meghan Trainor. Smack Songs signed him to a publishing deal and he was later signed by record label 12Tone Music in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. The rest has been a blur in these unconventional times we all find ourselves in.
“I’ve just been working. Behind my camera, I have my whole recording studio here,” he tells me as we go on with our online interview. “It’s just been a lot of music. It’s been really the only thing going on.”
Following the success of “The Year The World Stood Still” to start 2021, Newsome recently released his latest single “Arms,” an infectious pop track guaranteed to make your head bop.
“I think with 'Arms,’ the reason why I’m so proud of it is because we turned such a terrible time and such an awful feeling into a song you can dance to,” he intimates. “I feel like if I have one mission in my life and in my work, it’s to take hardships and give people something to dance to about it at the end of the day. Turn lemons into lemonade.”
Long way from home
Los Angeles is a long way from Rumson and Newsome still can’t believe the distance his music has taken him so far. He also knows the journey’s anything but close to over.
“I don’t think I ever thought that far ahead and the fact that people are really connecting with it is amazing,” he says. Thanks to the interweb, his music has found its way to our shores and the young artist can’t wait to perform live for his Filipino fans when it’s safe to come visit.
“I’m just excited to go because all the interactions I’ve had have been so amazing,” he says. “You guys just care about music in a way that so many countries don’t. “It’s so magical when people get it and they respect it. That just means that people are listening and that means everything.”
Going on YouTube and listening to his earlier stuff, you can see a bit of maturity in his style with his more recent work.
“Right now, I’ve been very inspired by kind of more classic music. We’re pulling references from the late 70’s and from the 80’s,” he says. “When I did that cover of 'Died in Your Arms’ last year, it definitely sparked something in me that was like, ok, why are all these songs from back then still lasting now?”
Artists evolve and so does their work. Newsome, in just his mid-20s and with so much ahead of him, aspires for his own music to have the timelessness that only a select few have been able to master.
“I want to find out that secret sauce that makes something last more than a year, or more than five, more than 10,” he shares.
If you’re a kid from Jersey, you probably were raised on Springsteen and this one definitely has not forgotten where he came from.
“The cool thing that I’m probably most inspired by him about is that his music doesn’t really have a season,” he says. “You could wake up today, 20 years ago, or 20 years into the future and it’s gonna have the same effect,” he says. “I want my music to feel like it can stick around for a very long time.”
We like what we’re hearing from Jack Newsome and he seems to be on the right track. Only time will tell what he writes home to Rumson about.