Adam P. Newton recently became a father for the first time, so he has decided to explain the entirety of post-WWII Western pop music to his new daughter, "Fig"… one genre at a time.
Hey there, Fig. I’m enjoying my chats with other parents about music and raising kids for a couple of reasons: 1) I want to learn as much about parenting as I can; and 2) Houston is filled with some pretty great artists. Hopefully, our relationship and your musical education will benefit from these conversations.
I’ve known Jeremy Masters since 2006, but most people around Houston know him as “J,” “J Magic,” “Jredi Knight,” or “Tekle Selassie.” He’s one of the most innately talented folks I know. Back when we first met, he was fronting a band called Dubtex, but he’s been playing music around Space City for a couple of decades. And right now, he’s leading Sons of the Conquering Lion, playing a mix of hardcore and reggae the group calls “culture core.” We chatted about a bit of personal history, his musical roots, how his daughter changed his outlook on his musical career, and a guy called “Justin Beaver.”
Houston Press: When did music first take hold in your life? Was it something you always remember being around in your home, or did it comes through other means and inputs?
Jeremy Masters: Music and the love/ability for it were inherited from my parents. They were active gospel musicians, and at one time, my father was a music leader at Lakewood. They had a band (vocal trio, piano and guitar) called Fulfillment and traveled to play. I can’t remember a time before music.
Describe the transition from being a music fan to being a musician. How did your love of music evolve into wanting to play music? How did one inform the other?
I thought I started band in kindergarten. Empty oatmeal containers with rocks for shakers, comb and wax-paper kazoos. It wasn't real, of course, but I think being a musician/performer was inherent. When I discovered punk rock around age 13-14, I loved everything about it. Especially that I could actually play it without a lot of practice. The Ramones ruined any chance for me to be a good guitarist, but inspired me to be in bands the rest of my life.
My first real band was a Christian punk band called Filthy Rags. My favorite music was contraband in my house, but anything "Christian" passed. And other than a few years, I have been involved in bands ever since.
How did becoming a father impact your life as a musician? What change surprised you most? What has changed the most, even if it didn't surprise you?
Obviously the first change is in priority. Those played-out gigs fade in importance to story time and just being with my daughter. Then it showed me that my identity had been wrapped up and defined by whatever band I was in at the time. I realized being a good husband and father was enough.
How do you talk about about and expose your daughter to music? Is it an organic process, something planned, or something in between?
I admit begrudgingly that I was a bit cavalier and intentional when she was younger: dressing her in Run-DMC shirts, playing only Ramones and old-school hip-hop in the car. I loved that she memorized lines and requested Ramones songs as lullabies. I had her calling the Fresh Beat Band “posers."
But eventually the radio and television juggernaut took over, and she was dancing to stuff I hate. But it’s great, because she's her! She did tell me there is a singer named "Justin Beaver" who is a cousin of "The Chipmunks,” and I did not correct any of that, so I feel I did my job protecting her there.
Could you describe the role of music around your home on both day-to-day and meta levels?
Music is always playing in our house. It’s how we do chores. Makeda hosts dance parties for her stuffed animals, and she gives concerts for Erika (my wife) and me. I love that she asks me about lyrics and meanings to songs.
Do you play your own music often for your daughter? Do you write, practice, and/or perform around the house?
I have played my music for her. There is a video on YouTube of my daughter onstage with Dubtex when she was very young. When I was writing and producing my solo material, she brought her leap pad in saying she was making beats and rhymes. I sampled a piece and used it in a track called “Elements."
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What kind of music does she like now? How do you balance your influence around the home with that of her friends at school and in the neighborhood?
Makeda helped with this question, and she says her favorite bands are Blondie, Magic!, and anything by Kidz Bop. I gave up on telling her what music is good and bad. She has pretty good taste anyway. As for what her peers listen to, I think I told the Justin Beaver story too soon.
Do you have any hopes and dreams for your daughter about her possibly becoming a musician or performer someday? How do you actively (or even passively) encourage those dreams? And what dreams does she have of her own that revolve around music?
I would love for her to be a performer already. In fact, she already writes songs all the time. But she is determined her career will be animal-related — luckily no longer of the stuffed variety. She loves music and is a natural, but says she doesn't have to do it just because daddy does.
What advice might you have for parents and kids about music in and around the home?
You can't determine your child's musical taste forever, but it would be very unwise in my opinion to allow them to listen to everything. Lyrics with melody and rhythms work like programming, and there is a serious campaign of programming our kids underway. If your kid is flashing triangles over their eye and singing how "Sex takes me to paradise,” something has gone wrong.