Be Consistent: Jay Burritos
The law of attraction says that the magnetic pull of the Universe is so strong that it forces like energies towards one another. The Universe can only draw near to you what is already present within yourself. The master of millennial music and creator of the music podcast Runaway Jukebox, Jay Burritos is filled with so much love and that love, subsequently, spills over into the work him and his team put out. There are loads of podcasts that feature seasoned music critics but Runaway Jukebox has those conversations we have about new music with friends. Jay's love for music and for meaningful conversation is what makes the podcast so dynamic. I would imagine that for me to have found such an artist would mean that somewhere within myself is that same love for what I do and the art that I create. Over Skype Jay candidly shares with me his thoughts on the new Chano project, the biggest challenges he faces as a creative of color, and the importance of being consistent.
Give me a rundown of Runaway Jukebox – how did it start out?
I can remember exactly how it happened actually. It was around August 2014 and myself, one of my best friends, Nick, and one of my friends, George got together and went out to get something to eat. We’ve always loved music and we’ve always talked about it so extensively to the point where – you know sometimes you ask a friend how'd you feel about the album and it's just like oh it's cool and that’s the extent of the conversation? That wasn't us. The three of us were sitting around the table and we were talking about music so much our food got cold. I can't even remember what album we were talking about but we were talking upwards of 2 hours about just music in general and it clicked in my head. I was just starting to get into podcasts and it really just hit me. Why aren’t we doing something with this? Every time we have a conversation like that it's always so good, so rich. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's informative, and sometimes it all of it and that’s when the ideas started coming around. I am a graphic designer on the side. It’s my 9 to 5 hustle (laughs). I was working the night shifts at my job and I was listening to lots of podcasts and I knew. I could not stop doodling words Runaway Jukebox for some reason.
Wow, it just happened that organically? That's sick.
Yeah! So I did the research, found out podcasting is pretty easy to get into. I have a MacBook all I need is the mics. I went ahead and purchased the equipment , got a few of my friends together. David is the guy that I lived with at the time and he was crazy about the idea at the time. Nick, the guy that I had the initial conversation with he was there. And Kim who's on the podcast every episode We all just got together and threw a test episode together last January- January of last year. It sounds terrible. One of these days imma end up putting it out – it sounds awful but the whole basis of the show was right there and I was just like “this is going to work. Nobody out here is doing this. So let’s make it happen. And that’s the story of the origins of Runaway Jukebox
So do you guys plan episodes in advance? I know you have to plan around album release dates and things of that nature.
For the most part, yeah that’s usually the case. Right now there’s a lot going on but there’s not music out that I know people are looking forward to, you know what I mean? It was easy when Views was coming out or when TLOP was coming out you know we’re going to end up talking about. To a certain extent, something will happen during the week that we want to put commentary on or that I just thought was funny or I want to hear Kim talk about and we’ll plan around that.
And also some of the albums you guys talk about are albums that have a small core following and those people are already going to like the album
I try to put people on if that makes any sense. People who have been listening to episodes know that I do talk about the big stuff like the Drakes and the Kanyes but at the same time, there are smaller artists that I’m crazy about. There’s so much music out there that I love and there’s so much music out there that a lot of other people love that I don’t know anything about and it’s just a collaborative effort really.
What do you think about album reviews? Do you think it's necessary to wait before putting out a review?
That’s such a complicated conversation. I believe music journalism is definitely necessary. The bad and the good. It’s all necessary to bring it together and hear a bunch of different views on everything. I've always wrestled with when to talk about an album. And that’s why I don’t call our episodes reviews necessarily –
Which is why I think it works because it’s just a discussion amongst friends about how they personally feel.
It’s just a cerebral conversation.
It’s not like your saying this album is bad because of this or that-
At the same time, I don’t knock people that do that same thing. I’m a huge fan of Anthony Fantano and the way he dissects music. At the end of the day he puts a score on it and that’s his personal feeling and that’s great but everything before that- the way he dissects the music and talks about the production is amazing.
Because he has the knowledge base. It’s not like a he’s a little 17-year-old white kid sitting in a cubicle listening to an album and then deciding if something is tight or not.
Even those guys are necessary. At the end of the day sometimes you hear an album and you just know it’s trash, to you at least. It’s all subjective. Sometimes you hear an album and you’re like, this is not for me and you don’t want to talk about it and you don’t want to have the conversation about it. That happens to me all of the time. Sometimes you hear an album and you’re like, that is a hit. Those are the ones that I like to go back and listen to over and over again. There are some that are somewhere in the middle where it’s like I need more time to figure out how I feel about this . For example, Coloring Book , the new Chance project, I loved it. I think it’s great. When we talked about it on the podcast I really liked it then too but I was still comparing it to Surf.
For anyone who has a long history with Chance music you have a perception of what his sound should be and Coloring Book is not Acid Rap at all.
Right, and is that fair ?
Right, that’s the thing. He can’t keep putting out Acid Rap.
Exactly take an artist as polarizing as Kanye West for example. They love to box him into his first 3 albums but if you go into those last four albums, 808s and above, expecting those first three you’re going to be disappointed. I was disappointed in the beginning. When I first heard 808s I hated and I love it now. It took about a year for it to sink in because when I first heard it I was so ready to hear whatever the sequel to Graduation was going to be. We were all so ready for this Kanye album because the first three were just so immaculate. I was just not ready for the vibes and the feelings and the sadness that came with that album and it just threw me off . I’m always so conflicted when it comes to comparing an artists’ work to their own stuff. You always want something to be in the same vein as that one thing that you like but then you want that artist to grow and change and you want to hear something different.
What’s the end goal for Runaway?
After over a year I still don’t have a concrete answer. I’ve been just kind of moving and shaking for the past year when it comes to who we talk to and what we talk about. We went from being your favorite hip hop podcast, I’m using air quotes you can't see me, to being your favorite music podcast. From talking about 5 albums a week to talking about 1 album every 2 weeks. There’s a part of me that wants to jump into radio but I don’t like what radio is at the moment. I just want to talk to people and I want to do that in the best way possible. Whatever that means a year from now that’s where I’ll be. I don’t want you to turn on my podcast and hear, “this episode is sponsored by so and so." That’s not the vibe I’m trying to put out. I want to be honest and forthright and I want to collaborate with people who are like that and together we can stand.
How do you balance Runaway with a full 9 to 5 job?
When I’m at work, that’s all I think about. That’s all I ever think about. I work with 3 computer screens because I do a lot of design work. On the main screen, of course, I’m doing my work. The screen to the left I have Soundcloud opened and I’m looking at the analytics trying to see who’s listening and who’s commenting and I’m trying to get back to people. I’m also looking at another screen to see what’s coming out and what everyone is talking about. I balance it by just doing it all at the same time.
What has been the most challenging part about creating Runaway? And what has been the most rewarding?
The most challenging thing is being consistent. And I mean that on all fronts. Not even just being consistent with how good the episodes are but being consistent enough to even do an episode. There have been periods- lucky most have been left of 2015- but there were periods where I would just get so discouraged looking at the numbers. I was so focused on the numbers. It was like, man only 50 people listened to this episode this week, that’s terrible. I understand it wasn’t the best. Sometimes we would get into a streak of that and it would just weigh so crazy on my brain because at the end of the day it all falls back on me because I’m the one that’s putting this all together. I’m the one that records it and edits it and comes up with the majority of the topics. Kim and David do what they can and we all have great conversations but at the end of the day if an episode fails it's on me.
I would actually challenge that and say that the episode never fails. It might not get 500 listens but if 1 person is inspired to go out and listen to an album they’ve never heard of you’ve actually done your job and that’s enough .
See, that’s the challenge right there. That’s what I’ve come to accept in 2016 and that’s what I’ve been wrestling with this entire time. At the end of the day, the specific people who you might want to listen to this episode didn’t and that’s fine. There’s a stranger out there in Canada or in the UK or Australia or even in the United States that has never heard of whatever you’re talking about right now and they’re going crazy over it. This has literally happened before where people are like, “I’ve never heard of Hiatus Kaiyote but I love this album now. I’m inspired to make music like that.” It’s moments like that- and that’s where it comes to the second part of your question about the reward- when I hear people reach out to me like, "Jay, David, Kim, we love what you guys are talking about keep doing it I can't believe I didn’t know about this, I love what you do" That’s the biggest reward. To have people say I never knew about this and now I know and it’s thanks to you is so great. Back in the day if someone were to ask me what's the biggest reward I’ve had for the show I’d say something really concrete like we had this episode and it has this amount of views. I don’t care about that stuff anymore. At the end of the day if an episode has 200 listens or 2,000 listens it doesn’t really matter. The people that are here for us those are the people that are tuned in and those are the people paying attention and those are the people that are helping me keep the conversation going and that’s what I care about.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a podcast but don’t know where to start- what would you tell them?
The first thing I’d tell them would be to do it but it’s not as simple as it sounds. You get caught up in the web of what if this doesn’t sound right? What if this isn’t good ? The best advice you can give to someone who wants to do something is to just get started doing it. It’ll get better in time. Sometimes I go back and listen to episode 1 or episode 5 or something really old and I’ll compare it to episode 60 and we’ve come so far. We’ re not the same people we were when we first started this thing. We’ve grown and we’ve learned and it all comes with practice. People don’t want to put in the work. Everything is instant gratification. You want to be the best on day 1 and Runaway Jukebox won’t necessarily be where I want it to be for the next couple years, but I’m willing to stick it out every week. The first thing I’d tell people is to be consistent with it.
The second thing is to not get so caught up in the little things. That’s the biggest thing that always held me back. When I first started I was throwing the episode out to anybody including some of my best friends and they would not listen to the podcast and I took that as a personal offense. This is something that I’m doing and that I’m putting together and it personally offends me that you’re not paying attention to what I’m saying. Those people wouldn’t listen and wouldn’t hear me out and that’s fine I don’t have any less love for them personally but then you have those people whom I’ve never met before like yourself that would just be like, "hey I found you through here" or "hey I just happened to be going through Soundcloud and I found this." You guys are the people that I want to have conversations with. Eventually, the people that I want to be paying attention will be like the guys from DEHH or Anthony Fantano or even some of my best friends who now listen to the podcast, they’re going to come around. You just can’t be worried about stuff like that. The number one piece of advice is just to do it.
As a black creative do you think there any sort of unique experiences blah blah challenges etc etc
The stigma that a lot of black podcasters are trying to fight is that they just don’t take us seriously. That’s just being real and we all know where that comes from. That’s something we all have been trying to fight and when I say we all I mean all black podcasters I mean all of us in this space. WNPR will get more shine than Buzzfeed’s Another Round. The Read is damn near one of the biggest podcasts ever and that’s great and they literally kick the door down for people like myself to come in and be like black podcasters can be great too which is why I will always appreciate them. I went to their live show last year and I wanted to get up in front of a mic and tell them that but I will this year.
The fact that they’re able to even tour is amazing.
That will be the biggest challenge that we all face, me especially. People just think that just because we’re young and we’re black and we’re talking in front of a microphone that we don’t know what we’re talking about. That’s not the case. Every podcast is not good and that’s fine but there are so many out there that are of great quality that knows what they’re talking about and they do the research. Instead of being really defiant about it, I just let my work speak for myself. People flock to it so it can’t be all that bad.
Go subscribe to Runaway Jukebox any and everywhere you listen to podcasts and be sure to follow them everywhere @runawayjukebox and follow Jay Burritos @jayburritos.