Skip to content

Writing, A&R and teaching through music: Jastin’s offbeat career

If you haven’t met multi-skilled Jastin Artis, prepare to pick up your jaws off the floor. A musician, poetry and content writer, lecture performer and Artist & Repertoire pro. A multipassionate whose work ethic, respect towards his own roots, dedication to excellence, faith, heart for human rights, dedication to uplifting others, and business acumen are incredibly humbling and moving. If you, a fellow multipassionate, are interested in balancing out different creative skills, intrigued by the music industry and how to bring together business and the arts, read on.

Jastin, in the past, you explained that you used to be frequently rejected professionally due to your multifaceted, multipassionate profile. People would say something along the lines of “We like it, but we just can’t hire you.” But now, you say you feel more empowered, confident and proud of this diverse side of you. How did that transition happen? Was there anything you’ve experienced, anything you’ve done to speed up this transition?

I think having ownership in myself, my diversity, and abilities may have had some play in this. Many of us are conditioned to think sticking to one good thing is all you need or if you do more it’s “too much.” I was taught – maybe indirectly, but that’s often what I saw in my family and school. That you had to decide on one thing. 

But no one talks about if you are interested and GOOD at more than one thing, how to navigate it. So, thankfully I wasn’t afraid of the unknown and didn’t shy away from it. And, you know, you want to get the job, right? 😄 But after a while, you have to own who you are and who made you, then bet unapologetically on yourself. 

Companies are still passing over on a person like me with education, hands-on experience, and a desire to always learn. Though it stings, I’ve embraced God wants me to continue the charge of having and building my own.

I loved hearing about your background. Your mom was a flight attendant, first of all. And I don’t know why but I’m always surprised when someone says they are/know a flight attendant (😂). I wonder if that had some kind of impact on you growing up or even nowadays. The fact that my mom was a teacher and principal definitely had an impact on me! People always say they see the soul of a teacher in me – in the way I communicate, give feedback, present ideas, receive people warmly, etc. I’m curious to know if this had some sort of impact on you too, or on your choices. If not (or apart from that!), what has?

LOL that’s funny! But I get it. Remembering that was my mom’s passion and she applied three times before she got the gig…I was only excited about the flying benefits. 😄 Kids, right? But once I was older and heard the stories of her applying and getting rejected, then doing other things at the airlines until she could be an attendant, it hit differently. By the way, part of her rejection for not being an attendant was her height; she’s short!

This is a great question though, because I never thought about it. But now, I think going after your dream/passion/what makes you happy is important. That’s what I took away from my mom sharing her stories. Plus, don’t take no for answer and pivot as often (and as much) as you can. “No” may mean not right now. 

If my mom or dad were teachers, man! I would be 10x worse (in a good way) about communication, words, creatively thinking, and all!

Music is clearly the strongest pillar of your career. But you mentioned you never even thought about pursuing a career in music, even though it was all around you. 🕵️‍♀️ I find that fascinating, can you explain? When did you know this was something you wanted to pursue seriously, and that it wasn’t just a hobby surrounding you? I ask because I think this is a common thing in the life of multipassionates who pursue unusual careers: it’s tough to tell when something should remain a hobby, or when we should take it more seriously and make a career out of it.

Maria, this is SO TRUE! It’s wild how it works and though many of us fall in this similar path I think it’s still different for each person. 

I’m a curious person. And the idea that I wanted to write a song after some time receiving my first publication as a poet (thnak you, Mommy!) is what started the second step to music. The first was teaching myself guitar.

The process of writing a song was similar to poetry but DIFFERENT! I loved, loved the process of writing a song. So, after the first one was completed, I went to the library (I was a freshmen in college, before Google and YouTube University 😄) and researched songwriting and the music business. Once I gathered that information, I believe it was immediate that I knew this is what I wanted to do and I could do it.

So, music was only a hobby as a guitarist maybe four or five months. Then, I’ve been committed to music ever since. Putting in my 10k hours and I continue to do so nearly 20+ years now – with the last four or five years being full-time. 

Lecture performance and teaching leadership through music: what a badass occupation (one of the many you have). Tell us everything about what this means and how you do it?

You’re too kind but no lie, people have surprised me with their response to it. So, it feels good and brings a healthy validation to the purpose behind it. 

I’m a performer. Seeing me in my element on stage is an experience – so I’ve heard. But I’ve enjoyed being a speaker and last year wanted to intently pursue it. The thought was to do it separately. But given my chronic pain/invisible disabilities, I thought: “What if there was a way to merge them together?”. Thus, lecture performance. 

So, in the business of writing they say, “Write what you know.” I know music! And as much as I’ve run from it, I know leadership. I am leadership. BOOM! It hit me how much music as defined me as a person and a man; it’s the core – not so much listening to and creating music, but the processes of it is my core. So it was like: “Why not teach that to the new generation and businesses alike?”. 

Though the industry of music is saturated and music is a tough business to be in, it still gets disrespect if you say, “I’m a musician”, because people often think you must be a superstar. And you don’t. Just an inner star of what you do. 

I made the pivot last year, when this all occurred to me. And I’ve been building and pursuing it ever since. I’ve already done some lectures at my school, Full Sail University and others. So, the proof of concept has been done. Right now, the goal is getting the word out and messaging of what I do. Then, finding those event planners, schools, school programs, etc. that I know would benefit from this purpose-driven mission. 

And Maria, to give a final word cause I get excited talking about it. 😄 I still can be booked for traditional performances. But with this mission I can discuss any topic in music, whether it’s topics I want to talk about or what’s needed for the event or class. So, the “talk” aspect is tailored to fit. And then I open with a performance, do the talk, and close with a performance. Ideally, the songs I perform will be used as talking points and examples.

I notice a pattern in people who love doing a bunch of things and are curious about the world – we end up discovering careers we never knew existed, and that’s when it clicks. For example, I didn’t know such an occupation as A&R existed. For those of us who aren’t intimate with the music industry, can you explain what this is about? What could a typical day look like and what type of person succeeds in this field?

A&R stands for Artist & Repertoire. This is the person and/or team that typically acts as the label liaison to find the artists, develop them, and leads and manages the creative and administrative aspects of an artist and their project. This includes finding creative professionals like writers and musicians, all the way to budgeting, marketing/promoting, etc. 

In today’s market, it’s not so much that anymore, at least apart from the major labels. A&R has become scarce. And if it exists, it’s not in the traditional way listed above. It’s more about finding the talent who is “ready made” and servicing them.

Each day is different, but for me a typical day is divided into finding/connecting with talent via socials, communities, events, meetings; and then, creating songs. Some days can be spent doing all three or maybe a day is heavy with meetings, whether it’s an intro call or sessions with artists. When it comes to artist development, there are more meetings to learn about the artists and get to know them. Then, teaching and answering questions about their craft or business.

You graduated from uni in 2012 with a bachelor’s in Professional English. You were involved in a group called Poetic Insurgents, and one of your occupations is being a content writer for a company called Make It Public. So there we go, more skills and interests that bring a different dimension to your career! What role do these topics play in your life, and are there other hobbies, passions and/or causes that capture your attention and inform your work?

Again, great question! 😄 I’m about adding dimensions to myself. In a tech and informational world, it’s easier to do this than ever. Poetic Insurgents was a poetry troupe. We traveled across campus and locally to perform. We spent time crafting and practicing. This fulfilled my poet-self and taught me so much about crafting and performing. And working with Make It Public is a joy; to be trusted to write for their clients from social media posts to a website. 

I love playing NBA 2k and audiobooks – self-help mostly. Although I am a full-time musician, just playing my guitar for me – I miss it because I don’t do it in that way as often, but I try. I love movies, although I watch more due to creating for sync licensing.

Causes like parental alienation, women’s rights, songwriter rights for better pay, and of course, Black Lives Matter are all issues I’m affected by and flow somehow in my music. In a few cases, I’ve created songs centered around them. I am not afraid to speak up for what’s right even if my voice is the only one being projected … confidently. 

Like a sneaky auntie looking for clues, I went through your LinkedIn recommendations and was positively impressed (but not surprised, hehe!) by one of your clients mentioning your “knowledge about a wide variety of topics” and “such a wide range of experiences” as your competitive advantages, among other beautiful mentions of your impeccable character, genuine interest in helping, awareness of the big picture and storytelling abilities. A music producer even mentions you taught them almost everything they know about the music industry. Woah! What do you think contributes to your success as a multifaceted professional? Do you have any habits or practices you try to maintain in order to progress/stay focused and grow in your crafts?

I love the depth of your journalism skills. 😀 This is the best interview in a long time. Yes, such kind words that still catch me off guard. Because when you’re unapologetically you with good intent, you have no desire to get things in return. But it’s nice. 

I can say the way I was raised by my mom – teaching us to be good humans. That’s the core. As you grow, see and understand the world, you can get jaded by things. It can make it challenging to keep that core in mind. However, I want to be good to myself which allows me to be good to others. Having a relationship with God also centers this core with principles I cannot shy away from. 

The habits I have is to learn, listen, be honest, and pray/think before doing anything, no matter how big or small. These core habits lead everything. And not ever thinking I’ve arrived no matter how many degrees, money received, rooms I’m in, tables I’m sitting at, or who I’m connected to, I can’t think I know it all. I feel once that happens, everything goes. 

Oh, I forgot – the love for what I do. It’s genuine and real. I DO NOT love everything about the music business but I do love music, ya know. That love goes a long way. 

You make African American legacies – in literature, music, history – a core part of your voice as an artist. You continue to show up to support black artists, black-owned music and empower young people out there to not cover up this side of their identity, but rather to embrace it and express it. What role has this played in your career and professional growth, and why have you chosen to center it in your different practices (or would you perhaps say there wasn’t a choice to be made)?

There’s no choice given who I am. However, it is a purposeful intent I can’t ignore. I attended an HBCU (Historically Black College/University) which really changed my perspective about my own Blackness, Black culture, and Black history. S/o to NC A&T State University. 

Attending A&T definitely was the catalyst. And I’m grateful for this. I learned a lot from professors and other students. A sense of pride grew from that experience. But also, I saw room for improvement as a Black man in our culture and in humanity. 

I think it brings a specific confidence to my personality to love who I am, my cultural history, and personal history. It adds for better connection with people whether they’re inspired by me or we are similar and feed off each other in a loving way. 

As you evolve, you may think these traits aren’t already in you, but in most cases, they are. So, the more I embrace that, and am proud of that, the easier to be that in all ways, any situation. 

Lastly, I own I’m the example so, I do my best to be the model.

Are there any passions you’ve been meaning to explore but haven’t had the opportunity to? Maybe we can expect more sides of you to come up in the future?

Absolutely! I have plans for my poetry book. I created it back in high school for my senior project. But I want to truly focus on publishing it. I’m working with a friend on a devotional poetry book that I’m thrilled about. I’m definitely gearing up for my Artis to Artist Podcast. And I’m contracted with a company to do voiceover work which I’m really excited about. So, more on the horizon and expanding. 

To me, you’re clearly one of the poster professionals for multipassionates and interdisciplinary talent. I love how you describe your profile as “bilingual in artist speak and corporate jargon” as well as “a bridge builder” who “adds new dimensions” to work. That’s exactly who I think we are – bridge builders, connectors, innovators who mix and match. So as a final question, let’s try to bring it all together into a beautiful big picture: what do you believe connects all of your occupations (certain skills, a specific audience, a single mission, or something else)? As multifaceted professionals, sometimes it’s only in hindsight that we realize certain skills or patterns come up repeatedly when they used to seem random, don’t you think?

This was wonderful Maria! I have to say you are brilliant at your what you do – and what you’re doing. I’m here for it and will support as often as I can. Thank you for having little ol’ me at Offbeat Careers. I’m humbled and honored to always share about my journey and who I am. But it’s so much easier when someone cares to dig a bit deeper. 

Again, dope question. A few things come to mind and yes, agreed. Though I’ve done many roles, they WERE NOT the dream job, but I always appreciated each role I’ve done. I worked it like it was my dream job. I think that respect carries weight. 

I also understand every position is about customer service. You cannot ignore that. People think customer service is about the customer and company/product relationship but it’s also the service you provide to your teammates. Moreover, understanding we are all human is important. So, treating people as such and not about what they can do carries weight. 

I say all the time if you can communicate effectively, be honest, be about service, respect, kindness, be authentic, open-minded, and speak truth – it will carry you anywhere you want to go. 

Follow Jastin’s adventures: