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Trevor Jackson is someone I’ve watched grow up before my eyes. From his role as Kris McDuffy, a teenage best friend to an aspiring rapper, in Disney Channel’s 2012 film, Let It Shine, to playing the much more mature young man that is Aaron Jackson in Freeform’s Grown-ish, Trevor has been a star for much of his life. However, it’s not at all limited to his acting career. The multi-talented Indiana native is also a growing singer whose music career improves with each step he takes into adulthood.
The 24-year-old just released his third album, The Love Language and it’s a 14-track effort that explores the ways to receive and give affection to your partner. His commitment to being all and more for his companion comes alive on “Your Everything,” and even when the door for love hasn’t opened yet as we hear on “Just Friends,” Trevor’s willingness to pour his heart out, like he does on “This Won’t Go Viral,” tends to serve him well.
However, it’s not always green pastures and pretty flowers for the singer, but simply expressing his emotions and being sensitive through music is something he’s happy to do. “That’s how I feel about music and this album in particular,” he said during our phone call. “Just really kind of opening up about love and not being afraid to be sensitive as a black man in life, in general, is kind of like frowned upon.”
The courage towards being sensitive is found throughout The Love Language. In an interview with Uproxx, Trevor spoke about the new album, playing Aaron Jackson on Grown-ish, his own love languages, and more.
You’re someone who’s always busy. Between acting and music, it seems like there’s always something on your plate. However, with the pandemic, I assume you ended up with more time on your hands. How did you cope with that?
I think it was a message from God for me personally in my life, because I have a hard time taking breaks and tending to myself. I feel like I’m always trying to do the next thing, so it was really just like, sit down, who are you outside of your career, outside of music, outside of acting, who are you as a man? Who do you want to be as a man? What are you willing to do to obtain those things? So it was truly transformational for me, the whole pandemic, unfortunately, under unfortunate circumstances, but due to it, I was able to kind of really just see myself. I surfed a lot, I reflected a lot, I just got to find out who I was more as a man which then enabled me to make music in a different way, in a more honest way, and in a more vulnerable way.
The Love Language is your next body of work, which comes after your Rough Drafts, Pt. 1 and Rough Drafts, Pt. 2 projects. Going off that “rough draft” idea, what are some of the things that you feel you’ve improved or even perfected in your artistry?
I think the songwriting is some of my best work. I called it Love Language because music is my love language. I also think that, you know, love is like a drug and it can be good or it can be bad, but it’s never one or the other all the time. It’s never always good and it’s never always bad. Love is like life a lot of times, it’s gonna be up, it’s gonna be down, it’s gonna be about who are you going to be during that rollercoaster ride. Are you going to be the person that’s screaming and just enjoying the fact that they’re on the ride or the one that’s like, “Oh my God no. I hate this, I hate this.” Who do you want to be while you’re sitting on the rollercoaster. I want to be the guy that’s scared out of his mind but his hands are up and he’s screaming and laughing, just making the most out of the situation.
In one of your past interviews, you said your music always comes from personal experiences whereas acting finds you stepping into someone else’s shoes. Keeping that in mind, that made me appreciate this Love Language album more because we can see you working your way in and out of different love languages.
Right. Some of them it’s like, this is really good and then now, she’s making me feel weird, she’s rubbing me the wrong way and that is also a part of love. If you’re with someone and you’re mad at them, instead of being like, “Hey, I’m mad, and my feelings have been hurt, I just want you to tell me that you love me, I want to know that you still care about me,” we’ll be quiet. We’ll give the silent treatment, we’ll slam a door, we’ll go make food but make it loud. We don’t know how to express ourselves and that’s something I feel like we all need to work on. I’ve been saying this in every interview of mine, I want to push everyone to go to therapy or counseling or anything. It doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with you, it doesn’t mean you have a mental disability — and if you do have a mental disability, that’s okay. Just to have someone to speak to and open up about your life is so, so healing. Just to find out the birthplace of a lot of our behaviors, we all behave in a certain way and we all just think, “Hey, we’re just this is just who we are.” Actually no, it’s a lot, lot more complex and a lot deeper than that. Once you know the landscape, you’re able to start changing things. If you’re just confused about what’s going on, life will just happen around. If you start knowing yourself better, you’ll know how to navigate within life.
What love language would you say you have and what about your childhood and upbringing would you attribute to that?
I think quality time is definitely my top one. My mom and I went on tour when I was eight years old, so me and her would always spend a lot of time, but family members that I didn’t get to see all the time and wonder when I would see them were my favorite moments. Even now, I get to go back home like once a year, I wish I could go more but, I get to go back so spending that quality time with them really, really means a lot to me. So, yeah, I think that kind of plays into it a little bit. I don’t care if I got to shoot all day and get off at 1 a.m., I’m still going to try and come see you. Or if it’s early in the morning, I would try and come see you. I think it shows effort like, do you really care about the person? But also you can’t use that to an extent where it’s like, “Oh, you don’t care about me if you don’t come see me.” Then it’s like no, I’m gonna care about me too. Yeah, I’ve got to get rest. So it’s a hard balance, man.
Songs like “Pictures By The Pool” and “Be Yourself” are examples of what your pet peeves within a relationship are. Keeping that in mind, what are some things that you’re working on that might’ve been pet peeves to someone else?
Here’s something that I know that I do: in my understanding of my world, if things aren’t a big deal, they just aren’t. I’ve got to work on being like everyone doesn’t think like me. I’ve gotta be a little more sensitive to that, but I almost feel like Thanos, I’m not gonna let you distract me from my destiny, I’ve gotta do this, these things have to be done, and that’s just how it has to go. But I know sometimes that can come off insensitive, but in the big grand scheme of things, why are we talking about this? I’m thinking about aliens, I’m thinking about the end of the world and I’m thinking about really big concepts and really big ideas. So when you come to me with things that are minuscule in the grand scheme of things, it’s a waste of our time, not just mine, it’s yours too. We need to be having bigger conversations.
Do you feel like you parallel in any way to Aaron, the character you play on Grown-ish?
I think the main thing that I relate to with Aaron is the ambition side of things, I don’t fold. There’s many people close that would like me to change the way I might do things. I just don’t budge on that, I can’t budge on that, because it takes away the whole purpose of who I stand for, what I stand for. To conform into a way to be accepted is not my forte and I’ve been asked to do that multiple times, but I can’t do it. Who would I be telling people to be who you are unless someone tells you this is the only way to be in the movie, then you gotta be this kind of person. If this is the only way to sell a record, then you gotta be this. If this is the only way to get a lot of views on a music video, then you gotta do the music video like this. Who would I be preaching this message or whatever if I didn’t do that myself, so I think that’s how Aaron is a lot. He’s like, dude, I don’t care, this is right, this is wrong, this is what I believe, this is I’m standing behind, this is what I’m gonna do. So I definitely carry that energy with me, but I’m definitely more artistic with my political mess [compared to Aaron].
I think Aaron is trying to figure it out, you don’t get it right the first time and you probably won’t get it right the second time when it comes to love. Love is not an easy task, partnership is not an easy task, compromise is not an easy task. It takes time to get to those places. But I think that Aaron is a good person, I think he always has good intentions. He wants to save the world and sometimes saving the world gets in the way of relationship, maybe it doesn’t. I feel like that in my real life and I feel like I’ve got so much to do [that] it’s hard for me to put something or someone in front of that at the moment.
Shifting back to your career as a director, you’ve directed a lot of your own music videos and even some for your peers over the last few years. What’s one artist or even a TV show that you’d love to direct a video or an episode for?
I wouldn’t want to direct like Tom Hardy or Denzel, but I’d like to just pick the scene that they’re in and let them do what they want to do. I think a good director knows their actor, and as an actor, I know what it’s like to have someone try to come in and be like, “Yo, do it like this,” especially when you’ve done that. But that’s why I think actors who are directors are better directors, like John Fabbro to me was a great director because he acts and he knows what’s gonna work, what’s not gonna work. Guy Ritchie’s one of my favorite directors, I don’t think he’s an actor, but his directing is amazing. Zack Snyder now is another one I want to work after seeing Justice League, I mean he did 300 the guy’s a beast. Yeah. So yeah, I definitely want to write and direct for sure and I’ve been working on some ideas and concepts in mind.
What’s your ultimate goal as a creative whether it’s through acting, dancing, singing, directing or just all of them combined?
I wanna do a movie and do everything in the movie. I want to act, direct, compose, edit the movie. I want to do every part. With me, I know that that probably will take me at least four years to do because I’m going to be so stickler on my ass about it. I’m gonna be like it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough. I know even with my writing, I’m gonna have to go away somewhere and really get into it because I’m just too hard on myself and I know I want it to be great, so I gotta make sure I have that block of time.
The Love Language is out now via Born Art/EMPIRE. Get it here.