Q&A with MU’s own Flexy the Artist
Senior Josh Teasley talks new material, balancing school and music and being confident onstage
Between recording his own music and pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism, Josh Teasley stays busy.
Also known as Flexy the Artist, the MU senior operates as a singer, rapper and songwriter. He's set to perform with SoMo at The Blue Note on April 24, preceding the April 30 release of his first solo EP, Route 63.
Flexy has opened for White Panda, Hoodie Allen and G-Eazy, played shows throughout the region and, earlier this year, teamed up with Gramattyk (senior Matt Smith) to form their own record label, Knew Habits.
MOVE sat down with Flexy to talk about his influences, what’s ahead and how he stays confident in himself and his work:
[MOVE]: You’ve got your EP coming out April 30. What should people expect?
[Flexy]: My EP is definitely something completely different than what I’ve recorded or released in the past. It’s a combination of R&B, pop and funk. It just kind of talks about the journey and how the journey got me to where I am now.
[M]: On your SoundCloud you have a ton of different musical styles. How would you describe your style, and do you see it moving towards a certain direction?
[F]: My style is a combination of genres. I grew up listening to R&B music, and that’s the way I can describe how I feel right now. I also listen to hip-hop on the daily, so that’s just another way for me to speak to people and I really like that. I feel like, especially with today’s music and pop culture, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one means of expression.
[M]: Your sound has moved around, especially from your earlier stuff when you were with the group 3oNe3. Has there been an evolution process as you’ve been getting closer to your own sound?
[F]: I definitely feel that way. I started off doing hip-hop, and I’ve always had the passion to sing and just create harmonies and melodies in different ways. Even in my earlier works, you can definitely see where my influences were and where I could’ve been going. There’s definitely been an evolution and I definitely feel like I’m moving forward in finding my sound. I actually think I have found my sound, but on the way forward, it’s been about improving my sound.
[M]: Was there a point where you started to figure out what you wanted to be doing?
[F]: I don’t feel like I ever had that “epiphany” moment, but I guess I did have that “epiphany” moment but in a different way. Route 63 is about my trip down to Louisiana, and that’s really what changed my music world. Before I went down there, I was making hip-hop, electro and I did sing, as well, but it wasn’t as focused of an art. After I went down there, I was by myself, taken out of my comfort zone, and I let myself kind of speak without anyone distracting me. And just me being down there, I came up with the idea for this EP, and it’s the most “me” out of anything I’ve done. That was my epiphany of a moment right there.
[M]: Tell us more about the Louisiana trip.
[F]: Right before I went to Louisiana, I played a show with Hoodie Allen, and I had a small break from school where I was making music and recording it. But I wasn’t really putting anything out because it just didn’t resonate with me or have the “it” factor that I thought needed to be there. I was just recording a bunch of music and almost felt like I was wasting my time.
Then one of my buddies told me about an internship down in Louisiana and said, “It’s going to be just like the real world.” It wasn’t like the real world at all, and it was the worst trip I’ve been on in my life. He said I’d be doing door-to-door sales, meeting different kinds of people, and I was honestly like, “This is an opportunity to get away and throw me out of my comfort zone.”
So I went down there and was really just thrown into the wilderness going to people’s front porches. It really opened my eyes to all different kinds of people, to not judge a book by its cover, how to accept people and so many things like that. And it gave me the opportunity to write about people I met and things I saw when I wasn’t working. It helped me reflect on what I wanted to be doing when I got older.
I came back from Louisiana and got immediately back in the studio and I was there for a week straight and didn’t leave. All I ate was Domino’s pizza, (T.G.I.) Friday’s pasta and Gumby’s. I was in this room, not even knowing if what I was recording was good, but it was so me and so original and it just came out. I let my buddy hear it for the first time, and he thought it was incredible.
[M]: Louisiana is arguably the musical capital of the U.S. Do you think that the Louisiana music culture influenced your sound?
[F]: The Louisiana culture and their sound didn’t directly influence me. But me getting away from the Midwest sound and going down to where individuality and originality were so focused, it definitely allowed me to step away from what I was comfortable making and just make something different that I felt like was what I wanted to do.
[M]: What’s the music process like in your studio?
[F]: I write all of my own lyrics. We rely on our friends and other sources to get some of the instrumentals. We’ve had violinists come in the studio, student guitarists, some of the friends we know who make music that don’t have the opportunity to express themselves. We’ve made connections over the years and just found a way to put them on projects we’ve done.
[M]: How has working with other artists helped you progress?
[F]: Working with some of the artists here helped me progress mentally because they showed me different ways the instrument could be layered on a track or different things we could do with my voice. But nothing concept-wise. We pretty much had the concept before we asked them to come in. The biggest influences musically have been the concerts. Some of the guys I’ve opened for — seeing where they started from, where they are now and the consistency it takes to get there. Nothing’s overnight, and seeing them motivates you to keep going.
[M]: What’s it like balancing school and music?
[F]: It’s one of the hardest things to do. I find myself spending money that I should use for school or books on music. It takes a lot of planning. If I wasn’t in school, I’d want to be touring around the country right now. It’s a trade-off, but in the end school does come first.
[M]: On April 24, you’ve got that show with SoMo at The Blue Note. How are you feeling leading up to the show?
[F]: I don’t get nervous much anymore, and I’m really excited for the show. I know I’m going to kill it, and I know a lot of good things will come from it. I’m honestly just anxious to perform.
[M]: You’ve opened for some bigger acts, like Hoodie Allen. What’s that like?
[F]: I try to treat it like I’m headlining every time. I don’t want to go into any show thinking that anyone’s better than me. When I go up there, now that my confidence is raised from experience, I expect to be the best. I go in there thinking I’m going to kill it and it’s great.
[M]: How does that confidence help?
[F]: (It) allows you to do what you want to do without worrying that there’s eyes behind you or worrying that someone’s going to tell you what you’re doing is not right. If you aren’t confident, you’re just going to second-guess yourself the whole time. And confident is different than cocky. Cocky is just overly confident. There’s confidence with planning and preparation. Cocky is just blindly going into a situation.
[M]: With that line between true confidence and blind cockiness, how have you been able to use criticism to improve?
[F]: I love criticism. I ask people all the time “What do you think?” And when I ask them that, it doesn’t mean I’m going to change what I’m going to do. But I tell them “Don’t be nice.” I want to know what I can improve on. I’m all about changing. I don’t want to be a stagnant artist.
[M]: So the show, the EP — and you’re graduating soon. What’s next?
[F]: After college I plan on playing shows during the summer and promoting my EP. Come fall I’ll either be traveling to Tampa Bay for a little break or heading out to California to start my entertainment career, whether that’s in entertainment journalism or as a musician straight up.
[M]:What ties have you seen between journalism and music?
[F]: I definitely think I’m way more open to reaching out to people. I’m better at interviews and all around more sociable. The degree and the classes take you out of your comfort zone, and that’s what being a musician is all about. No one wants to hear two (Lil) Waynes or two Drakes. They want to hear new artists. In order to be a new artist, you have to move beyond what’s comfortable to you. I definitely think journalism has all around helped me to get out there and do what I want to do.
[M]: Why should people listen to your music?
[F]: If you look at my growth through the years I’ve definitely gone through a lot of trials and incremental steps leading to where I am now. I try to be an efficient artist in doing everything myself — dancing, singing and rapping. I think people who listen to my music will get a real feeling where they can relate to what I’m saying. My music is basically about slowing down, putting in the hard work and just reaping the benefits.