It’s tough being a teenager. It’s also tough having to wait for your parents to go to sleep so you can record music in the family room. And hell, it’s even tougher when all of that is taking place in Wichita, Kansas—a city where the only music scene you vibe with centers around bands that play surf rock or having to stay inside and go down Prince rabbit holes in your spare time.
But McIntosh manages. And so far, the DIY artist and die-hard Prince disciple has seen their efforts pay off. Their 2019 debut album, MOJO, kicked things off and attracted a dedicated fanbase with standout tracks such as “What Dreams Are Made Of,” which has earned McIntosh over 15 million Spotify streams to date. When asked to define the sound that’s turning so many heads, though, McIntosh isn’t too sure of a proper answer. Most are calling it neo-soul, and that’s cool, but McIntosh would rather it just be mutually therapeutic; for McIntosh because they wrote it and for listeners because it makes them feel something.
Before we get into the serious stuff—inspirations, sound, etc.—I’ve got to know what your favorite Jennifer Aniston film is. Or at least your favorite Friends episode.
I used to be this massive, massive Friends fan. I could not turn it off when I was in the eighth grade and it was on Netflix. I would fall asleep to that show. I think any of the Ross and Rachel episodes, literally because I live for that couple. The one where she sings “Copacabana” at that wedding… That was funny.
I’ve read that you take in a lot of ’90s R&B and ’70s rock, with someone like Prince being big for you. Outside of Jen herself, where do you find inspiration for your art?
I think, just like anybody else, I find it all over the place. I’m just constantly absorbing my environment. I’m 17 years old, and I’ve gone through one of the most impactful phases of my life, so I’m taking in so much. I started watching movies. I don’t watch movies because I don’t have the patience. But I need to learn to do it. My mentor tells me what movies to watch, and she gave me a bunch of classics: Singin’ In The Rain, Jesus Christ Superstar, Cabaret. I ended up watching Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand. So I went down a rabbit hole for Barbra Streisand recently.
Growing up in Kansas, aside from maybe the band Kansas, what type of music scene were you exposed to?
There is no music scene in Wichita, Kansas. There is nothing here. I haven’t always lived in Kansas. I used to live in Germany because my dad’s retired military. That’s where I got into Prince. Then he became this huge idol in my life. I got really into Prince and that Minneapolis sound at the time and Sheila E.
Here we are now—several singles in the world, your 2019 project MOJO having picked up some serious major streaming numbers. What was the moment you had realized you’d become a full-time musician as a teenager?
I think when I was making my album. I was coming home every single day and having to wait for everybody to go to bed to get on the computer so I could make my stuff. I did that for three months. Every single night, I’d come home from school and wait for everybody to go to bed so it would be quiet enough that I could record stuff in the family room. And I think then I knew that it was like a job because it felt like a job, but it was one that I wanted to do all the time.
I’ve seen your music pinpointed to every genre imaginable, and with as many descriptors as you can possibly think of. How would you describe your sound?
I have no idea. It changes with everything that I make. I don’t like to be limited to a certain genre, and I know everybody says that because they don’t want to be limited to a certain genre. Everybody likes to know that they can change. I guess they call MOJO a neo-soul album. I have a whole bunch of soul and R&B influence when I do stuff like that. But I have no idea. It’s a little bit of everything.
With the new stuff, I know “JENN!FER AN!STON” was a bit of a take on unreciprocated love. Can you talk to me about how the song came to be?
I harmonized my vocals. I took a voice memo of it from my computer and put it on my phone. And I was supposed to be volunteering at this museum. It was 7 p.m., and I was walking around the upper floor of this museum, and nobody was there, so I was just writing this song. And Jennifer Aniston is fine—she’s so fine. I needed somebody that was a love interest in my head. Because the whole song is about trying to see somebody in a different light and not as a love interest so that relationship can progress in a different way.
What space would you say you’re in right now, compared to the last record?
I progressed so much in the last year or so because I’ve made a lot of stuff that’s gonna be coming out soon. I’m horrified that—and I’m so critical of myself—it’s not as good as what I’m making right now. It’s always feeling like I need to prove myself, and I hope I can overcome that and just be cool with what I’m making. And I know that not being satisfied with myself is what’s gonna keep me making things… I think it’s just overcoming a lot of emotional obstacles and being able to sit on something and consider myself successful. [To] be like, “Well, this is great.”
What’s the biggest message of your work right now?
When I write this music, it’s exactly how I feel at that point in time. It’s therapeutic for me to get it out of my system. So I never make music with the intention of somebody listening to it and getting something out of it. I just know that people tend to relate to whatever I’m writing. I just hope they can relate to it and they get some sort of shared therapy out of it because I get to [use it as an] outlet.
FOR FANS OF: Billie Eilish, Dijon, Christian Leave
SONG RECOMMENDATION: “JENN!FER AN!STON”
You can read the AP RECS interview with Evann McIntosh in issue 393 featuring cover stars Architects. The issue is available here.