Maranda Pleasant: What makes you come alive or inspires you?
Jacob Hemphill: The idea that my music is changing the world, even in a little way. My dad always told me that if the world was better off, when I was gone, for having me here, then mission accomplished. And vice versa.
MP: What makes you feel vulnerable?
JH: Honestly, my music makes me feel that way at times. I write a lot about what we could be as humans, living our full potential. Every day is different, though. Things happen in life—death, sadness, heartache—that make it impossible to be the same person every day. I try to be what I describe in the songs, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes I screw up. Sometimes I’m mean or short with people or critical, and I hear the songs and I’m, like, “Huh. Not that easy sometimes.”
MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?
JH: We are all connected in many ways. The way we treat one another dictates who we will become. Our true potential is far from being realized, and we won’t arrive until we can connect on a deeper level to one another.
MP: How do you handle emotional pain?
JH: I write songs. They’re always making me see the truth. It’s like crying. You get it all out on paper, and then you look at it and make sense of it. There’s a song for literally every single thing that’s happened to me or a loved one, good or bad.
MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos? Do you have a daily routine?
JH: This is one of the reasons I’m looking so forward to our upcoming tour with Michael Franti. He told me recently that he thinks yoga would be a key to finding my true center. He said he’d show me how. It’s exciting.
MP: What’s been one of your biggest lessons so far in life?
JH: Follow my self where I lead me. My dad always told me not to invest in the market or gamble in Vegas. If I wanted to gamble, gamble on me. And if I didn’t have very good ideas, gamble on someone I loved who did. I’ve never stopped gambling on myself, my manager Elliott, or my band.
MP: What truth do you know for sure?
JH: That this earth has everything I need to be completely happy, without drugs, possessions, power, all that—the real truth is down underneath in our souls. We have to find it and nurture it. I’m trying to spread this very concept to the world through music.
MP: Tell me about your latest projects and why you’re passionate about them.
JH: Our latest album, Amid the Noise and Haste, out August 12, is my favorite thing I’ve ever written. It’s a self-help book for a battered, weary world that relies on accumulation and competition as its core values. We eat away and eat away until there’s nothing left. The album is a light suggestion that there may be another way, a true way, a way that feels good instead of bad, that encourages love and life and happiness. We run our world like a machine, but what if we ran it like a human family. I have enjoyed every minute of it.
Jacob Hemphill is the lead singer and guitarist for SOJA, a reggae, hip hop, rock band whose music is about finding happiness and peace and helping others do the same.
PHOTO: ERIC RYAN ANDERSON