Born into a pre-dominantly corporate world with great expectations upon finishing high school, millions of Americans throughout the past decade have felt pressured to attend prestigious universities and pursue successful careers. “Where are you going to college?” and “What do you want to do?” are common questions asked by neighbors, family-friends, and colleagues. A non-negotiable across numerous households, graduating from private or public universities remains a requirement among parents and legal guardians for their children. In fact, some parents start saving money for college tuition before having kids! Due to this societal norm, right-brain millennials and Gen-Z creatives feel discouraged from dropping out of school and choosing unconventional paths as full-time musicians. Ultimately, many young-adults obligatorily enter four-year colleges, with hopes of beginning their music careers post-grad. As a Pepperdine alum myself who understands the difficulty of breaking into the industry, I interviewed fellow classmates regarding their experiences transitioning from higher education to the ‘struggling musician’ lifestyle.
Cofounder and lead vocalist of the Los Angeles based indie band Spectre Jones, Wilson Howard spent years cleaning carpets in Thousand Oaks, leading worship teams part-time, and recording nightly with best friend and bandmate Jacob Williams at Revolver Recording after receiving his undergraduate degree in religion from Pepperdine University. Growing up outside of Memphis, TN, under a traditional Church of Christ roof, Wilson’s exposure to diverse music was limited. Inspired by his high school missionary experiences and church camp summers, Wilson focused on youth ministry throughout college. According to Wilson, “music was happening all of the time,” and his involvement with musical extracurriculars only strengthened each semester. From opening for the Oh Hellos with college band River Heart to subsequently performing at the Penny & Sparrow campus concert fundraiser, 2016 marked a turning point in Wilson’s confidence. Providing him with the clarity needed to pursue a career in music, the P&S duo told Wilson to “give this thing a try while [he’s] young” and that “it would be a shame if [he] didn’t.” Grappling with the dilemma of continuing the singer-songwriter hustle while remaining comfortable as a freelance worship leader, Wilson decided to stay in LA and form Spectre Jones with Jacob, releasing their 2018 breakthrough EP, Greetings from Spectre Jones, through Secret Road. Gradually expanding to five members, Spectre Jones received sync opportunities with MTV’s Teen Mom and began writing music that challenged the dark side of the American Dream. Described among fans as a hybrid between Bon Iver and The Beatles, Spectre Jones utilizes modulation with profound melodies and simple lyrics. Blessed with an unconventional music career, Wilson does not know where he’d be without Pepperdine’s worship music community.
An R&B pop princess from San Jose, CA, Drea Jeann may be your next Tori Kelly. Initially passionate about musical theatre, Drea turned down the prestigious Berklee College of Music for a liberal arts education and scholarship to Pepperdine. Upon performing a skit in a freshman arts class that best showcased Drea’s professional aspirations, her professor pulled her aside, stating that she must pursue singing full-time. Struggling with confidence since elementary school, Drea finally received the validation she needed to ‘do the damn thing’ and develop herself as a vocalist. Shifting her studies to international management and philosophy, music remained on the back-burner until graduating in 2018. Inspired by her father’s work ethic, Drea ultimately decided to stay in LA, subsequently hustling in the studio and eventually releasing her first three singles. No longer insecure or questioning her self-worth, the bad-ass songstress evolved from her metamorphosis. Filming stunning music videos while simultaneously working on her upcoming EP, Drea is ready to face the demons of her past addiction throughout this new chapter of her blossoming career. Grateful for finishing her college education prior to becoming a professional recording artist, Drea holds zero regrets. Check out her latest single, “No Sympathy,” on all platforms.
If Weezer and Jason Mraz fathered a son, he’d resemble the up-and-coming alt. pop rock musician Kyle Rogan. Raised in Rochester, NY, he taught himself guitar in the mid-2000s, recording home-made CDs through GarageBand as a teenager. Originally planning on entering ministry while volunteering through Young Life, Kyle moved to the West Coast to become an actor. Upon graduating in 2013 from Pepperdine with a degree in theatre arts and his first album, Farewell to Normal, under his belt, Kyle wore many hats without a tassel, serving as the Calvary Chapel worship and college ministry leader while simultaneously working at Barnes & Noble. Keeping in touch with his college employer, Kyle joined his alma mater’s Fine Arts division the following year, gradually promoted from temp to full-time academic and events administrative assistant. Still trying to ‘make it’ as an artist, Kyle released his EP, Cardboard Houses, in 2016. Slowly realizing that his vocation did not consist of sitting behind a desk over 40 hours a week, Kyle left Pepperdine in 2018 to become a professional musician. Finally free from the emotionally draining lifestyle, he began to find his voice, subsequently writing with intention and authenticity. Inspired by the Barenaked Ladies and Avett Brothers’ performance style and musicianship, Kyle no longer exhibits self-deprecation, displaying great vulnerability throughout his newest songs while utilizing every Pepperdine acting class to fake it until he makes it. Check out his latest single, “Better,” on all platforms.
Inspired by Ariana Grande and Camila Cabello to pursue a career as a pop-umbrella artist, Lindsey Fleming grinds in the studio while making ends meet as an account manager with Nexstar Media Group, Inc. Graduating from Pepperdine in three years with a bachelor of arts in advertising, Lindsey immediately worked for Vivid Candi in 2017, rapidly rising the corporate ladder from intern to director. Despite her desire to become a recording artist, Lindsey didn’t know how to approach the music industry. Ultimately conducting research last year when changing jobs, Lindsey scrupulously learned the nuances and how-to’s of the music business. Subsequently starting to condition her brain and listen to sermons daily, Lindsey experienced a significant shift in self-confidence, finally embracing her individuality and talent. Within months of writing music, Lindsey met producers Lucas Dila and Saavane at one of her house parties, functioning as the catalyst for their professional music relationship, currently recording together in their Hollywood Hills studio. As the Washington state native continues to write and produce music outside of her frequent 12-hour work days, Lindsey looks forward to fusing a variety of influences (ranging from ABBA to Dua Lipa) with R&B melodies and Afrobeats. While Lindsey has yet to unveil original music, she plans to release three studio singles by 2021.
Featured image provided by Drea Jeann