Jarrod Milton's songs inhabited a spiritual place long before he passed away from leukemia last week. Empathy lived in his voice as much as his words. "Blue," a 2016 release that led to his first interview with P&P, feels like first contact with someone gazing down and catching every trial and error committed on the ground. This isn't hyperbole.
Two years ago, when asked what motivated him, Jarrod replied, "I want to help people with what I'm doing." Today, the day of his funeral, a new song from Jarrod confirms that his selfless mission never wavered, not even as sickness consumed him. "I still be losing sleep to help the world feel less lost," he sings on "Q."
What makes "Q" all the more moving is the love coursing through it. Friends Wiley from Atlanta and Oliver Blue join Jarrod, seemingly speaking to him after his death, hoping to break an unbreakable barrier. "I was asking God to give you back, he told me that I'd see you later," Wiley raps. It's humbling and haunting.
In hopes of honoring Jarrod and preserving his effect on others, P&P worked with Jarrod's co-manager, Austin, to collect thoughts of remembrance from those who worked with this gifted artist from Atlanta, one with so much potential. You'll find their words below the embed to "Q."
Friends and family held Jarrod's funeral this morning at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. A memorial concert in Jarrod's honor will begin this evening at Mammal Gallery (91 Broad St., SW Atlanta). Local artists, many of them Jarrod's close collaborators, will perform covers of Jarrod's music, which you can stream in full on SoundCloud, Spotify, and Apple Music. Friends will also share several songs from Smile, Jarrod's forthcoming project.
When did you first meet Jarrod?
Brian (Co-manager): The first time I met Jarrod was when Austin brought him over to my freshman dorm, all Austin said was that he we were going to record a song. He came over and we spent what felt like eight hours working on the first song that he would ever record. That song will never see the light of day, but that was the start of it all.
Austin (Co-Manager): The first time I met Jarrod was when we were in middle school, he wouldn't even talk to me. I kept asking about this book that he was reading, and he would look at me and not say anything. The next year we spent days and nights together, talking about music, in each other we found someone to share everything with. Through music we could tell how the other was feeling, and we'd suggest songs based on that. Over time he outgrew me, he was the single greatest repository of music history that I ever met.
No matter what was going on in his life he always genuinely wanted to know how you were doing. even in his chemo process, he'd always call and start a conversation with, "Hey man, how are you doing?"
Ivano (Producer): I messaged him when "Chromatic" was released on Pigeons, then I asked him to play my release show and he did. After that we played a graduation show together, we played a guitar-pedal jam which eventually became the first song we ever made together, "Skin."
Wiley (Collaborator): The first time I met Jarrod as an artist was at an underground show in Atlanta, at Rowdy Dowdy at a show that was put together by Austin and Brian. We were both playing that night, and I was a fan of his music and I remember talking to him and it felt like we were on the same level. He was someone I looked up to and he treated me like an equal, and I will never forget that.
Jarrod was a special person. What about him did you treasure most?
Ivano: No matter what was going on in his life he always genuinely wanted to know how you were doing. Even in his chemo process, he'd always call and start a conversation with, "Hey man, how are you doing?"
Wiley: The way he looked at life was like no one else, his love was truly not like any humans I've ever met.
Ivano: His musical vocabulary was insane.
Wiley: He was always genuinely happy to see you.
Can you describe what it was like to collaborate with him?
Austin: Jarrod was so specific, he knew exactly what he wanted, and he was almost always right. We would be in the studio, and we would butt heads because I didn't see his vision, but his vision was so strong that it wasn't really up to me. He didn't make music for me or anyone, he did it for himself, which could be frustrating but he knew, he always knew. Everyone will realize that he was always right when Smile comes out.
Ivano: It was funny, it was hilarious actually. Jarrod had all these huge ideas as reference points. He could pinpoint any part in his delivery and his songs within other songs. Jarrod would tell me all of these ideas and I'd jam on them, he'd sing a rough vocal tack and I'd produce under it. Jarrod was actually sleeping while the whole of Blue was produced, then he came back in and sang on it, It was almost a form of art, the way he described music. It was kind of like tag-team wrestling.
Austin: There was a time Jarrod got a Pigeons post and he was like let's go to Athens, Georgia, to celebrate. We were all under 21 and it was the place we could go and not get ID'd. He took an Uber to Athens and showed up at our friend Kansas' place with warm champagne and slammed it. He just had that feeling that he got the first blog post where he could really flex on people.
Wiley: He was very particular but at the same time he's open to being impressed. I think that's what was cool to me was that Jarrod was writing so much. I don't think that Jarrod ever cared what other people wanted to hear on a song. He wanted to make music that he wanted to listen to, music that hadn't been made before.
I don't think that Jarrod ever cared what other people wanted to hear on a song. He wanted to make music that he wanted to listen to, music that hadn't been made before
What's the story behind the cover photo for "Q"?
Austin: The cover photo is just a recreation of Jarrod's past two birthdays. We were there in the hospital with Jarrod, his 22nd and 23rd birthday. We brought lemon pepper and hot wings to the hospital and we all wore rubber gloves, masks and gowns in his room and ate wings with him. Afterwards we joked about how eating wings with rubber gloves was perfect, and you didn't need a napkin or anything. We just thought the perfect way to honor and celebrate his life would be to recreate that moment.
What can you say about Smile, Jarrod's album he started before he passed?
Austin: We feel very privileged to have his music, but specifically Smile. Jarrod used to always say that Smile would be the one that would get him on a Grammy stage. We always used to think that he was crazy for it, but the more that the album comes along the more that we believe him, the more that it feels like a premonition. I think it's important to stress that "Q" is far from the last song people will hear from Jarrod, his discography is far from complete. We are in the process of finishing what is undoubtedly his greatest work.