My first job was “The Leftovers” [from 2015-17]. That was with no résumé, but the creator of the show, Damon Lindelof, saw my audition and was like, “That guy.” He took me out of Inglewood, working at Sunglass Hut.
T.: Being a musician is also its own terror — there was never a point in my life where I wasn’t one, but there were a couple of summers that I worked at the comic store.
J.A.: Being discovered doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a collection of small happenings. When I met with Viola and her husband [Julius Tennon], it wasn’t like, “We’re gonna put you in our next gig.” It was like, Get to work. And maybe we’ll run into each other in line.
T.: In the great words of Floyd Mayweather: “Hard work.”
J.A.: Heart first.
T.: For me, I look at my albums more like snapshots or photos of where I am. I don’t like talking about this, but I spent many years as an alcoholic. There were different degrees, but it was very cloudy for me for a long time. Even with the album “Drunk” (2017), there came a moment where I had to be honest with myself about what that was. It served a purpose. If I was still dealing with those things, I would probably be dead.
T Magazine: How do you get around your ego when first collaborating with folks like Washington and Lamar, and still make great art?
J.A.: My ego was nonexistent.
T.: Ego death is a real thing.
J.A.: It behooves you to come in with your palms open and be able to learn. And that’s served me well. I’ve always been good at confiding in older actors, and I just like hanging around older people better. They make fun of you: Denzel called me “peanut head.”
T.: I toured with Erykah Badu for many years, recording on the [2000s “New Amerykah”] albums. Once, we were in prayer before going onstage. And she had this moment where she was like [to the rest of the band], “I don’t know if any of y’all knew, Thundercat is an artist. I just want you to understand he’s different.” She used to put me right up front with her and we would dance. That woman changed my life. She showed me what it means to be an artist.
Source: NY Times