With the advent of social media, our culture has come to know nontraditional ways of attaining varying levels of fame and the unique artists who often take advantage of those unconventional paths to success.
These avenues weren't available decades or even years ago. And because of that, some rocket from the depths of YouTube fame to pop-market stardom and have trouble adjusting to the breakneck pace. That's how you get the Biebs drunk-pissing in a janitor's mop bucket.
Others, like Michael Jones — better known as Wax — have peered beyond the black hole of million-dollar deals and L.A. mansions and rejected the high cost of those empty excesses in favor of making what he calls “a blue-collar kind of living off music.”
But it took some searching to get to that position. “I always think of the quote Chris Rock said where he said, ‘Everybody knows that money doesn't buy you happiness, but we all want to find out for ourselves,’” Jones says.
He signed with LA Reid at Def Jam five years ago and split from the label just a year later over creative differences. “Looking back, I think I'm just not that dude. I think that I'm not the kind of artist that was meant to be a big star. I kind of was built to be niche. I never really blamed anybody — myself or the people around me or the record company or any of that — for not blowing up. I think it just wasn't meant to happen. I think that's just not in the cards for me.
“I’ve lived in L.A. a while, and I know some people that are really popular and famous, and I think that some of them might actually get rid of some of the money to get to do some of the regular-people stuff sometimes.”
Jones is that fortunate artist whose videos garner a few million views on YouTube and whose fans line up for his shows but still gets to do the “regular people stuff."
“After every show, I go to the merch table and do a meet and greet and signing, so anybody at any show that wants to meet me can," Jones says. "And I hear a lot of stories about people going through hard times and hearing the music, and it helps them. And I do a podcast. Every night somebody writes, ‘Hey, I feel like I know you.’”
He's feeling the pressure to please his eager fans even more on his current Cookout Chronicles Tour. “Normally," Jones elaborates, "in the past I've always brought a band with me, but this tour I'm trying something different. It's just me and a DJ onstage.
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“I'm glad that I'm able to do it,” he says. “I've had a lot of regular jobs, and not having to wake up to an alarm clock and go work for a boss you don't like — that stuff's just as much a motivation for me as the joy I feel in doing the art itself. Just the fear of having to go back to doing landscaping or construction or working in an office or whatever it is. I'm hardworking because I'm lazy. I work hard enough so I can be lazy.”
Still, he acknowledges he's not immune to the pull of the pop-star universe. If he came across Bieber in the street, he admits he might be that guy. “I'd love to put a picture with some random person like that on my Instagram,” he laughs. After all, they are both YouTube stars.
Wax. 9 p.m. Thursday, December 15, at Churchill's, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Tickets cost $15 via churchillspub.com.