Crafting a song is an intricate process, with each artist approaching its creation in their own unique way. Some retreat to a quiet place and wait for inspiration to strike, while others jot down their daily observations to inform their lyrics. Songwriting methods speak to the type of artist the individual is and the type of music they want to create. We took singer and actor Jussie Smollett, best known as Jamal on the hit show Empire, for a spin in the new Lincoln MKX to learn the secret to his songwriting success.
“I can’t tell you how many songs have been written in the comfort of my car,” Jussie says. “I talk to myself in my car. I sing in the car. I listen to my music in the car. It’s so important.”
The inside of an automobile allows him to be his most uninhibited self. It puts him in control of his own musical journey because it’s an environment without constraints.
“My car is my place of solace with myself when it comes to music because it’s the place that I can (sing) as loud as I want to. I can do that in my house, but I can’t do that all the time. The neighbors might have a problem,” Jussie laughs.
And because music is such an integral part of Jussie’s life, having the right environment to explore the gradations of his creativity is crucial. He considers music to be more than an occupation, to him, it’s what connects us as human beings.
“Music can get messages across (like) nothing else can. You can say some words in music and music will take people to a place where they’re just like, ‘I remember exactly where I was. I remember how this made me feel.’ And that’s music. It’s the universal language,” he says.
Hearing his music the way his fans will listen to it also improves his approach to crafting a song – “If it sounds good in the car, then I know that we did something good.”
This perception elevates the art form from background noise to an important part of our human experience. So it’s no wonder that driving is essential to his creative process, because it puts him in the minds of his listeners. That emotional energy is then poured into his music, resulting in dynamic songs that pull at the listener’s heartstrings.
What makes Jussie’s approach to songwriting stand out is just how relatable it is. It’s safe to say that most people have sung songs while driving and, in the process, changed lyrics to fit their mood, crafting an entirely new song. His creative process is stripped of the glamour that is normally associated with his show and his celebrity status, and speaks to the transformative nature of the automobile – that even something as simple as driving from one location to another can birth so many possibilities.