APRIL COVER STORY: Jakob Nowell’s Full Circle, Part 1

APRIL COVER STORY: Jakob Nowell’s Full Circle, Part 1

Jakob Nowell opens up about joining Sublime, the responsibility of continuing his father’s legacy, and navigating the complex emotions that follow him on the journey.

by Allie Adams

Courtesy of Josh Kim @joshuaonenineproductions

TP: I know you’re probably sick of interviews at this point.
JN: No, it’s all good. I don’t mind it. 

TP: What is it like? I mean, every time I open up Instagram, there you are. How has that been for you going from–you’ve always been Bradley’s son, obviously–but taking on this role in Sublime is completely different and you’ve been thrust into the limelight. I want to know how you feel about it.
JN: I mean, yeah, it’s such a wide, all-encompassing thing. It’s definitely an interesting, unique life, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. But there’s pros and cons to it. You know, there’s always going to be sort of endless scrutiny.

And stepping into the role for Sublime is something I never thought I would do, like ever. You know, it just didn’t seem like my place or something that was me. But in a lot of ways, I feel like I’m paying homage and paying my dues. It feels like just the beginning, like this is the start of a whole new chapter of things that I’m going to be doing in my life. 

That being said, I would never complain or disparage it. I’m so grateful for the platform and the opportunity and the exposure and all that stuff. But it is definitely an emotionally draining process. Because I’m still trying to create music that is relevant to me and that excites me with my band Jakob’s Castle.

And then in Sublime, it’s like I have to learn this whole catalog of material and try to portray it in a way that, you know, millions of fans are going to see as legitimate and accurate. And it’s tough because, you know, I’ve been doing music for 10 years, but in none of those 10 years did it ever occur to me to, oh, “I should learn a bunch of Sublime songs”. 

It might seem obvious to outsiders, but that’s the work of a deceased family member. I mean, how often do you spend every day just looking at photos of your dead grandparents or something like that? It’s morose and it’s emotionally taxing and it’s a trip.

TP: What was it like leading up to Coachella?
JN: The last few months have been a mountain of work to get to where it is. And I wish it was better for our Coachella performance, but at the same time, I’m proud of where it was at. And I think everyone who was at the show will tell you the same thing: we had fun up there on stage. We put on a good performance for those people watching.

And I even got through both sets without crying. So that was cool. 

TP: Did you expect that visceral, emotional reaction from the crowd? I watched it through the live stream and I choked up. I got goosebumps. I heard your dad’s voice in you, and it was so powerful. It was so crazy. I didn’t expect that response from myself. I don’t think any of the fans expected that. Did you expect that? 

JN: I mean, I guess yes and no. I have gotten that comment before. And it is such an emotionally impactful story, you know. Addiction is a family disease, and rock and roll is a family addiction. And it’s one of those things where I get to be here in that role after so many years, so I think it connects with a lot of people in a lot of ways.

And it’s, yeah, mind-blowing.

TP: An understatement. You said you never expected to take this on. What was the turning point for you? What were those converging factors that kind of made you say, “I think this is something I have to do?”

Courtesy of Josh Kim @joshuaonenineproductions

JN: There were a lot of different moments, I would say.

A big moment I’ve talked about is going and visiting the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma, you know, the last venue that Sublime ever played at before my father passed away. Going there and randomly stumbling upon a big AA group or NA group, whatever it was.

A bunch of sober people there in the same place where my dad played his last show and then would die from a heroin overdose. It just kind of came full circle and it showed me the power that music has to help people. 

I truly do want to do this to reach as many people as I can and help people and brighten people’s lives with the stuff that we create. But that’s not the full picture. Obviously, there’s a side of me that is ambitious and, you know, wants to increase my own success. There’s a lot of success in this world in the sense of, not monetarily, just with how wide reaching I can be and feeling like I’ve really done something proficiently and well that has been recognized by a wide audience of people. 

I have a strong desire for that. And getting up there on stage with Sublime is definitely a way to increase the eyes on my own music. But at the same time, you know, that’s not even all entirely it.

TP: What are the other reasons?
JN: It just sort of felt like a duty that I had to do. Like I didn’t have a choice. There was this time that I played a show at BeachLife and then we did this after party at St. Rocke. This was probably last year, maybe the year before. I can’t remember. But after my set, Fletcher Dragge came up to me, Fletcher from Pennywise. And it was funny because a couple years prior he invited me up to a show of theirs on stage to sing a song called “Same in the End”. And I’d never heard of that song in my entire life.

But people just assumed , “oh, well, you’re the Sublime Kid. Shouldn’t you know all his material?”

It’s like, “why the fuck would I know that?”

TP: Like you were born knowing it or something.
JN: Yeah. Like, tell me what your dead grandpa ate on March 17th. It’s like, “what?” That’s just the weirdest thing. But I can see why from their perspective it isn’t [weird]. And I got up on stage and I didn’t know the song.

And he [Fletcher] was kind of teasing me about it. And he was like, “oh, yeah, you didn’t learn it”. But then at this BeachLife show–and I’m butchering the story chronologically–but he comes and corners me after the set. And he takes me to this side area. 

I’m like, “oh, my God, Fletcher’s humongous”. He can juice my head like a watermelon if he wanted to. But he was almost in tears just with how serious it was. He was like, “hey, man, I get it now. I’m sorry for teasing you at that show or whatever. But now that I see you doing this,” he’s goes, “dude, you don’t have to do this.”

He’s like, “you don’t have to do any of this. You can get on a boat and sail away somewhere and start a life. Life on a farm or something.” 

It’s almost like he saw the pain and the struggle that comes along with doing this. Like a thing that no one could ever see because I can’t label it myself as pain or struggle. Otherwise, you run the risk of seeming like you’re an entitled little piece of shit.

Courtesy of Josh Kim @joshuaonenineproductions

And so it’s a complicated emotion because it’s something you’re grateful for, but you resent a little bit. It’s something that you need to do, but it’s also something that takes a lot out of you. It’s something that gives meaning and purpose to everything you do, but at the same time invalidates every one of your accomplishments. It’s the fuel, the battery that lets you keep on going. But simultaneously, nothing would have any meaning without it. 

So I looked at Fletcher and I said, “No, I do have to do this.”

It’s in the same way that somebody drinks water or, you know, breathes air. This is just my lot in life. And I can put a bunch of fancy words around as much as I like, but it’s just something I have to do.

TP: Do you enjoy it?

Um, yeah, it definitely has its moments. I mean, it’s great, but it’s also very painful. I think… oh, my mom’s here! You want to say hi to my mom?

(to be continued)