Jack & Jack
A Tale of Two Jacks
by Maggie Mitchell
Like so many young celebrities today, Jack and Jack were discovered on the internet. The first gained notice on Vine, to be exact.
Coming from a small town in Nebraska, the hip hop/pop duo consisting of Jack Gilinsky and Jack Johnson are actually refreshingly different from some of the other personalities though. Unlike many others whose rise to fame came via your social media feeds, Gilinsky and Johnson remain grounded.
They both have tight-knit families who are involved in their careers and follow what they are doing. With this support and healthy up bringing, the young duo continues to bring positive, refreshing messages through their music, and their tweets, which are seen daily by their ever growing fan base whose ages ranges from ten and up.
With a combined total of more than 4.6 million followers on Twitter, Gilinsky and Johnson are capturing the hearts of young teens and tweens worldwide. Their faces are everywhere from social media to gaming aps and clothing ads including Mudd Brand, which is sold exclusively at Kohl’s. As a brand ambassador for Mudd, the guys work alongside friends and other social media stars – Sammy Wilkinson and Ally Simpson.
A few other projects the young entrepreneurs have taken part in include partnering with Pizza Hut and Sour Patch Kids Prom. You’ll even find them doing Dell ads in your local movie theaters.
Gilinsky and Johnson started out making videos and vines for fun. As they uploaded more videos, they gained more followers and got more and more likes. Their popularity skyrocketed. With this rapid fame, J&J soon joined a popular social media tour with other artists doing the same things they were doing. They travelled across North America performing with nearly a dozen other artists.
In the midst of these tours, J&J found their musical calling and starting writing and producing music. Both Jacks also play instruments. They co-wrote with the Eakins brothers and in January 2014 they released their first original song “Distance.” It reached #7 on the iTunes US Hip Hop Charts. Once the duo felt they were in a good place creatively, they left the tour to follow after their own goals.
Life has certainly changed for the guys in the last few years. Now that they’ve released nearly a dozen other songs and they’re performing in front of over 10,000 people, the boys have changed their zip code from one in rural Omaha, Nebraska to one in sunny California. Relocating to Los Angeles has offered J&J more opportunities for growth in their music career, as well as opened many doors in the entertainment industry.
The boys continue to find success with their music releases, selling well over a million downloads on iTunes including with their new release “Calibraska” which soared up the iTunes charts the day it was released. Now touring on their own, J&J partnered with DigiTour, another popular social media tour, to help plan their first tour. They scheduled 18 dates. They sold out all but four.
Earlier this year, J&J hopped across the pond and opened for the Janoskians in their London performance at the famous Wembley Stadium. They’ve continued to write music and are spending the summer of 2015 touring with multiple solo performances and some additional tour stops for DigiTour. They also hit the stage for the Show of the Summer (SOTS) alongside Shawn Mendes, R5, Jacob Whiteside, Sabrina Carpenter and Mahogany Lox, which is where we caught up with them to chat.
How are you guys today?
Jack Gilinsky: We’re great!
Jack Johnson: Great!
We’ve never spoken to you before can you tell us a little about what you guys do?
Jack Gilinsky: Basically, I mean we do a lot, but our main focus right now is music. We are really focused on making it. We are coming with a four-five song EP for our fans. We like to make music for people that listen to it!
Jack Johnson: Outside of that, I’d say we just love entertaining in general. We started making sketch videos online. That’s kind of our come up, you know! That’s what we started doing! We never want to isolate that part of us. We always want to do both. I think entertainment in general is about passion. We love captivating as many people as possible!
You guys are from the same town. How did you meet?
Jack Gilinsky: We met on the first day of kindergarten. I was four and he was five. The reason we came together was that we were wearing the same shirt.
Jack Johnson: Yeah, that’s something you become friends over in kindergarten.
Jack Gilinsky: Then, we learned that we had the same name as well.
Jack Johnson: Guaranteed best friends!
Jack Gilinsky: That’s the way it’s been since then.
Jack Johnson: We grew up together in Omaha, Nebraska all the way until we graduated high school. We moved out to LA about six months ago. That’s where we are based now. Been with each other from the get-go.
When did you guys meet musically, and decide you wanted to pursue it?
Jack Johnson: We were always messing around. I would always be beat boxing. He would be coming up with melodies when we were kids. We had this YouTube channel where we would make song parodies back in sixth grade – to like ’Sexy Can I’ by Ray J, and ’Apologize’ by One Republic.
Jack Gilinsky: All the most random songs!
Jack Johnson: All the top 40 songs! We would be making these song parodies all the time on YouTube. We didn’t really get that many fans from that because we were sixth graders. It’s hard to accumulate a fan base when you are that young. Once, we got a little older and vine came around, we started putting out small six-second musical covers on there, interspersed with our comedy clips. Those got a really good response from our fans. “You guys should make some actual tracks, go in the studio.” We were like “we’re in Omaha, Nebraska. We don’t know where to find a studio!” We had never thought about that!
Jack Gilinsky: Finally, some teenagers in our town reached out to us, and were like, “We have seen your covers on vine. They’re really good. You should try to make your own songs, or at least cover a song.”
Jack Johnson: They said they had produced. They were like “Yo, if you guys want to come through and make some tracks, let’s do it!” So we were like why not just try it!
Jack Gilinsky: Let’s just try it, and go out on a limb!
Jack Johnson: So, we made our first four tracks with these guys. They got a generally nice response from our fans on iTunes! That just prompted us to go to LA. Work with some bigger, better producers, and start getting really involved musically. It has been a really awesome experience. The music is just getting better. Better quality every day!
How does it feel to have all these people come out and see you perform?
Jack Johnson: It’s crazy! Not only is it awesome that there are 12,000 people out there, but just performing alongside of these people – like Fifth Harmony, Shawn Mendes, Jacob Whitesides, Sabrina, R5. They are all really dope acts. It’s cool to have that association, and it’s cool to be performing on the same stage as them. It’s really awesome, because this is probably our most important show to date. We have never really performed with traditional acts. Stuff we’ve done has been social media tours and stuff. This might be a turning point for us where we start performing alongside these traditional music acts. It’s really exciting and amazing to be here in Pennsylvania.
Jack Gilinsky: It is really cool. There are big acts like Shawn Mendes and Fifth Harmony, who are bigger than us. You know that there are going to be fans out there who might not know who we are, or maybe know who we are but never got invested in us. This show could be the reason that they start following us. We are just really excited to get out there, and prove ourselves to the people who don’t know us.
Did you ever imagine you’d be doing what you’re doing today?
Jack Gilinsky: I always knew that I wasn’t going to work that solid nine-to-five job, do the same routine everyday. I wanted to switch it up, and have a different and interesting life! I always wanted to be an actor, to be honest. I’m happy that I am doing this now. I love performing. It’s the best thing in the world.
Jack Johnson: Yeah definitely! I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome from all the stuff that’s been going on! It’s been a fun time. We definitely didn’t expect it when we first started doing it, but it did happen. It’s happening. It’s really cool. We are really blessed!
How was the transition from touring with a bunch of other artists to touring by yourself for your music career?
Jack Gilinsky: It’s really crazy, because at first we were with other acts, other personalities who were selling tickets alongside of us, so we never really knew our true power.
Jack Johnson: We didn’t know that we could sell out our own venues, just me and Jack, without the help of the other social media stars that we were associated with.
Jack Gilinsky: So when we first put on our 17-city tour for DigiTour, Chicago sold out in a day or two. We were like this is one of our biggest venues on the tour, and we just sold it out! That was really crazy for me.
Jack Johnson: Really eye-opening! It was the first time we had done something, and promoted tickets for under our name. It was cool to see that we had our own devoted fan base, outside of the guys that we were with. That really prompted us to keep doing things for our fans! Our fans specifically.
What’s your favorite thing about performing on stage?
Jack Gilinsky: One of the best things is just the response, the interaction with the crowd. Like if I am like “Yeahhhh!” I give that energy to that crowd, then when they are like “Yeah!” they give it back to me! It’s just a back and forth thing. It’s so great! At least with our demographic of fans. They are very responsive.
Jack Johnson: It’s awesome, because they are so interactive. If we start telling them to waves their hands, they will do it. It looks visually cool from the stage, just seeing that many people waving their hands. It’s back and forth. It’s just awesome to know that these fans are so dedicated to us that they will actually interact with us while we are on stage, and get really invested in our show.
Jack Gilinsky: The craziest part for me actually is when I’m singing a part, and I see these girls singing with me. I remember writing these songs in my room alone with Jack J, and [totally] alone. Now, we are out here where like 12,000 people know the lyrics. Sometimes we’ll put the mic down and let them sing. That gives me goose-bumps every time. We wrote those lyrics, just me and you in a room, and now there’s thousands of people singing them.
Jack Johnson: It’s really an awesome thing.
Since you are around each other so much, do you guys have any pet peeves about each other?
Jack Gilinsky: Nothing that would really make me give up being with Jack J. But he can be messy. It gets on my nerves sometimes, but I don’t really mind.
Jack Johnson: Hmm, let’s see! He takes a while getting ready. Just being timely, I guess. Making sure his outfit is perfectly on point before he leaves the house, which isn’t a bad thing! Got to keep up with appearances, and stuff!
Jack Gilinsky: I take my time, and over-analyze things.
Jack Johnson: But, it’s all good. We learned that that’s how the other people are.
Any upcoming surprises?
Jack Gilinsky: I don’t know how much of a surprise it is…
Jack Johnson: We have an EP coming out for pre-order sometime this month. We’re really excited. We have the artwork for it, and the title for it. We can’t really give that info out yet because we want it to be a surprise. It’s all one. It’s just about us getting it out there, and packaging it and what not. We’re still independent, so there are still some loopholes and barriers that happen. But it’s definitely happening soon. We have the whole project together. The music is better then ever. I’m excited for the fans to see it. This is our first project.
Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?
Jack Johnson: I can’t answer that question. In fact I can’t answer that question because I don’t know where I can see myself in two months, to be honest. Our schedules are so sporadic, and we have so many different passions, it’s really hard to say what our passions are going to be in ten years. I know we’ll still be doing music, and we’ll still be a duo, but I don’t know exactly what the circumstances around that are going to be. We love what we do, and even if we are doing the same thing we are doing now in ten years I would be happy, because we have the best fans in the world. Screaming at our shows, that’s the best feeling in the world.
Jack Gilinsky: I hope it’s something along the lines of what we are doing now.
@spooningjacks Is fame everything you thought it would be?
Jack Gilinsky: I don’t really consider myself “famous.” But, there are certainly pros and cons to being so well-known. I love interacting with our fans. But, at times, I just want to chill with family or friends and really like to unplug from being recognized and connecting with fans.
@jackshyphy If you could be one celebrity for a day, who would it be?
Jack Gilinsky: I would love to be Drake for a day, to play my own music and bump with my friends at a party.
@fireproofmxndes What’s the favorite song you’ve made so far?
Jack Gilinsky: “Like That.” I feel like this song is moving us closer to the Jack & Jack sound.
@graciemurray What do you miss about being in high school?
Jack Gilinsky: Being with all our “Day One Homies” back home.
@shootjohnson If you could personally witness any historical event, what would it be?
Jack Gilinsky: I would love to have witnessed Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
@virtualhailey Best comment about your group and who was it by?
Jack Gilinsky: I can’t connect these comments to any one fan, but we read things like this a lot. It’s awesome when fans say something like “I expected you to be so different in person, but you guys are exactly the same as you seem on the screen.” Or “I met you guys two years ago and you are the same today as you were then”. We feel like we are the same people we were two years ago. But, it really reinforces those feelings when fans see that we are still real and grounded.
Last question, do you have a message for your fans?
Jack Johnson: Yes, we have many messages for our supporters! One I definitely try to get across is keep a positive mindset! We always see stuff on Twitter about how they turn to us for happiness. That we are their outlet, I suppose, when they hit rock bottom, and feel like they have no one to turn to. Just knowing that we can make their day, and make their mindset positive as supposed to negative with maybe a simple favorite or a tweet or just DM’ing them after we read their letter! That’s the best feeling, because we know that we can actually physically change somebody’s life every single day. Not many people have that power! Our message is just to anybody out there that just feels like they are at a tough spot in life to keep a positive mindset! Remember that there are people out there that love you!
Jack Gilinsky: Keep your head up. There is always someone that loves you! People that hate you are just jealous, or they have their own bad life to worry about. Worry about yourself, and keep a positive mindset! You’ll be good I promise!
Jack Johnson: Look for your own personal happiness!
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 28, 2015.
Photos by Maggie Mitchell © 2015