The eighteen-year-old talks about his hometown, hopes for the future, and why all of his music projects have to do with automobiles
By Kaylee Sugimoto with photos by Emily Kae
Within one minute of talking with Blue Car, I realized three things.
One. This guy’s way chill.
Two. His hair is literally huge.
Three. No way his birth-given name is actually Blue Car.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize Jake Denny is a young, talented artist with as much potential as innocence (maybe).
Jake Denny grew up in small-town Mackinaw, Illinois. Born into a musical family, Denny inherently picked up the guitar with ease and full of natural talent.
“Mackinaw is a small town literally in the middle of nowhere. Like, you can see a cornfield outside of my window,” Denny sighs. “There’s a lot of playing in bars starting out. You have to deal with people playing in bars, so it’s a little bit of an obstacle. Sometimes it can be nice, but sometimes the people there don’t even want to listen to your music.”
Denny started playing the guitar at only 10 years old. “I started writing music when I was 14. My mom plays music, my brother plays music, my dad owns a guitar, he doesn’t exactly know how to play it though,” Denny laughs. “I grew up in a very musical household. It just got to a point where I just assumed it was a normal thing. It was never a question about if I wanted to do music, but more of a question of what instrument I wanted to play.”
Denny’s songwriting process is a little all over the place with a lot of ADHD, mixed with some type of rhythm, which eventually somehow turns into lyrics.
“I have a very ADHD songwriting process. There are a lot of bands that are like, ‘I like to do this first,’ and then, ‘I like to do this next,’ but somehow I do everything at like, the same time. If I’m writing the first verse, I’m writing the lyrics with it. If I can’t come up with more lyrics, I usually get halted in the song. First and foremost, I usually do guitar sampling. So guitar, and then lyrics.”
Along with Denny’s disorderly songwriting process, the time period in his life also heavily influences the turnout of his final product.
“There’s a lot going on in any 18 year old’s life. I live right smack in downtown Chicago, two blocks from The Bean. It’s not the most ideal place in the world. Every band in Chicago is about 20 times better than I am. It inspires me to get better. I haven’t gone to a single show there without being genuinely impressed.”
But also, we can’t forget Denny’s favorite bands. Those play a huge role in the end result of his sound.
“One of my favorite bands is definitely Foo Fighters. That’s pretty apparent in the style of my music, and usually the first comparison I get in my style of music. But also R&B stuff, since I used to be in an R&B band. So, everything ranging from that to even punk rock.”
I interrupted Denny to let him know that his music reminded me of something that would play in a Home Goods, but in a cool way. He laughed.
“I think that’s my favorite thing I have heard about my music so far.”
As Denny grew up, so did his transition in making music. But, the traveling and transportation theme to all of his music projects somehow stayed the same?
“It was not on purpose. It was not on purpose guys. I get that so much.”
I still didn’t believe him.
“Uptown Traffic was originally called Crosstown Traffic after the Hendrix band, but then I was like, ‘we’re just going to sound like a Hendrix cover band.’ So I actually changed it because of Uptown Normal. I didn’t name my other band. And Blue Car was just simple.”
Somehow getting into college basements to play shows when he was freshly fifteen, Denny reminisced on the bright-eyed experience of playing in his first band.
“Uptown Traffic was a two-piece I used to play in. That was practically the same thing as Blue Car, garage rock music where I was writing the lyrics. But, that was my first original band. I started that when I was fifteen. That was probably the most innocent band I was in, I was just fifteen years old playing in college basements.”
I stopped him right there and asked if that seemed a little sketchy to him. I don’t know about anyone else…but at fifteen I was definitely hanging out with other fifteen-year-olds and not college kids in cool garage rock bands.
“A lot of people thought I was older,” Denny cringed. “I never questioned it. I never mentioned my age. That band was just so innocent, purely playing for fun.”
Transitioning into a solo career was pretty easy for Denny. With years of experience at eighteen, he continues to write music and experiment with new sounds all while carrying an innate flair.
“It was naturally the next step after COVID pretty much ended my last band. I’ve been writing music for long enough now, the switch to solo work seemed natural.”
I asked him what his favorite song was, not expecting a definitive answer.
“I wrote my first single last summer, but I wrote ‘22’ when I was fifteen. ‘See’ is my favorite song I’ve released so far, I’m the most proud of it. It’s the song I started Blue Car with, so there’s that connection.” Denny laughed and mumbled while he continued to struggle on picking his favorite song.
“I don’t know actually. It’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite child!”
If you’re interested in listening to Blue Car’s latest single “22”, check out his Instagram at @bluecarmusic for music-related updates, videos, and more.
Kaylee Sugimoto | Co-founder / Editor (she/they)
Hi! I’m Kaylee. Born in California, but raised in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest where I quickly learned how to drive 60 on the freeway and become an effective lactose intolerant. I’m a former Division 1 gymnast at Illinois State University, where I’m now focusing on journalism and mass media. I love to skateboard, play my electric bass and listen to the Beatles on my record player. | @kayleesugimoto