Vocalist and R&B songwriter Josef Lamercier never directly sought a music career. Recently releasing single “Figure It Out,” Lamercier was displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as a child: From there, he found himself in Texas, where singing in the local church choir sparked his love of music.
However, in planning out his future at the time, he attended college in Oklahoma and then started a career assisting prisoners in worship services.
His interest in music never died down. As a result, after he connected with college classmate Channel Tres, he moved westward to Los Angeles during the Covid-19 pandemic with just $3,500 in his pocket.
Driven to succeed, he wrote and attended three to four studio sessions per day despite contending with homelessness.
Now, a varied and extensive back catalog, including original works and co-writing credits, reflects the fruits of Lamercier’s labor. Featuring production from Niko Oroc, “Figure It Out” officially launches Lamercier as a solo artist.
What was your vision for “Figure It Out”?
At the time when we made the record, I was quite literally trying to figure things out in my life. It was the beginning of me deciding to really make music.
Niko had the instrumental loaded before I walked in the room. When I started singing, the words fell out, Briss finished his verse, and we got the song done in 30 minutes.
How did you end up working with Niko Oroc?
Our managers connected us, and the first session was this song.
The session almost didn’t happen, but as soon as we got in the room, it’s like everything went auto. Been my brothers since.
Tell us about your background: How did you start making music?
I grew up in New Orleans East, and my parents were involved in church. So I grew up around music heavy. When I would go to my dad’s house, I was getting put on everything.
As I got older, I would fall in and out of it, ‘cause the concept of being successful in this industry was foreign to me.
But, it was always getting me out of tough positions in life. Channel really helped me to develop my writing and voice early on in college. He was a beacon of realizing what talent and discipline can do.
What drew you to hip-hop and R&B?
Just growing up the way I did. The city is the birthplace of Black music, and I couldn’t help but be drawn to it. It was familiar.
It was ingrained in me. I’m always trying to be a student and learn from what came before. I listen to everything. I think every genre has a beauty to it.
After you completed college, you had been working with prisoners to assist them in their worship services. How did you return to making music and make it your career?
I realized that I was more effective outside of the space I was in at the time. I learned a lot about myself then. I realized how much I care about people and wanted to do more, but I couldn’t.
Also, I wanted to get back into the core of who I was, and any art was always my outlet to shut out anything bad that was happening around me. Just so happened that it wound up being what I was supposed to do in life.
You also carved out your music career during the pandemic. How were you able to record and find your audience during this time?
During the pandemic, I would be recording myself and doing demos, and then play them for my potnas. I was just trying to build up the confidence to fully dive in.
Little by little, people were hitting me, and we would be recording during full lock down. It was a fun time for us. I think it really helped us all figure out what was the next steps for us as individuals.
You also have a few co-writing credits. What’s your approach for writing for yourself versus other artists?
I pretty much take the same approach for both. Still telling some sort of story that both parties can relate to.
I’ve only worked well with people I have a relationship with, because I have to know what you’re going through in your life. When I write for myself, you can sense the honesty in it.
What are your plans for your career in the near future? Do you have any new music planned?
Consistency! “Merci” Summer ’23!
Ivan Yaskey is a Philly-born EDM and synthpop enthusiast and interviewer who recently relocated to beautiful Boston, MA.