Interview 4080 - Bridges talks about his new role with Closed Sessions, becoming the president, and more
Words by Frank Fernandez
Photo by Cooper Fox
Jameel Bridgewater, better known as Bridges, is a young artist originally from Champaign, Illinois, but has called Chicago home for many years now. After graduating from Columbia, he worked with big name companies such as Red Bull and Boiler Room, as well as went on tour with TDE artist SZA, and eventually Bridges began an internship with Closed Sessions. He made his way up to his current role of Creative Director, where he has used his experience and skill to help build the brand bigger than ever. I sat down with Bridges to discuss his new role with the company, not sleeping, and getting out of his comfort zone.
How did you first become involved with Closed Sessions?
I first became involved with Closed Sessions through meeting Mike [Kolar]. I went to a talk at Apple with Fake Shore Drive and I had just got off tour with SZA, and we were having a gallery based off the tour. I met Andrew Barber [from Fake Shore Drive] there and I recognized Mike at that Apple event and I said, ‘Yo, you should come through to the show.’ He ended up showing up, along with Kweku and Boathouse, and told me that they were holding their own event at Apple. I attended and took some pictures, and asked them if they had any photo or video people because I felt it would be a dope place to kick it and get some work off. We talked about an internship and it happened really natural, I came in and met squad and it just went from there.
As the new creative director of Closed Sessions, how do you plan to make this company stand out from others like it?
I feel like from my past work I’ve been able to meet a lot of people. I’ve been able to see things not only from the lowest of quality, but also at the highest in the industry quality. I’ve been able to touch a lot of souls and be in lots of situations with teams and see how they carry and structure themselves. I’ve also played sports and been the captain of a team, so I know how people work and what they need to get their everyday work done. On top of all that, with my creative mind, and having an eye for wanting the industry to be better as a whole, it allows me to help every artist on the squad.
You’ve been speaking out on many of the social justice issues going on in recent news on social media, as well as creating pieces in the past that depict your feelings; do you believe it is an artist’s obligation to make their voice heard on these injustices?
I feel like it is important for artists to share their views, period. I feel like as a creative director for people to understand and connect with you and see your visions, you have to share yourself more. I’m not the type of person to keep my ideas and thoughts to myself, because if I’m not saying it, a lot of people might not hear it the way I want it to be perceived. Like with my family, they might not hear about this from somewhere else, so I feel I should be the one informing them. With recording artists, like big and famous artists, absolutely. If you feel some type of way about something, it’s super important to speak it. I don’t like the way a lot of these big artists keep to themselves, even though it’s kind of looked at sideways in public if you have a certain opinion on things. At the end of the day, we’re all artists and our opinions mean a lot to the world, and art is a very important part of society, so we should use this power to change the world.
You recently held a private gallery show entitled “Good Vibes Only” which featured yourself and other young Chicago artists; how did that go? Do you plan to hold more public events in the future?
The show was amazing! It was very lit, I don’t want to share everything that went on, but it was super fun and a lot of my closest friends were there. I like throwing more private shows now since I’ve been able to grow and gather a large group of people at my shows just because I want to be able to feel all the small moments with the people I rock with. Being able to have my closest friends sit and critique my work is what I like about private shows. When it’s a public show, people are just excited about the large crowd and they’re more involved with the drinks and networking, so they don’t pay attention to the pieces as much. I do still want to throw some public shows coming soon. I feel like I set my shows up in spans of life, so the last two were of the SZA tour and my time at Closed Sessions as an intern. Now that I’m on a different part of life, I feel like I’ll be able to show the next stop.
Being from Champaign, was it a natural urge for you to come to Chicago to begin your career? Why not LA or New York?
My initial thoughts when leaving Champaign were that I’ve seen and grown up with a lot of kids who were from a small town like that and they can’t get out and get too comfortable. My father is a jazz musician, so he took me on trips and going to shows and hearing about him traveling the world made me want to see more. People from my hometown don’t really get to go on vacation, so being able to go and see other places gave me a certain vibe. I wanted to follow that vibe, and it led me to Chicago.
You had your own company, Bridgesx1913, from a young age, are you still working to build that?
It’s a long term goal, I shared a lot of ideas with the people around me and I feel like it’s a great plant. I feel like it’s going to take time and I’m in a good place right now trying to do creative direction and building family and teams. Here at Closed Sessions, the relationships I make can grow to bigger projects down the line. Some of the interns are amazing, once they leave this place even I’d like to build teams with them down the road. The creative people I’m meeting are ones I want to be around for the future and hopefully build my brand from there.
What advice would you give to other young artists who are struggling to get their name out there in the art world?
I would say keep grinding, man. I say this all the time, the only thing that keeps you from anything is yourself. What I’ve heard from past mentors is that everything is within breathing, it is all within yourself and the vibes that you have. If you walk around always happy and go into a room, people are going to be able to feed off that happiness. I would also say to stay really motivated and don’t sleep, when you’re inspired by something, you gotta go and try to do it. I’ve been in situations where I had no idea how to do things, like I was working with Stefan Ponce and Friends and they were looking for a stage manager. His manager says to me, ‘we’re looking for a stage manager, have you ever done that before?’ And I just nodded and told him yes because I just want to get that exposure and be able to say I do that. Even though I’m a designer and I don’t really know how to do that at all, but I can either do it terrible and never again or be amazing and get on the good side of those people, it’s all about trying. Overall, I would just say stay with it and stay woke.
Switching gears over to the music side, Chicago has been making national headlines for its music for years now. In your opinion, what makes the music and the people from Chicago different from other parts of the country?
I feel like Chicago holds some of the most amazing artists. What separates from a place like LA, is that in LA the ground is flat and a place where you have to build up. In New York, it’s all risen and you have to get to a certain level before you’re recognized. What makes Chicago special and dope is that you can build teams and groups, but also move ahead on your own at the same time, it’s the perfect middle ground. You get to grow and see new things and have people coming from all over the world who want to see Chicago for themselves and not just through the news. The negative things that go on here allow for artists to build their lane and go against it, which is why you see the integration of gospel and the savior, when people like Chief Keef are bringing in the murder. You need the angel to the devil, that’s what makes Chicago so cracking.
Do you plan to branch out from solely making art and explore other mediums? Or are you comfortable with where you are?
I always tell myself that I never want to be put in a certain box because if I can go to LinkedIn and put my job description as everything or a chameleon, I would do it. Once you put yourself in a box, you lose the opportunity to explore and learn other things that you might really be great at. I feel like tomorrow, if I really wanted to, I could become a chef from the concentration. If I want to concentrate on a baguette, I could do that! If I really put myself into it and focused like I do with my art, I can do anything.
What’s next for Bridges?
Man, Bridges is about to be the president! He’s about to be a rapper and a producer, I’m about to be signed to Closed Sessions! No, but for real, I just want to be able to continue to grow with my family. I feel like everyone around me right now is family and I’ve gotten to an age where I don’t have friends anymore, everyone working with me is family and I treat them as such. I just want to continue to build the family tree. That’s my plan to meet cooler and cooler people, create ideas, and money doesn’t really matter to me at the end of the day, it’s more so about changing lives. I’ll sleep on a thousand couches if I’m able to feel good at the end of the day.