Meet August 08: Your New Shoulder to Cry On

R&B influenced musician August 08 wearing tortoiseshell sunglasses, a blue and white striped blazer, and a collared shirt

August 08 (originally born Ray Jacobs, though he now goes by August Grant) hails from Koreatown, Los Angeles, California. Describing himself as “always a creative” throughout his life, August first made a name for himself as a songwriter, cowriting hits such as DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One”—which also featured Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Quavo, and Little Wayne. Now, however, he’s forging a path as an artist that creates music of his own. His prior releases include Father, Emotional Cuh, and Happy Endings With an Asterisk, and on July 8th he released Towards the Moon, the second half of his exciting two-parter Towards the Sun.

His work is most frequently described as “R&B influenced,” but he also takes inspiration from other genres—cited as trap, metal, psychedelic, soul, funk, techno, indie, rock’n’roll, and even country. However, August 08 resists being weighed down by just one singular label, especially one as broad as “urban.” He shrugs them all off, instead saying, “My sound is honestly what I’m feeling that day. It’s not really attributed to anything—it’s just me experimenting and trying a whole bunch of stuff.”

But there is one singular element that threads through all of August 08’s solo work and can best define his music. This quality is its deep, honest emotion, cutting through both creator and listener right through the bone and to the heart. In addition to his music serving as an outlet to experiment and try new things, August uses it as an outlet to work through his heartbreaks and past trauma—particularly those experienced during the ”coming of age” period in his life. One theme August explores within his work (especially on Father) are his emotions surrounding his dad, who departed August’s life when he was 11 and made a brief reappearance ten years later, only to oppose August’s dreams and then take off again. While some may find it tough to share feelings surrounding fraught familial relationships with a public audience, August’s music lays bare his innermost thoughts and emotions, and does so with complete honesty.

Being in touch with his feelings—and building the confidence to do so utterly unapologetically—is something August began learning when he was young, growing up with his mother and sisters in Koreatown, Los Angeles, and then eventually going to live with his uncle and realizing he didn’t always fit in with other guys that were “rough.” He said, “When I was growing up, it was easier to be hard than it was to be soft. And like, leaning into your emotional side is the best thing for you. That cuts through directly to people, because we’re all human, you know what I mean?”

August says that through his music, he hopes “to help people heal,” and adds that, “Some of those life lessons I had to go through, I don’t want you to have to go through those same things. But if you have to, I hope my music can be somewhat of a guide, to help you get through it.” For August, music was the one thing that helped him when he was at his lowest. In particular, he reminisces on listening to Travis Scott and James Fauntleroy’s Owl Pharoah on the bus while he was homeless, citing it as “the direct connection to my heart.”

R&B influenced musician August 08, wearing glasses and a beanie and showing off a silver grill for the camera

But August hasn’t just healed through listening to music; he’s also healed through writing songs; he explains that, “After creating music, I realized, ‘Oh shit, I might need to grow up a little bit. Because I’m petty as hell and insecure as hell.’” August 08 doesn’t just tell you to feel better or dump his own traumas onto the listener; rather, he meets you halfway, providing catharsis for one’s most vulnerable emotions by first revealing his own.

August says, “When I was a kid, like 11-12, I was like ‘I’m never gonna cry, I’m gonna be hard, I’m gonna be numb” but me being an adult now, I’m just like, ‘I’m gonna cry, I’m gonna feel these things’ and if the music leads those emotions to come out, I’ll allow it to happen. The emotions just flow freely. I’m just right there, let’s cry together.” Songwriting and music especially have helped August work through the most difficult emotions and times he’s experienced in his life, and he seeks to be that guide for someone else down the line.

August 08’s deeply emotional, open, and honest music is delivered to the listener alongside August himself—a union that undoubtedly helps forge a true connection with the audience. August is serene, tranquil—he doesn’t judge himself, and he doesn’t even appear to judge others for judging him or doubting his tastes. Though he’s come a long way in his career and has worked with household names like DJ Khaled, Shawn Mendes, and Justin Bieber, August remains as down-to-earth as ever—he confesses that “Most songs in my life have been written in a hot steaming garage in the summer,” a fact that hasn’t changed as he ascends in his career. He’s laid back, friendly, someone you can trust to tell you a story that’s true, and to help you through your own feelings.

Like his past work, August 08’s Towards the Sun and it’s second part, Towards the Moon, showcase deep, honest, and raw emotion to the listener. August describes Towards the Moon in particular as, “More of an emotional journey, it’s darker… It’s a further climb and a deeper tie into those emotions. Harder hitting drums, beautiful moments, beautiful strings.”

R&B influenced musician August 08 of Def Jam records wearing an orange hat and looking seriously into the camera while holding up his hand

Though some artists might find themselves feeling emotions like doubt or anxiety when being so vulnerable whilst simultaneously opening a new chapter in their careers, August feels comfortable and at ease as he departs from the world of songwriting for others and into creating solo music of his own. He confesses, “I spent years trying to follow briefs… and that got me nowhere. And then I started studying artists and learning that as a songwriter you have to be a servant of music. You have to be someone that understands what comes next. But as an artist, I don’t give a fuck what’s next. I make whatever the hell I want to make. However that sounds to me, and wherever that place comes from, people are gonna feel it.”

Like his past work, his most recent release Towards the Sun has roots through deep, difficult emotions. August wrote this record specifically while struggling with negative feelings during the pandemic—something everyone can certainly relate to, regardless of their background. Of the emotional inspiration for Towards the Sun, August explains, “I went from this person who was never at home and couldn’t be at home to being at home. I had to channel that inner emotional tide to myself, and let it all go.”

August feels especially confident and self-assured about this latest project, citing it as one of his favorites he’s ever worked on—though he also particularly enjoyed the process of writing Father. He loved working on Towards the Sun so much, in fact, that he and his team made the decision to split the album in two “because we wanted the project to last longer…. I’m so happy that I get to make and put out music for a whole year instead of just one drop.”

One quality August 08 enjoyed so much about working on Towards the Sun is the creative freedom he had during the creation of the record. He’s especially grateful for his team at Def Jam for this, saying, “I never felt like I had the creative space that I wanted to, and Def Jam helped me do this. With my other projects and other labels, they were like, ‘Maybe you should make this that fits this box’. With Def Jam they were like, ‘Hell, we like you as an artist and we like who you are. Do what the hell you want to do, just come back with something.’” While many in the past have attempted to define August, his newest project has allowed him full creative expression to do his own thing— and he’s plunging forward in his career as a result.

August 08 and Jhene Aiko promoting their song "Water Sign" off August 08's "Towards the Moon." Aiko is wearing a ruffled blue dress while August is wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans. They are on a fantasy-like background featuring vines and the moon
August 08 and Jhene Aiko. August 08’s track “Water Sign,” off Towards the Moon, features Aiko.

August’s free-spirited nature may at first appear to contrast with his unbothered, relaxed, and grounded exterior; however, it reflects perfectly in his multifaceted music taste. Though he spoke of his love of Travis Scott and James Fauntleroy’s Owl Pharaoh, he also he cites his biggest influences as everything from Stevie Wonder to drummers like Phil Collins and JoJo Mayer, to actor and R&B singer Jamie Foxx, and finally, to alternative indie rock band Snow Patrol. He does so entirely unphased by any eyebrows that this combination of names might raise, particularly the mention of Snow Patrol—and though many may want to play it too cool to admit it, we’ve all leaned against a bus window as a teen, all up in our feels while listening to “Chasing Cars” before.

And just as both his music taste and personal creations defy one label, August’s personal interests expand beyond just making music. When he’s not writing songs or recording, August can be found golfing, bowling, grilling, and fishing. He professes that he owns three custom bowling balls and that being on the cover of a Bass Pro Shop magazine is, “My life goal right now. That’s what I want to do, bad.” He’s also passionate about interior design and home décor, particularly pleased with how he’s decorated his home. From his seat in an orange Eames chair from the 1960s, August proclaims, “I pride myself on mid-century modern stuff. I feel like nobody ever asks me about it.”

R&B influenced musician August 08 wearing a blue baseball cap and sitting at a small keyboard in a home studio

His broad range of influences include movies, too. When asked about what influenced his sense of style, August says, “Me and my cousin… we used to go to this movie store down the street from the crib that was like a ten-cent movie store. So, while other people were playing music, we would go to the movie store and rent a whole bunch of movies. That’s where I saw all my first Wes Anderson films and that stuff that inspires the hell out of me.” Wes Anderson’s films in particular have impacted August’s fashion sense. He is often photographed wearing angular glasses and collared shirts reminiscent of Max Fischer from Rushmore, or in stripes, sweaters, blues, and purples fitting for a character in The Royal Tenenbaums.  

August’s eclectic taste and unapologetic integrity reflect in everything he does—from his multi-genred sound, to his thoughtfully decorated home, and to his wide range of hobbies from everything from bowling to fishing. He doesn’t bat an eye at any doubts or surprise anyone expresses at his variety of interests and passions. Though his music may cut through to deep emotions, August appears serene and equanimous, at ease with who he is. Like August, many artists may profess to up-and-comers ““Don’t be afraid to be exactly who you are”—but August doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk, too. Beyond his mantra of being true to yourself, August has other sage advice to pass on to young creatives: He advises, “Don’t feel held down by trying to be something.” And such a motto has certainly paid off; being unapologetically August has taken him from homelessness to a path Towards the Sun.

by Sarah


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