by James Egbuta-Baile
Andrew Jefferis is an up-and-coming fashion photographer who thrives on enhancing the experiences of the people around him. Having photographed familiar faces like Daniel Franzese, Shaun D. Ross, Kyla Pratt and Renee Olstead, Andrew is now preparing for his foray into pop music. We sent one of our interns James Egbuta-Bailey, to catch up with him and get up close and personal in Montana, where the rising new photograph.
James: I’m here with Andrew Jefferis, rising photographer, singer and writer. This is so exciting! First off, I would like to say thank you for allowing me the opportunity to interview you for Asian Fusion Magazine. Is this your first interview?
Andrew: Yes, this is my first formal interview!
James: Let’s get started by telling Asian Fusion a little bit about you.
Andrew: I’m Andrew Jefferis, I was adopted from Vietnam at about six months old and raised in Avon, Connecticut, two hours outside of New York City. When I was fifteen, my mom passed away from brain cancer which gave me the incentive to do something like photography. I was always interested in a variety of things creatively; I’m just artistically driven.
When my mom’s cancer metastasized in 2009, my dad let me know that I would no longer be able to travel to New York City as often as I had been for music.
James: On the subject of social media, do you believe that Instagram was useful in expressing yourself creatively? Did it help in making your work accessible to the public eye?
Andrew: I think it’s a great way to network! A lot of my networking was done through Facebook and email. Quick networking tip, I remember watching the Katy Perry movie when it came out and at the end credits, I wrote down the names of the dancers and make-up artists that had worked on the concert tour and I contacted them! I realized that you could never get to the top immediately, so why not work with the people who are contributing to that artists’ success.
James: And you’ve photographed prominent faces, Renee Olstead from the Secret Life of the American Teenager, Shaun Ross who is a high fashion model—
Andrew: In addition to Daniel Franzese from Mean Girls, Tania Raymonde from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, Kyla Pratt from Disney Channel.
James: Your photography work is obviously thriving! Let’s move on into the music now. You played a snippet of your new song Good Habits for me and the beat drop is amazing! Talk to us about the songwriting process.
Andrew: Photography has definitely been the complete center of my creative journey, but its position had been formerly filled by songwriting. Over the past four years, I came to the realization that songwriting has always been something I could go back to despite keeping away from it for so long. Montana offered me the wiggle room to write music while not being so heavily influenced by outside artists. In a city, I tend to find that other ideas seep into your brain easier and influence what you want to say in your music. On and off, no matter if I were here in Montana or traveling somewhere, I would spend up to maybe 2-3 hours a day writing music on my piano or phone in my notes. The great thing about music is that you can create your own sound and have the ability to say what you want to say and really understand how powerful words are. With this new song, I was able to collaborate with a good friend of mine; having another ear is always a good idea. It’s fun to play with perception. I love writing music that completely banishes the true me, while staying true to my musical style. Putting on a mask, it’s a good time.
James: Share with us a little bit about the music video. I understand you’ve already shot some of the footage in Wyoming!
Andrew: I booked a flight to Phoenix with a close friend of mine and we shot the first version of the video in Scottsdale. When it came down to it, I realized that what we had just filmed was too similar to my last release and I didn’t want to make a duplicate. Instead, we returned to Montana and I conjured up a new idea that I felt would have a more substantial impact. I have words written all over my body that things people had said about me in the past. “Fag, rice queen, small eyes, ugly,” etc. For many people, they’re a reminder of how dehumanizing ignorance can be. I wanted to make a stand against racism in the LGBTQ community as well.
James: Let’s talk about fashion.
Andrew: Being adopted and growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, I obviously stood out. I never really had a fashion sense. I tried conforming into this Vineyard Vines and Ralph Lauren persona which I loved but ultimately, it didn’t suit my personal aesthetic. It really makes me proud to see films like Crazy Rich Asians and magazines like Asian Fusion, that focus mainly on Asian cultural experiences. And I wish I had this when I was younger because representation is so important.
James: Representation is absolutely important. Going back to photography again, can you talk to us about a project that you’ve worked on that proved to be very difficult or challenging and how you overcame that obstacle?
Andrew: I’ve never attended a photography class, formal or informal. I think my most difficult shoots are the ones where people don’t trust me as an artist. Many high-profile people that I have worked with already had a set list of expectations, and usually don’t tell you them. They know their angles; they know how to perform. I love directing; it’s definitely an integrated part of my role as a photographer. It can prove to be very difficult when I attempt to push somebody out of their comfort zone because they want to look a certain way. They soon realize my style, and that it will never change.
James: Who inspires you? Do you have any photographers that you look to for inspiration?
Andrew: Definitely! I really love Steven Klein’s work. I think Tyler Shields has an impeccable eye. He’s known for the shock value in his work which is something that I admire.
James: So between balancing photography and music, what would you say is your focus right now?
Andrew: Saving money! Right now, I do think that both are being made a priority equally.
James: Do you think creative control is very important to you?
Andrew: Absolutely. I mean, collaboration can be tricky. Owning my work and staying true to what I want to do is very important to me.
James: You’re definitely always on the go. You’ve lived in New York, Connecticut, Montana, Los Angeles—what’s next for you?
Andrew: Bozeman is so ideal. Realistically, I would like to stay in Bozeman. As long as I’m keeping creative that’s all that really matters to me.
However, since you asked, Boston would be next on my list.
James: I know that giving back is also a big part of who you are. Talk to us about the missionary work that you’ve done.
Andrew: I don’t like to think of it as giving back, but more along the lines of enhancing someone else’s experience and giving them a new, fuller experience than what they have which is why I like photography. But I love working with kids! I’ve done mission work in Kisumu and the Dominican Republic. One of my fondest memories was having a water balloon fight with the kids and playing musical chairs with them. I absolutely enjoy working with my dad.
James: Last question…When can we expect this album or EP?
Andrew: It’s going to be an EP, but I’m focusing on this one single right now. I’m hoping sometime next year!
James: Thank you so much Andrew for getting up close and personal with Asian Fusion! Best of luck with Good Habits!