Artist Marcus Jade talks about his Tiny Desk Contest submission "Legs and Bones" The New York City-based artist Marcus Jade talks about his remarkable Tiny Desk Concert entry, the blues song "Legs and Bones."

Marcus Jade's Tiny Desk Contest entry 'Legs and Bones' speaks to his resilience

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A camera nestled among houseplants captures chords from the guitar of Marcus Jade.


SIMON: That's a clip of Marcus Jade playing "Legs And Bones" in his bedroom in New York City. It's also his submission to the Tiny Desk Contest this year. His music and his story stood out. Marcus Jade joins us now. Thank you so much for being with us.

MARCUS JADE: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: Tell us about this song, if you could - "Legs And Bones."

JADE: "Legs And Bones" was a song that I had written a few years back, and it's written in this way as a letter directed towards me moving on into another place but still reminiscing about where I come from and asking this person, you know, how does it feel to really still be back home after I'm kind of gone and I don't exist there anymore?


JADE: (Singing) Tell me, how does it feel to live in the same place you grew up in? Now your best friends seem to marry their closest kin (ph). The same old stoplight that stops you on the street, and every Saturday go to the same place you go with me.

SIMON: In your video, we can get a real close-up look at your personal space, your bedroom. And that's personal space you didn't always have, right? You were without a home for a number of years.

JADE: Yeah, and I would honestly say, to be correct, it was very on and off, but it definitely was some space in time where I didn't know where I was going to go, the next place. I would say there was people that did look out and offered me a couch or extra room when it was there. A lot of that time, too, there was a lot of just, like, wandering destitute, and I really kind of held on to my music to kind of help me always have a place to be.

SIMON: So I'm interested - when you say your music was a place to be, how did you hold on to your music during this time?

JADE: Well, I mean, in the literal sense, I still hold on to all the journals that I was writing into in those times, but also even in the sense, too, of holding on to my guitars and trying to, you know, use those things as a vehicle to kind of keep me afloat.

SIMON: Yeah.

JADE: Even when I couldn't have a job or didn't have a steady income.


JADE: (Singing) You know, I love it out here when there's no place I'd rather be. What's on your mind when there's silence on the telephone? I can't tell if you're worried or you want me to leave you alone.

And it just really did carry me because there were moments in which I can remember, you know, busking on the streets, at least. Like, there would be, like, one of those two people that would drop a card into my guitar case and really be like, hey, like, show up at this place. And those were the moments that really did keep me off of the streets and kind of keep me in the circuit. And even so, like, it's just been a blessing, like I said, to try to make it every day and try to still leave behind just this - you know, this idea of all this music that really has a history behind it, a reason.

SIMON: I know your music kind of speaks for your story, but what do you want people to understand about that period in your life and your life now?

JADE: I would just like people to know that I am a person no different than them - an African American male that is really living in these times. And I want people to see that even in the worst of my times, I was still trying to make the most of what was going on in the situation. I really would like to tell my family that, like, I really did and really do continue to try to make the most of all the situations and that sense of resilience, even when I don't know where I'm going to be, is always something that my parents and my family really instilled in me and the friends that I've been surrounded by. And I want people to know that, you know, this is my life, and this is why it matters, and this is why life is precious to me.

SIMON: Marcus Jade - you can see his submission to NPR's Tiny Desk contest on Marcus Jade, so nice to talk to you. Thanks so much.

JADE: Thank you.


JADE: (Singing) New York City - this ain't the place where we got, then toughen up that thick skin, or this place will tear you apart.

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