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April 10, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Josh Teasley, 23, (whose stage name is Flexy the Artist) hopped on U.S. 63 and headed all the way to Baton Rouge for a summer internship. He eventually made it back here with a new, smooth sound born from the Louisiana bayou.
Where: The Blue Note
When: April 24, 7 p.m.
His music finds its official and sustained exposure with the Route 63 EP, out April 30. Named after the direct route between Columbia and Baton Rouge, Teasley’s lack of direction at the time inspired the EP’s songs. “Baton Rouge was where I went to get away from everyone,” Teasley says. “I couldn’t focus staying in Columbia over the summer, so I just took this internship, the hardest thing of my life, and came back with what you’ll hear April 30.”
On the MU student’s EP, listeners will hear a confident solo artist who, true to his name, is musically flexible. Route 63 mixes the relaxed and introspective R&B Frank Ocean with the devilish throwaway spirit of Pharrell Williams. The musical balance is natural given Teasley’s normal schedule. “I have a full-time class load in addition to working about 30 hours a week,” he says. “This music keeps me sane and moving forward.”
Since returning to Columbia, the MU senior has been prolific and maintained a strong online presence, a rare R&B performer cutting through the swaths of rock and garage bands of mid-Missouri.
Teasley founded the label Knew Habits with collaborator Gramattyk and releases weekly videos which are self-recorded and edited. He attributes his online presence as a considerable part of his success. As ubiquitous as he is on social media, however, Teasley likes to keep his collaborations and recordings intimate. “I trust everyone I work with,” he says. “It’s like my haircut; I only let one person cut my hair just like I only record with somebody I absolutely trust.”
As focused as he is on music, Teasley is an accumulation of pieces that make a whole. Part college student, part worker and part musical artist, he tinkers and records daily in his homemade studio in Brookside Downtown Apartments. His walls are adorned with posters of artists including the Wu-Tang Clan and Jimi Hendrix, with Michael Jackson (his biggest influence) moonwalking over them all.
Everything comes together when Teasley steps in front of the mic. His hybrid of R&B and rap has earned him gigs across the country. The Flexy the Artist brand is almost entirely produced and managed by Teasley himself, but he credits his success at recording to a lark. “It started off as a joke in my fraternity one day, and one day I went home and really enjoyed it,” he says.
Already trained in piano and choir during high school, Teasley found songwriting and rapping surprisingly natural. He soon funneled his talents into projects including the hip-hop collective 3oNe3 (named after his Delta Tau Delta room number). The project allowed Teasley to explore the beginnings of his personal sound. “R&B is definitely what I go after,” he says. “I just have an ear for the melodies. I just love recreating a complicated mix of genres in that way.”
Other collaborations include Elizabeth “Bitsy” Hebson, a guitarist and friend from Fort Zumwalt West High School in O’Fallon. “He called me up one day and said he’d noticed the songs I’d been putting online and that he really liked them, and it went from there,” she says. The pair would appear onstage with Flexy layering original raps over Bitsy’s plucks and flourishes.
Flexy the Artist’s farewell show in Columbia is on April 24. From there lies graduation and roads not yet explored. Teasley aspires to travel to Florida, and ultimately, Los Angeles to become a musician full-time. For now he enjoys the moment and understands a career in music, like songwriting, is always ongoing. “Songwriting is a process,” he says. “If you don’t go into writing a song with a willingness to change or improve, your song will just come out average.”
“This is what I love to do,” he says. “I’m glad this is the path I’ve chosen.”