10 Questions with JJ Chestnut

JJ Chestnut PG’21 has stretched his personal boundaries by becoming a musician in sixth grade after playing basketball his entire life.

Previously attending Watervliet High School in Watervliet, N.Y., JJ Chestnut PG’21 is a post-graduate (PG) student. On campus, he lives in Bishop Hall. Chestnut is one of three PG basketball players, and he also writes and produces his own original music.

1. Why have you decided to take a PG year at Andover?

I decided to take a PG year because I felt like I really wasn’t ready for college mentally. Also physically, for basketball, I didn’t think I was strong enough, so just being here would get me better overall. Andover kind of found me. Honestly, [I] kind of got lucky. It was late during the recruiting time, and [Head Coach Terrell Ivory ’00]  reached out to me. I didn’t hear about the school previously at all … At first I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to do an extra year. I kinda just thought it would be a waste of time, but after talking to Coach [Ivory] over and over again, and doing research, and talking to some of the students that went here, I figured it was a good place to be.

2. How has your transition to Andover been so far?

I haven’t really been out of the city where I am from, so coming here was super interesting. I liked meeting all the international kids… [I] also [have liked] being able to compete [in] basketball workouts.

3. What are you most excited about for this upcoming year?

I’m hoping we get a season, obviously. That would be great. I’m just looking forward to continuing to meet new people and experience new things. Every day while I’m here, I feel like I do something new or find something new…One thing specifically [is that] we have a ping pong table. I’ve played ping pong before, but never this much, so that’s something new I enjoy. I never played Spikeball before I came here. That’s been fun. Also food. Since there’s a lot of people from all different places, I’ve tried a whole bunch of new food, which has been good and bad.

4. When did you first start playing basketball, and how has it influenced you?

[In the] second grade, so probably when I was about seven… It’s definitely been a big influence. I’ve always been good in school, but mainly the real reason why I do [well] in school is because I know if I don’t do [well] in school, I can’t play basketball… In my outside life, I would say it’s a big influence because I can’t do as much as I would like to, meaning I can’t always hang with my friends when I want to, or I can’t go out when I want to, because I gotta do something for basketball. 

I do hope to play in college… Honestly, I would like to go overseas to play professionally, so I obviously feel like basketball would be in my life for a long time. But if that doesn’t work out, then I still see myself being a coach or something like that. So, I think basketball will be here pretty long for me.

5. What do you love most about basketball?

I’ll tell you this: for most sports, I feel like it’s pretty slow, and I feel like you can predict what will happen next. I would say what I like most about basketball is you never know what’s gonna happen. 

6. What started your passion for music?

When I was in eighth grade. That was the first time I ever thought about playing around with [music]. I never really took it seriously until last year. It all started just as something I was doing in my free time… When I’m just sitting in my room, I write lyrics and stuff like that. It got to the point where I felt like I had so much, I needed to make an actual song. When I actually made the song, it did better than I expected, so then I just kept it going… It was a form to express myself. I don’t really open up to a lot of people, so when I make music, I can just say whatever’s on my mind. At first it started as just [making] a song catchy so people listen to it, but then over time it’s gotten to the point where I am actually talking about stuff that matters. Also, I think it shows I’m not scared of the spotlight, in the sense that, well, I’ve always played basketball, but when I started making music, that’s when more attention was brought to me. 

7. Do you see any overlap between your dedication for basketball and passion for music?

One hundred percent. This quarantine was a big moment. I honestly would say I was going through a midlife crisis. Because [with] quarantine and everything [being] closed, you couldn’t eat, couldn’t do anything, I really wasn’t able to play basketball, so a lot of my time while I was just sitting around, I was making music… There would be a few times where I would skip a workout to go do something for music. But it’s vice versa. It comes back and forth. It definitely overlaps. 

8. Where do you draw inspiration for your music?

First, I would say, [I draw inspiration from] however I am feeling. Honestly, if I had a good day, then I would most likely make more of an upbeat song. But if I had a back and forth day, it would probably be a more down vibe. [For] inspiration, I would say my past, like all the stuff I’ve been through, where I plan to see myself, or what I can see myself doing, or see myself having. Also, I like to try to represent good vibes, so positivity. I am big on positivity… It started off as me making music to please others… but then, I eventually got to the point where I’m like “I don’t care who likes it, because I do.” … I feel like me making music is showing people you can do whatever you want. Because I was playing basketball my entire life, everyone knew me as a basketball player, and then out of nowhere I just did this thing, so it kinda just lets people know you can do whatever you want to do. 

9. Who are some of your favorite artists, or favorite albums?

[For] favorite artists, I would have to say Lil Baby [or] Lil Durk. I honestly listen to a large variety of music though. I don’t discriminate. Honestly, me coming here, I’ve heard so many genres of music that I didn’t even know were a thing. I’ve opened my mind a lot. One of my friends, who’s in my dorm… [is] from Scotland… Whenever we get together, we all play music. We all go around, and we all pick a song to play. but when his song came on, it kind of struck me by surprise because there were no words [for] the entire song. I was kind of confused, but he was loving it. And then he started dancing a little bit, everyone started dancing, and I was like, ‘Alright, I can mess with it a little bit.’ 

10. Are you working on any songs currently?

Every day. Every day after sign-in… Before September of this year, all of my music was on Soundcloud. I mostly try to promote it via Instagram, Snapchat, and occasionally TikTok.