December 5, 2012

When Jackson Rathbone visited the BULLETT offices one recent Tuesday for a photo shoot and interview, he came equipped with his crimson-haired better half, burlesque dancer Sheila Hafsadi and 6-month-old baby son, Monroe Jackson Rathbone VI. Asking for style advice from the teensy little progeny, Rathbone was a decidedly warmer, more soulful version of the character he has been known for over the past 4 years, Twilight’s blood-lusting Cullen clan vampire, Jasper Hale. With the Twilight movie franchise taking its final lap in theaters, the world is entering a new life cycle, and so is Rathbone. This month he debuts his first solo album, Billy Badass, an explorative work of multiple genres, blues and country included, where Rathbone takes his love of storytelling into record form. Here Rathbone talks about the last night on the Twilight set, his sartorial choices (one crushed red velvet suit in particular), and his childhood travelling the world.

How many interviews do you think you’ve done since the whole Twilight franchise has started?
Since it began? Hundreds.

Are you going to miss all that craziness?
Yes and no. I like crazy. I was born on the run. I was born travelling. I was born in Singapore, so I like moving around. I like being in constant motion. So I’ll miss that aspect of it. As an actor, I like being someone else. So it’s kind of like the hardest part of it all—doing the press. It’s one of those requisites of the business that you don’t find out about until you’re in the business. When I was a little actor back on the stage in high school, I was just playing parts. That’s what I love: being someone else.

What was the craziest or most memorable moment from the Twilight experience?
The first Twilight premiere. Pulling up in the car with my parents in town and seeing all the people out there, that was weird. That was a trip. We didn’t think it would be as big as it was or had become. It was gaining steam as we were filming and by the time we were done filming, it was a lot bigger than we had anticipated. But when we got to the red carpet there were a lot of people screaming and taking pictures of us, and yelling our names, which was really weird.

Are you going to keep in touch with anyone from the cast?
I think so. Definitely. We’ve become good friends over the years, and Nikki Reed’s the godmother of my baby, so I think we’re going to see plenty of her.

Did you celebrate the end of Twilight in any special way?
There was no confetti or balloons coming it out. It was like, Alright, you’re wrapped. Oh really? There was the main unit wrap, and then there was two weeks left of second unit where we do the stunts. It was just the Cullens, us five who had been doing this movie from day one, and that was weird. When we wrapped at 4 in the morning, it was cold. It was rainy. We went back to the hotel. I had a few drinks with Liz [Reaser] and Peter [Facinelli]. Then I went back to hang out with Kellan [Lutz] and Ashley [Greene] in their hotel. We ordered pizza at 6am in the morning, and we were listening to Mumford and Sons while the sun was coming up just kind of reminiscing. Nikki had already gone home at that point. I just wanted to see my costars and say thank you. It’s been a nice ride.

On the topic of Twilight red carpets again, you’ve had a lot of fun fashion wise. I particularly enjoyed that red velvet suit that you wore.
[Laughs] It was awesome.

What was going through your head when you picked that?
I like weird and out there. I like extremes. I like either being completely simple and classic, or I like being completely weird and modern and out there. I don’t know. I just wanted to try something different. And the moment I put that crushed velvet on, it was so damn comfortable.

So is fashion important to you then?
It is, and it isn’t. I like to say that I just wear the cleanest clothes I have at the moment, pick whatever off the ground, but I do put thought into what I wear. I’m color blind, and because of that I’ve always gotten flak for clashing. So I kind of like embracing that. I have no idea what I wear. I see things very much as shapes. I find it interesting to mix genre and time in terms of fashion.

You mentioned you travelled around a lot as a kid. Where did you live?
I was born in Singapore. I moved to Jakarta, London, Connecticut, California, Norway, Houston, TX, Midland TX, Interlochen, MI, and I got to L.A. when I was 18.

Where was the longest stretch of time?
Texas and Norway. Norway was four years. Texas was five.

How did that affect you?
That was weird. [Laughs] It made me a really happy outcast. I never felt like a pariah. I never really felt like I was shoved to the side. I was always that kid in school who could kind of float in between different groups. I could hang out with the jocks and play sports. I could hang out with the nerdier kids and talk about theology or talk about different kinds of science equations, just something different. I loved the arts, so I was always drawn to those kids. That’s the outside-ish perspective. I love people watching, and to be on the outside and be on the fringe and to be able to go into a group and not be able to be inside of it at the same time  that’s what I enjoyed about travelling.

How long have you been acting?
Professionally since I was 17. I fell in love with acting when I was 13 or 14.

What about singing?
Same. Singing is weird. I don’t consider myself a singer. I like to think of myself as an entertainer. Even actor, these words feel a little dirty sometimes.

Too categorical?
Yeah. It’s a weird perception. I always wanted to be an actor, but I never wanted to be called an actor.

Why did you decide to try acting?
I don’t know. I love art. It’s like the most insincere and sincere answer at the same time if I say I did it for girls. I was kid. I was doing football. My sisters were doing acting, and their friends were very attractive. They would come over and run lines and stuff. I was like, “Oh. That’s interesting. I should try out for all the plays.” And I did.  At the same time, there was always a sensibility where I was always a class clown. I was always in trouble for acting out in school, So I think there’s a sense of always wanting to be on the stage.

Do you think it’s because you were seeking attention?
It was never that. I love entertaining people. It wasn’t to draw attention to myself. It was to distract people, to bring a smile to somebody is really, really fun, even to just distract them from what’s going on in a moment. Sometimes, escapism is a wonderful way to get away from your problems and really find an answer to something. It’s like when you lose your keys, the best way to find them is to stop looking for them.

So what actors do you idolize, or what artists?
Everyone. Andy Warhol, huge fan. Johnny Depp, I really like. Robert Downey Jr.

Why these particular men?
They’re not afraid of going off into a really different world, and they’re not afraid of expanding their own horizons as well as their artistic boundaries, which I think is admirable.

Would you take Edward Scissorhands if it was presented to you today?
I wish scripts like Edward Scissorhands were presented these days, but there’re not a lot of risk takers. Doesn’t seem to be at least.

So was teen heartthrob ever on your agenda?
No.

Have you embraced it?
No. It’s the weirdest thing.

What do you think goes into making a teen heartthrob?
[Laughs] I have no fucking clue.

If you could make only one album in your life, what kind of music would be on it?
I’ve had this idea for a long time. I was really close to doing it for this first album, but I wanted to do something that I knew I could do right off the bat and I wanted to record all in one month. Those were my standards for the Billy Badass the album. For my next album, It’s a concept I’ve had in my head called the American Spirit Blues. I want to start off with chants and the way that music has progressed over the years. When we first started communicating, we started with songs and chants and tribal clapping and taking rocks and hitting them together to make percussive sounds. Then, the next track could be the birth of the first instrument like maybe a lute or a guitar to symbolize that. I’d like to explore eclectic sensibilities and genre as well and how things change over time. It would be fun to start off with no instruments just vocals and then by the end of it you hear all weird synth sounds and computer bleeps. I think that would take you on a journey.

So you’re a 5th and your son’s a 6th? Were you always cool with being a number? A lot of people aren’t.
I love it. I like tradition. Don’t get me wrong. I hate some traditions, but I like certain things that give you a sense of family. I grew up travelling so much that I don’t have a best friend since birth or kindergarten. I had my sisters and my parents, and that’s it. So I think that sense of family is very strong with me and I wanted to keep that.

Rathbone’s next single “Indian Drum” from Billy Badass is out December 7th. For more information on his new album visit his site here.

Photography by Dana DeCoursey

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