JayDon “JD” McCrary first unexpectedly stole our hearts, when his 11-year-old voice box powerfully belted out the vocals to Childish Gambino's funkadelic melody "Terrified" during the 60th annual Grammy Awards.
Source: YouTube | Donald Glover
As fate would have it, McCrary and Glover have also both been cast as Simba in the upcoming, live-action CGI movie adaptation of Disney’s The Lion King.
McCrary, who is the youngest male artist to be signed and Hollywood Records, plays young Simba, while Glover plays the older version of the classic film's protagonist. In addition to Glover and McCrary, the film’s star-studded cast includes Beyoncé, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, John Oliver, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Keegan-Michael Key and many others.
In this interview with Blavity, McCrary gives us a breakdown that epic Grammy performance, and chats with us about his awe-inspiring rise to fame.
[BLAVITY]: You have said you’re a huge fan of Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5. What about their music do you find inspiring?
[JD McCrary]: From a young age, Michael inspired people of all ages, and that always stood out to me. The fact that they were able to create a sound so universal that everyone could enjoy it was something I wanted to accomplish.
How were you introduced to Michael Jackson’s music, and what is your favorite song by Michael or The Jackson 5?
[McCrary]: I gotta thank my mom and dad for that one! My dad is a singer, so he was always playing the best music growing up. Singing came naturally to me once I started talking, and obviously all I wanted to do is sing. One of my favorite songs is actually by The Jackson 5, “Who’s Lovin’ You.”
You’ve been cast as young Simba in the live- action The Lion King movie. What has been the most valuable part of this experience?[McCrary]: Everything has been such a blessing! To be cast in a movie with some of the most noteworthy talent of our time is really amazing. I’m so excited to see the final picture, and see everything come together. The Lion King is arguably one of the most legendary soundtracks in music history, and being a part of it is so meaningful.
You’ve also been signed to Hollywood Records, which is owned by the Disney Music Group. How do you think you became the youngest male artist to be signed to the label?
[McCrary]: I have an amazing group of people that support me. Every person from my family to the team around me is responsible for my success so far, and I always am giving thanks to God. Being the youngest, male solo artist they have ever signed is amazing. I’m not sure if there was one particular thing that sealed the deal, but [I’ve just been doing] consistent work and appreciating the process.
Outside of the movie, you were able to perform alongside Childish Gambino at the Grammy Awards. Now, you're doing voiceovers alongside him for The Lion King. How did collaborating for the Grammys come about? In what ways do you look up to him?
[McCrary]: Childish Gambino and I are actually on the track “Terrified” together. A few years ago, he was looking for a young voice to finish the track. I was put in touch with him to audition via Skype — and the rest was history.
It’s a total coincidence that we were both cast in The Lion King. So when Donald Glover was performing at the Grammys, it just worked out that I could perform with him. We spent two days rehearsing with everyone before the show. That’s my guy! I learned so much from him. It was an honor.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
[McCrary]: In 10 years, I’d love to still just be JD; making music, acting, dancing, and spending time with my friends and family. I’d also like to graduate high school by 16.
What is next for you after the film’s release?
[McCrary]: I’m always working on stuff. You can definitely expect more music. We’ll be releasing some stuff very soon, and I’m excited!
While JD fans await release of The Lion King remake, in the meantime, they can tune in to OWN to see McCrary as Kenny Payne on Tyler Perry's The Paynes!
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