Jxdn on Mourning and Celebrating Late Best Friend Cooper Noriega With New Music: ‘It Was Therapy’

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Not even three weeks ago, on June 9, jxdn lost a best friend in fashion model and influencer Cooper Noriega. Days later, the artist went to the studio with his collaborator and label boss Travis Barker to work through his grief — and emerged with two new singles, released today (June 28), to honor what would have been Noriega’s 20th birthday.

“It felt like everything just stopped for me, and even to this day it still feels that way,” says jxdn, admitting he still feels “foggy” and “delayed” while speaking of and processing his loss. “But especially the days after, I felt like I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t go anywhere, and I didn’t really have any words to say. I was getting really frustrated. I didn’t know what to do.”

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He says he felt “empty,” and told Barker he desperately needed to make music. “Travis has really experienced everything that a person can experience, and he’s gone through this for sure,” says jxdn, likely referring to Barker’s own loss of his best friend DJ AM. “So I go to the studio and we didn’t plan anything, we were just talking about Cooper and how amazing he was. We weren’t worried about what the songs were gonna be, we were making them because it was therapy.”

With help from Barker, along with artist Aldae, songwriter and guitarist Nick Long and singer-songwriter Liza Owen, jxdn soon emerged with two songs on which he grapples with his grief as if on an emotional see-saw. He describes the first song, the more uptempo and melodic “Beautiful Boy,” as “everything that I could have ever wanted it to be.” (While the track title came from a mumbled phrase from Allday, jxdn later and coincidentally found out it’s what Noriega’s mother would fondly call him). “I really feel like people need to have a sense of understanding the pain, but not letting it consume you,” he says, “which I’m hoping for for everyone, but that’s the biggest thing I struggle with.”

He leaned into that more sorrowful side of his emotions on the heartaching acoustic second single “Even in the Dark,” on which he sings, “I’ll celebrate your birthday, even if it isn’t with you.” Yet the line that strikes jxdn  most comes in the pre-chorus, when he requests: “Walk me home and let’s fall asleep.”

“If I could say anything to Cooper right now it would be [that], because we did that so much,” he recalls. “It’s not like I need anything from him, I just want to be next to him… People don’t really understand how much he made me feel safe. I really have never had a relationship with anyone like I had with Cooper, because it was such an intense, real love. And I don’t wanna remember Cooper as all these things people who didn’t even know him are remembering him by [because he struggled with addiction and mental health]. He was such a light in the world, and that was part of the reason that he struggled so much, because he loved everyone else so much more than he loved himself.”

Jxdn believes offering two sides of the same coin with these songs — striving to positively remember a person you’ve lost while simultaneously feeling paralyzed by the pain — will resonate more widely than if he had only tapped into one aspect of the many ways in which grief can hit.

“All I’m trying to do is allow people to feel like they’re not alone in their feelings — and there’s so many vast feelings, that’s why I didn’t want to tie it down to just one specific emotion or idea,” he says. “I was really trying, even though it’s only two songs, to create a world. I hope to one day add on, but this is exactly what it needs to be for now. And Cooper’s really blessed me with the peace of knowing that.”

This two-pack is only one of the ways in which Noriega’s life is being celebrated. Jxdn mentions how his family — parents Treva and Harold and sister Parker — is carrying on Noriega’s hopes of opening a rehab facility that, as Noriega once wrote on Instagram and jxdn reiterates now, “doesn’t leave kids scarred and traumatized” by their experience. The family is currently raising money for the space. Days before his untimely death, Noriega had started a Discord “for mental health strictly,” as he wrote on Instagram. It currently has over 275,000 members.

“His legacy should be positive,” says jxdn. “Cooper would genuinely be so happy that he’s making and made such an impact on so many people, and that’s all I want to show to the world.”

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