August 9, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.
Jake Zollman has sought to grow as a musician ever since he stepped into music at the age of 14.
From cultivating listens with his debut full-length album “Apt. 218” to performing on stage alongside Logic in Miami, Zollman, known professionally as Jae Zole, has established a strong following as a performer, with sounds ranging from rap to pop-punk and more.
His efforts to further himself has led to unbelievable new heights, as Zollman is featured on the soundtrack for “Madden NFL 24,” which is set to be released Aug. 15.
“It’s pretty unreal feeling career-wise for me as an artist,” Zollman said. “It’s a huge milestone, being able to say I’m part of a game that has the reach and the impact that ‘Madden’ does.”
The Madden NFL franchise has left a significant mark on Zollman. Growing up as a multi-sport athlete in Sauk Centre, one of Zollman’s memorable childhood moments was picking up the new game every summer and playing it with his friends.
“I remember (first) playing Madden on the Wii,” Zollman said. “I was probably like seven or eight, and played it every year. Between me and my close friends, we’ve always played it against each other. It was a huge part of my childhood during football season.”
Despite this long-lasting appreciation for Madden NFL, Zollman never imagined one of his favorite video games and his pursuit of music intersecting. That all changed in April, when one of Zollman’s producers was contacted by Electronic Arts, the publisher of the world-famous NFL-themed games. “Madden NFL 24” developers were looking to fill their soundtrack and sought excellent fits for the game. Zollman and his diligent team scoured their unreleased work and sent in a few submissions, “Glory” being on them. Less than two months later, Zollman found out “Glory” was selected to be included on the soundtrack.
“Glory” itself represents an underdog story within an underdog story. After work on his album had conclude during his venture to California, Zollman and his producers found themselves lingering around in the studio, with a small window of time to work with. During this time, they experimented with different beats, looking for the next big source of inspiration, and discovered something special.
“We had 30, 40 minutes left in the studio when I was out in California and they said, ‘Hey, do a song on this beat really quick,’” Zollman said. “We came up with Glory.”
Zollman never intended to pitch the song to Madden, set to receive national attention. Looking back, however, the track smoothly slots into a sports soundtrack, as an energetic beat backs up lyrics about Zollman’s sky-high aspirations and drive to succeed, including mentions of athletic terms such as “wideout,” “tryouts” and “crunch time.”
“Glory” is one of 36 songs littering a loaded playlist for “Madden NFL 24” players to shuffle through, including works from well-known acts like Jack Harlow and Wiz Khalifa. Seeing Jae Zole listed alongside these names is an opportunity Zollman does not take lightly.
“I’m honestly still trying to wrap my head around it,” he said. “It’s honestly something I think a lot of aspiring musicians dream of.”
While “Glory” arrives at a high point for the high-achieving Zollman, he has remembered the patience and dedication it has taken to get to this point, the ebb and flow of diving headfirst into different types of music and seeing what works for him. He knows being on the “Madden NFL 24” soundtrack, while an exciting accomplishment, is another step in the process of becoming the artist he wants to be.
“I think the thing that’s helped me progress the most is being real with myself and saying, ‘You’re not the best rapper, but you can get to that point,’” Zollman said. “You’ve got to be open-minded and willing to improve every single day. That’s helped me take huge strides in my music production and the stuff I put out.”
Zollman performed at Diamond Point July 1, is readying new work to be released in the near future and he has finished filming, a music video for his single “Lovesick.” Among everything else, his continued ascent and featured appearance on one of the America’s best-selling video games is something he hopes inspires others to take up their passions and achieve greatness, regardless of what it might be.
“I want people to see no matter where you’re from or the background you have or who you are, you can truthfully do anything you put your mind to and work toward,” Zollman said. “I’m a kid from a town of 4,000 people, and my name is next to a dude like Jack Harlow with 50 million monthly listeners. I want people to take a chance at one of their dreams.”