Ahead of his sell out shows at The O2 Arena’s Jamaica House in London and Boomtown Festival in Winchester, Punch Records teamed up with one of the most popular artists in the young conscious Reggae Revival movement ‘Jesse Royal’.
As part of his whistlestop PR tour he came to Birmingham for an exclusive Q&A with a select group of fans – we caught up with Jesse to discuss his journey so far.
As an introduction to the people that might not have heard your music yet, in your own words who is Jesse Royal?
Strong minded, strong willed, lover of music and respecter of all people – I really just want to make an impact while I’m here.
How did you first get involved in music? And who has influenced your style?
My first introduction to music was through the church, my grandmother was a choir director at my local church, so I always used to go to choir practice. This developed my love and respect for music, It developed a spiritual respect for the music. It’s more than just entertainment, music has always been something that is more than just a song to me, it’s a vibration, it’s a frequency, it’s something that is being sent out there. That’s probably my heaviest influence.
Growing up in Jamaica there was so many talented legends , from Ziggy Marley to Super Cat, Yellowman to Sizzla to even Otis Reading and Bruno Mars. We are really influenced by music, and whatever that is in its pure form we feel it. But then we are Jamaicans so the Raggamuffin and the Rock Steady and the Rub-a-dub and Dancehall music is also always going to be one of our influences.
What more do you think music businesses should be doing to nurture new & emerging talent?
I believe the industry owes it to generation next, it’s always important to invest in the generations to come. But also at the same time the current situation has developed a level of independence in artists, that has sparked a different level of creativity. We have had to figure it out and do it on our own and find a way to make it work. We are in a generation now where less spoon fed music that is being accepted and it’s more real art.
It’s a two sided coin, they should invest time, facilities and fair trade, so everyone has a chance. But i don’t want them to get too involved and make it too easy, there still has to be some filtration process, it has to be the people that really want to do this and stick to it. Those people now will find ways and means to figure it out and develop new strategies and new approaches and new marketing plans and new platforms to introduce their art, which is also necessary for the advancement of mankind…not just for the music industry. We need to continue thinking and not just have everything laid out for us.
This evening you’ll be taking part in a Punch Records Q&A with some of your fans. Why is connecting with fans so important to you?
It’s important because we are all in the same boat you know, we all face the same struggles and have the same questions and the things that are happening affect us all. On a deeper level for me it is imperative that we as a nation start reasoning, start talking, start talking about solutions versus complaining about all the woes that have been done to us. For me it’s necessary to see where our heads are at, knock heads, brain storm, develop new ideas and also for me it’s exciting to learn, cus i dont know it all. Sometimes it’s good to reason and hear what goes through other people’s minds and see where that fits in in the bigger puzzle. We always have to remain connected to people because we don’t make music for aliens we make music for people so always have to stay connected.
You’ve performed in a range of different countries, is there anywhere that stands out as your favorite place to perform?
That’s a very hard one, you see i really have to think about it because every show has its own energy and such a unique vibration. I did really enjoy brazil, brazil is a really lovely audience you know. Yes probably one of my favourite shows was in Rio.
With shows coming up at O2 and Boomtown you’ll be reaching even wider UK audiences, do you notice a difference between fans/shows in the uk to other countries?
The UK to me is the Mecca in terms of sound. I’ve always had a deep respect for the music that comes out of the UK and the taste makers and the youts dem. Even in the time i’ve been here i’ve been hearing some new song that really interest me. For me to be able to connect with people here is really exciting to me. As ive said everywhere has its own energy but london has a special vibe, because when they get you the world gets you, and some of the greatest artists to me are coming out of the UK.
What do you think of the UK music scene at the moment, Is there a British artist or producer you would like to collaborate with?
A lot of them, J Hus is bad you know what i mean, and there’s a whole heap of other musicians and artists and ting. I heard a nice production from Toddla T recently, there’s a lot of great people here so i don’t want to throw out too many names and be specific because i’m down to work and be creative.
I’d like to know a little more about your upcoming album ‘Lily of da valley’
Where did you get the title? What’s the message behind this album?
The title came from reasoning, it was a concept that was in my mind as a young child, because it was a hymn that resonated with me on a different level. It was always in the back of my head like “i think this is what i want to call my first album”. Then when we started creating the songs, the title took on even more life and the songs started to sound like ‘Lily of da valley’. Then on a deeper level with the reference to Christ from back in the day coming for the humble and the meek, our approach to this first project is getting to our people and getting to everyone. There are songs of love that are really only about love and making love, there are songs giving thanks for love and there are songs about standing up against injustice and there are songs about remaining faithful because jah know your name. The more the songs formed the more the concept of ‘Lily of da valley’ took on even more life.
Where do you get your inspiration from when creating new music?
From everything you know. It may be something i see, it may be something i hear, it may be a book i read, it may be a comment someone makes, it may be a situation that’s happening. We try to put everything in music that’s how we channel our energy. We really make music from everything, everything is a song.
You have been linked heavily with the term ‘reggae revival’, is this something that you identify with?
People always put labels on things because everyone wants to label something. The world hates what they don’t understand. I really have no problem with anything as long as you understand that we are on a mission. The mission is to enlighten our generation, awaken our youts and develop a seed of consciousness in a society where we can reclaim morality, and not only morality but but also understand our worth, understand our positions on the battlefield and understand that we will be in the positions of power soon and very soon. It’s about time we changed the course of earth where certain things go on. You can call it what you want to call it but it’s really a moment of youts; who sing, who get books, who are coming up with new cuisines, people who are changing what people thought things were. So it’s not just about songs it’s a whole generational shift going on right now that is honestly a beautiful thing to be a part of. So if you ask me it’s a ‘Revival’ not just a ‘Reggae revival’, there’s a revival going on around the world and the power of love is creeping in.
In one of your older tracks, ‘Modern Day Judas’, you talk about a people back stabbing and not showing support, recently It seems like there’s a real sense of roots reggae artists supporting each other’s work. One example is Chronixx performing a portion of one of your tracks on Jimmy Fallon. Has there been a change in the way Jamaican artists support each other and champion each other’s work?
Yeah man! But honestly we have always supported each other. Jamaica is a place of love, some people like to highlight the negative sides, but Jamaica has always been a place of love. We now as brothers love each others music and we rate each other so much that we can’t hide it, i sing Chronixx’s hook in my set, i sing Protoje’s song in my set, it’s all about getting things bigger and getting the message out and regaining our hold on the industry. For so long we have left it alone, and now we have to show people we’ve still got it.