For our latest BRICKS Voices digital cover, meet the captivating contemporary RnB artist JGrrey as she discusses her new single ‘Down’, her creative process, and the power of believing in yourself.
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“Today, I’m at this point where I’m taking every day as it comes,” JGrrey admits. The 27-year-old singer-songwriter spends her days curled up in her home studio outside of London accompanied by her dogs Brronson and Berrtie. With a release from our third gruelling lockdown in sight, JGrrey can almost see herself back again hanging out with her mates, drinks in hand at one of her favourite spots, Shoreditch House. “I think as someone who is quite introverted and doesn’t pride themselves on being the most social, it’s surprisingly the social aspect of just being able to pop in and see my mates,” she says she misses the most.
Who can blame her? After a full year of continuous on-and-off-again quarantine restrictions, extremely limited social contact and lack of public creative outlets, we are all missing the spontaneity of pre-pandemic socialising. 2020 was especially unforgiving for musical artists as concerts, tours and festivals were cancelled and any form of collaboration or fan interaction was reduced to live streams and Zoom calls.
For JGrrey, 2020 was a calmer version of the year before which saw her breaking into the music industry on a global scale. In 2019, the singer released two EPs, Grreydaze and Ugh, which established her as a multifaceted and promising emerging artist – but don’t take my word for it. The songstress caught the attention of pop sensation Billie Eilish who invited JGrrey to join her on the European leg of the When We All Fall Asleep tour.
Despite the obstacles of 2020, JGrrey was able to push through and explore new approaches to her song-writing process. “I’m now at this point where I’m making a lot of music and collaborating with a lot of people which is something I didn’t particularly do pre-lockdown”, she says. Usually, she likes to find inspiration for her songs from “the most ridiculous things” including impromptu daydreaming sessions. “A lot of the time the song just happens to me, I don’t happen to it.”
And so it happened, the newest single ‘Down’ perfectly encapsulates the young singer’s dreamy spirit, signature groovy melodies and candid lyrics. “‘Down’ is all about letting go [and] finding calm in the chaos of freedom”, she says. Against a backdrop of old-school hip-hop beats à la Wu-Tang Clan, the lyrics show the songstress navigating her way through life by being fearless, open and easy-going. Backed by an echoing choir, the singer breaks into a melodious chorus chanting “Whatever it is / you know that I’m down” – a confident sentiment about the artist’s creative and personal emancipation. “It’s a song and a sound I needed to make, a lot of the time I make music for my fans. Selfishly, I needed to make this one for myself,” she admits.
‘Down’ is a song and a sound I needed to make, a lot of the time I make music for my fans. Selfishly, I needed to make this one for myself.
Besides broadening her musical horizon, the artist introduced GRREY’S WORRLD – a live-music show featuring special guests dedicated to spending some virtual quality time with her loyal fans. “GRREY’S WORRLD was something I wanted to create to just be unapologetically myself, because if I’m curating it, If I’m styling it, if I’m putting it together, it’s 100% me,” she says. The first episode launched earlier this year and saw JGrrey performing her hit song ‘For Keeps’ and latest singles ‘Ain’t So’ and ‘Doubt Nothing’ outro-ed by DJ and long-time collaborator Owen Cutts.
Fully owning her artistic decisions, JGrrey wants to provide a fun and creative platform to hang out, play music, and have slightly tipsy conversations with fellow performing artists such as Finn Askew. Through collaborating more in the first lockdown the singer felt inspired to feature cameos from emerging talent such as Manga St Hilare and Aaron Porter. “I think there are artists and talents that I want to have their voices heard and should be invited to collaborate […]. It’s definitely one of my proudest moments because it came from me, and I’m really excited about doing episode two”, she says.
Undoubtedly, there are a lot of moments the artist could cite as her proudest from globetrotting with Billie Eilish and having her own sold-out tour in 2019, to working on her debut alongside industry stalwart Nana Rogues. It seems ever since she performed on YouTube’s prolific COLOURS show in 2017, JGrrey has been on an upward trajectory towards great success. Wondering how she has evolved as an artist since then, she raves about her strong belief in self-confidence, self-determination and self-trust.
If you can feel something about yourself when it comes to your specific art – be it music, be it songwriting, producing, visual art – and you’ve got this gut feeling that it’s the shit you’re good at, don’t let anyone tell you whether it’s good or not.
“If you believe in your art and you are confident in your art, and you are confident in knowing that it’s something you want to do and you’re passionate about – you shouldn’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do in music,” she explains. “If you can feel something about yourself when it comes to your specific art be it music, be it song-writing, producing, visual art, and you kind of got this gut feeling that it’s the shit you’re good at – don’t let anyone tell you whether it’s good or not.”
This relentless message is most apparent on ‘Doubt Nothing’, her last single release from 2020. The track encompasses the uplifting sentiment of not giving up on your dreams in lyrics such as “Fake ’til you make what they tried to break / Trust the process, fill yourself with love” and “You can’t just look for the storm in the weather”.
Hearing and seeing JGrrey perform today, you’ll notice her confident attitude and tantalising aura she exudes alongside her equally inspiring lyrics, however, the performer wasn’t always her biggest believer. In fact, she admits: “Being someone that wasn’t outwardly confident in singing and wasn’t outwardly believing in myself – I’ve always known I could sing and I always knew it’d be great to sing, but I didn’t square around the place like ‘I’m going to be a singer’”. Despite keeping her love for music inherent the person who recognised and always believed in her talent is her mother Sandra. “She would say things to me like ‘I’m going to hear you on the radio one day’, and I’d always think to myself ‘where have you got this idea from?’”, she remembers.
While the songwriter has always been beautifully candid and emotional in her lyrics in songs such as ‘Ready 2 Die’ and ‘Happiness Seems a Hell of a Guy’, she struggled to believe that anyone else could resonate with her words because of their personal and cryptic nature.
When in fact, that’s what makes her music so real and genuine – the painful relatability of being young, in love, getting to know yourself and finding your path. The feeling of togetherness is what JGrrey wants to convey with her music. “If you’re understanding what I’m writing about, you can’t be alone in your situation, possibly, could you? Because we’ve never met and I’ve addressed an emotion you’re feeling,” she says.
Reflecting on her past musical endeavours, the singer sees her upcoming work as an accumulation of everything she’s ever made. And truly, you can’t classify JGrrey as one genre as her sound is multi-faceted and touches on Neo-Soul, Rock and Contemporary RnB. “I think that’s just because I’m a fan of music. I will listen to a new artist and be like ‘how the fuck did they do that? Let’s see if I can do that’ and if I can then shit, that’s a good day,” she laughs. While always being inspired by her musical heroes such as Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and Sade, “there’s a lot of new artists that are definitely in their bag with nostalgia” such as her current obsessions with soul singer Veda Black and Korean indie-rock band HYUKOH.
I think this whole music thing for me personally, is a journey and I’d like to solidify who the fuck JGrrey is in music and be respected in music.
Throughout her fresh but thriving career, JGrrey has proven that she’s not just a talented singer and songwriter but a capable and resilient artist with a clear message about believing in yourself and your dreams. It’s apparent that 2021 will see her prosper even more. “I think this whole music thing for me personally, is a journey and I’d like to solidify who the fuck JGrrey is in music and be respected in music”, she says.
It takes no effort to see that JGrrey is an artist with ambition and a clear vision of what she wants her branding, visuals and aesthetic to look and feel like in the future. Even still, the singer is aware of how her experience doesn’t have to be perfect or pertaining to anyone else’s ideals and realises how “life is one big journey, so for me to put that much pressure on myself to be like ‘by the end of the year Jen, you’re going to have your shit together’, like, no, every day is a journey even when you have your shit together you’re looking for more potential shit to get together.”
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