Last week I made my way down to the basement of a fancy members-only bar in Shoreditch for a chat with an old friend, up and coming R&B/Soul artist JGrrey. The star has been compared to many but has managed to carve out an individual style and sound. Her new single ‘Growing’ dropped a couple of weeks ago now along with a video and has already drawn plaudits. Known for her hit singles ‘Don’t Fade’ and ‘Ready 2 Die’, hand-tattoos and a trendsetting style – we looked to see if we could go a little bit deeper.
Bespoke: Hello JGrrey, how are you today?
Jgrrey: Hello Zach. I’m good, very hot.
Yeah, I hear you’ve been locked up inside all day – not enjoying the sunshine?
Yeah, been in the studio all day, which isn’t too bad – it’s well air conditioned.
I’ve had a bit too much today..
Which is good, shit.. I’m tryna.. See me.. I’m tryna catch a tan.
Let’s jump straight into it. Your new track ‘Growing’ – it’s awesome.
You like it? Sick. Yeah, the track came out on the 12th, a week today, video came out a day later and it’s doing really well. Doing well on Spotify, everyone seems to be really liking it and stuff so it’s good man – it’s nice.
That’s always good. Do you see this as a definite growth or evolution in your music?
I guess it’s ironic kinda because with this track dropping I do feel like it’s like a next step, I can feel the growth. I can feel like it’s another place which I’m meant to be in musically which is cool. So yeah, definitely.
What do you see yourself morphing into right now; what’s going to change for you in the next year?
Erm.. I feel like in the next year I’ll probably do more live shows, more acoustic stuff, more music, more visuals, studio with a whole array of people that I may not have worked with if I didn’t get to the point I’m at now. If that makes any sense? Just try and work on stuff that I didn’t I know could do. Just to keep on working and see where this can all go.
So we’ve touched on your new track ‘Growing’, now onto your most popular track – ‘Don’t Fade’. It’s on 1.6 million views. That’s a huge deal especially as I’ve known you from a young age and seen how much work you have put in to get to this point. It’s majorly inspiring.
This is why it’s a cool interview because a lot of people that would normally interview me don’t know me past ‘Ready 2 Die’ and ‘Don’t Fade’, but you’ve seen me when I was doing YouTube videos, Facebook Videos, just posting it up, then obviously I started working with SBTV doing comedy and shit. So it’s interesting because I’ve been doing music for a while yet I’m still a relatively new face in the music industry – I haven’t been about for too long – so it’s cool to see people reacting to my music.
Roll Deep’s Manga had a role to play in your come up too right?
Yeah, yeah. That’s still my brother. Shout out to Manga everytime.
So you’ve seen a lot of positive feedback already a week in?
Definitely. Everyone really likes the video.
And is that just from your peers or are your fans reaching out to you too?
Yeah man, I mean even today – I don’t know whether your magazine will allow me saying it, you might have to cut it out – but even today, I had like three people smoking a zoot in the sun, listening to ‘Growing’, singing the words and it’s cool as fuck because it’s not meant to be stoner music but it’s mellow as hell and the freakin’ suns out.
Well done to you, there have been two days of sun and people are already hitting you up fully versed on your lyrics?
Haha, yeah – smoking zoots and that! I mean the other day I was on instagram live and someone, I think an American, was like ‘I’m missing class to watch your Instagram live’ another person was saying how they had to quickly duck out of their office. It was jokes. It’s really cool man – I don’t feel like I have ‘fans’, I’m not Kanye – I have people genuinely supporting my music and I feel like that’s super cool. I really appreciate it.
That’s an achievement in itself. Overseas recognition is big.
Yeah it really is cool as fuck.
Back to Manga, Mr. St Hilaire quickly, obviously former Roll Deep member, big in the music industry, especially the London scene. For those who don’t know, what has he done for you and your career?
So, the first time.. It’s funny. Remember when I used to live in Manchester? I must have put out like a song where I was just, you know, iPhone recording and these times I wasn’t a singer, I wasn’t trying to really do music but I posted it on Tumblr and Manga found it on there, hit me up and was like ‘look, come studio.’ A couple of weeks later I head there with Nana Rogues who you will now know produced Passionfruit for Drake and loads of Tinie Tempah stuff. So, I went to the studio with Manga and Nana Rogues and I was mad nervous; I was shaking and you probably won’t know it but I recorded my first track on a microphone that day called ‘Zoning’ and from that day after hearing myself nervous, hearing myself not near my best made me think I want to do music and I want to do it properly. That experience really changed my whole mindset towards music. From then on I was like ‘I need to do music, but need to do it the way I want to do it.’ After that, Nana came to my house, helped me set up a studio in my house and told me about all the equipment I needed to get. Soon after that I recorded some of my first tracks – ‘September Days’.
This is your year. When can we expect a big project from yourself? Is that at all part of the plan right now?
So right now I’ve got so much music but I want to release it as single after single with visual after visual and just kind of set a tone of what to expect from JGrrey and then follow up with a project, I’m going to say by the end of this year at the absolute earliest. As I say, I want to make sure there’s a shape to JGrrey before an EP.
When I speak to people; in the industry, those who listen to new music they tend to categorise you with a certain brand of female artists at the moment so…
Mahalia, Jorja Smith..
Exactly, I’ve got a list of them; Mahalia, Jorja, IAMDDB, RAY BLK etc.. How do you feel with people generally categorising you all together?
You know what. That’s a very good question. I’m so happy you asked because every interview I’ve done so far I seem to be introduced like ‘you will know her sound, comparable to Jorja Smith’ every single time there’s a presumption that if you listen Jorja Smith you listen to JGrrey and it’s like yeah you probably do but at the same time there are so many elements of my music, Jorja’s music and even like IAMMDDB’s, RAY BLK’s that are all completely seperate but I feel like you’ll only really know that if you were maybe part of the process. I know a lot of our songs are a similar tempo and a lot are to do with love – I get that – but if you really are a lover of music you will be able to differentiate between the songwriting.
Met any of them?
Met Jorja a few times. Due to the ‘scene’ we’re in the same place sometimes. Met RAY BLK briefly, I don’t really know her too tough but I know she’s amazing. Met IAMDDB a couple of times her make-up artist did my make-up for ‘Growing’ – that’s about it kind of. You’re always bumping into people in this world though.
Your dad DJs, has that had anything to do with you doing music?
Let me tell you something: no, because my dad drilled education into me, ‘do well at school, get your grades up’ whereas my mum was like ‘she can’t do schoolwork, she’s got stage school on Saturday!’ she was the one who encouraged the creativity.
You live just outside London. How you finding that?
It’s good and bad, I’d like to live in the city – I can’t afford the city. So, you know, I’ll take what I can get. I really like my flat.. People who follow me on instagram can see I’m always posting my flat or my plants or whatever, I’m house-proud. It’s nice to be in the city and go to studio sessions, events and whatever else I’ve got to do in a day and just go back to being so far away from it. Almost being secluded, I really like it, it’s super nice.
You’ve collaborated with the likes of Bonkaz, Louis Rei from WSTRN, Manga and others.. Is there anyone else you’d like to work with?
Me and Kojey Radical have been talking about collabing for a hot minute and you know what’s crazy? He was at the studio recently working on something and he turned round to me to say “I remember when you used to do your lil’ YouTube vids” and I was like ‘Kojey don’t lie to me did you ever see them?’ it was hilarious. Kojey is like Andre 3000 to me. I’d love to work with really obscure people like Band of Horses, Erykah Badu obviously, Kelis, just random people, Blu Cantrell. Shit.
Clean socks. I really like clean socks. Like brand new. If it was down to me, I’d wear a clean pair of socks everyday. Only just thought of that. Good init? Haha.
Coats or bags?
Coats. It’s funny you should ask because coats are the one thing I cannot stop spending money on right now.
Favourite part of London and why?
I really like Brixton and I’ll tell you why: when I used to work as a stylist there I was nervous about going into the office and being in an environment I’d never worked in before, meeting new people etc. I went from being really nervous about going there at the very beginning to saying hello to the locals towards the end – so when I left it was a real stage of growth for me.
A lot of people pick things up late but you’ve been expressing your creative side for a long time now?
I remember going to college and finishing, going back to my town and having people laugh at me for what I was wearing. I remember people would be like ‘yo, YouTube girl!’. I’m originally from South (London) but moved around a bit before settling in Hertfordshire and I remember how much of a setback I thought it could be to my creative side so I feel super gratefully to still be doing creative stuff.