The key to Jermaine Riley’s city

Jermaine Riley

It’s rare to find an R&B artist that promises to save you from a burning building and whisk you away into a world full of musical peace, just by compiling an album titled “Hello Earth” based on Superman. This is what British RnB singer and song writer Jermaine Riley promises, a superhero fighting through the city to continue what traditional, Soul and R&B music should sound like, but with his own little twist. His music speaks for itself, but it does help when BBC Radio 1Xtra coined it ‘Mixtape of the week' after just two days of its release. Margaret Tra writes.   

How would you describe your style of music for those who don't know you?

Something for the world, especially now after my last mixtape, and writing for this album. I try and make sure a good song is the foundation for all my music. So, it's something everyone can grasp. Then I can sprinkle whatever extra stuff I like on top; harmonies, adlibs…

Your 'Hello Earth' album is out now, what's the response like?

The response has been amazing! After two days of being released it became 'Mixtape of the Week' on BBC Radio 1Xtra, Ronnie Herel wanted to premiere some of the tracks exclusively on his show, so many blogs have picked it up, and all my peers and heroes on twitter have been letting me know how proud they are. It makes the past 6-9 months all so worth it. 

And what’s your favourite track on there?

It changes all the time if I'm honest. I love "Key To The City," because that's me in a nutshell as an artist I think. You get the truest essence of "Jermaine Riley" on that track. I love the vibe and vocals of "Peaceful Day" featuring Cherri V. I feel like I can really zone out to that song and tune out the world. "Smallville" is another personal favourite, because from the moment I said I was going to make another body of work based on Superman, I vowed to make a song with that title, and it just flowed out of me. I love every melody God sent me for that song. "Nobody Else" is special to me because it has that swagged out Drake vibe and the song is so simple, but hits the nail on the head. I actually feel like I'm betraying all the other songs I haven't mentioned, (laughs) I'm in love with the whole album and I'm so proud of it. 

You're pretty strong on calling it an album, as opposed to a mixtape, why is that?

I feel it should be taken that seriously. Some artists are so quick to throw mixtapes together; songs that they tend to care a little less about giving away. This is different; I really focused on every song, to make sure it was a concise body of work from top to bottom. It differs from a mixtape because there aren't any remixes of anything on it, it's all original material. I don't see what makes it a mixtape. Because it's free? When Prince gives out a free album in the newspaper we don't call it a mixtape. I'm not the legendary Prince by any means, (laughs) but I am an artist, and I'm approaching this project as if it were on the shelves in HMV, as much as I can.

Singing or song writing, what comes natural to you? Is there one you prefer?

I'm not sure you can separate the two when it comes to me. Every song needs a melody and that comes along with singing. Plus, I'm at a place where I'm really into writing my own songs so I don't think I could sit back and have a bunch written for me so I could “just” sing, I need to write too. That's a huge part of me as an artist. I don't prefer one over the other.

You idolise Michael Jackson, are there other artists that touch your soul?

Yes indeed! A lot of people know Usher's another one of my main influences, and I'm a huge Drake fan. But I'm also feeling the likes of Ed Sheeran, Adele, Emeli Sande, Frank Ocean. And I'm in love with newer artists like Etta Bond, Lianne La Havas and Jhene Aiko. I've been absorbing a lot of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway of recent too. All of the above are fairly soulful come to think of it, like, you can really feel their music. That's how I want to be. 

What Stimulates Your Soul?

Nothing stimulates my soul more than my family, good music, and my true heroes that never leave me. Oh, and good food! (Laughs)