Jacob Collier

About

Jacob Collier is a 23-year-old, London-born singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist of prodigious talent who has been hailed by the press as “The Future of Music” (as Jazzwise magazine put it), thanks to his sheer virtuosity, keen musical intelligence, and penchant for technological innovation that is borne out in every project he undertakes. His YouTube covers, in which he reimagines everything from Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” to George Gershwin’s “Fascinating Rhythm,” are a marvel of creativity, with split screens displaying multiple incarnations of Collier singing multi-part vocal harmonies. His live show is even more ambitious. He simulates a digital one-man band using custom equipment built by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student, including a “vocal harmonizer” that allows Collier to sing 12-part vocal harmonies and a series of looping stations for various instruments, plus a video element with 3D cameras that enable him to interact with multiple versions of his image projected onto a screen. Following Collier’s performance last year at Ronnie Scott’s in London (where he was introduced by Quincy Jones as a “talent like no other I’ve seen before”), The Guardian raved: “Staggering and unique…Jazz’s new messiah.” Collier has also earned accolades from other luminaries such as Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Steve Vai, Take 6, and David Crosby who, when he stopped by the studio, merely said: “F*cking unbelievable.” A dark-haired, dark-eyed livewire with a contagious enthusiasm for the creative process, Collier was raised in a home filled with music. Ask him what his earliest memories are and he’ll say it was when he was an infant, listening to his mother, a violin teacher and conductor, play Bach on the violin in what was then her teaching space in the Collier family’s 110-year-old North London home. “It was my playroom as a child; the place where the piano lived,” he recalls. When his mother decamped to a room at the front of the house, young Jacob took over and filled it with sounds. He disappeared into it every day to create grooves and harmonies and teach himself to play instruments. “I never studied any production techniques, or took any formal music lessons, so the process of building things in the room became my whole learning process,” he says. Collier pays tribute to the importance of this sacred space in his independently released debut album In My Room. Created over in a three-month period, from mid-November 2015 through mid-February 2016, the album represents a time of accelerated self-discovery in Collier’s life — a time of being 21 and having total musical freedom. “I essentially had to build myself some boundaries, because there were no limits,” he says. “Here I was in my room and I had to make something, which was a paralyzing feeling to have. I had to forget I was making an album at first, and just think about inventing things.” The result is a boundary-pushing amalgam of sounds — jazz, choral, folk, pop, funk, classical, a cappella, soul — that defies genre categorization. “My musical diet growing up was Stevie Wonder, Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Take 6,” Collier says. “From a very early age, I realized that I liked when things compounded together in unlikely ways. I like it when different worlds collide.” Collier’s music is also relentlessly experimental, a means to unite the things he loves most: harmony, rhythm, improvisation, energy, and overall a sense of fun. For example, the groove on “In My Room” is a combination of sounds that include Collier knocking on the floor, clapping in different rooms in his house, tapping on his knees, rolling a marble across a table, and banging on a saucepan lid. The groove on “Saviour” was made out of sounds he recorded on his iPhone while visiting a shipyard in Norfolk. “I have thousands of different sounds from all these place I find myself in,” he says. “So I’ve included weird pieces of machinery, traffic, people in conversation, thunderstorms — all sorts of things.” Lyrically, the songs run the gamut, but are each connected by the theme of having a world of one’s own. His inspirations came from whatever mood he found himself in on any given day. “If I feel something, I find a place for it in one of my songs,” he says. “Hajanga” takes its name from a word his mum made up, but to Collier it means the state of being alive. “It’s about seeing things come and go and accepting yourself within that.” He adds, “ ‘Saviour’ is a celebration of independence and not falling prey to false promises from outsiders. While “Hideaway” is about having a space of one’s own when you can learn about yourself and create things. I can sometimes be a pretty introverted person and, while I love meeting people, I need to be on my own to recharge my energy” Collier says. The album features three covers, an imaginative version of The Flintstones theme, Stevie Wonder’s “You and I,” and the title track — the latter a hymn-like tribute to its composer, and one of Collier’s idols, The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. “I know Stevie was 21 when he wrote ‘You and I,’ and ‘In My Room’ is one of Brian's first songs. I find both artists really inspiring and it's great to include songs that were written when their creators were at the same point in their lives as I am.” In the end, Collier hopes to inspire others to invest in their own imagination and to be living proof that permission is not needed from any gate-keepers to make art and release it into the world. Work hard and be passionate about your craft and your audience will come to you. “I hope from hearing this album, people take away that making something, whether it’s music or anything else — just for the love of exploring it and figuring it out — is a real life-affirming and sustaining idea.”