When the Needle got a chance to speak with international jazz sensation, Jacob Collier, he was in New York playing a string of four shows around the state. Almost immediately, he let it slip that Edmonton may be his first Canadian show. The 22 year old multi-instrumentalist released an album last year recorded solely in his bedroom, aptly titled “In My Room.” He’s been hailed as ‘the future of music’ by several press outlets but was also a delight to speak with, openly answering each question with thought and care. Not to mention questions posed by our two Instagram buddies, Ty and Joselito.
Q: What have you heard about Edmonton? Do you have any expectations?
A: Everything I’ve heard about Edmonton involves great vibes and good people. Perhaps that’s something common to Canada. I’m very excited to poke my head around and see what’s going on around there.
Q: Will Edmonton be the first show you play in Canada, ever?
A: I can’t remember which was the first. I think it might be though.
Q: And you’re playing JazzFest, which is a special time of year for a lot of people here. So, what led you to that style of improvisation and discovery through music? What led you on that path?
A: Interesting. I was brought up on all different kinds of music. So things like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, as well as lots of classical music. I had this great big palette. I was on this diet of lots and lots of interesting music and I think that I started to play it all at once to try to figure out what my sound might be. I found myself improvising because in part, I think jazz, a lot of the time that’s how people express themselves. I didn’t see my musical world as needing to have boundaries as such, like I never thought I should be a jazz musician or a folk artist or something. I wanted to try to achieve this mixture of different things, having so many influences growing up. I fell in love with jazz at a very early age because I find the harmonies in jazz really thrilling and so a lot of the rhythm in jazz I find fascinating. But you know, I think nowadays the most interesting music coming out in jazz but also in other genres, are that they join different worlds together in a sense. Jazz mixed with folk or jazz mixed with rock or classical mixed with whatever. These blending of genres are what truly excite me.
Q: Within the same tangent, I was reading about your last album and how you created it without any boundaries, or at least, you had to impose boundaries on yourself within the creative process. With whatever you make next, do you think you’ll carry that same idea or method into what you create next?
A: Well this past album I created in my room on my own. Essentially a room in my house in London I grew up in. I think that anyone who’s ever done something on their own without someone telling them what to do has come up with an interesting process, like if I do everything I want to do, how am I gunna get started? What that needs is a bit of discipline around ideas and organization of time and things like that. It was an amazing time in my life, I was 21 at the time when that was made. I wanted to try to crystallize the feeling of being inside that room, which was so magical. I think moving forward it’ll definitely be part of that in the sense that I’m going to be producing and recording the instruments and I’ll be writing the music but I think it would make a lot of sense right now to work with other musicians in addition to that kind of self contained process. That’s kind of what music is all about!
Q: This leads us into the questions a few of our followers on social media had for you quite nicely. Ty asks, “When is the next #iharmu series out? Also, what’s the deal with your collaboration with Tori Kelly?”
A: [laughs] Good questions! So the #iharmu thing, I have a remainder of 80 melodies still to harmonize. And just to tell you about the campaign, this is how I funded the last album in my room. I got a certain number of people to sign up to a website called Patreon, which is sort of like a tipping service. So, every new song I release from the album, as they were released, they tipped a certain amount of money which they in turn received a little melody they sent me to harmonize. They are these 15 second melodies which I would harmonize mixed with lots of different changes in my voice, which I’m sort of known for. Singing several vocal parts at once. I think I’ve done about 60 so far. So, I’m touring a lot, but when I get home I think in August, that’s when I’ll get to the next bunch of those. I find them so much fun. As far as Tori is concerned, we were hanging out last week and making some music. It’s really excited and I can’t say anything concrete just yet but I’m very much hoping some of that is going to make it onto my next album. So stay tuned for that!
Q: Hopefully that satisfies Ty [laughs]. And Joselito asks, “Are there any theoretical concepts you haven’t tried yet when it comes to music? For example, non metered music.”
A: Right. There are always going to be more theoretical concepts to enjoy. I’ve always been a fan of seeing the ways music fits together and which ones resonate with me in terms of making music. Certainly there are whole parts of the world which I feel I haven’t explored, such as the Indian music tradition. It’s so rich. I feel like I’m a little baby when it comes to understanding their rhythmic language. I’m definitely excited to continue to learn. If it were my goal to find every single way of understanding music theory and implement it, I’d be missing a very important point about music, which is that it’s about joy. It’s about having fun and it’s about pushing yourself for sure, but also being emotional and being a human.
Q: So because you’re a human and you need rest and time away from work, in your rare downtime, what do you like to do to rebalance and reset the creative spark?
A: Good question. Right now, because my time is so wrapped up in touring, there’s not too much time to even create things, so the first thing I probably do when I get home is probably to create something. And of course it’s about replenishing the things I forgot to do while on tour like sleeping and eating. I’m also really close with my family who live in London, so it’s really nice to spend some time with those guys whenever I’m home. I love to write, I love to drink in books, I love to drink in films and drink in all sorts of things, but I know I’ve come down and balanced when I’m in that room creating music.
Q: Excellent. Is there anything else you would like to add ahead of your first appearance in Edmonton next week?
A: I’m really excited about coming to visit a place I’ve never been before. It’s really a treat to see new places in the world and I’ve heard such wonderful things about Canada. I can’t wait to meet you guys.
Tickets are still available for this incredibly cool show: