Jacob Collier, the British 29-year-old multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, and singer, has been recognized by critics, audiences, and his musical peers as one of the most gifted young artists of modern times. Even with an endless list of achievements already under his belt, including a record-breaking 6 Grammy wins and 12 nominations, he shows no signs of slowing down as he is about to release the final chapter to his groundbreaking Djesse series with Vol. 4.  In a recent zoom Q&A session on behalf of °1824/Universal Music, several publications, including Bell Music Magazine, had the fortunate opportunity to talk with Jacob and gain a bit of insight into his personality and musical point of view.

For Jacob, the Djesse series has been a very ambitious musical voyage--a quadruple album that’s been 6 years in the making. Jacob calls each volume of Djesse as occupying its own “sonic universe”: Vol 1 felt large and spacious with its lush orchestral and choral arrangements; Vol 2, in contrast, felt more intimate leaning on a more stripped-down acoustic approach and taking influences from jazz and folk music; Vol 3 lived in the digital sphere that mixed pop, EDM, hip/hop, and R&B.  With the final volume, Jacob describes it as a “celebration of humankind” and hopes that this final chapter “will hit people in the soul.” In Vol 4, there’s a big emphasis on the exploration of the human voice, with more than 100,000 human voices involved in the album.

When you listen to his albums, Jacob is a serious musician and an imaginative musical world-builder. And when you talk to him, he possesses such a colorful engaging personality to match. Even as his musical ambitions and “creative aperture” (as Jacob describes it) widen in scope from each subsequent endeavor, he always tries to keep the sonic energy inviting for his audience and peers and from a perspective of musical curiosity and learning. So, it is really no surprise why he’s been able to pull off so many successful musical collaborations from such a diverse worldly cast of artists throughout the time of Djesse, as he’s always trying to build a bridge “from his understanding into their understanding so that there is mutual flow and to be open as possible” to whatever happens. Clearly, Jacob seems like a very fun individual to work with.

One of the biggest attractions to Jacob which helped give rise to his initial online prominence has been his fluency and encyclopedic knowledge of music theory, his technical abilities and reharmonizing on the fly, and his deep sense of music appreciation of different genres. While he is a powerful musical force on a visceral and technical level, it can lead to questions often relayed to young musical prodigies: how does an artist balance growing as a musician on a technical/intellectual level while still trying to connect with their audience on a core emotional level and finding common ground? “I don’t think too much about it,” Jacob confesses. “The more I think about it, the harder it is to do it.” From his experience, he learned that audiences appreciate it when they are “not being bent to.” His primary focus has been to make music that he wants to hear, but with “an awareness of the audience.” He values the intelligence of his fans and doesn’t stress himself on the idea of pandering to a particular angle. “My job is to be honest.” 

“I feel that when I said the best that I could have said it, then there is inherently common ground.”
Djesse series, Vol 4, will be released on February 29. And we can’t wait what genre-bending surprises Jacob has in store for his fans when he goes back on tour.
- Carlo DeDios

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