Interview: Jarell Perry

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I came across Jarell Perry’s ‘White EP’ last year and was immediately intrigued. The blend of R&B vocals and experimental electronic production was something that I’d rarely seen at the time. It was done so well that I made a point to follow all of his social media to keep a close eye on him.

A few months pass and his versatile and smooth collaborative project with producer Deebs, named “Shift” found its way onto my Soundcloud feed. More of what initially hooked me to Jarell but evolved into something that struck a new fresh set of heartstrings. I had to reach out the Perry and get a glimpse into what draws him to certain producers and sounds and what his thoughts are on modern black music innovation.

T: You’re making your name known in the “modern R&B” genre. That term seems to be used a lot lately to describe classic R&B flavored music that incorporates newer electronic elements. Would you assign yourself under this genre?

JP: I think genre is a difficult thing to define, I try not to think too much about it. I like the words “progressive” or “experimental”. But as long as it’s my voice, R&B will be a part of it. That’s just how people hear it.

T: What would you say intrigues and interests you the most about type of producers that you find yourself working with?

JP: I’m consistently listening for things I haven’t heard before, idiosyncrasies, and otherworldliness. Every producer I work with is in their own world and has a positive energy that makes them easy to work with.

T: How did you start singing? Who did you grow up listening to?

JP: Started singing in church. I was hyper religious growing up so for a few spells I would throw out all my TLC, Jay-Z, Missy Elliot and exclusively listen to gospel or Christian music. Think that’s how I got so into digging for new music — out of necessity I would seek out these really clean versions of artists my friends were listening to. High school and into college I got really into alt/electronic rock, so bands like The Postal Service and Coldplay had a profound impact on me.

T: It’s truly an exciting time in music where black artists and black music consumers are expanding their musical tastes beyond rap, hip-hop, soul, funk and r&b and getting into EDM and rock. What does this mean to you and how do you think this will (or is) effect (effecting) the evolution of music coming from black artists?

JP: Black culture has always influenced other styles of art in a transcendental way, it only makes sense that it comes back around. I think now kids aren’t as ashamed to be into other styles as they once were — it’s the norm. That’s great, but you have to keep wondering where do we go from here? It’s important for the market to actually support innovators while they’re still innovating. 

T: Your most recent project with Deebs is incredible and insanely versatile. “Driving Blind” and “Giving U” are definitely notable tracks. How did you two come together to collaborate on this EP?

JP: I had met Will’s (Deebs) manager at SXSW a few months prior and he intro’d us over email. It was a very casual thing, just to see if we could create anything together. After the first two tracks were done – I think ‘Giving U’ was the second – I knew it was a great opportunity to do a project. I had been looking for something more experimental to do for a long time and this was it. Luckily, he was on the same page. We hopped on one Skype call and had the rest of the EP done in 2 weeks.

T: What does the city of Los Angeles bring to your music and music process in general?

JP: A lot of space to think. Downtown, where I spend most of my time has a lot of creative vibration. There’s also this sense of blind optimism that helps.

T: What’s the future have in store for you? Any exciting collaborations, tours, coming up?

JP: I’m in high collaboration mode right now, working with as many interesting sounds and producers as possible. You know, this is still a new space for me even though I’ve been influenced by it for quite some time. So it’s a process. I’m planning a trip to Europe, more shows and features while I’m working on the next thing. And also building my collective focused on self-discovery tools for artists called “Still Mind”.

 

Jarell Perry plays at the Summer Nights In The Garden event at the Natural History Museum this Friday July 10th from 7-9pm alongside Deebs. Info Here.

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