UK R&B pioneer, Jermaine Riley has released his eighth solo project, ‘Mistakes’. The singer, whose career spans over a decade, returns with the 6-track EP inspired by stories of the love frustration and disappointment we experience in our relationship journeys.
Here’s what happened when the singer sat down for an in depth discussion of his EP.
So we are 8 solo projects deep, what keeps you inspired?
Just knowing I’m filling a void. I believe I have a unique flavour and style. I have so many stories yet to be told. After doing this for 15 years, and as a young black, openly bisexual R&B singer in the UK; my perspective is important. While I don’t let that lead my life and it’s just one aspect of who I am, I realise that a lot of young black LGBTQ+ individuals haven’t had a voice, outside of Frank Ocean. If I had someone like me when I was 16 and trying to figure things out, it would have made life a whole lot easier. So I’ll remain inspired as long as I continue to inspire others.
How would you say you’ve changed as an artist from your first project until now?
Earlier on in my career I was trying to appease others. I have always been creative but now I’m a lot more fearless. I definitely touch on a lot of things now that I wouldn’t have before, not wanting to burn bridges or ruffle any feathers. My mindset is different now. I came from one of the best groups in the UK and the success just didn’t materialise the way it was supposed to. I think to myself had I spoken up back then when I saw some things going left… maybe things would have gone differently. But you live and you learn.
For those just joining you on the journey what are the three tracks you would recommend that they go and check out?
All from the new EP: “Send Nudes”, “Stupid Cupid” and “Single”.
So the EP is entitled mistakes, what was the inspiration behind the title?
Oh boy… well, it’s about knowing that in order to get from one place to another you’re going to mess up and that’s okay. For me, I let my heart do some of the thinking and that wasn’t wise. Just before creating this EP, I had just come out of a 4 year relationship. I literally remember doing a pros and cons list, trying to figure out what I was going to do. When it comes to matters of the heart sometimes the best thing to do is to remove the emotions and just think logically, hence the artwork.
Speaking of mistakes what do you think is the biggest one people make when it comes to love is?
Settling. A lot of people are stuck in unhappy long term situations because they think that there’s nothing else out there. Don’t get me wrong, it might take a long time to find something good, but don’t let that fear trap you. Still, another issue is that people are prone to also think there’s always better out there even when they find something great. So it’s tricky.
What was your writing process for this EP?
I like to be left alone. To have the music there, take my time and just experiment. My first idea is usually my best one. It’s weird, but I think when you’re in the studio with others you subconsciously start thinking about what the people in room are thinking which can inhibit creativity. Even with producers, usually when I work with them I just work on the music and then go and lay down the vocals myself.
I realised recently that as the artist, I have the right to do that. All the greats have their process, this just happens to be mine.
Which song on the EP pushed you the most lyrically and why?
That’s really hard to say. I am writing from such an honest place so everything just flowed. I just needed to get everything on the inside, out. The content concerning Jermaine Riley has to be based on my real life. “Same Old Story” was written over 10 years ago but it stood the test of time because it was real.
And how about vocally?
Ooo.. um, I’d say “Send Nudes”. That bridge! I know it isn’t even that high but it was the last song I wrote and I’d been recording every day trying to meet the deadline. The bridge is layered with so many harmonies. Honestly, after recording that I felt like I had climbed a mountain.
With the EP being so personal was there ever a point at which you thought ‘I don’t know if I can put this out?’
Nah. Only because I have seen what honesty has done for other artists, primary examples being Adele, Rihanna and Frank Ocean. When those artists began to live their truth artistically they had a breakthrough. Honesty is where true artistry lies.
This EP has definitely indicated that you are not afraid to be a bit cheeky and push boundaries, what made you decide to be so unfiltered in the way you communicated your emotions?
It sets the precedent for the type of artist I want to be from now on. At the age of 34, all I can do now is ensure that everything I do is intentional and true to who I am.
The EP has no features, why did you decide to go this route?
I think it’s very telling of my habits. I just wanted to get things done. Sometimes not everyone is as proactive as we’d like and I just don’t have time. Also the songs on this are so personal that it didn’t feel like there was space for anyone else and it didn’t make sense to force it.
You designed the art work yourself right? Are there any other passions outside of music you are hoping to explore?
Yes I did! Well, I have this other Instagram page: @headzandtales. It’s basically a bunch of different characters voiced by me and made on my iPhone X using the animoji feature. I love comedy and voice acting, so I hope to further develop that.
Why was it so important to you to be hands on with this project?
My vision for my artistry is solid. I’ve worked written and designed for others and I’ve seen that a lot people really don’t know what they want. I’ve always been hands on because it comes naturally to me. If I’m able to do it, why not right?
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced being independent?
Funding everything. It’s a lot of hard graph and favours when you’re independent. We are working on getting some backing so that we can get some decent visuals done for the EP. By hook or by crook, I want to give fans some videos.
Being someone very much in the mix of the resurgence what are your thoughts on UK R&B right now?
The scene is in a great place right now. There’s space for everyone to grow and contribute. Everyone is open and embracing the newcomers as well as artists like me, Mark Asari, and Cherri V who have been in the game for a while, which is great to see.
Who from the scene would you most like to collaborate with?
Kadeem Tyrell. Rukhsana Merrise. I cannot believe Angel and I still haven’t collaborated yet, so him too… and I’m in talks with Ricardo Williams so hopefully you hear something from us real soon. Also working with Kaleem Taylor would be dope.
Finally, any last shoutouts or plugs?
Mistakes out now on all streaming platforms! The album is coming in 2020 and I can guarantee it’ll be one of the best R&B albums dropping next year. We are gearing up for some big things. Shoutout to all the fans for getting the EP to 60K streams in a month with no playlists! I’m so grateful.