Today’s star of the Artists in Focus blog is an exceptional talent whose career beginnings were mega. Brand new on the scene and touring with Drake and Bruno Mars isn’t your average story - it’s the fantastic Jorja Smith.
Track of the Moment
From humble beginnings in the West Midlands of England, Jorja’s Jamaican father was also a musician, and her English mother a jewellery designer. Creativity was sure to run in the family! After writing songs since age 11, it wasn’t long until Jorja found herself with a manager by the age of 15 after posting vocal covers to YouTube. She was travelling down to London for writing sessions with Maverick Sabre before she had finished school!
In 2016, Jorja Smith released her first song to SoundCloud. “Blue Lights” was played an enormous 400,000 times within the first month of it being on the platform. Her second single was pointed out by none other than Drake who named it his favourite track of the moment in Entertainment Weekly. Now, it’s not every day that a star of Drake’s calibre notices you, but we’ve seen what happens when it does. Jorja was contacted by industry giant Guy Moot of Sony/ATV, and signed a publishing deal with the company.
So, it was only after releasing one EP that Jorja Smith found herself performing on Drake’s Boy Meets World Tour and Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic World Tour. To top it all off, 2017 also saw Jorja win the Brit Critic’s Choice Award, making her the first independent artist to ever be nominated, let alone win! What. A. Year.
Another Incredible Year
2018 was already set up to be a strong year for Jorja, and frankly, it was! She released a single with Stormzy, and another with Kendrick Lamar for the film Black Panther. She also released her long-awaited debut album, Lost & Found, which she had been writing over a period of 5 years! This album was extremely well received, and climbed to the third spot on the UK Albums Chart.
We particularly loved the track “Don’t Watch Me Cry”. This beautiful ballad shows off Jorja’s incredible ability to manage different tone colours whilst maintaining that expressive connection to the lyrics. You can now choose this track for your Vocals Grade 5 exam, and we’d love to see candidates replicating those same qualities in their performances. Though you could choose to copy Jorja’s fantastic riffs, this song presents the performer with a great opportunity to develop their own riffs. Do remember though that less is more here, and it’s most important to maintain flawless communication and expression of the lyrics.
We love how much value Jorja Smith places in her lyrics, stating that “when things are going on in the world, I think it’s important to touch on them, because as a musician, you can make people listen.” A hugely important message from a hugely important voice in the music industry today.
If you’ve loved learning a bit more about Jorja as much as we have, do check out the other incredible black musicians whose music you can find in the Rockschool Vocals syllabus. We’ve got Childish Gambino, Etta James and Sarah Vaughan amongst so many more.