East-London born and bred, you can hear that native nature breaking through the blend of international influences: from D’Angelo to Lauryn Hill, Frank Ocean to Khalid, his diverse inspirations and vibrant individuality amalgamate into an innovative new sound. Graduating from the East London Academy of Music, Jvck’s been learning and creative since he realised music was for him at just 9 years old. Dropping ‘Extroverted Lovers’ to wide critical acclaim, his live session for Berlin’s ‘COLORS’ set the wheels in motion, and Jvck James has been riding the wave since. We caught up with the singer-songwriter to find out just how he got to be so smooth, and where the waves taking him next…
How’s your 2018 going so far?
It’s cool! It’s been a good year, I knew 2018 was going to be a good year. I turned 18 in 2018 so that’s got to be a good sign. Mostly I’ve just been recording and working on visuals, which should be coming out soon.
Was there a moment you knew you really wanted to be a musician?
At 9 years old I sung at my Grandma’s birthday, and I feel like that was my first public event. (laughs) But I got a good response, a good reception and I kind of knew from there that I wanted to carry on doing this. I started to release a few covers online and that went well, a few landed on WorldStar which was sick at 12 years old. I didn’t really understand it at that age but I feel like I knew at that young an age that it was for me.
Were you brought up around music?
Yeah definitely. I was brought up in church, so my mum and dad played a lot of gospel music. My dad also played reggae music. I’m the youngest in my family so my older brother and sister’s music would be around too, a lot of R&B. I feel like I was brought up with a really good mix of music: of UK and US artists from plenty of genres too.
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"I feel like I was brought up with a really good mix of music: of UK and US artists from plenty of genres too."
Where do you draw the most influence from when creating?
I think R&B and gospel. At a young age I realised I could sing these big songs by people like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey which was crazy, so I’d say gospel is where I really learnt to use my voice.
Who inspired you back then and now?
A lot of performers: Michael Jackson was a big influence. I grew up and watched his every move, and was so obsessed with the performance side. Beyoncé now, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, Usher, all great performers.
How would you describe your music in three words?
Fresh, essential and unapologetic. I put my heart on my sleeve in my music, I put in my thoughts and emotions and let it all out.
Do you think that music has the power to change things in society and politics?
Yeah, musicians have a lot of power. People listen to what they’re saying, and so that’s why it’s important we say what we mean. I hope that with time I’ll be able to do that, to influence people through music. It’s about trying to do the right thing, point your music and your listeners in the right direction.
As a musician, does it feel like a positive time to be creating right now?
I think times have changed a lot. Music is always evolving, always changing. But right now I feel like we’re in a good space, there’s a lot of sick new artists are coming out. I love what Mahalia is doing. Then Jorja Smith is just blowing up. I think people are giving time to artists.
If you could change something about the music industry what would you change?
I think probably the people in charge, at the top of the industry. I wish there was more freedom for musicians to lead themselves. Artists, we know what we want, and we know what’s best for ourselves: we don’t always need a random telling us what to do because they think they know the best. But we’re the ones making the music, we’re the ones with the vision. I think artists can get trapped and held back, so would like to see them leading labels and doing what they want.
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"I hope that with time I’ll be able to do that, to influence people through music. It’s about trying to do the right thing, point your music and your listeners in the right direction."
What do you feel like makes you a Londoner?
London’s everything to me really, it’s all I’ve ever known. From the fashion to the slang, it’s all I know and love. I’m so happy I was able to grow up here, there’s a diverse range of people and everyone’s very accepting. There’s a lot of individuality as we as collectiveness. Right now I’m in Shoreditch and I’m looking at everyone, people all look so dope.
So you’re quite drawn to fashion…
Yeah I’m slowly getting into all that. I follow a lot of sick fashion people on Instagram. Right now I’m really into a lot of vintage, vintage sportswear. I like shopping on Brick Lane. It’s so exciting doing shoots and getting to wear sick designers too.
Do you have a style icon?
I get inspired by people. If I see someone walking down the street who is well dressed I’ll stop and tell them that they look dope. So people are my style icons.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?
A basketball player! I used to play it every day, but I kind of grew out of it, which is a bit of a shame. I feel like if I’d have carried on I could’ve done something with it, so that’s probably what I would be doing.
What are the five albums that shaped you most?
Oo I like this question. Right, Voodoo by D’Angelo. The Miseducation of Lauyrn Hill. Off the Wall by Michael Jackson. A Seat at the Table by Solange. Finally, Because the Internet by Childish Gambino.
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"In five years time...I want to be performing my music for people all over the world."
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Five years time… I will be 24! Damn, that’s old. I want to be touring around the world, I don’t think it’s that ambitious to say that I’ll be on my own world tour. (laughs) I want to be performing my music for people all over the world.
If you could collaborate with someone who would you choose?
Oh that’s tough. I recorded a tune yesterday and after I was thinking it would be so sick if SZA jumps in it. It’s proper on her vibe, so that would be amazing. Hopefully that will happen in the next five years.
Finally, what’s next for you?
Just a lot of sick music is going to be coming out, a few new singles. I’ve got a headline show coming up next month, 26th July. A few more shows lined up for the end of the year. And visuals. I’m excited to get it all out there.