Words: Caroline Simionescu-Marin
Jermaine Riley has reached a staggering 150,000+ downloads on his debut solo album Hello Earth within a matter of weeks. Proving no international boundaries the album is also sold through some 600 outlets in Japan. But when Jermaine mentions the fact he is unsigned we almost fell off our seats. He expresses humbly “It’s just me, my manager and my publicist. This gives me the ability to be very focused and hands on… no puppeteering or censor.” With producer credits on the album from UK favourites and expats; Dready, Harmony and Park & James, support from commercial radio stations such as BBC 1extra and continued recognition from artists like Boyz II Men, Eric Bellinger and Jessie J… it is clear to see Jermaine Riley means business.
IMC: Who is Jermaine Riley?
JR: I am a singer, songwriter and entertainer from the UK. I used to be in a group called Fundamental for 8 years, we parted ways 2011 and I have been a solo artist for the past 18 months. I have been very grateful for continued support from my followers, DJs and producers such as Dready, Harmony and Park & James who have had faith in me and helped my projects gain more exposure.
IMC: You have released most of your music for free, what is the purpose behind this?
JR: I would encourage any up and coming artist to release free music to gain exposure. I never anticipated 150,000 worldwide downloads. The figure in my head was more like 10,000… Because of my journey through the music industry I find it important to stay grounded and I see this as very humble beginnings. It gave me a boost of confidence.
IMC: Who has been your biggest musical inspiration?
JR: Michael Jackson without question! At the end of my track ‘What The Night Does’ I have included a sample from MJ’s ‘Bad 25’ Interview that I find very inspiring. The sample discusses the fact that not a lot of people see the hard work that gets put into each project. This is especially true for unsigned artists. Because where is the money coming from? Once you start the train moving you have to keep it going-especially in this industry because it’s so competitive. Inspiration keeps you motivated. The sample is meaningful.
IMC: Following the release of your debut solo album Hello Earth you released the free mixtape Ten Eleven Twelve in November. How long have you been working on it?
JR: I began with “Climax” at the beginning of the year. Around July 2012, I realised November 10th was coming, I worked non-stop from then on towards the release date of 10/11/12. Hence the name!
IMC: The album features a lot of ‘refixes’ explain this term to anyone who hasn’t heard your music before…
JR: A refix is when I take on someone else’s song and put elements of my own into it. Instead of doing a straight cover like a lot of artists do, I would write completely new lyrics over their instrumentals. It is important for me not to plagiarise other people’s techniques and harmonies, I can use refixes to get my own identity out there.
IMC: Was there anything in particular which inspired you when creating the album?
JR: Definitely, I draw from a lot from real life experiences. One of the songs, ‘Deal or No Deal’ is about being an unsigned artist and the struggle of it. I’m not afraid to be honest. In terms of the sound, Brandy’s Two Eleven album inspired me; it had just come out before I finished the project. I was like ‘Ok so now I need to sing this song in a certain way’ and I made tweaks where necessary.
IMC: We can see on twitter you’ve had a lot of support from UK and US artists such as Busta Rhymes, Boys II Men, Chip, Loick Essien, Jessie J and more… Who in the industry right now are you most inspired by?
JR: Angel is really doing it for me at the moment. I’m such a huge fan of his direction; he has come from the ground up, working very hard and consistently. Everything he sings and writes is real, I relate.
IMC: We know you’ve worked with Chip before as the vocals behind the track ‘Then and Now’, who would you like to work with in the future?
Jermaine: Ed Sheeran. I saw him live before he was ‘Ed Sheeran the superstar’ and I thought who is this guy, how can he be so talented? He has had a hard journey and is very deserving.
IMC: Something more topical… Two women who are massively in the spotlight right now, Rita Ora and Rihanna. Which one do you rate (vocally) and which you would date…it can be the same answer!
JR: I’d date and rate Rihanna. She is so legendary and consistent; her track record musically is immense, and she is also incredibly beautiful!
IMC: Both women have also very publicly revealed their relationship business on social media. What do you think the boundaries are for putting your business on the likes of Twitter if you are in the public eye?
JR: Every individual in the public eye has a certain level of responsibility to themselves, their relationships and their fans. Jay Z and Beyonce are the perfect example of handling a high profile relationship in a very low profile way. When you let the world in, that’s when they feel they have ownership. Love doesn’t need that pressure. If I was Rihanna I wouldn’t be worried. There are 7 billion people on this planet and despite everything that’s happened between her and Chris Brown and what has been exposed, they still gravitate towards one another and feel they need to be together. I admire that. With regards to Rita Ora and Rob Kardashian– I didn’t feel that synergy in the first place. Good luck to them, I’m sure there is someone out there for each of them!
IMC: Something more topical, a lot of artists who have already made it and are in the music industry don’t rate talent competitions, like it’s a shortcut… What is your opinion?
JR: I have a split opinion. Some people really don’t get the recognition they deserve by going down the regular route. It’s giving an opportunity to people we would have never known existed- James Arthur, Leona Lewis, JLS… Labels perhaps wouldn’t have picked up on them. Just like Nathan [Starboy Nathan – X Factor 2012] it gets the exposure you deserve if you’ve been working hard. However some novelty acts make it really far and get a lot of exposure, they have not put in as much effort and hard work.
IMC: What should we expect to be seeing from Jermaine Riley in 2013?
JR: I am working on a top secret EP that I am very excited about, this should be out early 2013. It is very different, fresh and exciting. I think a lot of my supporters will really feel where I’m going. It will be a good bridge to the album which should be released late 2013. Thank you for supporting my music and my journey, it is just the beginning…