Jorja Smith Talks Drake, Memorable Moments & Gives Raw Soul With "On My Mind" Premiere
Walsall, West Midlands’ own Jorja Smith sits down for this exclusive chat with @Okayplayer to talk about her wildly successful 2016 and to premiere an acoustic version of her “On My Mind” track with us.
I’ve made it no secret how much I appreciate the sounds and soul of Jorja Smith. The West Midlands singer-songwriter first got me hooked when she dropped “Blue Lights,” which highlighted her airy vocals and impactful pen game. In my attempt to secure an interview with her (at least a First Look Friday piece) — I tried to reach out to those who know her for quite some time. Hell, I was even willing to take a trip to her job at Starbucks to get some face-time with the budding international superstar.
Thankfully, persistence and ambition continue to pay off for us good folks @Okayplayer, as Jorja Smith celebrated her domineering 2016 with a sit-down chat with yours truly. It has been quite a rollercoaster for Jorja, going from local talent to everyone wanting to know everything about her. Begrudgingly, we have Aubrey Graham to thank for her massive push to the forefront of music lover’s collective consciousness. Her two-time appearance on Drake‘s More Life added exactly that to her career and made her aware to a totally new audience.
Add to the mix that she had a wildly successful U.S. tour, made two heat-rocks with Predatah (“On My Mind”) and Kali Uchis (“Tyrant”), and you should know that sleeping on Jorja Smith is not an option.
It was a pleasure and an honor to rap with this headlining force.
With that said, enjoy this read where we dive into Jorja’s influences, the creation behind “Blue Lights” and go all up in her phone. As an added bonus, we also have a premiere of the acoustic version of “On My Mind” for your ear’s amusement.
Okayplayer: Who were some of your singing influences while growing up in Warsall as a youth? Can you talk about how you might incorporate some of those influences into your own singing and songwriting?
Jorja Smith: I used to listen to Amy Winehouse, Damian Marley, and Lauryn Hill. All of these artists were so honest, raw, real and you could believe every word they were singing/rapping about. I think I do that too.
OKP: Back when you were working a gig at Starbucks and making YouTube covers were you ever discouraged on your path to international recognition and celebrity? Also, share your thoughts about how your fellow co-workers reacted when they heard “Get It Together” with you and Drake.
JS: When I was about 15-16, I used to wish I was performing on huge stages with millions of fans. But then I realized there is no rush. I’ve never been discouraged in doing what I wanted to do—working just made the hunger more real. I’d go into the stock room and record voice notes of melodies I’d have going through my head at work. The passion I had for singing and writing just made me want to finish work sooner and get home to my room to start recording. I haven’t seen my co-workers after “Get It Together” — I left work in 2015. Everyone is really, really proud!
OKP: The first song I heard of yours was “Blue Lights,” and it was immensely impactful. Here in the States, police brutality was (and is) happening to people of color on the daily. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song and what it meant to you to write such a tune that resonated with people a whole other continent away?
JS: I wrote “Blue Lights” while I was studying media in year 13. I was analyzing post-colonialism in Grime music and I was looking at Dizzie Rascal’s music video for “Sirens”. I had the line, “Blood can you hear the sirens,” coming in from there I found a beat on Soundcloud and started freestyling from that line. It was based on the thought of fearing the police when you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s crazy that people from a completely different county can relate but at the same time music is universal and I also wrote about something that’s happening all over the world.
OKP: Your transition from unknown talent to budding international star has to have had its high and low moments. What are some memorable moments that you’ve experienced that have taken your breath away? What are some obstacles that you feel you’ve overcome?
JS: My most memorable moment was performing at The Royal Albert Hall for Later with Jools Holland. Two dreams of mine were to be on Jools Holland and to sing at the Royal Albert Hall and so to do both in one night was so amazing. Still can’t believe I did it. Something I’ve been able to overcome is being myself. I found it hard growing up in a predominately white school where all the girls were slim and “pretty”. I didn’t want to have big lips or a bum and I didn’t want to get a tan. I just wanted to fit in but now I’ve realized to do the complete opposite. To stand up and love who you are.
OKP: With keeping a bit of mystery to you and your life — what is one thing that Jorja Smith fans would be surprised to learn about you that they didn’t before?