As the speed of supply and demand in the digital generation continues to increase, and artists throw out music like Happy Meal toys, Jorja Smith is a breath of fresh air.
While she admits she is still growing up, the 18-year-old vocalist and songwriter is wise well beyond her years. After being picked up by management she only posted her first original song, ‘Blue Lights’, to SoundCloud this year, making 2016 the beginning of her journey in the public eye. Since then she’s been playlisted on BBC 1Xtra, co-signed by Stormzy and Skrillex, and supported US R&B breakthrough Bryson Tiller on his UK tour dates.
The track, written 18 months ago, is a social commentary on the relationship Jorja saw between young black men and the police. It appropriately interpolates Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Sirens’ and demonstrates a lyrical parallel to the observational style of Nas, whose debut album ‘Illmatic’ has been a huge influence on her. “He’s a storyteller, and that’s what I like doing,” she explains. “Everything flows so well and it’s really cinematic, I can see the pictures when I listen to it. He’s observing situations rather than being in them, and that’s what ‘Blue Lights’ is about.”
Having grown up in Walsall, Jorja has spent the last few years juggling between finishing sixth form and spending the holidays in London writing with the likes of Maverick Sabre, who she worked with on her two follow-up singles, ‘A Prince’ and ‘Where Did I Go’. While she’s pleased that she completed her studies, at the time she admits she just wanted to escape to write and record. With A-Levels in Music, Religious Studies, Media and English Literature under her belt, she moved in with her aunt and uncle during the summer last year to finally pursue music full time.
As she works towards the release of her debut album, Jorja plans to leave time for listeners to get to know her. “There’s so much of everybody out there already,” she explains, “that I don’t want to put so much in people’s faces. I’m giving the audience small bits, filling in a picture of me slowly. I want people to be able to relate to me, and know they’re not alone.”
WHERE: London via Walsall, West Midlands
WHAT: Observational, socially conscious soul
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Blue Lights’, ‘A Prince’, ‘Where Did I Go’
FACT: She has a birthmark shaped like a cloud on the back of her right leg.
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Words: Grant Brydon
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
Make-up: Carol Lopez Reid
Jewellery: Jolene Smith