Nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys, self-proclaimed ‘weirdo’ Jacob Collier is probably your favourite artist’s favourite artist. He is the singing multi-instrumentalist pushing musical boundaries in a multitude of directions, and if you don’t know who he is then we are here to tell you why it’s about time that changed.
Heralded as the ‘millennial Mozart’, the 26-year-old Londoner has been compared to a plethora of seminal composers and music creators, but frankly, there is no one quite like Jacob Collier. Beneath the quirky collection of hats, eye-catching ponchos and crocs lies a humble but unrivalled – and we don’t say this lightly – genius. To some critics, and to Collier himself, his nomination for Album of the Year came as a surprise: notably, Djesse Vol. 3 is the first release since 1963 to make the nominations without having appeared on the albums chart. However, Jacob is yet to release an album that has *not* won a grammy. He won a Grammy for each of his first four albums.
From a musical family, Jacob Collier has often credited the melting pot of music on constant rotation in his home for his vast musical influences. His ventures into the realm of fame began in 2013 when one of the covers he posted online went viral. The dense arrangements showed off the many strings to his bow: from the plethora of instruments he plays, his vocal skill, to his advanced understanding of harmony and producing.
Beneath the quirky collection of hats, eye-catching ponchos and crocs lies a humble but unrivalled – and we don’t say this lightly – genius.
His video of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” made its way to Quincy Jones’ email inbox via a friend, sparking the beginning of a new journey for the then 19-year-old. Collier signed with the music giant’s management company and subsequently has won five Grammys for Best Arrangement, pushing musical boundaries of harmony and texture.
Another realm that this young artist is at the forefront of, is technology. Creating everything from his YouTube covers to his debut album, In My Room (2016), from the music room in his family home, Jacob has become more than familiar with the technology needed to produce his own music. Continuing to push technology both to and beyond its limits, he worked with MIT PhD Ben Bloomburg to create a vocal harmoniser that would allow him to harmonise with himself by combining vocal and keyboard skill, live. This tool has allowed his crazy one-man-show style to transfer to his live performances: a prime example of this is his 2018 TED Talk, as he runs around the stage in beautiful chaos.
As if forewarned for the pandemic, Jacob’s music room is like a musical doomsday-prepper’s dream. The walls are lined with instruments and equipment that would allow for isolated music production, yet somehow, his most recent album, Djesse Vol. 3 is also his most collaborative, and most mainstream leaning.
His jazz-centric, dense sound remains, but he brings in new flavours of neo-soul and R&B, featuring guest appearances from Daniel Caesar, Jessie Reyes, Kiana Ledé, Kimbra, Mahalia, T-Pain, Tank and The Bangas, Tori Kelly and Ty Dolla $ign. More informal collaborations came recently as R&B star SZA reached out to Jacob via social media after seeing some of his videos on YouTube. She shared their early exchanges on twitter, in which she reached out asking for some direction.
SZA (Billboard): “I asked him to section it, and he sent it back literally in no time. He was like, ‘I don’t know if this is what you were thinking of’ and I was like ‘Ahhh! Don’t do anything, it’s perfect!’”
The song in question, ‘Good Days’, went on to reach number 9 in the charts, one of SZA’s highest-charting singles.
I’m sure it is becoming apparent why we quite like Jacob Collier: he is constantly challenging what we think we know about music and technology, and is even committing to a ‘more sustainable future in the music industry’, by agreeing to carbon-offset his entire tour travel history. His recent attempted ventures with NFTs were also an attempt to engage with decentralising the music industry. It is these constant efforts to break down musical, technological and industry-placed barriers that make him a beacon of light for the future of the music industry, and we can’t wait to see what else he has up his brightly coloured sleeves.
Here is our pick of Jacob Collier essential listening.