“I look for my soul in music”
JGrrey, the dazzling persona of Jennifer Clarke, is back and ready to take the music scene by the storm. Catching our eye (and ear) back in 2017 with her viral Colors show, to supporting Billie Eilish and being featured on Madlib’s album, the London-based artist is a gem that keeps shining bright. Today, with big things on the horizon, JGrrey returns with an intoxicating new single Theirs13 – marked by her signature buttery vocals gliding over loose-limbed neo-soul and probing lyricism that tells the tales of life’s cycles with a heart-warming sincerity. As JGrrey enters the era of reclaiming her sound and identity with a newfound force, we caught up with the artist to reflect on her journey, the feeling of love and the multitudes of her personality.
Hey, great to be in touch! How are you today?
Hey! Yeah I’m okay thanks, just here really.
Congratulations on the release of Theirs13 – the serenity of it is beautiful. Could you talk me through the process of how it came to life?
I fell in love. The intense feeling that’s portrayed in films and songs and art. I finally did it – I felt what falling in love is like and this track came from it. It’s a slow-paced song that met me in the middle. Lyrically inspired by the love of my life, Theirs13 just happened one night in the pandemic. A freestyle that ended up on the radio. I love it too! It makes me so happy to hear other people like it.
This feeling of deep infatuation definitely translates, but I love how you manage to approach it without it feeling cliché. In the music video as well, it shows the warmth of your relationship but also you finding your identity independently within that romance. From holding hands with your partner by the sea to the take-no-shit cam-girl energy… Love it!
I’m glad you like it! Sometimes, I doubt myself when trying to write the songs, direct the music videos, and run a business. Maybe I should just pick a lane and stay in it? So it feels good when someone actually likes a visual. It’s like ‘yeah, I did that shit too!’ The visual should represent calm mania: the highest of lows, a contrast between soft and hard. My partner and I spending time, a soft closeness interrupted by JGrrey yet again. And yeah, the cam girl moment is a throw back to my chaturbate days… If you know you know.
Speaking of Jen and JGrrey – the single has described as ‘closing the gap’ between the two of you. Tell me more… How would you say these two identities interact and differ?
We just don’t see eye to eye a lot of the time. We both want the same thing but have different priorities. JGrrey wants the world and Jen will settle for a good week at work. JGrrey wants to get wasted at shows and Jen wants to go on a run and maybe cross stitch? Be in bed by 10pm? We both want to be the best we can be. We’ll figure it out.
What is the significance of ‘thirteen’ for you?
I didn’t realise it but the best year of my life, a safe time when we were all okay. I see 13 everywhere, it’s my gate I’m boarding at, the number of instagram DMs I have, the channel that’s on when I turn on the TV, the price of a plant. 13 humbles and grounds me.
It had been a while from your last release until now. How has your approach evolved in that time and how does Theirs13 depart from your earlier works?
I loved it… I loved it as much, and maybe more than the people I was playing it to. As an artist, you know, we sit in demo stages for years. You have to allow something to season and marinate with your soul. I still want everyone to hear it, I’m still excited and passionate about it. I’ve been told I can’t release songs in the past because they “don’t feel like a single”. Well fuck that. As King Krule said ‘when it feels good, it feels good’. And Theirs13 feels good.
It’s so heartbreaking to see the industry try to dictate what an artist’s work is or isn’t. I really commend your bravery to disrupt that cycle.
What are some of the influences that inform your sound?
I’ve always loved music, always. All kinds of music. I love putting people on to new sounds, new feels, new samples, drum loops, vocalists. Music can consume me at times and I let it. Playlists for when we are happy, for when we are sad, for when we’re walking, getting the train, running… I think being consumed by music is a universal feeling. Like most people, I look for my soul in music. With that being said, I look for influence anywhere I can find it.
It’s amazing how we can all relate to this feeling of being fully absorbed by music, and I think your sound definitely has this ‘consuming’ quality to it. A word I often see in association with your work is ‘an escape’. Would you say music is an escape for you? And is it how you’d like your listener to feel as well?
Well, music is now a job for me. Ideally my music will feel however you let it, I don’t want to impose or assume. I’ve realised how people receive my music has nothing to do to me – it’s theirs, it’s personal.
I’ve also read that you never really intended to be a musician. When was the first time you realised you were good at it, and how does it feel to be where you are now?
When I was adopted my mum put me in all sorts of extra-curricular activities. As someone who was not academic I found my people – in a room full of weirdos who wanted to be the centre of attention just like me! I knew I could sing and dance. My mum knew of my potential more than I ever did. It was all her. So now it feels bittersweet, I guess.
What are some of the proudest moments you’ve had on your journey so far?
Hearing myself sampled on the Madlib album. Questlove trying to pronounce my name and playing my music. When I read ‘billieeilish has sent you a direct message’… When I tried to awkwardly introduce myself to Stormzy and he graciously saved me the struggle by being like “yeah I know you! You’re JGrrey”. And allowing myself to fall in love!
London is a very exciting place right now, musically and creatively in general. What is you favourite thing about the scene at the moment?
I love the fact I can mind my business and make my silly little music. I recently moved back to South and I’ve never been more at peace. I think the “London scene” is one thing, but the Queer POC creatives I’m currently around are everything. So much amazing talent, it’s exciting.
Is there anything you wish more people knew about you?
I’m blind as a bat and never wear my glasses. Unless you’re standing right infant of me I will not see you.
What is the future vision for JGrrey?
I think the future is impossible to speak on, but today in this present moment I’m calm and safe! The future vision for me right now is maybe to make some noodles.