"My Soul Knows What It Wants To Say": An Interview With Jerome Thomas
Jerome Thomas discusses taking his time to create, how he has developed his musical identity and speaks about his newest single ‘Right There’.
Artists are continuously escaping the boundaries of genre and are bending and reshaping them at their own will to create a space for themselves that probably didn’t exist a couple of years ago. A testament to this is East London bred artist Jerome Thomas who, in his own right, labels his sound as a ‘Fusion Of Everything, Freedom Of Expression’, blurring the lines between neo-soul, RnB, jazz and funk. He is an artist that has spent an incredible amount of time fine tuning his sound and stretching his vocal ability to become what it is today, creating a style that is notable and consistent through every body of work he produces.
With each track draped in multilayered harmonies and funky scats and rhythms, he tells his stories of love and the complexities of human relationships. 2019 saw Jerome Thomas sell out his headline show at the prolific music venue the Jazz Cafe and prior to that he performed his first Colours session of his mellow, RnB/lo-fi tinged single ‘1989’, which currently sits at over 480,000 views. His latest album, ‘Mood Swings (Volume One)’ is what caught the attention of many tastemakers in the industry, with Jamz Supernova pegging him as an ‘Artist To Watch’.
There seems to be no stopping this creative superforce as he has returned with another groove-filled offering titled ‘Right There’. Speaking on the track he shares: “it’s about simply explaining to a loved one that might be tied in life’s trials and banalities that they have a safe space to come to, in you.”
New Wave had the chance to speak with Jerome Thomas as he shares the importance of taking your time when creating, his first ever on-stage performance and how he develops his creative ideas.
"I have to be in a peaceful mindstate to be able to create."
NW: For those who don’t know, who is Jerome Thomas?
JT: So I’m a singer songwriter and creative, East London based, though I moved to North last year. I class my sound as F.O.E which stands for ‘freedom of expression’/ ‘fusion of everything’. The core of my sound is soul but I play with everything and yeah that’s me really.
NW: What was the first piece of music you heard and felt like you could connect with?
JT: It would probably have to be the D’angelo ‘Brown Sugar’ album. I remember my mum playing that around the house and I think that was the first thing where I was like ‘I fuck with this hard’. My mum was always playing soul/RnB around the house but I think when I was old enough to start appreciating music that was the first thing that caught my ear.
NW: When was the moment you knew you had to pursue music wholeheartedly?
JT: I feel like there were two moments. So the first was when I was like 12/13 and I was doing this programme called ‘AVP’ and they put on a show between school time, so September term and I was a part of the show. I think it was my first time performing a song that I wrote and people had paid to come see us so it was like a proper show. First of all as a child I was very shy so it wasn’t in my character to perform how I do so when I went on stage I came out of myself and I surprised myself and the reaction, that surprised me even more. So I feel like that night I felt like okay, this feeds me in some way. And then, I think it was my last year of university, I started up my band and I was about to leave and it was a thing where I’d been there for 3 years and I felt like the best thing I got out of it was my band.
NW: Did the pandemic affect your creativity in any way?
JT: So before covid I was constantly working in the studio pretty much everyday and once covid came I was feeling tired anyway because the spirit of London is ‘go’, what is rest? That was my energy and I was preparing for a headline show so I needed to be stay in music and stay creative but it wasn’t what I actually wanted to be doing. Studio was getting hard, I’m sat here forcing this and I don’t actually want to be here, I know I’m in a space where I don’t really want to create right now but I have to, so when covid came I was like cool, I’m sitting. I’m gonna watch everything, Netflix is done, I’ve watched everything. I just took the time to chill and be with self and, I definitely needed to do that because now I’m in a space where I can go back out and write and feel like I’m comfortable here, I want to be here as opposed to I have to be here.
NW: What inspires your songwriting?
JT: It’s an array of things because I feel like it’s changed over the years. At first it was all pretty much what I was going through and then of late, if I’m currently going through it I can’t write about it, it’s too close. So I’m in a different creative space where it’s like I have to be in a peaceful mindstate to be able to create.
NW: Talk through your creative process, how do you go from a melody, lyric or a small idea into a full song or album?
JT: So I’d normally get a beat sent and I think my first idea is my best idea so I voice record me just freestyling and then I’ll play it back and pick a line or melody line that I like and then work off that. There's other time where I’d do the same thing but l’ll follow the melody exactly how it is on the voice note but just add words. There’s times where the song pretty much writes itself and there's times where I’ll have a line for a chorus and I’ll go in and record that. It does always start with melody, then I’ll pick the word and subject after. A lot of times I don’t even know what it’s about until the chorus and it’s like ‘oh okay, that’s what I’m talking about’. I feel like a lot of my process is just about flow and what feels right and then I’ll make sense of it after because my soul knows what it wants to say so I'm just gonna let it do it’s thing.
NW: What inspired the artwork for ‘Mood Swings’?
JT: So one of my best friends who made the artwork for me, he was around during the whole process of me recording ‘Mood Swings’ and choosing the songs so when I spoke to him about doing the artwork I mentioned that I wanted it to be a continuum from ‘Conversations’ in terms of it being an image of me but I wanted him to have creative freedom as an artist so I wasn’t too specific. But when I saw the artwork, the meaning I took was that the crooked face symbolises the inner thoughts but it’s just worn on the outside.
NW: Your layered melodies and harmonies are insane! How did you learn the techniques that you use in your music?
JT: Thank you, I love me a good harmony. In terms of harmonies, I listened to Brandy’s ‘Full Moon’ back to back to back to back, she’s the bible and I don’t understand why people keep sleeping on her. I’ve not been trained so I guess it’s all by ear, the people that I listened to a lot growing up were D’angelo, Jo, Chico Debarge, Marvin Gaye but that didn’t come until a bit later. Aside from that, there were a lot of female influences, my mum would play a lot of Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Tina Marie, SWV, 702, Mary J Blige, just an array of things. So I learnt all my techniques from all of those people that I was listening to growing. She couldn’t afford to take me to no classes so it was like if you wanna learn you gon’ learn.
NW: What did you think of Brandy’s new album?
JT: Yeah her new album is good. I love the vocals and the harmonies, I do wish the production was a bit better but hey ho. I do feel like the production was designed to make her vocals stand out and if that was the case it served its purpose but I wish there were a bit more live instruments.
"You need to stand strong in your source and know that what you have to offer is unique but you can’t treat it like it’s not."
NW: What kind of things helped you hone in on your sound and musical identity?
JT: Throwing everything at the wall and seeing what stuck. I’ve been recording for a very long time, I think probably 2007 was when I started recording and just experimenting with my voice and my sound and what works for me, what didn’t work for me and where I fit. I feel like that’s how I’ve been able to create the sound that I have because I’ve learnt how I sound in all sounds and I’ve learnt where my strengths are in certain places and I can take from each and make it make it into one.
NW: Congrats on your latest single, ‘Right There’. Can you give us a little background on the song?
JT: I wrote ‘Right There’ about 3 years ago and at the time I was in a relationship so I’m guessing it was about us. We were in a long distance relationship and I think it was like I can’t be there right now, you can’t be here right now but we have our intention and when there is no one else you can have a safe space and vice versa.
NW: You seem to not be in any rush with your creativity. What tips would you give to other artists who may feel that pressure to release music early on?
JT: I feel like I’d say really take your time because if it’s music that you love you want it to be shown in the best light. Don’t look at it as a race like ‘oh shit I’ve got to get this out because everyone else has got this out and if I don’t do it times going to pass’. No, you need to stand strong in your source and know that what you have to offer is unique but you can’t treat it like it’s not, you can’t treat it like it’s disposable because it will be perceived that way.
NW: You have built an extensive discography so far, are there any songs that you’ve written that is currently your favourite?
JT: ‘Route of Escape’ is currently my favourite song. I wrote the song about a friend and their situation and that’s the first time I had the intent to write about something that didn’t let flow as much, I did in terms of the melody but I knew what I wanted to say. That song was pretty easy to write considering it wasn’t about me. And plus it's bop!
NW: Who’s your producer?
JT: Pitch92. We started working together in 2018 and we have a lot of songs together but I have a lot of songs with a lot of producers. We’re supposed to be doing a joint EP so we’re gonna try and get that going. There's another song that’s one of my favourites that’s not out yet called ‘No Bullshit’ and again I wrote that around 3 years ago but the subject is still relevant today and it still bangs the way it did the first time I made it.
NW: Are there any collaborations we should look out for?
JT: So I’ve got a few tunes coming out with Tellus in the next couple months and new year and I’ve recorded a tune with Jamilah Barry and that was done a while ago and then Covid came so just know it happened.
Stream 'Right There' below!