JORJA SMITH

ELLE (UK) - - Contents -

The ris­ing R&B singer talks self-love, Stor­mzy and Drake

BACK IN 2O16, DRAKE DM’D JORJA

SMITH ON IN­STA­GRAM, ask­ing her to fea­ture on his al­bum More Life. Since then, she’s be­come the big­gest thing in Bri­tish mu­sic right now. She wrote her first song from her bed­room in her home town of Wal­sall. ‘It was about choos­ing the right path in life and be­ing aware of the con­se­quences – pretty deep for an 11-year-old,’ she laughs. Ten years on and her deep lyrics have led to crit­i­cal ac­claim. Her first SoundCloud up­load, Blue Lights, went vi­ral, win­ning over starry fans in­clud­ing Dizzee Ras­cal and Stor­mzy; her de­but al­bum

Lost & Found peaked at num­ber three in the charts and she be­came the first un­signed artist to win the Brits Crit­ics’ Choice Award ear­lier this year. She blends her old-soul voice with a mix­ture of hip-hop and R&B vibes in homage to her big­gest in­flu­ences: ‘Peo­ple say I’m like the child of Amy Wine­house and Ri­hanna. I love my mum, but I cer­tainly wouldn’t mind hav­ing those two as my moth­ers.’

1. HER MU­SIC HAS A MES­SAGE… ‘My songs are about so­cial is­sues [her song Blue Lights was played at a Black Lives Mat­ter march, and Beauty For Lit­tle Fools is about chal­leng­ing cur­rent beauty stan­dards]. When things are go­ing on in the world, I think it’s im­por­tant to touch on them, be­cause as a mu­si­cian, you can make peo­ple lis­ten. As soon as peo­ple press play, you’ve got their at­ten­tion.’

2. …AND HER IN­FLU­ENCES ARE AL­WAYS

ON HER MIND ‘I have dreams about Amy Wine­house. I’ve al­ways looked up to her as an artist. Grow­ing up, I didn’t read the news­pa­per or watch the news, so my im­age of her was never tainted by the me­dia. I had a dream where she mes­saged me to say, “Can I post the video of you and me on my In­sta­gram?” I don’t know what the video was of, but [in the dream] I just replied, “Oh my God, yes!”’

3. SHE EN­JOYS A

GOOD BOOK ‘I’m cur­rently read­ing

Mal­com X’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. I used to take a lot of in­spi­ra­tion from lit­er­a­ture for my songs when I was at school. My song Beau­ti­ful Lit­tle Fools di­rectly ref­er­ences The Great Gatsby, and I’ve missed pick­ing up quotes and putting them into my songs like that.’

4. FIND­ING SELF-LOVE WAS A PROCESS

‘I love my curly hair, but it’s taken time. My mum is white, and she’d al­ways tell me how beau­ti­ful my hair is, but I wanted it to be straight. She put up pic­tures of beau­ti­ful black women with afros in the bath­room next to the mir­ror, but I didn’t see any of that. And at school, I wanted to be skinny and not have lips, be­cause all my friends were white and slim. I need to love my­self more, but it’s dif­fi­cult.’ 5. SHE RUNS EV­ERY­THING PAST HER DAD… ‘My dad used to be in a band, so I al­ways keep him in the loop. He gives me ideas and even has cred­its on my songs. At the end of

Teenage Fan­tasy, when it says, “There’s no need to rush, take your time, life’s a big ol’ ride, sit back and en­joy the vibe” – that was my dad!’

6. …BUT THE BEST AD­VICE SHE’S RE­CEIVED

CAME FROM GRIME’S FINEST ‘Stor­mzy gives the best ad­vice. We wrote [our duet] Let Me

Down in 2O16 and he said, “As long as you love what you’re do­ing, that’s all that mat­ters.” So that’s how I look at things now.’ Jorja Smith fea­tures on The ELLE LIST 2O18, pro­duced in as­so­ci­a­tion with The Out­net

JORJA SMITH

ELLE LIST SHE MAY BE ONE of the BIG­GEST NEW NAMES in MU­SIC, BUT HER SOULFUL SOUND and DEEPLY PER­SONAL LYRICS RE­VEAL A MA­TU­RITY BEYOND her 21 YEARS. OLIVE POMETSEY MEETS THE WOMAN BE­HIND THAT VOICE

Pho­to­graph by DOUGAL M ac ARTHUR

Top, £72O; and skirt, £935, both MAR­QUES’ALMEIDA at THE OUT­NET. Wrap neck­lace (top), £8,875; and chain neck­lace (bot­tom), £12,6OO, both TIFFANY & CO

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