It isn’t very often that you find an artist whose music sends chills to your spine and your soul, but that is exactly the reaction that comes when you listen to JNR Williams.
Raised in East London, JNR. Williams is making a name for himself as “a voice for the ages” in British Soul and RnB. Rich and visceral, JNR.’s incredible voice set him apart from the crowd at a young age and led him to study music at the British Academy of New Music. It was only once he left university, though, that he really began to find his voice and, most importantly, what he had to say with it.
Through an ongoing four-track series over the last year, JNR. has opened up his heart and his world to listeners, sharing a vulnerability through moving lyrics and powerful vocals that truly set him apart. Accompanying each song is a short film by accomplished director Iggy LDN which add new layers of meaning to the tracks. The series began with Healer, followed by Here B4, and Hunger.
Each film is connected and focuses on a different aspect of Jnr’s life, from family relationships to reflecting on his growth since living as a child on estates. Breathtaking in its cinematic scope, the series reaches a shimmering, atmospheric crescendo with the fourth track in the series: “Our Days”.
The final film is a raw and introspective ballad as Jnr observes a couple quarrel and find harmony in the setting of his youth. The lyric, “you’re still like the kids on that old rough estate – I always knew that I wanted to escape”, makes hairs stand on end. On the surface hopeful and contemplative, underneath simmer greater truths about loss, community and the power of choice. The series as a whole is deftly produced, an impressive tour de force of creative talent from both JNR. and Iggy LDN, and one that resonates in the mind long after you press pause.
We can’t wait to see what is coming next from JNR., but until then get in your feelings and immerse yourself in the universe created by JNR. Williams.
JNR. Williams wears the New Balance All Coast Black 574, £65.00, available exclusively at schuh.
How did you begin your journey in music?
My introduction to music was through my Gran, the Jazz tunes she used to play on a Sunday whilst she was cooking a lot of food! I remember hearing Louis Armstrong and Dinah Washington, and the way they phrase their words and the simplicity of how they delivered each word really resonated with me. I started mimicking Louis Armstrong at the age of six! At first, I wanted to be an artist, as I used to draw a lot but music was just so powerful to me. I went to music college and I knew that music was the path I wanted to take. I don’t feel complete unless I’m creating music, to be honest.
What is your creative process like when it comes to making music?
I am always jotting things down, titles and words. It can be from a newspaper or a book I’m reading, but I keep all these notes. Every time I start writing a track I usually pick a word to be the title and from there I start to build the story, in some ways it’s like making a movie, imaging how these characters feel and I find that’s the easiest way for me when writing my songs. Once I’m in the studio I work with producers who help me bring my vision to life.
One album that defines you as an artist?
I actually can’t think of one, to be honest, I have many moods…
Best advice you’ve been given as an artist?
To follow your gut! I stand by this.
What is one key message you want to get across in your music?
For me, I’ve always been drawn to honest and raw emotion. Vulnerability is a strength, I just want my music to make people feel.
What else in life inspires your music?
I’m always inspired by visuals, I love film and tv and it inspires so many ideas. Music is very visual for me. I actually wrote 3 songs based on Stranger Things. Just loved that series and the mood of it, and it just made me want to write music to go with it.
What’s next for you?
I have two more festivals to come to finish off my summer run with my band, The Good Life Festival and Reeperbahn. I am also currently finishing my next EP which I’m really excited to get out to the world, and I’m also organising my own event, more details to follow soon on that…
If we were to have this conversation again in one year – what would you like to have achieved?
A sold-out headline tour, to perform on Jools Holland and meet the man! A feature with Moses Sumney and Serpentwithfeet.. oh and a Nandos black card, please.
What’s one fact people may not know about you yet?
Bit of a random one, but I don’t like Ginger beer… it’s quite a Caribbean thing but I just pretend in when I’m with my family.
What’s the best thing about living in London right now?
Well… ask me that after this Brexit thing is done. But on a real, it’s a hub of different cultures and it’s creative even though it feels like people are trying to change that. It’s accepting.
What is something you wish you could say to your younger self?
Believe in yourself and stand by what you believe in. You were right, little one.