Interview | Jerome Thomas [Nov 2016]

Whenever we think of Soul music, we often refer to eras gone by, forgetting the fact that the genre has transcended generations, making it a crucial part of multiple forms of modern music. Someone who is very mindful of this is Jerome Thomas – the east London bred artist who aims to recapture certain elements of Soul for a contemporary audience. I just want to bring the old days back, when you would go out and buy the music and you’d be excited for it”, describes the singer. “I’m only interested in making things that are timeless.

Over the past few years, Jerome has made an impression through numerous singles and features, working with a diverse range of artists, leading to the eventual development of his debut EP, Conversations, which will be available from November 16th. On the cusp of this first release, it seemed appropriate to start by discussing the beginnings of his association with music that have brought him to this point.

Jerome explains how he has been writing all of his life, referencing a talent show at the Hackney Empire (“I think it was at around 9 [or] 10 [years old]”) in which he performed a song he had written himself. Finding a form of expression has been a fascination of Jerome’s from an early age and contributed to the branding of his music. I brand my music as ‘FOE’ – Freedom Of Expression, Fusion of Everything”, he says. “The music I make stems from Soul – Soul is the core – but that’s not the only genre I make. I like to play with different genres of music because I grew up listening to a lot of music, so I don’t feel like it’s me being true to myself if I just stick to one genre”.

Escaping the boundaries of genres, the most impactful artists of Jerome’s formative years were the likes of D’Angelo, Donnell Jones, Marvin Gaye and Amy Winehouse, whose diverse adaptations of Soul music helped to cultivate his style. “At the time when I was really getting into making music, I didn’t really know who my influences were, so I was just doing. I like to do that now – not think too much about trying to sound like anyone, because if I do sound like someone, it’s not intentional, I guess it’s just in me now. It’s what I’ve grown up listening to and they’ve sort of taught me how to sing and taught me about music, to a certain extent”. Although his influences may have aided his growth as an artist somewhat, it was Jerome himself who had to realise his own motivations for creating music. “For me, it’s the biggest release, it’s the most freest space you’ll ever be” he states in a genuine tone, once again alluding to his adage of freedom of expression.

Jerome’s writing techniques – which were assisted by studying creative writing at Roehampton University – are manifested in distinctive ways, with the vocalist sharing, “There are times where I’ll just write down a line that’ll come to my head at some point and then I’ll come back to it and form a song from that. Or, there are times where I’ll just play the beat and I’ll freestyle and see whatever words come from that and form the story out of that”.

Despite releasing a collection of exciting singles, Jerome admits that he encountered difficulties drawing attention to his music. “I feel like it’s always hard to get people to plug in and listen because there’s so much [music] out there right now, especially with the type of music I’m trying to put out there, it’s not the stuff you’d normally hear. I found it hard, but I find that the people that do feel it really feel it”. With that being said, Jerome is cautious when speculating over his following, clarifying, “I don’t see it as a fan base, I just see it as a community of people that like the same music as me. It’s a strange subject to think about for me, because in all honesty, I don’t feel like I have a strong fan base yet”.

He continues, “I feel like what’s deterred that is that there’s not been cohesion. There’s not been one piece of work to show and the stuff that has been brought out has been in drips and drabs and not consistent enough, so I feel like that’s probably where things could have been improved. I feel like this EP will help establish a core fan base”.

As a musician, commercial platforms such as radio can be significant in broadening an artist’s reach, something that Jerome is aware of. “It is important, in a certain aspect, but for me, it doesn’t play a part in how I create”, he stresses. “If something I do isn’t for the radio, but it’s for me and it makes sense to my branding and who I am as an artist, then I’m cool with it not getting that platform. I feel like my music can transcend both commercial and alternative”.

Based solely on the high quality of music on the Conversations EP, Jerome will have no difficulty attracting commercial attention in the near future. “I’m talking about conversations I’ve either had with myself, friends or family”, he explains when speaking on the creation of the project. “I did stay away from the topics of love, because it’s all we hear on the radio, so I just wanted to come from a different standpoint and talk about some other things that we should be discussing a bit more. I’ve got one feature on there, that’s Coops, and three producers, Talos, Hurricane and El Train. I don’t want to put any sound on it, and say ‘It sounds like this’, I just want people to hear it and grasp their own opinion from it. It’s nostalgic but new school at the same time”.

Jerome tells me he has been aiming to put together an EP for the past six years, although the tracks that Conversations consists of have all been recorded in the past twelve months. He speculates on the reasons why the process has been a measured one, “All types of doubts creep in, but I feel like everything has divine timing”, he insists. “Everything is going to come when it’s supposed to come. If I look at the time when I thought I was ready to bring out an EP, I wasn’t. I feel like now is my time”.

One of the reasons Jerome believes he and his music are in a better position to prosper is due to the fresh, worldwide attention that some UK artists have been receiving recently. “I do think [emerging UK artists] are starting to get a lot more shine”, he confirms. “I feel like it’s a shame that if you’re from the UK, sometimes we wait for the US to approve before we do, even though it’s ours. I think it’s great [that UK artists are being recognised] because there’s so much talent in the UK that’s slept on and its worldwide talent, it’s stuff that the world need to hear and can be affected by”.

Looking ahead to the unveiling of his EP, Jerome confesses that he’s eager, but also nervous. “I just want to see where this EP takes me. It’s the first time I’ll have [a project] out, so I’m anxious to see how people respond to it”. He hopes its success can launch him on to bigger platforms on which to share his music, divulging that he has ambitions to perform on the festival circuit next year. “Ideally, I’d like to ride this EP as long as I can, because I want to shoot videos for it, as well, but I want to see what the feedback is and what tunes people are feeling”.

Jerome already has further plans in place for 2017, mentioning other upcoming projects. “Me and Warren Xclnce have been doing some tracks, so we’re releasing a project together next year” he reveals. “I’ve got a bunch of tracks that I’ve been working on over the past however many years, so that’s another EP for the summer, hopefully. And yeah, just more features – takeover, innit”. Jerome’s proposed takeover will commence on November 16th with the Conversations EP release party at The Old Queen’s Head in Islington.

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