Signal Path Podcast: Jacob Collier

Signal Path Podcast: Jacob Collier

Shure Incorporated | September 23, 2019

Hear the stories behind the music with the Signal Path podcast. Tapping a global network of musicians, producers, engineers and other sonic innovators, Shure brings you exclusive interviews with the people shaping the world of audio.

Episode 24: Jacob Collier

For the latest episode of Signal Path, we spoke with Jacob Collier, an English singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist known for both his ingenuity and eclecticism. In the podcast, we discuss what it’s like working with living-legend Quincy Jones, his ambitious four-album project Djesse and what winning a Grammy award means to him.

Signal Path: Would you tell us a bit about your project Djesse

Jacob Collier: I would indeed. So, Djesse is a four-album long extravaganza. It's like a trip through multiple different musical worlds and each volume is like a different universe, each one has a different sonic sound. The first revolves around the orchestra. It's by no means classical but it's very much orchestral in the sense that there are many orchestral musicians playing all these different layers. It's very rich. It's all about big expansive sound. 

The second volume is when the space becomes a little smaller and more intimate so it's very cozy, elements of world music and jazz. Volume Three is kind when all the space vanishes completely and so, it's like that feeling in the middle of the night when you get really creative. And it's very digital, broken beat, crazy sounds, sonic environments like hip-hop and R&B. Then, Volume Four is a of combination of all of the aforementioned ingredients with this unbelievable church choir called The Aliens of Oakwood University, who sing on that one and lift the whole thing through the roof. 

In total there's about 25 different collaborators across the album. It's about 45 songs and I've handpicked all of my personal heroes and managed to spend some time with each of them. I’ve travelled all over the world seeking some people out and so, the album is a sort of combination of all these different musicians and their influence upon me. 

How did you even begin? For example, when did it actually become clear that you were going to start this project? 

I spent the end of 2017 finishing off my one man show tour and I was just thinking about what I would like to do next. I originally thought that I'll just do one really long album. I wanted to tell the story with all these different collaborators, so I thought would have to be two albums, a kind of double album. I realized that, in order to achieve that, I'd have to force ideas together. So, I guess rather than do that, I wanted to have this sort of clarity of four. As each idea came into my head for a song, or a groove or melody, I would be thinking which world does this belong to? Is it a great big great big world (number one), or is a little cozy world (number two), or is it a wacko world (number three) or is it for the grand finale? So, I just thought, well I want to make this amount of music and how best to tell this story. 

It's quite amazing that your team were probably onboard straight away when it comes to your imagination, but how did you break the news to them? 

My team are extremely patient with me, because there is so much work to do and you could spend one, two or three years on one album, let alone four albums within one year. And so, I guess it all comes down to that creative energy and I’ve been so driven to do this and I'm so thrilled with it, it's a real privilege.

When it came to collaborators, you said you were fans of some of the people. Can you list a few and describe the story of how you came to meet them? 

I can't list too many from future volumes just yet, but on Volume One we've got the incredible Laura Mvula, who's a singer from UK, and Take 6, who are my a capella harmony heroes. Then there's an incredible maverick from Morocco, Hamid El Kasri. He's a master of Gnawa music, a kind of traditional folk music from Morocco. I travelled all the way to Casablanca on my own to meet with him and record with him. It's an amazing mixture of people I feel very privileged to have. To chase them around the world and manage to spend some time with them.

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