Having only dropped his first album in May this year, Jarrod Lawson has fast become the Christian artist causing major waves on the secular music scene. His album simply entitled ‘Jarrod Lawson’ has hit the top of the UK Soul Charts and has been described as one of the most musically provocative albums of the year’. Jarrod appears to have popped up from nowhere with an album that exerts such maturity and far exceeds ‘new boy on the block’ rankings.
We had the pleasure of having chat with him just before he jumped on the train to Manchester to prepare for his show at Band on the Wall.
Vinejuice: You started to explore music at a very young age. Can you remember a particular moment when you knew music was something you were going to pursue?
It was definitely around the age of 11 years old. I had found ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ by Stevie Wonder and I literally could not stop listening to it. I listened to it probably more than I had listened to any other album in my life and it just affected me in a very impactful way. That was a pivotal moment for me. I felt that my life’s trajectory had changed. I realised that I wanted to do what Stevie was doing with his music, which was creating this perfect confluence of beautiful melodies, chord progressions, rhythms and spiritually minded lyrics – beautiful lyrics carried with Stevie’s amazing voice. That really hit me and I think at that point I decided I really wanted to do that!”
Vinejuice: What is the ‘creation’ process like for you? Do you have a specific method of approaching the creation of music?
I have approached it from so many different angles. Music comes to me in different ways. Sometimes it’s an entire page of lyrics that comes to me in a moment and then I am writing music to the lyrics which can be a really beautiful way to create a song I think. But sometimes it’s the opposite way. Sometimes I will hear a bass line and a chord progression to accompany it and it will start that way, or I will hear a melody. So I think I have approached it from all different angles.
Vinejuice: I notice that you say music ‘comes to you’. So it’s not that you sit there and decide that you need to write something new, but rather that music is something that sort of happens?
Yeah, I feel like you can’t really force inspiration. I have had moments where I have been like, “I’m gonna write a song today”, and that’s usual the times when it just doesn’t work at all. It comes to you when it wants to and you kind of have to be patient and let it come when the time is right.
Vinejuice: There are strong soul and jazz references in your music. What or who are your greatest influences?
Obviously Stevie wonder! But I would also say Donny Hathaway. I listened to a lot of jazz music from the time I was a kid as well. I was heavy into Oscar Peterson, Errol Garner, Herbie Hancock and the likes of them.
Vinejuice: That’s quite mature music for a kid to be listening to!
Right, my father was a musician and I think he felt inclined to expose me to as much music as possible at an early age. I was also listening to a lot of classical music and I went through periods of times when I listened to a lot of reggae music. So I have been all over the board really.
Vinejuice: There are a lot of strong messages within this album. Is there an overarching theme that you are trying to communicate lyrically?
Yes. I think in general, my goal is to bring back what for me is missing in soul music today which is that component of spirituality and relevant lyrical content. But yeah, I think in general my message is about togetherness and unity and giving glory to our creator. I am constantly trying to stir up people’s minds with my lyrics and make them ask questions that they don’t usually ask themselves. It just seems to be my ‘calling’ if you like.
Vinejuice: That spiritual undertone is definitely there. So what role does your faith play in your life?
It plays a huge role. I grew up in a Christian household. I don’t box in my music to Christian or gospel classifications necessarily. I tend to refer to it as spiritual soul music, just to keep it a bit more vague and universal, and I try to gear my lyrics to a bit more open and universal so that secular folks can get down with it as well.
Vinejuice: Ok. So it is not a praise and worship album by any stretch of the imagination then?
No, no I wouldn’t say so![Tweet “Even before people in States even had a clue what was going on I had hit number 1 on the Soul Charts in the UK. “]
So you have been doing the rounds in the UK. You were in Leeds yesterday and you are in Manchester on the 9th October performing at Manchester’s iconic gigging venue – Band on the Wall. How is the UK audience receiving you so far? Are we giving you much love or are we a difficult crowd to please?
Giving me much much love…absolutely! It so great. I knew it was going to be this way because when I dropped my album back in May this year, it was all these DJ’s in London and all over the UK really that found the album before anybody else and were kind of gushing over it I was receiving Facebook messages, and people were really inquisitive about who I am, where I had come from, why am I not signed to a label.
Vinejuice: Yeah, to be honest I was really surprised to discover that this is your first album! The quality of the sound and maturity of the music is one that you would expect of an artist that is 2 or 3 albums in!
Well thank you for saying that.
I got a lot of love right out the gate from people in the UK. Even before people in States had a clue what was going on I had hit number 1 on the Soul Charts in the UK. That was a strange situation but I realised that this was my target audience at the same time you know? It was like “Oh man I better get over to the UK because that’s clearly my audience.”
What’s coming up for you?
Well, I’m working on my next album already and have been debuting my some of the songs in my shows here to give people a taste of what’s coming in the next album. I recently did a recording at the Gilles Peterson Show which I am pretty siked about. It was really cool to go into the Maida Vales Studio at the BBC and record there. That was such an honour.
Vinejuice: And you played at Stevie wonders birthday?
Yeah just last year
Vinejuice: Wow, how was that, since you’ve spent your life being inspired by him?
Yeah, it was indescribable almost. I still look back on it as if was a dream, like it didn’t happen. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time and I was asked to put together a band to back up Stevie.
So with all that has been happening lately have you been able to maintain church attendance, prayer and just a relationship with the Lord?
You know, it ca be a little challenging at times. I will be honest with you, I have never been a very consistent church-goer. I am very sceptical of churches generally and I have a hard time finding one that I feel comfortable in. But my journey is more of a personal one. I don’t necessarily have to have that component in place. I surround myself with people who support me in the way that I need support and I support them. I think that is more important for me at this time. That helps me to maintain my relationship.
Vinejuice: Ok, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me today. I know you have been extremely busy over the last few days. Looking forward to the show at Band on the wall here in Manchester and hopefully we will stay up to date with all that you are doing.
Download ‘Jarrod Lawson’ album here: Jarrod Lawson