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JGRREY sat in a worn brown leather arm chair

Styling: Carlotta Constant - Creative Direction: Keith Waterfield - Video by: Lloyd Willacy - Hair and Makeup: Lucy Thomas
Look 1 - Top, True Vintage - Trousers, Braindead - Shoes, Clarks - Hat, Vamos - Necklaces, Image Gang - Earrings, JGrrey’s own - Rings, Goodie Bag

MSC

JGRREY

It takes just one listen of JGrrey to feel her desire – often tinged by the use of her unstinting lyricism and sincere approach.

Interview by Amal AlTauqi

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Photography Hamish Brown

I often question myself about the defining characteristics of music. Is it longevity? Or perhaps the feeling that it evokes? Yet, I beheld the answer, deftly captured in front of me, throughout JGrrey’s debut EP. The answer? Authenticity.

“People sometimes ask me ‘why did you say It’s a beautiful day to die in your songs? To which I respond, ‘Because it’s true.’ My music resonates with me and when someone comes up to me to say they love a song – it means more.”

JGrrey is unafraid to be transparent and offers a sense of empowerment in doing so.

Below, JGrrey defines her successes, artistic palette and continues the ever-growing conversation surrounding the evolution of the creative industry.

JGRREY with her arms up holding a fur hat on her head JGRREY walking along the street while wearing sun glasses

Look 2: Top, Eleanor Butler-Jones - Trousers, Stussy - Shoes, Nike - Hat, Emma Brewin - Necklace, Chained&Able - Earrings, JGrrey’s own
Look 3: Jacket, Avirex at Sekkle Vintage - Top, Peachy Den - Trousers, Vintage Prada at Sekkle Vintage - Shoes, Nike - Sunglasses, Gigi Studios - Necklaces, Image Gang and Seol + Gold - Earrings, Seol + Gold - Rings, Image Gang

“People sometimes ask me ‘why did you say It’s a beautiful day to die in your songs? To which I respond, ‘Because it’s true.’ My music resonates with me and when someone comes up to me to say they love a song – it means more.”

Lambeth – home to many diverse communities. Born into what’s now considered a cultural and historic hub of South London, do you feel as if your surroundings shaped the person, you are today?

Yeah, 100%. I think when you are brought into the world around many other people from different places with different backgrounds and different goals, it can obviously inspire you in many different ways. As a child, you may not directly notice it, but I think it has definitely made me who I am today.

Speaking of your developmental years, do you remember your first introduction to music? 

No actually, I don’t. I remember the time I started appreciating music and started hearing music differently and I was potentially dissecting and learning more about music – I remember then, maybe 13 years old; I think it was something so simple like a Beyonce vocal run. I was like: “Wait, hold up? How is she doing this?” I remember taking notice but not the exact time I first heard music or a song.

Speaking of appreciating it, that past experience must have created some sort of depth for the music that you make now, right?  

Yes, definitely. It goes back to the first question you asked me. Subconsciously, you may not be making an active effort to notice these things but everything I listened to or did dissect has definitely inspired me today.

A close up of JGRREY walking in front of some terraced houses

Look 4: Jacket, Billionaire Boys Club

"Subconsciously, you may not be making an active effort to notice these things but everything I listened to or did dissect has definitely inspired me today"

Was music always an end goal for you or was it a case of whittling down opportunities to get there?

I had no intention of making music. Even today, as we sit down and have this interview, we never really know, no one really knows, what their final destination is going to be. Everyone likes to think that they have a plan and plan towards something, but I’ve never really known what I’m doing or what I am going to do. Music, I always say, happens to me. I didn’t search for it, it searched for me. I’m very thankful for that.

So, we all know London is a bustling melting pot, particularly for artists. Looking at London from a broad perspective and/or from the position you now find yourself in, what does the creative scene look like today? 

This past year has been a testament to the industry’s functionality. Amidst a global pandemic and a time where most creatives have felt constrained, have you managed to find a balance in creating art and keeping sane?

I think for me, personally, ever since the pandemic started, the phrases “No one knows what’s going on, no one knows what’s happening.” is were thrown about but I do believe that it’s because we convinced ourselves we had any grasp on what was happening previous to covid. Initially, when it first happened, I was very similar to everyone else whereas now, I’m like: “Oh honey, we didn’t know what was going on anyway…”

In my personal life, I’ve gone through a lot of changes and that has inspired creativity – but not off the back of the pandemic or anything. I think I’ve just tried to find calm in the chaos, and it seems to be working for me.

Oh, stunning, beautiful, inclusive, diverse and ever-growing.

I think we live in a society where we are having discussions about the right topics and we are willing to learn and educate ourselves as creatives, even though it isn’t our main duty. For instance, Lil Nas’ new music video? Yes, please! On a plate. Especially in London, the creative scene is just ever-growing and we’re definitely taking a step in the right direction. I’m happy and proud to be a part of that.

JGRREY wearing a black and white styled outfit A close up of JGRREY wearing patterned gloves and a fur hat

Look 5: Top, IHS - Trousers, IHS - Shoes, Crocs - Sunglasses, Bonnie Clyde - Necklace, Serge DeNimes - Earrings, Seol + Gold
Look 6: Top, NiiHai - Gloves, NiiHai - Hat, Emma Brewin - Necklace, Serge DeNimes - Earrings, Seol + Gold

"Music, I always say, happens to me. I didn’t search for it, it searched for me. I’m very thankful for that"

As you said, well-needed conversations are now happening, perhaps those of which wouldn’t have happened without the pandemic and I feel as if social media plays a huge role in that. It’s ascended into heights perhaps none of us could have expected. From the rise of Tik Tok to the developments of Instagram – would you say things are easier for an up-and-coming artist due to this new wave?

I think anybody can go viral. You can be an up-and-coming artist, you could be a parody artist, you could be someone who’s merely a meme, in that light, anyone can make it big these days. If you’re genuinely precious and take your music personally, it can have the flip side effect because you don’t want to be making it for Instagram, you don’t want to be making it for Tik Tok or social media, you want to make music because of the art. Something I particularly struggle with is I don’t care about social media, but I live for my art. It’s a paradox.

With that being said, looking back, was your experience getting into music different to what we’re experiencing now with social media and virality? 

Yes, definitely. Around the same time, I was appreciating music, it was the years of Kate Nash, Adele, Beyonce, Lady Gaga. All of these artists who were like Gods, were untouchable and in a league of their own. It was an unimaginable pedal stool that they were on and creating music was such an unimaginable thing to the common human. Whereas now, you can just download an app and you’ve done it. When I was younger, [music] was this dipped-in-gold-procedure whereas now it’s more throwaway. I still feel as precious about my music and process, but it isn’t what I imagined it to be.

To someone who yearns to be in the same position as you – what advice can you give to them?  

I suppose if we’re taking that literally, it would be stay true to your art and care about your art – don’t feel like you have to mould yourself to something that you’re not. I always describe my music as therapy – I need it. So, if you’re trying to be in the same position as me, always appreciate the magic behind the music but also the medicinal side of music – it’s a two-way relationship.

Describe your creative and sonic process. Talk us through some of the key elements of creating a JGrrey single. 

It’s interesting. I was talking about making an album quite a lot at the start of the year, it was something I was trying to put out to the universe, and I did that. I think the first process is to go through it, live some stuff. As I mentioned before, I’ve gone through a lot of change recently. Though I haven’t been in the studio for quite a while now, I turned to my friend and said: “I think I’m making an album.” I went through a lot, felt stressed, I had a lot of things to complain about and I had a lot of things to be happy about. That’s when I knew I was in a good place to make an album. With regards to the writing process, a lot of my lyrics are brutally dry and honest, but it resonates with me.

Your last EP explored a more diverse, artistic palette. When creating a project, what are the main goals you wish to obtain? Do they change each time?

Yes, definitely. As a human, things are always changing. It’s impossible to create the same sound with every project. My main goal I wish to obtain is to always push myself and always experiment.

JGRREY sitting at a bus stop on a red bench

Look 6: Jacket, Avirex at Sekkle Vintage - Top, Peachy Den - Trousers, Vintage Prada at Sekkle Vintage - Shoes, Nike - Sunglasses, Gigi Studios - Necklaces, Image Gang and Seol + Gold - Earrings, Seol + Gold - Rings, Image Gang

"Stay true to your art and care about your art – don’t feel like you have to mould yourself to something that you’re not. I always describe my music as therapy – I need it."

Is there anyone you wish, wish, wish to work with? 

Andre 3000. I’ve said that in every single interview so hopefully one day he’ll read an interview of mine.

Has there been a defining moment of your career thus far? 

There’s been a few. I toured with Billie, I played Glastonbury. Stormzy came up to me and was like: “I know you, you’re JGRREY”. I was sampled on a Madlib track (for someone who is a massive MF Doom fan) and featured in Vogue.

Let’s talk Billie Eilish, perhaps one of the biggest pop sensations of our generations. I also watched the YouTube clip you had posted after the tour. What was touring like with her? How did that come about?

She literally just sent me a dm, she followed me on Instagram, and we share the same booking agency. A couple weeks later, my manager told me I was going on tour with Billie. She’s such a sweetheart.

Do you believe in the law of attraction and the art of manifestation? 

100%. This is something new so it’s really interesting that you asked me this question. I do believe in it.

JGRREY turning around to look behind her in a light room with brick walls A close up of JGRREY with her hands up in front, and to the side, of her face

Look 7: Top, Eleanor Butler-Jones - Trousers, Stussy - Shoes, Nike - Hat, Emma Brewin - Necklace, Chained&Able - Earrings, JGrrey’s own
Look 8: Top, True Vintage - Trousers, Braindead - Shoes, Clarks - Hat, Vamos - Necklaces, Image Gang - Earrings, JGrrey’s own - Rings, Goodie Bag

What are your 2021 goals? (Musically? Spiritually? Physically? Mentally?)

Musically, I want to release some of the best music I’ve ever made. Spiritually, I want to touch base with myself. Physically, hunny – I need to drink less and work out more. Don’t we all? Mentally, I’m really busy at the moment which is great but I’m finding it hard to balance being in a good mental state and not let work interfere with that.

With so much time on our hands, it’s difficult to implement boundaries. In fact, I just read a quote recently that said: “Don’t be busy, be productive…” 

That’s exactly it. Boundary. 100%. So true.

If there’s one message you want to portray to your listeners, what would it be?  

Right now, ‘find calm in chaos and don’t worry’ – no one knows what’s going on. Stay with it.

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to me today. 

Thank you love, it’s been enjoyable.

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