“The feeling of being the winner of Amex Gold Unsigned is changing every day or so for me,” a beaming Jazzie Martian tells NME a month on from winning the NME-backed new music initiative. “I’ve started loving and believing more in what I’m doing as I’ve started to actually digest that winning mentality. You start to go, ‘OK, yes, I’m a winner – now I wanna win’.”
The Nottingham artist is clearly basking in, as he puts it, “feeling like a winner” after emerging victorious from a talented shortlist of unsigned UK-based acts, who all performed at a live music showcase in London in the summer. Now working closely with Amex on a forthcoming nationwide advertising campaign for the Gold Card – which will feature Jazzie and his song ‘Future’ front and centre – Jazzie has also received a sync fee, mentoring from music industry professionals and a slot on the Stargazer Stage at Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire (more on that shortly).
Of the multitude of benefits of winning Amex Gold Unsigned, Jazzie adds: “It’s a gift come true. Any artist wanting to get to the next stage of their career, this is definitely something that you would be hoping for. To also have the backing of NME, it’s a beautiful thing for me to see that this is even possible, that people and great companies are willing to look at little old me from Nottingham. It’s crazy.”
It’s truly an exciting time for Jazzie Martian – we caught up with the rising star to hear more about the origins of his “genre-fluid” music career, the story behind his track ‘Future’ and his ambitious plans for his live show.
NME: Congratulations on winning Amex Gold Unsigned, Jazzie! How did the live showcase in London go?
Jazzie Martian: “It was an amazing opportunity. I feel like that really opened me up in terms of what to expect, how much energy to use and how to go forward [as a performer]. I learned a lot by watching some other great artists on the night, though I was happy to just be a part of it. The showcase was actually my first time going on stage [as a performing musician]. I was like, ‘OK Jazzie, we’re about to do three or four of your own songs. Not sure how this is going to go, but we’re going to give it a good go!’ Now we’re here – so I must have done something right!”
You were a professional dancer before you moved into music. How did growing up in Nottingham influence you creatively?
“I always say in my songs that I come from “a blocky estate”, meaning a high-rise [of] blocks and alleyways. Nine times out of 10, your creative sense was brought on because you were fed up [of living there]. I’d say that dance in Nottingham saved me: I feel like I would’ve been a whole other person if I didn’t dance. Dance allowed me to open up, Nottingham allowed me to open up. I then went from dance to music, so my creative juices run very differently from how I see a lot of other musicians’ creative juices run.”
How did your move into music come about?
“I’ve always been into music, but I never wrote music initially. Through dance, though, I learned beats, rhythms and polyrhythms, as well as finding sounds between sounds. When I came over to music, I was already in that creative mindset. My friend then asked me to audition for the 2017 BBC talent show Let It Shine. At that point, I was like, ‘Eh, OK – I don’t really do that stuff’, as I was doing dance battles at big competitions at that time. Before I knew it, though, I jumped in the audition and I was in the finals on TV. I’d never had a singing lesson, but I think my charisma, attitude and willingness took me through. Through that experience, I learned how to hold a note.
“By 2018, I was heading into the studio to see if I could figure out who this dancer dude, who was hearing music through feeling, was and trying to figure out what that all means. I created one of my first songs, ‘Future’, which is the reason why we’re here now. A lot of people don’t know that ‘Future’ was predominantly made from my own voice, meaning that the production was a lot of me harmonising: it’s not a tweak or an effect. When you know how to shapeshift, you shapeshift.”
What more can you tell us about ‘Future’?
“I made ‘Future’ when everybody – including record labels – told me that it was ‘too far ahead’. Now we’re five years on! I have tweaked it by pushing it a few years [further] ahead, because I realised that everybody’s ears are now more tuned to certain sounds. Back in 2018, the sounds that I was using weren’t registering with certain people. Now though, through other genres, we’re getting familiar with certain sounds that I was already putting in one cooking pot and mixing. I’ve tweaked ‘Future’ to give it a bit more of an ‘oomph’ and to be like, ‘OK, [Jazzie’s] here, I hear that bit’. ‘Future’ will be the sound of the future.”
How would you describe your sound?
“I’d always say that I’m genre-fluid. With my music, the beat gravitates towards me: I find that when I make music, no matter what genre it should be in, it still sounds like me. You can tell it’s Jazzie from the moment I use my voice. I’m very aware of what I look like and how I come across, but I’m happy to be someone who could break down a lot of doors and turn a lot of eyes, in the sense that people won’t know that a person like me exists.”
You made your festival debut at Wilderness Festival in August, thanks to Amex Gold Unsigned. How was that experience?
“It was so crazy being able to perform so many of my songs and have such adrenaline running through you at the same time. It will take all your stamina! I loved Wilderness because it really made me understand who I am, where I am and what it feels like to perform songs that people don’t know, but to then watch my whole crowd dance and react as if they knew the songs. When I finished my set, I popped the speakers – they stopped working! People kept coming up to me being like, ‘Bro, you just blew up the stage!’ I’ll never forget that: it felt like one of those signs that told me that I’m made for this.”
How long have you been planning your live show?
“For a while! But the difference between formulating it in your head and doing it in real life is the adrenaline. I’ve been dancing for years, so performing is in me. But dancing and singing together, people think that it’s easy: it’s two different types of stamina working together, you have to be an athlete. One of the biggest lessons I took from Wilderness was to not be fearful of being Jazzie or wanting to dance on stage, or talk and joke with the crowd. These things I’ve been wondering about for years! It’s crazy when the crowd gives you organic and beautiful energy back – you can only give them the best you’ve got in return. I’m now preparing my [full live] show, because that’s what I believe I was born to do. Just know that when Jazzie does a tour, it’s going to be monumental: I can guarantee you that. I don’t plan on doing things in the fashion of where they’re already headed, but I believe we have possibilities to touch Broadway. We’re in the day and age of where one artist can be a plethora: if an artist is genre-fluid as well, imagine what that could sound like? It could be iconic.”
How far can Jazzie Martian go?
“As far as God will allow me. I’m a big spiritual guy, and I always will be. I believe having so much ability is one thing, but it’s being able to manage that ability. How far Jazzie can go depends on how I manage my mentality, how well I keep myself together, how organised I stay, how healthy and fit I can be, and making sure the people around me are the right people. With that there as my foundation, Jazzie can do whatever is available.”
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