I don’t know about you, but “Nashville-based R&B” doesn’t immediately communicate to me exactly what to expect from a musician. Enter: JMR. His particular sound, which has been described as a kind of “haunting futuristic soul,” feels effortless, fluid, and emotional, both downtempo and up-lifting.
JMR dropped his debut EP in 2015 and has since has collaborated with artists of greater and greater acclaim, including a feature on Jai Wolf’s 2016 EP, on the track “Gravity.”
His own Boyish EP features collaborations with Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse, Miguel, Estelle) and Robert Glasper (winner of the 2012 Grammy Award for ‘Best R&B Album’).
You can listen to Boyish here:
We had an opportunity to interview JMR on his future plans and Nashville influences, and the transcript can be read in full below:
How did you get into music? Who’s your biggest influencer?
I grew up in a small town in Florida. I think, with small towns in the South, there are more churches than there are people, and so there was more of an opportunity than anything to play in church or sing in choir. That’s where I inherited a lot of my gospel influence.
There are also a handful of artists from my town that are really great and would encourage me whenever they saw me performing at the local coffee shop. To this day, I rely on them for guidance whenever I’m feeling a little bit lost.
Growing up in that atmosphere was the first big influence for me.
I’m not really sure who my biggest influencer is. Maybe it’s Jeff Buckley, and the way that he could captivate an audience with how emotionally honest he was.
You self-produced this EP. Tell us a little about the process, and how you made the decision to go solo.
I think even in this project’s first releases, the first song, “Pioneer of Your Heart,” I recorded in at least six or seven places.
I recorded at my friend’s house, imported the guitars into my friend’s computer, who I split the cost of pro-tools with. I recorded drums at my other friend’s studio and learned how to sample drums from that. My friends then opened a studio in Orlando, where I compiled everything.
The Boyish EP – I did the same thing. I have so many songs, so many different styles. I would call on my friends to keep me sane, and the three of us just had a good time and ended up deciding to release these songs first.
What’s the story behind it? The inspiration?
At the time I recorded and wrote these songs, it was a while back.
Now, looking at the songs, I feel I’ve changed a lot as a person. As a songwriter and producer, I’ve grown so much. I kind of categorize them as this “boyish, before being a man” stage in my life. They’re an integral part of my story, and I’m very thankful for them.
I think they resemble the younger me, the middle school me, who would call his girlfriend and write her a song to woo her. That interpretation of love is a little too adolescent for me now. I think love can be that way and is that way, but I am no longer in that stage of life. I didn’t want to keep this stage to myself though. That’s where this EP came from.
You’re Nashville based. How would you say this has influenced your progression into R&B?
I think I’ve always sung R&B, even as a child. I loved Anthony Hamilton, Mark Broussard, or Stevie Wonder, and all of Prince. I had really strange music taste growing up, especially for my surroundings.
I’ve always tried to sing from that soulful place. If you strip away the production, or the instrumentation; if it’s just me and a guitar, it’s still going to have the R&B gesture, because I don’t know how to sing without that soulful direction.
Nashville isn’t necessarily an incubator for R&B, but I really appreciate the presence of so many great songwriters. I’m not really attracted to trendy production, great singers, or vocal gymnastics. None of that matters to me.
I love greatly written songs. That’s what I care about. There’s so much of that here. To be surrounded by that is very inspirational. I’m excited to grow here.
What’s your favorite go-to Nashville bar? Crazytown? Tin Roof?
Either Mickeys or 3 Crow. There are no gimmicks just a good staff and a cozy atmosphere for conversation. Plus, they both have weekday specials that come in handy during the swell season that is the NBA Finals.
You were recently featured on Jai Wolf’s “Gravity.” Can we expect more cross-genre collaborations soon? How about on Boyish?
I wrote a song with Maths Time Joy right around the time of the presidential inauguration and stepped into an unfamiliar songwriting playing field. I’m excited for others to hear that. On Boyish, I ended up writing a song with a hero of mine, Robert Glasper. The track is titled “Harbinger,” and steps into the jazz genre a bit. I guess you could say it is the most recently written of these batch of songs and possibly the most heartfelt.
Who are your dream collaborators?
I’d have to say Jonny Greenwood or Jon Brion. I’ve only heard stories of their creative processes, but they sound heavy. Its fun to follow a formula and pop out a song a day, but lately I’ve been craving the tension in the room. The kind of iron sharpens iron with your pride on the line atmosphere.
Can we expect a tour soon?
Currently putting all the various pieces together. Theres a lot of people who’s support I don’t deserve and want to thank them in person.
Anything else you want fans to know?
Again, I want to share a million thank you’s. The last couple years of my life have been a bit trying, and so there is a lot of catching up to do with my music. My vision has never been more clear and I’m happy to even begin to materialize it.
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