Photo Credit: Samo
When it comes to Jesse Royal, tradition is something rooted deep within his Jamaican soul. From the music he creates to the stories he tells to the partnerships that keep his ancestors at the forefront of his present-day – it’s all what makes him who he is. We talked with Jesse Royal about all of that and then some below, including his sophomore release, ‘Royal,’ which drops June 11th.
Kendra: When we look at an artist’s catalog, each album serves as a snapshot of who they were when each was released. With that, how does who you were when ‘Lily of Da Valley’ was released compare to who you are now as we get closer to ‘Royal’ dropping?
Jesse Royal: For me ‘Lily of Da Valley’ was the caterpillar stage. It was a very experimental stage, ya know? We were sure but still unsure, secure but still insecure. Creating from that place, it was a lovely place to create from and it spawned some beautiful sounds.
‘Royal’ was definitely a more confident place that we created from that was a more vulnerable state; a more trusting place. Which is why we’re still experimental, but more in terms of sounds, ideas of songs, concepts, being a bit more trusting, and trying to put that in a way that’s palatable as well as easily communicable and understandable.
Kendra: You’ve gotten to work with some of the most talented artists since getting into music, and that has to speak to your character because not every artist can get along well enough with others to have such impressive collaborations under their belt. Whether it’s Damian Marley or Vybz Kartel on your latest single, “Rich Forever,” how do you find a balance between wanting the song to be what you expected it to be – and allowing others to bring their own flavor?
Jesse Royal: Yeah, much respect for that. It’s definitely an honorable space to occupy, and you get the trust of your peers. You also get respect from them in a way. These are all individuals that I admire, look up to, and learn from; and they inspire me.
I’m someone who believes in the power of collaboration and uniting audiences and voices, so for me when we link up it’s school for me in terms of just learning. I’m already who I am and already bring what I bring to the table, but we learn from our brothers and our sisters. Time and time again and they prove to me the reason why they are rated among the greatest of the great.
Kendra: Speaking of “Rich Forever,” you noted that you wanted this track to start a conversation about restoring royalty and reclaiming dignity. Was the inspiration behind this a culmination of things, or was there one event in particular that influenced this track?
Jesse Royal: “Rich Forever” spawned from a culmination of events. I realized that the tone of the conversation continued to be that we’re struggling, that we’re enslaved, that we are bound to suffer. So we deliberately took the conversation beyond the middle passage. I don’t know why people identify our story with the shortest part of it. The hundreds and thousands of years, the glory that was attached to our story cannot be denied so when people deliberately will try to size down a legacy and have generations of youths growing up and identifying with slavery as the biggest part of their stories, I feel attacked. I have to remind the youth where we’re forwarding from and remind them there’s a legacy that belonged to them.
Kendra: Does the rest of ‘Royal’ sort of fall in line thematically with “Rich Forever?”
Jesse Royal: The rest of this project does fall in line with the whole idea of restoring dignity as well as just renewing ourselves so the “Rich Forever” concept will ride true even though it’s just one song. It’s really ownership of who we are from this project.
Kendra: Lastly, it’s getting a little easier with the vaccine rollouts, but it’s still kind of hard to have a definite answer when it comes to future plans given the current state of everything, but as far as what you can control when it comes to your career and creativity – what do you have planned in the coming months for yourself in terms of touring, and also that new partnership with Jacana?
Jesse Royal: Yeah, we’ll definitely be hitting the road. We need to get in people’s faces and be able to look them in the eye and touch their hearts. The album is out on June 11th, and we are doing a live presentation of a lot of the songs on the album on June 12th in Miami at Wynwood. After that, we already have a couple of dates in July on 8th, 9th, and 10th. We’re doing the Telluride Festival also. We have a couple more dates that are in the pipeline that aren’t locked in yet but we’re definitely excited to get back on the road and share this music with the fans who make us who we are.
And the new partnership with Jacana is just ensuring that we respect all the work that our elders did before us for this plant. They fought tooth and nail for this plant for us to live in a time where we are the realization of a lot of ideas that are presented decades ago. So for me, it is just literally playing my part in this whole bigger structure that requires the consciousness of a rastaman to determine the direction to ensure that the community is still a part of the thought process of all of this. Jacana is one of the finest organizations I’ve ever worked with. Some of the cleanest herbs; people who share the same love for herb as me.