5.15am: N8 Bus from Liverpool Street to Stratford.6am: In bed.
9am: Woke up and switched on PC. Searched Gumtree for a new phone. (I’d lost mine a few hours earlier at UKFs BassCulture gig – because I’m a bit ditzy like that.)
10am: Found a dude selling the Samsung Galaxy S2.
12pm: Went to the T-Mobile Store and bought a new replacement SIM.
1pm: Met the dude in Mile End. Parted with my dosh for a brand spanking new phone.
3pm: Time to press pause. Hanging out with the Set Off Team at Crossharbour overlooking the Thames. (May have started drinking again too)
A manic Saturday morning but it was followed by one of the most memorable conversations I have had to date. Even though I like meeting new people, I’m usually known for ‘observing’ before I get involved but for some reason meeting Jermaine Riley felt like a mini-reunion with an old friend from school. When was the last time you reminisced about the adventures of Super Ted and his good mate Spotty? I’m still wondering if anyone out there knows Super Ted’s secret magic word that activated his powers.
Talking about the early days, Jermaine reminded me that he was very lucky in school to be the ‘popular’ kid that everyone got along with. He grew up with many aspirations from wanting to sing and dance, to being an artist and also an acrobat (work in progress I think). Apart from Spiderman and Super Ted being his childhood heroes, he also looked up to musical legends, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, who were at the peak of their career as he was growing up. Like every child, he spent his time mastering the moonwalk and even went as far as imitating MJ moves in Church on a Sunday morning when he went with his Gran. It is certainly refreshing to hear an artist, openly share their love for God without worrying about how others could possibly perceive it. Just so you know his thrusting moves didn’t go down well with his Gran, it all ended badly when he got home and received the ‘spanking of his life!’ We’ve all been there!
(For those who are still working on their moonwalk, here’s a handy tip from Jermaine, ‘add pressure and pull at the same time.’ He found my version of it quite offensive but I won’t give up. I will master it one day.)
It’s quite possible that Jermaine is the hardest working artist I know. Better yet, the most resilient. He was formerly part of an R&B boy band, FDM, who had sprung into the charts back in 2005 and had earned a MOBO nomination. A year earlier, Jermaine tells Set Off, he ‘was still at home, in his dressing gown, waking up at 2pm in the afternoon after rehearsing till late’. His Dad who was unaware of all the late night rehearsals had told Jermaine he wouldn’t make it. (I still believe that was his way of showing tough love.) Fortunately for us, this drove Jermaine to work even harder to pursue his dream. Through the years, his Mum has been his ‘backbone’ and has showed constant faith even when times felt less hopeful. Mrs Riley – We Salute You!
Who remembers FDM? They had rocked the colour co-ordinated style using the primary colours, long before JLS were even formed. I am still amazed that a homegrown British boy band had a career that spanned 10 years, yet never released an album but still achieved incredible milestones that other groups have only dreamt of. Jermaine confessed that the reason for his departure from the group was because he believed it was necessary for the group to sever ties with old business contacts to continue. Despite being on the same page, on stage and artistically, the trio were unable to see ‘eye to eye on the business side’, which led to each member going their separate ways.
After years of investment, when the time came for Jermaine’s Listening Party of his recently released album, Hello Earth, he was still reeling from the break up himself. He felt it was inappropriate to ‘invite an ex to your own engagement party’, after not having seen each other in 8 months. Although this decision sat uneasy with him, he thought it was also important to ‘unveil his music, with new energy and good vibes’. Unlike other solo artists who were previously part of a boy band, Jermaine insists that he is not ashamed to be affiliated with his past. In fact, he thinks it acts in his favour due to the hard working reputation FDM carried, and the fact that each member was ‘real’ in the group, has made it an easier transition into becoming a solo artist.
Since the launch of his solo career, Jermaine has released ‘Nine Ten Eleven The Refixes’ and Hello Earth, all of which are available to download for free. Free? Crazy right. Jermaine, with his humbling attitude, explains that he is ‘still finding his feet’ as he is not sure who Jermaine Riley fans are and this is a chance for people to make up their mind with no cost. To the doubting Thomas’s, Hello Earth is not your everyday R&B album, and as Jermaine created this album he was well aware of the stigmas attached to an R&B artist. He was careful to not go down the traditional route of, ‘sex sells’. He chose to do it differently, being a comic geek, he used the ‘Man of Steel” ’ as his hook, believing that if Adele and Jessie J can make music that represents them, rather than selling out to make ‘eurocentric pop songs’, there’s no reason why he can’t either.
Three tracks that Jermaine himself has recommended for a first – time listener includes, Keys to the City, Nobody Else and My Superspective, all of which candidly shows who Jermaine Riley is and what direction his new album is going in. His music is inspired by everyday artists that he listens to and believes great music will naturally be assimilated within his own.
It’s hard to believe that Jermaine has only been a solo artist for 8 months. After having three shows, he gets very nervous getting up onto a stage on his own and is still working out what works in a live show. But he is definitely not like other new solos artists, many of which are too often starry eyed and naive. He is a self assured, candid young man who is comfortable with his vibe and is creating his movement all by himself along with his manager and friend, Faron McKenzie. He is currently not signed to any music label but is not in any rush since he knows all too well how they work. He is biding his time and has already started to work on his new album which will be released next year. Until then, Jermaine continues to graft by being his own graphic designer for his album cover and self – finances his career through the wonders of Visa.
Jermaine is all about the music. He wants to be recognised for being real and honest like Adele and Drake who have both had success for their ‘real’ take on life. Jermaine can never be classified as manufactured, with humble beginnings, he has learnt to write and express his own feelings and is at his best when he is exposed. As he continues to build the soundtrack to our lives, his words are a continuation of him building his true identity, which he continues to reveal to the world, with great anticipation. While he hopes to stand out amongst the UK music for being an innovative and creative R&B artist, he also hopes to be able to team up with the likes of Emeli Sande, who resonates his idea of an ART-ist.
It’s just the beginning for Jermaine Riley. We stand and watch ardently, as Jermaine holds the ‘keys to the city’, ready to shake things up. It’s all really a waiting game now till he permanently plants his ‘ARTistry’ into the UK music scene. We said it first – Stand up for Team Riley!
8pm: Time for a snooze.