In this week's instalment of FOCUS Nottingham, Matt Andrews speaks with Jerub, one of the most scintillating voices in gospel and soul, on his sonic development, lockdown evolution and the deeper sense of purpose found within the achingly candid music he creates for the world.
Instantly recognisable in his soaring vocals and huge, untamed choruses, Jerub is one of the most important artists currently doing laps of the Nottingham music scene. The consistently emotional response he provokes in his listeners is one of unmatched intensity and individuality. Often carried by a taste for bass heavy instrumentation, Jerub’s music is rooted in a variety of different genres – gospel and soul being of particular prominence. Since exploding onto the scene with his 2019 single, Paint Me in Gold – a widely revered debut which has since been streamed upwards of eighty-thousand times – Jerub has found himself under the spotlight of a range of different musical bodies, some local (Nusic, Splendour, Leftlion) and others hailing from further afield (BBC Introducing and Licata Records). This might just be one of Nottingham’s finest.
Having only been performing since 2019, the majority of Jerub’s musical anecdotes find themselves unfolding in Nottingham’s city centre. With ideas of empathy and vulnerability circulating, one feels particularly inclined to cite the following: “my first ever gig was for Sofar Sounds, and someone came up to me after in tears, saying that it really touched them. For me that’s a win. That’s the reason I came here. There’s no better feeling than when you’re singing and someone’s crying in front of you, sad as that sounds.” Even with only a handful of local performances, Jerub’s music, and indeed his captivating stage presence, has proved enough for his formal integration into the local scene, as established by his lockdown-enduring performance on the FeeltheNusic-comandeered Nottingham City Council balcony stage.
‘It is as though, in participating in the composing and delivering of music, he embarks on a sort of emotional pilgrimage – and this pilgrimage is not alone, but with his listeners at his side.’
Jerub also paid tribute to the local scene itself, something which he described as having “such a rich musical heritage. Even its locations, the festivals, the different spots and venues, the different artists that have come from here. At the very start, going to open mic nights and meeting other local musicians and getting recognition from them really helped me and gave me a lot of confidence. I’ve been able to collaborate with a bunch of them, be friends with a bunch of them. It’s an amazing community of creative and musically gifted people.”
Speaking with Jerub, it quickly becomes clear how important music is to him. He speaks of music as a calling – “You only have so much time. You should use it to do what you’re supposed to do,” he says. This idea of music being what he is ‘supposed’ to do is one of particular interest. With a background in choir and the various religious proceedings associated with that, Jerub seems to carry a sense of service in his music. It is as though, in participating in the composing and delivering of music, he embarks on a sort of emotional pilgrimage – and this pilgrimage is not alone, but with his listeners at his side.
Much of his music in itself appears to be a packaged version of such a journey: often speaking through a universally introspective lens, he seeks community and solace through sound – “priority number one is to connect with people’s hearts.” The majority of Jerub’s music is therefore supported by an undeniable vulnerability, something in which his listeners are able to find a sympathetic common ground. In the singer-songwriter’s own words, “empathy is free,” and he encourages his listeners to find it, or, more precisely, use his music to help them look.
As previously mentioned, Jerub’s initial involvement with music saw a significant exposure to Gospel, which soon grew into a love of Soul and then into an admiration for singer-songwriters, particularly John Mayer, Ed Sheeran and even Hip-Hop artists such as Kanye West. In the same way that one’s musical taste evolves naturally and perpetually, Jerub interprets his own growth in creating music as something that is most honest when passive. More recently he has found himself looking backwards and, more precisely, towards his Nigerian roots – “Burna Boy is someone I’ve really been getting into recently. That’s probably why I’ve been producing very Afrobeat sounding music.”
It is clear therefore, as with many musicians, that lockdown has seen a more sensitive and self-aware Jerub, and one who is more ambitious than ever both in terms of his local musical prominence and the development of his own sound.
Written by: Matthew Andrews
Edited by: Louise Dugan