Her second album ‘Falling Or Flying’ will be released on September 29.
Dive into Jorja Smith’s world through an exclusive interview with Jules Boyle. With her second album ‘Falling Or Flying’ releasing soon, Jorja discusses her return home, creative growth, collaboration process, and more.
After spending years living in London, you’ve moved back to Walsall now. How did that come about and how much did making Falling Or Flying there inform that decision?
I started going back down to Walsall before I began working on the album, then when I finished it I realised how much I actually missed being home and how much I needed it. I’m definitely a small-town girl and a Walsall girl in particular. I think I was just too overstimulated and too overwhelmed by London, so it’s nice to be able to just see the sky and some trees now. I feel a lot more like myself and that I have a life here. In London it’s just too much. It was the album that brought me home though, as it was mostly produced by my friends DamDam, who are a duo from back there. I linked up with them originally when they had a studio in Birmingham, then they moved to London so we worked there too, but all roads led back to Walsall!
The album feels like a real progression from your debut, with a tangible confidence coming through, in that you are being very open about yourself, your vulnerability and who you are as a person. Is that a confidence that comes with age?
Yes! Lost And Found was me around 16-20, while this new one is me at 24-26, so I’ve stepped into womanhood, I’m a lot more sure of myself and I’ve got more things to say, with less observations and more actual lived-in experiences. I’m still in the early stages of womanhood to be fair, but I’m definitely more confident in who I am now. I’ve always loved experimenting with different sounds and ideas, so I’m even more up for doing that kind of thing now, put it that way.
What was the process of making the album like?
It was really sick making it with these women I know and love. We just laugh, eat food, chat shit, laugh some more, sing, jam, talk about what we want to write about and then put it all in the songs. This was the first time I made an album after already making one before, so I had learned so much already, but there’s now so much more I’ve learned that I will definitely be taking on to my third album whenever that is. It was really great though, just being able to be spontaneous and jamming when it felt right to do so. I already had some songs I’d done with PTJ, so when I played them to DameDame, we kept them aside as we had a tracklist that really stayed the same almost all the way through it. Honestly, it’s not that it made itself, but it really felt that everything was meant to be in how it was put together. Saying that, what I would do differently next time is be even more spontaneous! As when I finished the album, I think I could have done with a bit more time to improvise, experiment and jam, as well as just experience a bit more. Next time, I won’t let deadlines impose themselves as much.
The record feels like a real statement of who you are, was that intentional?
I never have an agenda when I’m making tunes, I just like singing and jamming. There’s no concept or themes, but I guess there’s a lot of self-realisation as every song ends with a full stop, like very abruptly and just like *that*, which wasn’t planned either, so it’s all very definitive and very much where I am right now. So without it being a deliberate statement, it is.
Falling Or Flying is a great title, what does it mean to you? Is it where you were, where you are or both?
That’s how I felt both in my career and in my life, I literally didn’t know if I was falling or flying. They’re both completely the opposite, but also so similar for me, in that I didn’t know if I was doing good or bad. It’s also a reference to me and my personality, as anyone who knows me knows I have no middle ground. No half-measures!
You’ve been in the public eye since you were a teenager. What’s it being like having to grow up in public like that?
I’ve realized in recent years that I was so naïve and so confident in the beginning. I’m still super-confident on stage now, but when it comes to other things like interviews and photoshoots, I feel a bit less now, which I think comes from always having people’s eyes on me. It’s weird though, as nobody teaches you any of this and there’s no handbook. You Judy have to figure it out yourself as you go along. I’ve been lucky that I’ve met some good people who’ve been there before and been able to get some good advice, but at the end of the day, you just need to work it all out for yourself. I feel like I’m still not finished growing up, to be honest. I’m only 26!
Lots of young artists have spoken out about the pressure to be constantly posting on social media these days, is that something you’ve experienced?
I’m fortunate as work that I’m not on a major label where there’s a lot of pressure to perform on social media every day, too. I have a funny relationship with social media, actually. Again, it’s all or nothing with me, as sometimes I’m all over it and happy to be posting things, then some days I just cannot be assed with it and won’t go anywhere near it, even if I should be doing something!
You have some launch shows for the album coming up, you must be excited to get back out there in front of people? Speaking of which, are there any plans for a full tour?
I love playing shows the most, because then I can see what my songs are doing, if people are singing along, if they’re smiling or crying and just how they are enjoying themselves. That’s when I know I’m not falling, I’m flying! I absolutely cannot wait to tour. I don’t have dates yet, but they’re coming I promise you. I’ve never been more excited to get onstage and let people hear what I’ve been working so hard on these last few years.
I love being in the studio so much, but I love being on the road and playing in front of people just as much, so I honestly can’t wait to get back out there.
You’ve worked with so many artists, from Drake and Calvin Harris to Stormzy and Loyle Carner. What do you look for in a collaboration?
It’s all about the vibe, really. I like working with people in real life, as you can get the energy and see if we bounce off each other, plus you can tell easier if it’s not going to work. So what I look for is good energy, as if you have that, you know you’re going to get on with someone and get something good out of it. There’s so many people I’d love to work with, I’m always scared to say then out loud in case I jinx it! But Frank Ocean, 100% Frank Ocean. I absolutely love him.
As to the future, do you think much about it and plan well ahead, or do you take things as they come more?
As much as I like plan things I’m very much never looking too far ahead, like I’m definitely not thinking about five or ten years in the future. I’m very much about being in the moment, seeing what happens and hoping for the best!
Jorja Smith Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:
Thursday 28th September – Pryzm, Kingston (with Banquet)
Saturday 30th September – Level, Nottingham (with Rough Trade)
Wednesday 4th October – Outernet, London (with Rough Trade)
Monday 9th October – SWX, Bristol (with Rough Trade)
Buy Jorja Smith tickets at jorjasmith.com