Written by Hatti Whitman
Photos and illustrations by Jhameel
13 Monday 13th February 2012

I started off writing my own music. I’d like to think it’s been kind of a language I’ve been speaking for a long time now, since I was about six. Then I did the covers to supplement that and bring in fans to listen to my original music.

Well if music is a language it’s one that you must speak pretty well, given that you play…how many instruments?

I play an instrument in every category of music, like brass, string, that kind of stuff. So if you play trumpet you can play baritone, if you play violin you can play cello; you know. I’ve yet to come across an instrument that I can’t play.

OK, wow. You put those skills to use by recording all the instrumental parts for your singles right? How long does it typically take you to record one song?

Writing a song from scratch will normally take me about two hours, and then recording it will take an entire day for the rough draft, two or three days to get the song ready to go.

Right, so that’s a pretty quick turnaround. Are you still ‘bedroom recording’ or do you tend to use a studio more now?

Well I have my own studio but I’ve been doing some outside studio work sometimes; it’s a different process that gets different results. I like working in a studio, having an engineer - I feel a little more energetic in that kind of environment. Working on my own is good too because then I get more creative freedom!

So, what do you think of the idea of being a ‘YouTube star’? Are you comfortable being described that way?

Um, I think it’s interesting when people say that because I look at YouTube as a tool, it’s one branch of what I bring out with my music. I don’t mind though, people can call me what they want.

That’s lucky, I guess! But you’re really a lot more than a musician right? I mean, you have quite an interesting backstory…

Yeah, I was in the RTC programme [where the US military sponsors you through college in return for four year’s service] but I didn’t end up going through with it. I did a year, went to training at Fort Knox, and there I learned a lot about how the military works and just felt it was really archaic. I couldn’t go through with something like that.

Your image doesn’t fit that military mould; did you develop it having decided to become a musician or is it how you’ve always styled yourself?

I guess the reason why my image is like this is because I’m always trying to create balance out of asymmetry, with face paint, accessories, my hair.

Has that image been inspired by anyone in particular?

It’s definitely inspired by David Bowie, a little bit of Michael Jackson, some Prince, but it’s mostly just a little OCD thing of mine.

So if they’ve inspired your image what would you say have been the key influences for your music?

It’s hard to say because it changes all the time! For the dancier stuff Prince is a big influence; for the layers of instruments people like Sufjan Stevens, and then lyrically Death Cab for Cutie, big influence.

That’s quite an eclectic blend, do you find it quite easy to combine those influences?

Yeah it happens quite naturally, it’s the music I like, the music I listen to, so I’m just trying to put my own spin on it.

Cool; do you take a lot of inspiration from your own life?

The initial ideas are always from my life, and then sometimes I put other stories on it, create a fantasy around my own emotions.

So what sort of thing do you listen to on your downtime?

I like what Neon Indian’s getting up to nowadays. It’s also a guilty pleasure but I really like Drake’s new album, it’s just really honest.

Drawing on that idea of honesty in Drake’s music, is that something you’re striving for in your own music?

Yeah, definitely with my new project. It’s going to be a little different from what I’ve done before; I want to put my own spin on hip-hop, like the song ‘White Lie’ on my last album did. I’m also trying to do a bit of an R’n’B, chillwave style thing. It’s a little cheesy at the moment but I’m trying to make it not cheesy!

Is it a bit more of an ambitious project?

In some ways yes, in others no. The most ambitious thing I’ve ever done was my first album, which was more experimental, less poppy. That first album took two years, whereas my second took four months and this third series took two months.

Will we see you over in the UK soon?

After the summer I’m thinking I'll definitely head to Europe and maybe Asia and South America too. My dream place to travel to would be South America but musically the UK has a really strong community and it’s been an aim of mine for some time. I lived in London when I was a baby, my dad was a violinist there.

Great, so we can lay claim to you!

[Laughs] maybe, but I was very young.

Hopefully Jhameel will make his triumphant return to the UK soon. Until then check out his website for more information.

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