Jermaine Riley is a veteran in the UK R&B scene. First breaking into the mainstream with mid 2000s group FDM 03, since then he has branched out into various music projects, graphic design and other creative ventures. His latest project Family is making waves on the socials. We caught up with him for a quick chat.
Tell us about your latest project Family?
Well, the song came about when I heard a remix of Jay Z’s “Family Feud” produced by Gifted, who I follow on social media and has a track on my forthcoming album. I loved in instantly and let him know I was going to write a song over it and put it out. The song basically talks about starting a family and is kind of a straight up marriage proposal. Thankfully, it seems to be resonating with a lot of listeners and I think it’s a great warm up for the album that’ll come next year.
You go quite a way back – tell us how you got started in music?
Sheesh! I’ll try my best to summarise, haha! I entered the industry, age 18, as 1/3 of Fun*dmental – we won UK Unsigned, did like, a billion gigs all over the UK, got a deal with an independent label and put out a song I wrote called “Jump”, with a video on MTV. Things immediately took off from there. We were everywhere! We followed up with “Playground” and that song just took everything over the edge, consequently getting us nominated for a MOBO award and allowing us to get signed by Geffen/Interscope in the US in 2007.
What was it like getting your first major label deal?
When any artist who’s been working as hard as we were, gets a deal of any kind it feels like you’ve made it. Obviously, experience has taught me that getting the deal is the easy part. What happens after you sign on the dotted line is what’s truly important. But at the time, of course, it was definitely the best reward we could have gotten for everything we had done up until that point and allowed us to travel to America and connect with our fans out there.
What are the benefits of being signed and being independent?
The benefits of being signed are people immediately taking you way more seriously than when you didn’t have a deal, you having money and the backing to execute some of your ideas, and getting to work with some of the best, most established people in the music industry. The benefits of being independent are having the freedom to do and say any and everything you want, working at your own pace and receiving a much larger chunk of the rewards when things inevitably pay off.
How do you think the UK R&B Scene has evolved since you started?
I think we’re ready to embrace more of the talent we have here. There are a few more platforms and blogs that showcase R&B. But to be honest, when we started, I had my eyes on America so much so that I’m not too sure what was really poppin’ UK R&B-wise other than The Lick with Trevor Nelson and Myspace back in 2004.
What 3 top pieces advice would you give to any up and coming singers?
Make sure whatever you’re doing is true to you, so you don’t build an image and sound you can’t sustain. Teach yourself to do as much as you can, so you don’t have to pay or rely on too many people to bring your vision to life. If entering a contractual situation, ask as many questions as you want or need to, even if they seem stupid or may make things awkward, so everyone knows where they stand and nothing catches you off guard later on down the line.
Should R&B singers write and produce as well – and why?
Any artist should do as much as possible to erase the possibility of relying on anyone else. If I could produce as well as everything else I do, I’d be the one of the most self-sufficient artists in the world. Maybe one day.
Do you think R&B singers in the UK are being overlooked
Definitely. But that’s our fault. The lack of a scene is down to us. We don’t work together. Everyone’s got an ego and hasn’t grasped that we’ll be much more powerful once we start supporting each other without fear of our own light being blown out. I try my best, but it’s rarely reciprocated. But I haven’t lost hope.
What top 3 UK artists are you feeling right now and why?
Daley – vocals, writing, presentation and artwork for his projects are always at a high standard. Tiana Major9 – her vocals, refreshing vibe and creativity. And either Cherri V or Mark Asari – vocals and musical consistency, both are super talented and underrated.
Can you tell us anything about future projects we need to look out for?
I might drop another song or two on soundcloud before the album next year, but the album is definitely my main focus. I’ve been busy fine tuning it, making sure I give my supporters what they’ve been waiting for since my first album. I promise, it’ll be another R&B movie. It’ll epitomise who ‘Jermaine Riley’ is.
Where can people go for more Jermaine Riley?
Check out his latest track “Family”