Interview: London's J Elle Talks About Future RnB, the Influence of Grime and Her New EP "Phases"

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Our latest exclusive interview is with London based Future RnB singer J Elle. She just dropped a new EP entitled "Phases" so it's only right that we touch base with her about the project, find out how she was introduced to RnB and much more. 

After reading our Q&A with this talented artist on the come up in 2018, be sure to stream/download the "Phases" EP and follow her on Twitter and IG to stay up to date on all things "J Elle". 

What RnB did you grow up on and how were you introduced to it?

I grew up on 90s/00’s RnB, Boyz || Men, Aaliyah, Usher, TLC, Brandy, Destiny’s Child, Fugees, Envogue, 3LW, and that’s just a &few. I have an older brother, who was always super musical growing up, I looked up to him (I still do) so I’d copy everything he listened to. He’s a massive Usher fan, so that’s really how my love for RnB developed. I used to sing out of my brother’s bedroom window with this microphone we had, hoping someone would walk past my house and sign me.

You describe your genre as future-leaning RnB/Alt Pop. We’re hearing this term “future” being thrown around a lot, that past couple of years. Can you define it on your terms?

I think RnB has changed over the last 20 years and artists like myself who have grown up listening to almost nothing but RnB have been able to use the core foundations of the RnB we love, whether that be the harmonies, certain melodies, song structure, chord progressions, but also incorporate more recent musical inspirations. For me, that’s drawing from trap with skippy verse writing, and drawing from grime with slang.

Who would be your dream collaboration in the RnB world, dead or alive?

Kehlani has been such a huge inspiration writing wise in the last 3/4 years for me, so I would love to pen a song together, if I could get her to vocal on the track too that would just be a bonus. Rihanna’s one of my biggest idols. Her growth as a recording artist and performer is something that inspires me more than anything. 

How do you find that two worlds like RnB and Grime, which appear to be so different, intersect in your music, and what’s the importance of that?

I think it’s important to be influenced by your surroundings. I’m a born and bred London girl. The Grime scene is massive at the moment and a really inspiring place to draw from. I was so heavily influenced by American music for the majority of my life, i’m finding real importance in the UK scene and how that influences my writing, the slang I’m using, the type of beats I want to write to.

So in the growing world of future RnB, why have you chosen to remain unsigned?

I just feel like at this stage in my career, it’s not a necessity yet. I can put my music out myself, and grow something organically before a label pumps capital in, that’s usually how they do things now anyway. I love the freedom I have as an unsigned artist. The team I’ve built around me, of writers, producers and management is so special to me. They helped me through some real tough times throughout the last year, so I’m happy with how things are growing and I just want to see everyone eat at the end of the day.

You claim to have two sides of your personality - the so called “bad bitch” juxtaposed with the “broken girl”. That seems so 2018. How dos that inspire your lyrics, and is it just a performing alter ego, or does it speak to you personally?

It’s pretty personal. I’m a Scorpio, I’m fiery. If you spoke to any of my friends, they would tell you, I’m super unapologetic about my opinions and stand up for what I think is right, always. But I’m also extremely sensitive. I think it’s important to be connected with how you feel. Mental health is a massive focal point for me. I’ve got lots of songs written around the subject and would love to share them soon. I love hard and I hurt hard too. But don’t get it wrong - I’m strong, persistent and have massive faith. 

What’s the relationship between heartbreak, and your music? Is part of the healing process always getting in the studio, and if so can you describe that? 

100%. I feel like music is my therapy, whether that’s heartbreak in love, broken down friendships or general life battles. If I go through something that hurts me, I’m very much the type to instantly want to write about it. I need to get things off my chest so I don’t dwell on negative things, so writing is without a doubt a healing process for me. I feel like I can sing about things much better than I can talk about them.

“Phases” seems more directly RnB and a bit softer than “I Lied” which has an underlying trap energy. Would you say that’s the “broken girl” vs. the “bad bitch”, or is there another reason for that stylistic change?

Yeah, I think you’re right. “Phases” is definitely softer and more conventional RnB. “I Lied” is harsher. This is what I’m talking about when explaining the different sides to me, and probably a lot of other girls and boys out there. It was definitely a conscience decision to have both tracks on the same EP. I wanted to have the contrast there. This was my first ever EP. I waited 7 long years to put out my first project, so I wanted to show more of an eclectic range of songs I’ve written.

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