Wonderland.

JNR WILLIAMS

The East London soul singer channels Soul Train in Gucci’s Pre-Fall 19 collection.

jnr williams gucci soul train interview

All clothing and accessories GUCCI.

jnr williams gucci soul train interview
All clothing and accessories GUCCI.

Taken from the Summer 2019 issue of Wonderland. Order your copy of the issue now.

JNR Williams has one of those voices that makes you feel every word. Deeply soulful and expressive, he’ll give you goosebumps within the first few seconds of a song and leave you with a lump in the back of your throat, glassy-eyed and claiming it’s just hay fever season by the end.

Each of the five tracks on the Hackney-born singer’s debut EP “Where We Start”, released earlier this year in March, elicits a similar response. Williams decorates his effortlessly powerful vocals with jazzy instrumentation and atmospheric electronic sounds, exploring everything from love and human relationships to masculinity, identity and his innermost thoughts. The cinematic video for lead track “A Prayer” delves deeper into these themes through the medium of dance, using movement to tell the story and accentuate the emotions of a grieving father and son.

Ahead of his headline show at The Camden Assembly on 25 July (tickets here), Williams explains the influence of his hometown, releasing “Where We Start” and why making music is his therapy.

All clothing and accessories GUCCI.

All clothing and accessories GUCCI.

WL: So you were born and bred in East London… How has growing up in the city influenced your sound and direction as an artist?
JW: It’s changed a lot. Hackney looks so different now but there’s still a lot of culture and people from all walks of life, which is what I have always liked about growing up there. It has influenced my music in a big way, just by hearing stories from my friends, family and neighbours.
WL: How would you describe that sound?
JW: It’s always an odd question to answer, as I’m influenced by so many different styles and I like to incorporate them all in my music. I guess if I had to describe my sound, I would say I make soul music with hints of jazz, electronic and pop.
WL: How exciting to release your debut EP “Where We Start” earlier this year. What’s the reception been like?
JW: It was exciting and nerve-wracking! But it’s been really nice to see people take the songs into their hearts and homes – that’s been the most rewarding part. I’ve had these songs for a while so I’m just so happy they’re now existing in the world. The reception has been really positive!
WL: It covers so many themes lyrically – from relationships to identity and grief. Is your writing inspired by personal experiences?
JW: It’s a bit of both, to be honest. My songs are always based around things that affect me, things I go sleep thinking about. Making a song helps me move on and helps me understand it more. It’s a therapy for me.
WL: And what do you want other people to feel from your music and lyrics?
JW: An emotion.
WL: Is it important for you to you accentuate those narratives with visuals? Your video for “A Prayer” tells a really moving story…
JW: “A Prayer” was directed by Iggy LDN – he is such a talent and I’ve just shot my second video with him. Visuals are so important and I love movies, so I feel that the visual should move you just as much as the song. They go hand in hand.
WL: What else have you got planned for the rest of the year?
JW: I’m putting out more music, playing some gigs and festivals, and I guess
just learning to grow as a human.

Photography
William Marsden
Fashion
Shaquille Williams
Words
Rosie Byers
Hair
Kristopher Smith using Bumble and Bumble
Makeup
Bari Khalique using MAC Cosmetics
Production
Federica Barletta
Production Assistant
Camilla Liconti
Special thanks
CLF Art Cafe (Bussey Building)
JNR WILLIAMS