Walsall superstar Jorja Smith talks of her love of her home as she releases her debut album
It’s a red letter day for Jorja, the Walsall star who became a household name with the release of her remarkable debut record.
She’s enjoyed a meteoric rise, or, so it seems. In January 2016, Jorja Smith released her debut single, Blue Lights, which sampled Dizzee Rascal’s song Sirens. It became a viral hit, with 400,000 SoundCloud plays in a month. Better was to follow, as her second single, Where Did I Go?, released that May, was singled out by Drake as his favourite track of the moment in Entertainment Weekly in July.
Jorja’s life changed forever.
And yet the meteoric rise was, in fact, not so meteoric.
Jorja’s father, Peter, a benefits officer, was a former musician who sang in a neo-soul group: 2nd Naicha. Her mother, Jolene, is a jewellery designer, was just as creative and both encouraged their daughter to pursue their dream.
Jorja began taking piano lessons at the age of eight at the encouragement of her father and earned a music scholarship at Aldridge School, where she learned the oboe and studied classical singing, before taking music for her A-level exams. She was scouted by a manager at the age of 15 after uploading videos of herself singing cover songs on YouTube.
Shortly after, she began travelling to London for writing sessions with Maverick Sabre and Ed Thomas, while still in school. After graduation, she moved to London at the age of 18 where she supported herself by working as a barista, and continued to write songs. And then, then it all went crazy.
So yesterday was a red letter day. Jorja released her second album, Falling or Flying. After spending years living in London, she’s moved back to Walsall now and that transition – that move back home – has had a tangible effect.
“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.”
Falling or Flying is a real progression from Jorja’s debut, with a tangible confidence coming through. She’s very open about herself, her vulnerability and who she is as a person. It’s a confidence that comes with age.