South London’s 20-year old RnB Jaz Karis combines vocals reminiscent of Lauryn Hill & Alicia Keys, embodying a voice accomplished beyond her years and lyrical maturity that delicately accompany’s a soulfulness worthy of wooing sellout crowds.
Coming off her sold-out show and the release of her debut EP ‘Into the Wilderness’, arguably the best project released this year from a female UK RnB Artist, I had the opportunity to share the wisdom of a young woman with talent beyond her years to understand what drives an artist with such an undeniable dedication to her craft.
Who is Jaz Karis?
Jaz Karis is a 20-year old South Londoner just trying to find her way through life I guess.
It’s been a year since the release of Summer Jam. What has been the hardest aspect of your growth so far?
I’m a bit of a control freak so I think the hardest part has been letting go of some of that control to people that can do that particular job better than I can, then allowing myself to focus on what I’m good at — the music and writing, and other creative aspects. So, I guess the hardest aspect is trusting and giving away that control of my art.
So more around surrendering some of your creative freedom?
Exactly, you put it a lot better than I did! [Laughs]
What influence did studying at the BRIT school have on your musical direction?
I think BRIT really pushes you in the face of different artists and that makes you realise what you really like and don’t about music. I found that when I went there, I was literally engulfed in a neo-soul world and I really wanted to learn more about music and to play more. I didn’t realise how important it was to play an instrument. BRIT really shows to you what matters in music and what doesn’t.
What achievement would you say has been the highlight of your career?
For me, my career has just started so I don’t have [many] but my highlight I would say was my last show I did which was sold out. That was the first time where I had performed and there was a line outside, the first time I had had people there to come and see me. I really felt proud at that moment. But again, to me, everything is just starting.
For me, if Alicia Keys & Lauryn Hill had a lovechild, it would be Jaz Karis. Describe your sound in your own words.
That’s a really beautiful comparison, I’m flattered! I don’t know, I love Erykah [Badu] and take a lot from her. But I like free music. That may be a bad way to describe it, but like to allow music to shape itself instead of having a structure, I like to vibe and I like energy. I think that was actually a nice description of my sound, of my music. But the only way I can describe my music is free.
How did signing to the all-female run independent label Salute the Sun Records come about?
So, I didn’t sign to them myself, but I signed my EP to the label and that came about when my lawyer sent out my music to Redlight which are my management company and [*distortion*] heard my stuff and really liked it and attended the next show I had. I remember I was so ill that day with a blocked nose, I was drinking hot pepper sauce backstage! But when I got on stage somehow my nose cleared up and it turned out to be a really good show so it was the perfect time to meet them and we had dinner. I just got a real sisterhood/motherhood vibe from them. I liked that they were all women because it’s hard for women in this industry, it’s always very competitive. But with them, I really felt their embrace, and love that they were fans first who really liked my music, it meant a lot to me.
Amazing, you’ve actually partially answered my next question which is what is your take on the development of women in music?
I think slowly we are getting there and gaining more awareness on the importance of us sticking together and not feeling like we are constantly up against each other. Because naturally, that is what the industry does, but women are so strong. With the talent out there at the moment — Jorja Smith, IAMDDB, (there is just so much out there… I really like Joyce Wrice too), I think there is a real up rise in women and we have the choice of whether we are going to accomplish together, or if it’s going to be [based on] a rivalry. But I definitely feel like we are going in the right direction and everyone is on a positive vibe.
I completely agree with the belief that sticking together is the catalyst for success to make that change.
Of course, it’s harder to break through as a woman, but we’re getting there.
I’ve had the pleasure of listening to your beautiful EP, ‘Into the Wilderness’, which to me is a project that will take you beyond the stratosphere. How was the creative process of the project?
Thank you! The EP in terms of the creative process was actually the easiest part. When I met Silkey, who was the main producer of the project, we clicked straight away. In our first session, we made Sunrise and it was because we got on so well it made the creative process the easiest aspect of the whole project. Everything else is what took longer! But I enjoyed it, there was a mix of different artists. ‘Sugar Don’t Be Sweet’ for example; that one came from a few sessions. It was pretty random, it was less about being creative and more me and Spacey (Spacey Blak) messing around until the song came about. I made the melody based on what I had been reading at the time, which was the Alchemist (novel by Paulo Coelho). The focus has been very natural, I liked how organic the process was with everyone there at the right time, which [in turn] made it easy for me.
The likes of Silkey are featured on the EP, but also featured is Tinyman, who just so happened to be in the studio at the time. Would you consider yourself an artist who prefers to work with artists you know personally, or are you more open to working with anyone?
Whilst it’s easy to work with people you know, I’m definitely open to working with anyone because some of the musical relationships have come about from me not knowing who that person is. So there’s no way I’d only work with people I know; there are some artists I know and love but don’t think I can work with them. Basically, anyone I feel like is on the same wavelength… I’m good to go.
Following on from the release of the project with the visuals of, ‘Sugar Don’t be Sweet’, how much creative input did you have with Jesus Mora, the director of the video?
I don’t want to say this was the highlight, but my relationship with Jesus was one of the best moments I’ve had. This again was very random. Every time I heard the song, I could visualise it in my head and I just wanted someone to put it out there in a video. I think it was Freelancer.com where I put it out there and so many people hit me back, but Jesus responded saying, “I love this song so much. Even if you don’t want to work with me, contact me to work together” and I was taken back by how impressed he was. We ended up sending things back and forth and after I had given him the basics of what I had in my head, and he just ran with it. Such a talented guy, I loved the video so much. And the fact that his name was Jesus, meant I just had it!
Finally, what else can we expect from Jaz Karis in the near future?
Way more music, way more shows. I really hope to perform again soon. But also, a lot more visuals, I’m really getting into visuals at the moment.
Okay now for some quick-fire questions
Soul or RnB? RnB.
Morning or night? Night.
Favourite track right now? Ella Fitzgerald — No Regrets
The film that best describes you? Ow! Ten things I hate about you.
Name 3 artists you’d love to work with (dead or alive) Biggie Smalls, Amy Winehouse and it would have to be Erykah Badu.
Describe your stage presence in 3 words. Happy, soulful & emotional.
If South London was its own country, what would be the national anthem? Sneakbo — Touch Ya Button.
Three things you cannot live without. My mum, galaxy chocolate, and the Sims.
As in the game, Sims?
Yeah, I guess that says a lot about me! [Laughs]
Final words from Jaz Karis?
I would just like to say thank you for believing in me and I hope the world continues to support me on my journey.
For any fans of RnB, Into the Wilderness is guaranteed to be the best 14 minutes you’ve invested all week. The project is the embodiment of ‘short but sweet’ in every sense of the term. Take a break from your day and immerse yourself in Jaz Karis’ declaration to the world; a spiritual EP dripping with classic soulfulness, filled with old-school backdrops and timeless artistry.
This woman is destined for greatness. Whilst she may wonder where the wilderness will take her, there is no doubt that Jaz Karis is coming out the queen of the jungle.
Listen to her EP below.
Words by: Victor Davies