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British Darling Jorja Smith Falls and Flies in her Latest Album

Rachel Weinberg
Photography MIKE EXCELL

It’s hard to consider a musician more recognisably ebullient or more ostensibly calm than Jorja Smith. The 26-year-old left her hometown in Walsall, England, at the age of sixteen. With a soothing voice that easily turns children into talented artists, she set off for London and released her debut single, Blue Lights, setting the digital world aflame. In 2018, she created her first album, Lost & Found, which garnered a suite of acclaim, including Brit Award and Grammy nominations.

For Smith’s second album, Falling or Flying, her gentle, soothing spirit is heard once again. Blending elements from hip-hop, R&B and rock, the album reveals her profound musical knowledge and stanch passion to make and create. What Britain has given Smith, besides her incredibly charming accent, is a confidence and grit that have helped her carve a notable mark in the glassy pop music industry.

To celebrate the album’s release, we chatted with Smith over Zoom late one Friday evening. We peeped into the British darling’s private home, asking about the album’s conception and what she’s learned in the process.

Rachel Weinberg How are you, Jorja? Thank you for being here.

Jorja Smith I'm all good. How are you doing?

RW I'm good, thank you. Where are you at the moment?

JS I'm at home in Walsall.

RW What's it like being home?

JS I love being home. I definitely have a balance here and feel less overwhelmed. I can just be calm because London is stressful, well at least for me. I feel like I have a life here.

RW In Home (2021) you even sang, “A home in you I’ve found”. What does home mean to you? What about being home provides a sense of comfort or invites exploration or contemplation?

JS Well, I made the album in various places, Birmingham and London and Paris, but always felt like home making the album, maybe because DameDame, who I worked on the album with, grew up in similar places to me. I felt like I came home in the album because I actually did move back home.

RW It's been five years since you released your debut album Lost & Found. How do you know when you're ready to make a new album or create new music?

JS It just felt like the right time.

RW Your sophomore album, Falling or Flying, includes sixteen songs that in their own way speak to your self-assurance, confidence and composure. How would you describe the album?

JS To me, it sounds like growth. Like I've stepped into womanhood and become more mature. I guess my music is very much a representation of me right now, as opposed to before. Everything's very in the moment.

RW How do you feel after stepping into this new phase, as an artist and woman?

JS I still feel like Jorja. Twenty-six-year-old Jorja. I’m still figuring it out.

RW What was the writing process like for Falling or Flying?

JS Well, I wrote most of the album with DameDame. We'd just link up, chat, make food, jam, and if it felt right, we would carry on. If it didn't, we would switch it up. Sometimes we would start something and do something else, and then come back to things to finish.

RW In the past, you’ve collaborated with Stormzy, Kendrick Lamar, Kali Uchis, Drake, Burna Boy and Iveyi. Can you tell me a bit about what it's like when you're working with other people, and how that differs from working by yourself?

JS I mean, I love both. I like sitting with myself and just being with my thoughts and taking my time. But sometimes I'm a bit slow and my mind races too fast. Sometimes I can't concentrate, so I'll start writing something and then do something else. With collaboration, it's nice to have conversations with others. I might figure something out by talking things through, and then write about that conversation and figure out what I was trying to say. Or I might not know how I felt until I spoke to someone about a situation. I do love collaborating because it helps and it's nice to hear other perspectives and not feel so alone.

RW Would you make your next album or music in a similar way?

JS Yeah, definitely. There are loads of things I've learnt that I would do again, and of course that I wouldn't do. I still try to be spontaneous and work on a balance.

RW What have you learned about yourself or your music in the process of making the album?

JS Well, it's crazy that with my music, I get to speak to people in Australia, and go to Japan, and go to Brazil. That's all because of my music. I get to connect to people in different countries, cities, everywhere, that all listen to my music. I feel that I can make a difference, whether that's by making them feel happy or making them feel sad with songs or making them just think. That's all I'm about, just feeling. That's all I want to do with my music, just make people feel something because it's important.

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SEE ISSUE #06 HERE. The theme for this issue, Revelations, delves into the unfiltered aspects of life. It’s an appreciation and exploration of raw beauty, where authenticity reigns supreme; the unconventional is not just accepted but celebrated. In a world of manufactured perfection, this issue chooses to validate our quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, they are what make us inimitable.

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