A medley of artists took to the stage at the Coronation concert on Sunday, including Lionel Ritchie, Take That and Katy Perry. Whilst reaction to the show’s success – as with all such matters relating to the crown – has been mixed, it was nonetheless a chance for Nottingham-based artist JERUB to open proceedings under the eyes of the world, alongside Pete Tong and Vula.
Whilst JERUB, originally born in Nigeria, did sing in the choir from the age of 11, being an artist was never at the forefront of his aspirations. But when you send your music into BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge Introducing competition and it’s shortlisted among 10,000 other entrants – as was the case for JERUB in 2021 – you might just start to feel like you’re onto something.
Being part of that competition put JERUB on the radar of both Arlo Parks and Tom Grennan – the latter of whom called him “a star already” Parks said he has a “voice that draws you in”.
Following his performance at the Coronation concert, we had a quick chat with JERUB about that performance, the importance of the BBC Introducing programme and his forthcoming EP, Finding My Feet, set for release on 26 May.
It’s fair to say your bank holiday wasn’t the norm, shall we say…
It was special, for sure.
How does it feel now? Have you processed performing at the coronation?
I’m still riding a high, for sure. But yesterday my tyre popped, so I needed to get my it changed; nothing like a tyre change to humble you.
It brought you back down to reality… How do you feel the performance went overall?
It went really well. It went so quickly, to be honest with you. I blinked and it was gone. But I felt really in-the-moment and had a good time doing it, for sure.
So you did get a chance to absorb what was happening?
I definitely enjoyed it, but it was still a big occasion. When I walked out – because I had this moment where I had to walk out the side – as I was doing so, I was looking at everybody and taking it in. That was my moment to realise, ‘Ah, this is cool.’ Then I started singing and was locked-in, like, ‘Let’s do this, let’s perform it well, let’s do a good job.’
I think I was focused so much that I was speaking to Calum Scott after and he was saying he cried after his performance; I had the opposite where I was almost still locked into the moment. It was later in the evening when I realised what just happened. It took me a while to process.
You sang Rudimental’s ‘Feel the Love’. Was that Pete Tong’s choice entirely or did you have a say in that selection?
That was totally Pete and his team who decided that. I got told the song, which I was really happy with. I think it’s such a such a simple song, but it’s got such a profound meaning and I think it was a great track to kick-off the whole celebration.
What was it like working with Pete Tong?
It was really cool. I hadn’t actually met Pete before the rehearsal. He’s a really great guy. You can tell he’s done it for a while, he seems really, really seasoned and really wise. He’s always composed.
We spoke a bit about your feelings during the performance, but did you get nervous at all? And how did you overcome that if you did?
I went through ebbs and flows. In the first week, when I was thinking about it, I was getting a little bit nervous. Then maybe after a day or two, I started to lock back in, started practicing, and was fine for most of the time. I usually don’t get nervous when I perform, but before [the performance], when my manager was with me, I just kept drinking water. I was thinking, ‘Why is my throat so dry?’ I just kept drinking, so clearly I was a little bit nervous, but in a good way.
What was the moment like when you actually got the phone call? And what was the process of you being asked to take part in the concert?
It was it was really, really cool. My manager had said it might happen a couple of weeks before the show – just, ‘This is on the horizon, waiting for confirmation, but not sure.’ Then he called me when I was in the car. He let me know and I was buzzing. It was a really special moment. It didn’t really sink in until about a week later.
Your performance there is well-timed, given you have a new EP coming later this month: Finding My Feet. Why that title?
I sat down to write with a friend. And he was asking me, ‘What do you want to write about?’ I said, ‘I’ve just been finding my feet’. It came out naturally, and so he said let’s write about that. We wrote the [title] song really naturally after that, and it’s really about trying to find your place as you get older; trying to figure it all out as you develop in life.
I’m realising I’m not the only one who’s trying to find their feet, we all are, in some way, shape, or form. Everyone’s trying to locate themselves and think about what the next step is. So I think it’s a song and a project that I hope everyone can relate to. Because as human beings, we’re all trying to find our feet in life.
You feel that on a human level, but do you feel that’s particularly pronounced as an artist too? That sense of trying to find your place in the world…
I think as an artist there are so many paths you can take, so many voices you can listen to, so many versions of yourself you can be. Finding Your Feet is about searching for who you want to be and making that decision. My song ‘Scared To Be Myself’ – which is on the EP and is out now as a single – is a little bit about that; about that idea of feeling the pressure to be this or that, or to sound like this or that, when really we’re all just scared to be ourselves – because we don’t know if our selves will be accepted. Finding My Feet as a whole project is about recognising that, as humans, we all go on that journey.
Being scared to be yourself, finding your feet… are these things you still struggle with, or were you in some ways able to come to terms with them through making your EP?
I think [taking things] step by step is definitely a theme that’s present throughout the whole project. It’s hard to get to a destination sometimes. And sometimes it’s not about just conquering everything; sometimes it’s about just taking the next step. For me, I think I’ve taken that next step as an artist.
Your music straddles a few genres: pop, pop-punk, indie. But one thing that remains consistent is that pure, emotive voice. How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard JERUB before?
I think you said it there. I think it’s about feeling, meaning, emotion and realness. And realness doesn’t necessarily mean sad. Sometimes, I’m really happy. Sometimes, I’m really sad. It’s about communicating feeling and communicating story through song.
Speaking of stories… tell me about your track on this EP, ‘There Till The End’. What’s that about? Is it a love song?
It is kind of a love song: it’s for the people I love. The song talks about being there for those people, in the simplest form. I’ve gone through ups and downs in life – we all have, and will continue to – and the thing that keeps me sane, and that gets me through, are people I love around me, who are always there for me. The song is really about saying, ‘You’ve been there for me, I’m going to be there for you too, in your hard times.’
A breakthrough moment for you as an artist came through the BBC Radio 1 Introducing Live Lounge competition. There were 10,000 entrants and you got whittled down to the shortlist. What was that like?
At that time I was still at university, doing music on the side – a little side-hustle. I put my name forward into the 1000s of people and then got an email saying I’d been shortlisted, and then it was time to record a live song and a live cover, which ended up making it to being one of the runners-up in the country, which for me at the time was a huge boost in confidence. I think I’m going to look back at it as one of those moments that really spurred me forward.
It sounds like – as with the coronation concert – you just keep plugging away and keep getting these bits of good news…
It sounds like it’s a smooth journey but it’s not always smooth-sailing; with all the many good things, there are also bad things and disappointments, things you wish didn’t happen. But it’s all part of the journey, and life’s all about the highs and the lows, the mountains and the valleys. So you’ve got to embrace all of it.
We’ve seen earlier this year that BBC Introducing… is being reduced in some capacity. What did that programme provide you as an artist and why should we support initiatives like it?
I don’t know too much about all of it, but I speak so highly of BBC introducing. For me as an artist it’s been so helpful. I sent my music to Dean Jackson [of BBC Radio Nottingham] and he played it, it was the first time I got played on radio. And it’s been supporting me through the Radio One competition and live events, supporting me step-by-step through the whole journey.
I think it’s such a great platform for people who have something to say, but don’t necessarily know where to send it to. Otherwise, what’s the process? It’s very much a myth, the industry is such a mystery that if you don’t have something like the BBC Introducing for it to be a clear opportunity, it’d be really hard to get your voice out there.
And as a result of the BBC Radio 1 Introducing Live Lounge competition, you were put on the radar of Tom Grennan and Arlo Parks. What was it like when they both praised you as an artist?
Again, an incredible boost in my confidence, and encouragement as an artist. I think you get these moments as an artist on the journey that really spur you forward and encourage you to keep going. I think that was one of the times for me, where I saw myself in a new light, in a really positive way; people who are accomplished in their own right had encouragement for me and they liked my music and my voice. It was one of those moments where I thought maybe I could do something with this.
Now that you’re settling into your artistry, what’s your artistic vision?
It’s a great question. It’s something I’m still figuring out. I think, ultimately, I can only bring my authentic self to the world. I can’t try and shape myself to be something I’m not, in order for people to see me a certain way. So ultimately, I just have to be myself and bring who I am to the world, which is authentic and bring real songs about real things; the highs and lows – love, life and everything in-between. And I love people, love hearing people’s stories. But it’s all about authenticity for me.
Can’t be anyone else but yourself… and you’ve got a number of festivals this month alone. Where can people see you?
Yeah, I’ve got those festivals: The Great Escape Festival, Barn on the Farm, Dot to Dot. I’m also going to be having my first headline show in London. It’s my second headline show ever, but it’s my first one in London.
JERUB will headline ‘Gold Dust Presents’ at The Lower Third, London on Wednesday 7th June. Tickets are available here.
JERUB’s forthcoming EP, Finding My Feet, is out on 26 May via Elevate Music.