Soho Rising: JGrrey

woman against red background with hand held up to mouth

London born and bred musician JGrrey, the next to join the Soho Rising line-up, discusses bringing her unique sound and frank lyrics to Houses around Europe

By Mikael Jack

In a year that’s seen her perform at Glastonbury, tour with Billie Eilish and release her debut EP, Grreydaze, South London native JGrrey – real name Jennifer Clarke – is the latest emerging name to step up to the microphone for Soho Rising’s third edition. ‘These venues are more intimate, so you can expect to find me opening up more about who I am as a person, and also having fun,’ she told us as we caught up with her ahead of yet another show on the road.

How has the experience of performing live changed for you over the last year or so? 
‘I’m definitely a lot more confident and having more fun. I think for the first lot of gigs I did last year, I was always really worried about this and that happening, but now I’m more like, “Let’s see what happens.” People sing along to my songs now too, which is always fun.’ 

Now that you’re a musician, have your perceptions of the artists you grew up listening to changed?
‘Definitely. Not that I didn’t appreciate it before, but I’m more aware of [what goes into] it now – the process, the stress and the pressures of it. Now, I’m totally in awe when I hear an amazing song because I’m wondering, “How have they done that?” or thinking, “I would never have taken it there.”’

Who’s inspiring you to take things further in your music? 
‘Cola Boyy, an artist from California who makes amazing disco-funk. Before I listened to his music, I’d never heard anything like it. He keeps on making these crazy songs and I’m just like, “How?” I think we’re now in this really cool place where people can just do whatever the fuck they want with music, and it’s making for these really crazy, amazing sonic experiences.’

And what about your music – how do you describe it? 
‘I hate this question… Experimental, but that’s not to say the music I make falls into the experimental genre. It’s because every time I’m writing or in a studio session, it really is an experiment and I never know where I’m going to go with it. I’m always surprising myself and learning new ways of writing and finding harmonies.’

Would you say then that you’re an intuitive artist?
‘It’s funny you say that, because the few times I’ve gone in to a session and been like, “Right, I want to make this,” it never ends up being like that. My band and I had been talking for ages about making a reggae song and we never made it. Then, I went to Amsterdam and started working with a producer, Jarreau Vandal, and we ended up making a reggae track, even though we had no intention of making that then. Maybe some artists can, but I can’t point the music in a direction when I’m making it. I never know where it’s going to go.’

That makes the whole process more exciting though, surely?  
‘Exactly. I do know what I want from my sound – I just don’t always know where that sound is going to go.’
woman crouched next to fern with hair tossed to one side
The role of a musician today has demands above just being a singer – there’s your YouTube channel, Instagram, a whole 360 package. How do you feel about that?
‘Well, I was thinking recently that I wish I’d been making music around the time when it was Amy [Winehouse], Duffy and Adele, and it was just about making music to make records. There were no pressures for likes and traction on social media. Sometimes I’m told I need to post, but I’m like, “I’ve got nothing to say today.” This new age of algorithms isn’t really me, but I appreciate it and it serves me well – people can see the way I dress and my personality more ­– but I’d like to make music just for the sake of making music as well.’

Your logo is a spider. How did that come to be? 
‘I just love spiders. I grew up surrounded by brothers and male cousins, being a massive tomboy, and always loved slugs, snails, frogs, snakes, spiders and bugs – they’re my favourite kind of animals. When I worked with a graphic designer to mock up a logo, I saw one with a spider on and I was like, “Oh, yes.”’

As your career progresses, have you found your inspirations changing? 
‘Well, I’ve been thinking recently that a lot of my songs are essentially about being sad and that’s mainly because I write a lot when I’m in a bad mood. When I’m in a good mood and everything is dandy, I haven’t got much to talk about. I’m quite happy at the moment and wrote a song after coming off the Billie Eilish tour, and when I showed it to someone the other day, they said, “Yeah, it’s cool, but it doesn’t feel very you.” I think that’s just because I’m not a show-off – I can’t write from that angle. So my next EP has a lot of experimental(ish) sad tracks that are more upbeat. A lot of the time, I write songs about how I should be happier; I’ve got a song called “For Keeps” coming up and it’s a happy song, but comes from the angle of me asking myself, “What are you so fucking sad for?”’

What has been the standout moment of your career so far? 
‘Touring with Billie EIlish, probably, and recognition from artists that I respect and have respected for a long time. I remember when I had my first session with Lily Allen; I grew up listening to her music so moments like that have been the pinnacles for me.’

Images courtesy of JGrrey