Photo: Rob Cros
The best bodies of work are the ones in which the artist engages in a completely unfiltered, honest examination of his or her core emotions. That key element is precisely what is so special about JMR’s sophomore EP, Boyish.
From artwork that gives us a real-life glimpse into his 13-year romantic intentions, to lyrics of fond memories with his mother before her passing, the Nashville artist wears his heart on his sleeve through all seven songs–and listening to it encourages us to do the same.
The album opens with “Not Said Enough,” a somber reflection of the mistakes made in a past relationship. JMR graces us with the wisdom, “pride is the enemy of love,” as he croons softly against a smooth R&B backdrop. “Elephant” moves into a more haunting, experimental soundscape, while “Harbinger” enlists the legendary Robert Glasper for a blues-y jazz touch.
“Bound” is a commanding ode to JMR’s newfound artistic independence, as he described, “[I] was forced to regroup and see what I really wanted to do with my voice so I built my own choir – literally and figuratively.” He swiftly transitions into “June Carter,” another bedroom heater in which he compares his love to that of June Carter and Johnny Cash.
The EP concludes with two slow-burners, leaving us to simmer with “Coke Can Motorcycle,” a lyrical manifestation of JMR’s true love for his craft. As he shared, “I know I’m truly joyful or content when I’m involuntarily singing or humming something. It’s my natural response when I’m grateful.”
The full Boyish EP is due tomorrow, May 26, but your exclusive first listen is below–as well as a Q&A on JMR’s creative process, favorite up and coming artists, and upcoming plans.
OTW: Congrats on the new EP release! How’d you land on the name, Boyish?
JMR: I found an old photograph of a 13 year old me attempting to woo a girl over the phone playing guitar. Some songs come from that youthful perspective of love and others speak directly to me and my troubled youth.
OTW: What inspired the decision to remain self-produced and independent for the full EP?
JMR: I am always changing. I hate being boxed in. For a while there I saw myself making a career out of quirky hooks and vocal gymnastics, and I knew I wouldn’t be happy long term. Friends Jeremiah Dunlap, Juangui Aguayo, Jonathan Johnson and I took a handful of songs and had fun with them. We didn’t follow a formula, and I think they accurately depict that stage of my life.
OTW: How was it working w/ Salaam Remi and Robert Glasper? What did they bring to the table?
JMR: Salaam is pure wisdom. My conversations with him started early, maybe four years ago. Each time we speak, I walk away with a new certainty. One particular conversation with him last year about reeling in from the deep and singing that song only I can sing changed my life, and I am currently tending to that advice everyday. Robert is such a goofy guy and untouchable in his musicology. It’s funny because he knows it too. Was blessed to have him play on the song “Harbinger” on the EP–the most recently written of the songs and the spark of a new kind of song searching for me.
OTW: How would you say your style has developed since the Ritual EP?
JMR: There has been a lot less of looking at my heroes but looking for what they were looking for. Finding the source. I’m still doing that and excited to catch everyone up.
OTW: Which song/lyric do you identify with most personally?
JMR: The EP’s close, “Coke Can Motorcycle,” is a conversation with my mother and god. One line my now passed mother asks me, “Do you still sing when you don’t know you are?” It reminds me of what music is for me. I know I’m truly joyful or content when I’m involuntarily singing or humming something. It’s my natural response when I’m grateful.
OTW: How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it without using genre names?
JMR: A lonely ensemble.
OTW: Who are 3 artists on your Ones To Watch list?
OTW: Who else do you think it pushing the envelope in the soul/R&B genre right now? What is it like living in Nashville as a soul artist?
JMR: I love what Tom Misch is doing. Haitus Kaiyote are the pinnacle of pushing the envelope in my opinion. Nashville is great. There are plenty of amazing songwriters, and it’s great to be surrounded by that.
OTW: What’s next for JMR? Any plans on the live side?
JMR: I’m currently writing a short film/album. Pushing myself in any and every creative direction. Putting the pieces together for some shows here shortly. Excited to meet more of those who help me do what I love.