Jacob Collier built his profile on the back of some astounding self-sufficiency. In a number of YouTube uploads dating back to the early 2010s, Collier demonstrated such advanced multi-instrumentalism that Quincy Jones was compelled to sign the British musician to his management agency.
However, for his latest and most ambitious endeavour, Collier has made a wholesale embrace of collaboration. Released last month, Djesse Vol. 2 is the second instalment in a planned quadrilogy that sees Collier working with everyone from orchestras to gospel choirs to rock guitar legends, folk singers, fiddlers, rappers and reggae singers.
Collier will be in Australia in late August playing shows at the Sydney Opera House, Brisbane’s QPAC and spending two nights at the Melbourne Recital Centre. It’s a step up from his previous visit.
“Last time I was in Australia I played at Howler in Melbourne and The Metro in Sydney and that was both with the one man show,” he says. “It was the very last leg of this world tour I did as a solo act. This time around I’m bringing three other musicians, which is ridiculously exciting.”
Collier’s one-man shows were a huge talking point, showcasing a canny use of looping and corresponding video displays. They also flaunted a custom built vocal harmoniser developed by MIT audio technology expert, Ben Bloomberg, which allowed Collier to perform multi-voice harmonies in real-time. Performing solo was apt given his debut record, 2016’s In My Room, was created in isolation.
“[The album] was recorded completely and utterly on my own,” Collier says. “I played all the instruments on it, I produced everything myself, I arranged everything myself and so touring it, I wanted to reconstruct that room feeling that had inspired that album to exist in the first place.”
Collier has recently exploded the one-man show into an eight-legged beast. Whereas the one-man show relied on technology such as looping to achieve the full band sound, he now has a genuine crew of musicians at his disposal.
“I’m consistently jumping between instruments – bass and piano, drums and percussion, guitar, melodica – but rather than be jumping between these instruments and have pre-recorded track playing in the background, I now have three astonishingly musical people onstage with me that I’m able to mess around with, which is actually a lot more enjoyable for me,” Collier says.
“I learned so much from the one man show in terms of how it feels to be on stage and to own that energy on my own. Somehow with the band the potential for energy has quadrupled. Whilst there are certainly moments that I’m playing alone, it means that we can have a jam. For me that’s super important.”
Collier still records in the bedroom studio in his family’s North London home. However, Djesse features a knockout assembly of guests from across the world and stylistic spectrum. The first instalment came out in December 2018 and included Laura Mvula, Hamid El Kasri, Take 6, Metropole Orkest and Collier’s mum, violinist Suzie Collier.
Djesse Vol. 2 is his most expansive release to date, comprising 16 tracks and running for over an hour, it features the likes of Steve Vai, Lianne La Havas, Sam Amidon, Becca Stevens and Malian Wassoulou musician, Oumou Sangare.
“I’m such an omnivore when it comes to music,” Collier says. “I love everything, but rather than approximating everything within one album I wanted to dive in and nail some more specific spaces. Rather than split each album into specific genres, I split them into difference sonic spaces.
“It’s a bit of an abstract thing to say, but the first volume was recorded with [Metropole Orkest] and it’s just an enormous sound, this really broad big wash of sound. So I wanted to paint that picture of everything opening up and being born, almost like the morning of the project.”
If volume one was the morning, then Djesse Vol. 2 exists in the afternoon and sees the space getting smaller and everything becoming cosier.
“It’s a little more introspective, a little more thoughtful and certainly more tangibly jammy in the sense that the kind of magic that happens in a small room is different from the kind of magic that happens in a big room.”
Volume Three isn’t far away, says Collier. “Djesse Vol. 3 is almost like the middle of the night of the project. I’m really, really excited to see it grow in the next few months. It gets weird and wacky and electronic and hip hoppy and groovy and sexy, which is really fun.”
Jacob Collier tours Australia this September – head to Chugg Entertainment to grab tickets today.