He’s been compared to Omarion and Usher and his latest single, ‘Key To The City’, has been busy racking up YouTube views. He was in one of the UK’s most innovative R&B bands, Fun*dmental, and was signed to Ne-Yo’s label before deciding to fly solo. I chat to the singer on behalf of MTV…
The Wrap Up: Hi Jermaine! So, after being in Fun*dmental, how does it feel being a solo act?
Jermaine Riley: There is a lot more freedom. I was in a group for 10 years, so a huge part of who I thought I was as an artist is missing now. But I’ve replaced that with a different type of confidence. Once you find your own signature and you know what you wanna represent, it makes it a lot easier. I think the first stage of me being a solo artist was difficult, but I found myself when I put out ‘Key To The City’ – which is why it is so significant to me, in terms of the look, vibes and feel. I’m a lot more comfortable now and now I feel that I can do this. I feel like I’m ready.
TWU: The Fun*dmental sound was definitely ahead of its time, yet never really reached mainstream success. How do you feel about that?
Jermaine Riley: I feel that we were recognised by our peers and fans, our following was huge! But people lose sight of the business side of things. The business side of it was not taken care of the way it should have been and our team wasn’t right. I don’t think we had the right players representing us when they needed to. We bounced from being with independent labels to major labels to Ne-Yo and all that, but it didn’t work because the team wasn’t right, regardless of our situation. Our talent couldn’t over-shadow the business side, and that is ultimately why I left the group. Not because I had beef with the guys, but because I didn’t agree with the way we were moving forward. I had to do my own thing and find a new team.
TWU: So, what happened when you went to America?
Jermaine Riley: Before Ne-Yo came on board, it was pandemonium. We went on a school tour for four months around L.A and we really saw the potential of what we could be in America. When we joined Ne-Yo’s company and it was kinda their responsibility to take us to that next level and help us create an album that would blow up globally. We recorded an album in Atlanta with Ne-Yo and were going to start touring with him in Europe. But, again, it was the business stuff. The label didn’t pay the money to get us on the European and Japanese tour. It just didn’t work out.
TWU: Describe your sound in three words…
Jermaine Riley: Fun, distinctive and emotive.
TWU: What did you hope to achieve with your album, ‘Hello Earth’?
Jermaine Riley: I wanted to achieve respect as a songwriter and to build my fanbase so that people take note that I can do this by myself. That’s all I wanted to do with the album, which is why I didn’t mind releasing it for free. People were like, ‘Are you looking for a record label now then?’ I was like, ‘Not really!’ That wasn’t the purpose of the album, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, and that wasn’t to get signed. I think I’m achieving what I wanted now, my following is growing and the respect is growing. My video for ‘Key To The City’ debuted on MTV Base and that was without a label or a budget behind the project, it was just people who believed in me, so I’m really thankful.
TWU: And lastly, where do you see yourself in the next few years?
Jermaine Riley: Last year taught me that so much can happen in six months. Ideally, I’d like to be in the seventh row at the Grammy Awards – not necessarily for my stuff, but for something I’ve been involved in. But I don’t wanna put my dreams in a box, as anything can happen. Other than that, I’ll be continuing to write for other artists. I’d also like to sign and work with other artists and just generally stay creative. For now, though, I’m just going to carry on doing a bunch of shows, live my dream and provide for my family.