Jamil Kassam is a man on a mission, looking to change the world through music. His latest pop single “Rise Now” is doing just that, originally written about a friend who came out as gay, he re-worked the track to reveal a more universal message of hope, it’s pure sonic goodness intertwined with a kaleidoscope of cultural influences.
GroundSounds recently caught up with Jamil to talk about his latest single, musical inspirations and more, with a forthcoming album on the way, big things are most certainly in his future, check out the exclusive interview below.
For those just discovering your music, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got your start?
Of course! I’m a pop singer/songwriter based in New York. I’m actually from a little bit all over: I’m Belgian but I grew up in the Ivory Coast, Dubai and France. I came to the US a few years ago to attend Berklee College of Music and moved to New York afterwards to take my chances as an artist.
I’ve always wanted to be singer and started singing at a very early age. But I really got started in 2011, after finishing my masters in Business and Finance. I decided to switch careers, attended a music school in Paris and started playing gigs and touring. In 2013, I felt like I needed to take my artistry to another level so I applied to Berklee College of Music and graduated a few months ago.
You are a world traveler, what are some of the most memorable cities you have lived in and how has your traveling influenced your music?
They were all memorable and I want to say that all of the cities I lived in influenced my music in their own special and unique way. Whether it’s the African rhythms or grooves from when I was living in Abidjan, to the way I would feel and express my emotions from when I was living in Paris, or the Indian and Middle Eastern riffs you can find my melodies, I really believe that all the musical cultures I’ve encountered impacted my music. And The US was sort of an incubator as it shaped all of those different influences into a unique sound while adding its own spices.
What are you currently studying and learning about at the Berklee College of Music?
I majored in songwriting and performance and I actually graduated from Berklee a few months ago.
It’s been amazing! For me, it’s the achievement of many years of writing and finding myself sonically and as an artist. Also collaborating with so many talented producers and songwriters has been beyond my expectations. I’m still in the process of finishing it, so I’m not completely settled on a title yet. But I was thinking about naming it after one of my songs called “Citizen of the World”. It’s just an idea and it might change.
Can you tell us about the writing and creative process involved with your latest track “Rise Now?”
“Rise Now” is a song about coming out in all the senses of the term. It’s a song about affirming your own truth no matter how hard it is and no matter how afraid you are.
It started as an assignment of one my lyric writing classes at Berklee, which is really rare to me. I usually write from my own experience. But we were asked to write a song about someone struggling with an internal conflict. So I decided to write about one of my friends struggling with coming out as a gay man. His story really touched and inspired me, as I also went through the same thing. The song evolved at lot, but this is how it all started.
What bands/musicians are you currently listening to?
This is a hard question because I’m constantly listening to different kinds of music. So to pick a few, I’d say Years & Years, Sia, Adele, Emeli Sande, Maroon 5, Lady Gaga, DJ Snake, Synapson and many more. I’m actually a playlist person. I love opening Spotify, listening to different playlists and finding new music.
What was the inspiration for your track “Have Me All?”
I fell in love with a “straight” man and started seeing him for a while. It was really hard for him to admit that he had fallen in love with another man, so everything in the relationship was a struggle. Even though we had love and passion, the relationship turned out to be very toxic and I ended up alone and broken. “Have Me All” is a song about our complicated relationship.
What’s next for Jamil Kassam, what can fans look forward to?
For starters, a lot of new music! My album will be done soon and my next single will be out in less than a month. I’ve also been collaborating with few other artists on their project and been featured on some of their tracks. So fans should expect a lot of new music. I’m also planning a little tour for 2017 so this is something they can also look forward to.