The hip-hop and R&B industry is undergoing several transformations as more seasoned artist attempt to hold tight to the 90’s influence while remaining modern and progressive. Simultaneously, newer artists attempt to dance on the pop/R&B borderline. The definitions of true R&B music has become obscure over the past two decades, but rest assured Jeremy “J.Meyer” Smith is confident that he is the answer.
A former background singer for his cousin Grammy Award winning artist Chrisette Michele, J. Meyer talks breaking out on his own, dropping out of college to pursue his dreams,his dedication to love ballads and preserving ‘true’ R&B.
When did you start to pursue a career in the music industry?
I was in college at Hampton University in Hampton Virginia and I could not afford to pay anymore. I was doing it all by myself without student loans or anything. I was working at a clothing store in Norfolk, Virginia in 2007 struggling to pay for school, when my cousin Chrisette Michele was signed to Def Jam. She asked me to go on the road with her as her road manager/security. Before I knew it I was background singer and wearing other hats.
How hard was it in this economy to abandon your college degree and focus on a career in the music industry?
Well It was extremely hard from the beginning for me to afford college because I didn’t want my grandmother who was head over heels in debt to pay for another bill (ie College); but always knew I wanted to work in this music industry my main focus was song writing.
How long did you work with Chrisette Michele? Did you write music for her?
I worked for Chrisette a total of 7 years, I’ve done everything from Road managing, assisting, booking, background singing, security, sound checks, tour managing, but oddly enough no songwriting. I say oddly enough because I wasn’t ready mentally at the time to throw something out. I even turned down her offer for her to be on my first LP “Perfect Storm,” because I wanted my first introduction to the world to be just me.
Talk me about Perfect Storm, how did that come about? Is it true that it started as a Facebook Post?
Yes. It started as a thought then grew into me putting up a post on Facebook saying my project will be out Jan. 31st 2012. After seeing how many likes and repost as well as comments I realized that I had to put something out or no one will ever believe me again when it comes to my music. That was in December of 2011 a week before Christmas. So me along with some friends decided to take a trip to Miami the first week of Jan and hit every radio station that would allow me to talk about my project. Once we got back We had a dead line of two weeks to record and finish the project then put it out, and thru the hard work of my team we did it.
Wow. That took no time. Perfect Storm is a compilation of romantic love songs, what made you decide to go against the grain and reintroduce the ‘90’s still ballads?
I love ballads. My first CD was a Boys II Men album. The way you can turn a simple message to a heartfelt story always amazes me. So from then on I decided that writing and singing records from that era would always be my introduction to the world.
You wrote “Be Right Here,” and “Wake Up Alone,” what is your writing process? How do you uphold that classic R&B feel?
Most of my songs start off with me and the keyboard and then we start “vibing.” The Keyboard player usually plays until I start singing something that we feel. The writing usually comes after I have most of the song composed from free-styling. As far as me staying true to my form, it all goes back to knowing yourself and what you will or won’t do.
On the Intro you offer an explainer for the LP.” You describe the EP as a combination of emotions, highs, lows, and struggle, but then the album threads one emotion of love, is that what moves you most?
Perfect Storm is everything that I’ve been thru in my life up to that point; every lesson, downfall, come up, and experience. Its me in a nutshell. I am reflecting all my experiences up until that point, because they are what made me the man I am today.
I enjoy love R&B, and I needed people to realize that there is more than one form of it (R&B) in this world, hopefully when people listen to my music they will connect and understand that love (R&B) is more than just words, its the connection you have with the story….Like a form of musical Therapy.
Was Chrisette Michele influential in helping to shape your artistry?
She showed me what it is to be a true artist. Behind all of the hype that comes along with the success. How your life and your choices affect others that decide to leave their lives in order to be apart of what makes your dream work. So I thank her for that. She let me know that I had to have a job to fund my career because if I don’t invest in myself how canI expect someone else to do the same.
As an R&B artist what do you think of the current state of R&B?
I think R&B is coming back full circle. It went to a place were people weren’t able to connect with the records. R&B to me is a time and a place in life were every time you hear a record you reminisce about the place you were when you first heard it. For me every time I hear Carl Thomas “I wish” I almost always want to hear Donell Jones “Were I wanna be” right after, then Tyrese “Sweet Lady” that was high School for me. Artists like Musiq Soulchild, Chrisette Michele, Maxwell, Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Antoine Dunn, and a slew of other artist are keeping the brand preserved for the up and coming artist like me.
Your last project was released almost a year ago, ow have you grown as an artist and individual since then?
Since Perfect Storm I got married to my beautiful celebrity makeup artist wife Shenelle Mayes-Smith. who blessed me with our handsome son Maxwell Kyle Smith. My vocal maturity has grown to a new level, and my song writing has even more substance to it.
How has becoming a father influenced your music your outlook on your career? Is their more of a need to succeed as an artist now that your family is growing? What is your first single?
Being a father has made me more aware of my content and my life. I want him to know what a real man acts like and how a real father is suppose to treat and teach his child. There is defiantly more of a need to succeed as an artist now that I have my son. I want him to follow his dreams and make it work for him. So I work hard so that when he thinks of this journey or rather “his pursuit of happiness” he will realize that there will be a couple bumps but if you stay strong and determined you he too can succeed.
Now that you have gotten the introductions out of the way with Perfect Storm, what’s next?
Perfect Storm, recieved an unexpected 43k downloads, and now I am finally ready to put out a full project. I am trying to set the standard for up and coming R&B artist. I want people to feel proud of the talent that’s up next. We are trying to create an experience. Something that will last forever in your memory. My album “Recovery,” will be done by mid to late September so look out for that. I’m not sure on my first single as of yet I have to listen. But what i do know is that i will be releasing a couple more remixes “Power Trip” by J.Cole and “Body Party,”Ciara. Also my project will be done by mid to late September so look out for that.
Your sound is very distinctive on Perfect Storm, but you displayed versatility on your remix for Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools,” how hard is it to remain true to your identity while adhering to mainstream demands?
Its rather simple when you know yourself you will always stay true to your craft, The remixes are my way of blending a little of me into their sound.
Download Perfect Storm here. For more on J.Meyer check out: