Jesse Royal returns with well-developed album titled “Royal” out now on Easy Star Records. He spent his time during the pandemic to pour out his truth and creativity. From messages encouraging enlightenment, strength and honesty, Royal and a small group of writers and producers created a body of work mixing in a generous mixture of different elements and sounds. Jesse tells us “On this album, you will hear elements of hip-hop, jazz, blues, Afrobeats and dancehall but reggae is the backbone that holds everything in place. We can’t run from the authentic energy and vibes bestowed upon us by the Most High because that is what makes us great; there are things that you learn along the way, but greatness is when you know yourself.” Jesse isn’t an artist who feels rushed to release music for the sake of it, but carefully crafting each song, in order to appeal to both the younger and older generation.


YH!N: So, this is your sophomore album titled ‘Royal’. Finally, it’s out for everyone to hear. How does it feel?

Jesse Royal: Definitely, it’s like a baby to me and someone will be glad for me to present it to the world. It had been three years since Lily of Da Valley, which was my debut album, and I got a whole lotta love for that. I think we were at number one for like seven weeks (#1 spot on U.S. Billboard Reggae Album chart) and it was definitely a great giant. I just felt like my friends deserved another body of work and the reception has been incredible. So I definitely feel like I made the right decision and it was the right time.


YH!N: So, what was the recording process, especially in this climate going through a pandemic, how were you able to still create music?

Jesse Royal: We had to explore different ways of communicating in our writing. My brother Vision Alexander, and also my brother Landon Shawn, you know, I mean, these are like, the core people who I made the most of the production and writing with. We were writing on FaceTime, we were writing on Skype, we were sending voice notes between each other, recording. Whoever was in the studio at the time we would record whatever we were writing and then we would all have the demo, and we would fix what we needed to fix from that. It was a different process but definitely also exciting, and also very liberating in a weird way. We have so many ways of connecting and sometimes we limit ourselves.


YH!N: Why did it take you three years to bring out the second album?

Jesse Royal: I think touring. Also, I had lessons that I needed to learn. Experiences that I needed to go through to ensure that the writing and the body of work were substantial and full of substance. And also, what is three years you know? So, everything is like a fruit; it may take a long to bear for you. But that’s just how long it takes and is that really long? You can wait for three months, then consume something that can literally revitalise the entire body for a long time. I think that’s just what the process is. That’s just how long it takes or how short it takes to reveal its glory and I feel like, at the same time, I’m definitely not one who fights the universe. I try to run with the tide so everything remains as organic as possible.


YH!N: You mentioned something really important about the music that you wanted to make sure it was with substance, you weren’t willing to rush. Do you think in the music industry right now, do you think there’s quite a bit of music lacking substance?

Jesse Royal: Yeah, I mean, they are some definitely, but you do have a lot of music with a lot of substance. We’re just living in a quicker time with a lot more accessibility. So obviously, things are gonna move a little bit quicker, and there’s going to be a lot more music released. So I’m not going to knock that. We don’t get the opportunity to tell people what we should or shouldn’t do. As time progresses and after the next generation come, they will tell the tale of what our generation was, in terms of the recording side of it. However, we are in the present and living in this continuously changing thing and we’ll continuously have to adapt. So we can’t limit the youth that ability to exist in a time that has never existed before. So how do you manoeuvre through something that you’ve never experienced? You just have to have an open mind and a winning mindset and as it comes, you roll with it, you know.

YH!N: Who are some of your favourite artists that have a substance that gives you inspiration?

Jesse Royal: Bob Marley, Lauryn Hill, The Miley Clan, Nina Simone, Lila Ikè, Sevana, Chronixx, Protoje, Sizzla, Capleton, Marcia Griffith, Bares Hammond, Popcaan, Vybz Kartel, Super Cat, Drake… I’m still a fan of music and I don’t want to love my music like I’m those egoistic individuals who feel like music never existed before them or music won’t exist after them. I’m here contributing to something that has contributed so much to my life and that’s something.


YH!N: I love also that you’ve mentioned such an array from hip hop to very soulful dancehall artists, and also your album also reflects those different genres. How important was it for you to mix those different genres together also have them included in the Royal album?

Jesse Royal: Yeah, one is from the standpoint that we’re looking for new experiences being exposed to different songs. Working with different people but then, from my grassroots, it is African, it’s us. Sometimes it’s just about tapping back into what is us. Like dancehall is us. Jazz is also us. Blues is also us. Reggae is also us. So when we take away the nationalities it’s just black people expressing music, and it’s all African. So that means it’s in all of us. It’s just how much water does that tree get? How much time do you give it? So that was what we did with this album. We were just brave enough to tap into some different realms and explore some different ideas. What we feel also belongs to us and we have the right to play with.


YH!N: There’s some personal moments as well as politically charged moments that you wanted to inspire a generation. So, we’ll go through both sides. Regarding trying to empower young people, what is it that you’re trying to really say from your music that people should take away?

Jesse Royal: My whole thing is just enlightenment. It’s because I need people who can think for themselves. Understanding compassion. Trying a different way. Like we can’t curse the generation before and then do the same things that they were doing before. So it means that if they try war, I will try peace. If they try with aggression, maybe try passiveness. If they try with guns, we should try humanity, and on the flip side, if they don’t move with humility, I will try to get arrogant. If they don’t move passively then I will try with aggression. It’s just understanding that this is our time and we literally are determining how the world moves. So it’s important that we understand and accept that sacred responsibility, for every generation to get it as well.


YH!N: You’ve also talked about “African excellence” in your interviews. What does that mean to you and how can young people apply it to their lives?

Jesse Royal: Apply that by making known our stories, making known our real identity, our legacy, making it known to them that this stretches beyond the Middle Passage. We aren’t former slaves. We’re former Kings and Queens. Sovereign leaders of our own land that we’d feed ourselves. We had our games. We had our entertainment. We had our ways of life. We had our technology. We had our modern societies functioning in a way that was able to not only develop but sustain millions of people. So, I feel like we need to remind the youth of that before we even start to tell them certain things. If I think I’m starting from the bottom, why is that? If you think the same then your struggle is going to be perceived in a different way. Because you’re gonna think you need somebody to pull you up versus just remembering who you are and understanding that ‘oh what I already am that which I strive to be.’ With that understanding now is like you gain a different power, you gain a different level of awareness. You gain a different level of confidence in terms of execution. You feel more confident in the ideas, your space feels more validated. Your existence feels a little bit more real. So, we feel like once we get everybody fit mentally and spiritually and obviously physically, then we will see everything that was supposed to happen, happen. 

YH!N: The big debate has been the whole Wizkid and Justin Bieber collaboration on ‘Essence’. What’re your thoughts on that? Do you think it is great for the Afro music scene?

Jesse Royal: I think it’s a good thing. I think Justin Bieber highly respect what the reality of black culture is; in terms of I think they know that they can’t do what we do effortlessly. They have to do a whole leap of things to even be halfway near what a little five-year-old in Africa can do. So when they step forward and show them African artists respect and tap in and validate the greatness of Wizkid, I’m all for that. I don’t see anything bad with Justin Bieber on a Wizkid song cause he knows that Wizkid is doing great. So we also need to learn how to tap in and connect as well. Yeah, that’s a great thing.


YH!N: So, you got two records on Royal called ‘Home’ that’s dedicated to your two daughters and one called ‘Natty Dread’ that’s dedicated to your partner. How important was it to share this part of life and be open with your audience?

Jesse Royal: A lot of time in our genres we don’t really speak about certain things that we are affected by and we deal with you know, or deal with it in a realistic way. So for me with this project, because of my relationship with my fans, I feel like I have to be honest with them. Be as vulnerable with them as possible because I don’t know how they support me and I don’t know why. But I feel like I owe it to them to be as pure and as transparent with them as possible. So this album is an expression of that. For any man is a father, who is a real father, you know the pain of being away from your daughters, and you know what you go through inside in terms of just the conflict of wanting to be there but understanding that you have be out here and get things together to be able to provide. But then there’s a saying in our song ‘but what do our kids think?’ Because remember I’m not Jesse Royal to my daughter I’m just daddy. So she won’t know that daddy is in London working, she just knows that daddy is not home. And that was how the concept of the song started. This is why in the first line where I explain ‘I’m doing life without a trial. That’s the cost of being inspired. I follow the smoke and got fired because of my dreams when they accepted denial. Pouring my thoughts into your heart, I wish I could get back the time we lost. I pay the price no matter the cost. Baby, you will never know the half.’ One day she will understand that life is a cycle and she will be a mother. 


Jesse Royal, Royal album artwork

YH!N: You know the thing also with women is that Fathers are like the first ideal of the ‘man in our lives and the impact our perspective on men is shaped based on that relationship. As a father speaking to your female listeners who may still have that hurt caused by the absence of their father, what would you want them to take away from this song?

Jesse Royal: That even if the biological love isn’t there, there is a universal love that exists. There is a creator whose love is never fading. I mean that’s sometimes easier said than done because love is a thing that you have to feel, and I know a lot of my sisters who didn’t get the opportunity to experience love in its pure form from early on. So, even in their stages, right now they’re confused. What they can see as love is really just a representation of trying to keep someone and being in love is different from trying to keep somebody. So for me, it’s important to define to my daughters’ what love is and what is separate from the needs and wants that come with it. Just to understand it from a pure point of view, to feel loved because then you will always know what it feels like. Damon Marley said in a song “can you think of places you’ve never been? Can you reminisce on things that you’ve never seen?” So, we have to make sure they know it, they will know what it is when love comes around and what it is not.


YH!N: Okay, so the rounding up the interview, I’m going to do some fun questions for you. So, if I’m in the gym and I’m going through the Royal album, what’s the song I should listen to?

Jesse Royal: I would say “Full Moon” or “Woke Up This Morning” because “Woke Up This Morning” is a song that a lot of people actually do tag me in their gym video because of the message. “Woke up this morning feeling so blessed the world is yours for the taking. So that little voice in my head.” So just for the wake-up vibes, that’s definitely a good mantra or affirmation to start your day with. And then “Full Moon” is for the tempo and the movement. 


YH!N: If there was a moment I was about to do something stupid, but one song could change my mind. What song would that be?

Jesse Royal: “LionOrder.” Yeah, “don’t  keep no square in your circle.”


YH!N: And one song that helps to keep peace in your mind, heart and soul. What song would that be?

Jesse Royal: “Jah Will See Us Through” (From Jesse’s first album, Lily Of Da Valley). Faith as small as a mustard seed can channelize what you need, but you must know, not just believe that Jah gonna see us through. Count your blessings so you will keep counting. Learn from your lessons and stop your pouting.  Feel with more than just your senses. Jah’s gonna see us through.


Royal album out now!