Monday, 15 December 2014

ART AND LIFE: Gospel star Jermaine Edwards on his roots, his new record, and widening his reach

BLAZING A TRAIL: "I am looked up to as a leader," reflects the singer-songwriter, whose new album is on sale now.

What do Papa San, Kevin Downswell and Ryan Mark all have in common? For one thing, they're dynamic reggae-gospel hitmakers with vibrant ministries and mainstream appeal. Add to that impressive lineup Jermaine Edwards, the increasingly popular crowd-pleaser whose stirring tunes, wholesome image and affiliation with mega-brands like Digicel have positioned him to reap significant achievements. Releasing a brand-new album, Don't Count Me Out, and taking his ministry to the four corners of the Earth seems the most appropriate way to get the engine warmed up. TALLAWAH dialled up the 34-year-old musician, father of two (his daughters are 13 and 10) and husband of 15 years to hear about where's he's been, what he's up to now, and where he's heading next.

TALLAWAH: You grew up as the son of a preacher man. What was that like?
Jermaine Edwards: It is not something I would have asked God for, but it helped me to be level and grounded and in being a humble person. People are always looking at you and how you behave. And as a gospel artiste now, it helps me in terms of how I conduct myself; that sense of accountability. 

TALLAWAH: A few weeks ago you introduced gospel lovers to a new album, Don't Count Me Out. We haven't heard it yet. What vibe were you aiming for when putting together the record? 
J.E.: I wanted a wider feel compared to my previous albums. Sometimes I'm in a reggae mood, other times I'm feeling the EDM style and the sounds that the young people are into right now. So I did some experimenting, and the album is like a fusion of those different sounds.

TALLAWAH: How have your supporters been responding to the finished product?
J.E.: It's the first time I've done an album with the level of anticipation that [preceded] this album. We've done a few launches across the island already, and people say they are impressed with the standard that's been set. So I'm pleased with the response to the extent that we're going to do some more launches and take the music to some of the other parishes in January. We're also going to Cayman and Canada. People have been calling us and requesting the music, so it's more like a tour we have planned for next year. The ministry is growing.

TALLAWAH: In retrospect, what has been the most personally fulfilling aspect of your Christian ministry?
J.E.: It gives people a different perspective of you; people get to see you in a different way. I have had people from the secular world and random people on the street coming up to me and saying how inspired they are by the music and the message. It's a great feeling. I am looked up to as a leader, and I like that I can help others see that there's more to the industry than just music.

TALLAWAH: You previewed the terrific track "Beautiful Day" at Mandela Park in November. What inspired that particular song?
J.E.: It's about ignoring the negatives and focussing instead on the positives. The song is basically saying 'Stop stressing about the things that are not important.' In all things give thanks. There is no situation in my life that I can say I regret.

TALLAWAH: At present, you're one of mobile company Digicel's nimble "agents." For you, what's the high point of such an experience?
J.E.: It helps with branding. In Jamaica they are the biggest thing in terms of branding because they spend a lot of money on that. Being signed to them is great for me financially and in terms of building my own brand.

TALLAWAH: Career-wise, what's the priority for 2015?
J.E.: Music is my main goal and reaching a wider market. The US is the biggest place in the word for marketing, so that's where my focus is.

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