Songwriter, performer, and recording artist Jesse Royal sidestepped the traditional recording contract early in his career, initially choosing to pursue music as he pleased. Hailing from the rural farming community of Maroon Town in St James’s Parish, Jesse Royal’s words have always been ingrained in consciousness and he challenged stereotypes using music.
His first album Lily of the valley from Da, released by Easy Star Records, reached No. 1 on the US Billboard Reggae Album chart in 2017 and there were always plans to make another album that would match or exceed the first. But he knew it was a project he couldn’t do on his own. There was a diverse team of creative forces behind the recently Grammy-nominated album, Royal, to help realize his vision – some of whom have worked on projects that have already received the approval of the Recording Academy and others that pursue their dreams of being recognized by the coveted organization.
After the Grammy nominations announced earlier this week, Jesse Royal shared with fans on social media that with all the challenges he has faced, Royal to be named among the six in the category Best Reggae Album was already a victory.
He wrote: “If you know the struggles [we’ve] been through. The ups and downs, the smiles, the frowns. Confusion and the relentless search for solutions, you would know why this, in and of itself, is a triumph. Jesse Royal tagged several artists and music industry professionals in the post, such as incarcerated dancehall deejay Vybz Kartel and producer Iotosh, who made Rich forever, and other featured artists Protoje, Samory-I, Runkus and Stonebwoy to Dubwise founder Jason Panton, who worked on the album artwork.
“To each person who gave their energy without restraint. The dream team! We start with a purpose and never turn away. A good heart is always valuable, love is always real, Jah is more powerful than them all and all the voters, thank you for the nod to everyone who bought, listened, broadcast and shared you are appreciated, ”continued the artist in the Publish.
Simon Alexander Mitchell may not be a name everyone is familiar with in the industry, but under the nickname Vision Alexander (which Jesse Royal mentioned in the article) his portfolio as a songwriter has much to be admired. The Florida-based singer-songwriter has worked with such figures as Mojo Morgan, Jemere Morgan, Protoje, Koffee, and Teyana Taylor, among others. He is credited on six of the 11 tracks on the acclaimed album: LionOrder, Natty pablo, Differences, Dirty money with Stonebwoy, Rich forever with Vybz Kartel, and Natty dread.
“The first song Jesse Royal and Easy Star Records heard from me was LionOrder, and it was originally supposed to be a single, but the label [was] in album mode at the time. As a result of that he made us fly, myself and producer Sean Alaric, [in] for a writing camp, ”said Vision Alexander The gleaner.
This is the second nomination for Sean Alaric, who produced Throne featured on Koffee’s EP Rapture, which won the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. By the end of the trip, the songwriter and producer understood the mission, using LionOrder as a model of what the artist and the label expected.
He said, “The three of us plus producer Jon FX are working as a ‘dream team’, and we all had high expectations for the album. Jesse is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. I mean, he was just coming off tour when he ran the writing camp, his voice was gone, and he only had a week to do it, but he’s still got it 100% . He set the tone for what synergy means.
The album is more than a self-titled second production, and the recording artist would potentially have the most precise and meaningful definition of “Royal,” Vision Alexander said, but “the way it was put together has been done in a regal character, ”which says it all, and for that reason,“ this nomination looks like a victory ”.
“Everything, the way everyone – the way everything – came together to work on the album was organic. It was something ‘out of the mud’, and there wasn’t a big budget either, so just having the Recording Academy see the quality of the work was enough for me, ”added Vision Alexander.
RESOURCES AND RESILIENCE
Recording artist Runkus, who worked with Jesse Royal on the album’s ninth track, Like Dat, also reacted to the nominations. “It was a mixture of emotions for me, at first I hardly ever believe it,” he disclosed. “Joy, excitement, shock … yes we are working hard for that, and the album deserves [it], and Jamaican music is everything, but a lot of albums have been submitted.
Speaking of the opportunities generated by the album, the artist said that both emerging and established creators have contributed to the album.
“We all had a role to play or acted in more than one capacity; for the track, I helped create the rhythm, produce, design and write. Jamaica is one of those places where we as a people rely on our creativity to do things… look, there was never some technological advancement back then, but we made reggae. Out of resourcefulness and resilience, we use what we have and make it work. This is what makes us win. It makes me feel ready to take the step towards submitting an album, ”said Runkus.
Omar Currie, founder of Smart Kid Records, is also credited as a songwriter on Like Dat. He said that a session with the two recording artists spawned more ideas and productions. Already forging a fruitful path, he looks forward to more victories.
“In 2022, we have projects with more reggae artists. Runkus is a talented songwriter, musician and performer; you name it. It’s still a great chemistry, and there’s that resilience that allows us to unlock great things like what we did with Jesse with Like Dat,” he said.