​Meet the winner of American Express Gold Unsigned: Jazzie Martian - Features - Mixmag
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​Meet the winner of American Express Gold Unsigned: Jazzie Martian

The future talent chats to Mixmag about the competition, going up against other aspiring artists, his influences in music, and what’s coming next

  • In association with American Express
  • 1 September 2022

What does it take to get your foot in the door? For some, it might be a lifetime of honing your skills, making connections, aiming high, and doing what you love. For Nottingham-born singer and rapper Jazzie Martian, that story isn’t too dissimilar.

Mixmag has teamed up with American Express on a new initiative - American Express Gold Unsigned - providing one lucky musician with their first big break. In conjunction with Syncr, BIMM Institute, and NME, we helped to shortlist hundreds of aspiring contestants down to 50, before narrowing those down to just five unsigned singers, rappers, and bands who went head to head earlier this month in a live showcase. A panel of judges then picked out one winner who scored career-building prizes including the opportunity to soundtrack a forthcoming campaign for American Express Gold Rewards and perform at Oxford's Wilderness Festival. On top of those prizes, the up-and-coming musician also bagged a £10,000 Syncr fee which can be put toward industry guidance, marketing, and connection building to aid their music career, and the chance to record and release their own single.

As if almost manifesting his win, aspiring musician and former dancer Jazzie Martian claimed the winning spot following his performance and submission track, ‘Future’, which fuses soulful vocals with a dancehall-inspired hook. “I know I’ve got a future, and [this track] is the very story of what my future is going to look like, or giving you the manifestation before it happens,” Jazzie tells Mixmag after the triumph.

We caught up with Amex Gold Unsigned’s winner to chat about his story so far, how he started out on the music scene, and where he’s going next. Jazzie also gave us the lowdown on the competition and how it felt going up against some incredibly talented musicians. Check it out below.

You were previously a dancer before you took up music - how did that transition come about?

I was playing basketball originally, that was the dream. The dream was to go to America, but I injured my knee, so that was the time I first went into dance at 15-years-old. It was never music first, dance was always my first passion and love. A lot of my influences in dance are also my influences in music, too, so you can imagine transitioning to music was an automatic feed. My transition was funny though because I didn’t know I wanted to do music, I went to the studio with my nephew and one day he said ‘yo, you should just jump on the mic’. So be it, I made my first song - it was around 2015 and the first time I ever made a track.

When did you start properly producing your own music?

Production came after when I came off a TV show called Let It Shine where I figured out what it was like to be on TV and sing other people’s songs and project myself left and right. That was my second analogy of crossing from dance into music because this show was very dance orientated. The music side came when I left the show and was like ‘all right, what do I do now?’. Then, I went into modelling which got me into more conceptual ideas. I met a guy who was one of my favourite photographers and videographers called Haris Nukem, and he introduced me to a world of looking at objects differently and being from a movement background. Movement is very close to music. I then met my first producer and started voice noting and making sounds on my phone to make my own tracks.

How would you describe your style?

I would say I’m very eccentric, multi-genre, cinematic, big, open, story-telling, and you can almost see my heart when you listen to my music. People often tell me that I look like my music when they meet me.

How do you get inspired? And who are your biggest influences at the moment?

Some of my biggest influences come from many different directions, some from music like Missy Elliot, she will always be my number one. She changed my life! Frank Ocean, Kanye West. These are people that see music for more than just a sound, it’s a feeling and a concept. Andre 3000, Skepta, I could go on! James Blake, FKA twigs. It’s the nuance, it’s the muse. But then I have another side that I will never not give the same love and appreciation to which is the videographers and the creatives. It’s the people that are on the come-up but also relatively unknown, some of them are at the top of their mound.

Can you tell us about your Amex Gold Unsigned submission track, ‘Future’? What’s the story behind it?

‘Future’ was a question for me at one point. When I was making the track, it was a question. The song came from me creating and accumulating sounds from the past and the future. You can hear elements of my background like the dancehall and Jamaican vibes, but you can hear the UK essence within it. The story of ‘Future’ is asking, what is the future? What does it look like? What does it smell like? Because I know I’ve got a future, and it’s the very story of what my future is going to look like, or giving you the manifestation before it happens. I’m asking you in the song, where are you going to be? What are you doing? And if you’ve got a dream, I will accept you because it’s lit over here. We work hard, we do things, we reach stars, and if you don’t reach the highest star, you land on the moon.

You went up against some great talent at that showcase - how did it feel getting on stage?

I was so nervous. I always wear my heart on my sleeve and let people know how I feel. Nerves are something I’m good at and can suppress, but more than nerves, what was beautiful about the competition was that it was the first time I’d performed my songs because I’ve only done one gig in the past, and I was watching people who had done it many more times than me. It was a breath of fresh air, I was taking notes because I’m new and it was almost like my first day on the job. I’d seen some things that I’d never witnessed face to face, it was almost like it was more than just a competition. It was a learning curve, and though there were no signed artists, there was so much professionalism in that moment there. I was watching how some of the bands played the guitar and their eyes were forward, but it was flawless down here. The competition for me was more than just competition, it changed my life.

What has been your biggest takeaway from the whole experience?

The biggest thing I’ve taken away is not to be scared to be 1000% Jazzie Martian. I used to have a big fear of dancing and singing, I used to think it would be too much. I’ve learnt now that people love it, even if it’s just one man on stage. I was afraid to give everybody my all, so the takeaway for me is to give my everything.

How did you react when you found out you’d won?

I had to tell people to excuse my shock, the way they did it was such a setup! We went to get some food, turned the corner, and the cameras were all there. I didn’t know how to feel, I had to digest it for like two weeks. Have you ever wanted something for so long that you’re numb to it? You’re just numb to your wants? It becomes this unconscious action and people question why you’re still doing what you’re doing because it seems like you’re wasting a lot of time. You just need one small moment to say, hey, I’m here.

You must have some great opportunities lined up - what’s next for you?

The sky is the limit! It’s whatever God can provide for me. I know we’ve got the release of ‘Future’ coming, some shoots coming out, and I can’t wait for you guys to see the clothing that we’ve got coming. A lot of big things, I always say my music is big, warm, cinematic. If that’s what you like, we’ve got that coming.

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