A Grammy-winning vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Jacob Collier is known for his sophisticated yet hooky sound that blends crossover jazz, soulful ’70s-style R&B, and pop with contemporary electronic production techniques. Collier became an internet sensation in the early 2010s with his layered performances, achieving a one-man harmony vocal group, often with accompanying video takes, a technique he expanding upon in 2014 working with the MIT Media Lab. His debut album, 2016′s In My Room, topped the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and took home two Grammy Awards. Collier has continued to develop his sound, releasing a series of ambitious albums, beginning with 2018′s Djesse, Vol. 1, and featuring collaborations with artists like Laura Mvula, Becca Stevens, Lianne La Havas, Tori Kelly, and others.
Born in 1994 and raised in a North London family of musicians, Collier began sharing music videos of his slick, multi-track performances from his home-music room as a 17-year-old in late 2011. Presenting most of the videos in a grid layout so that each vocal and instrumental take was visible, he would often arrange and perform up to eight-part vocal harmonies, with accompaniment ranging from keyboards and stringed instruments to varied percussion. His early songs included original tunes such as “Serendipity” and covers of songwriters spanning George & Ira Gershwin, Burt Bacharach, and Stevie Wonder.
After high school, he enrolled as a jazz piano performance major at the Royal Academy of Music. While there, he caught the attention of legendary producer Quincy Jones who signed Collier to his management company. Also while in school, Collier further developed his method of solo multimedia live performance, collaborating on the project with engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. With Jones’ backing, he debuted the performance technology at the 2015 Montreux Jazz Festival, where he opened for Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. Soon in demand for his arranging skills as well as performing, he began collaborating with other musicians, including an appearance on Snarky Puppy’s early-2016 release Family Dinner, Vol. 2.
As a solo artist, Collier’s first official single from an album of his own, “Hideaway,” appeared in April 2016. His debut LP, In My Room, followed mid-year on the Membran label and charted in Switzerland and the Netherlands in addition to reaching number three on Billboard’s Jazz Albums chart. In 2017, Collier won two Grammy Awards for his arranging: one for his version of Stevie Wonder’s “You and I” (Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella) and one for his cover of The Flintstones theme song (Best Arrangement, Instrumental and Vocals).
By the time he returned to the studio to work on his second album in 2018, he’d been touring internationally for over two years. Described as the first of a four-volume project, Djesse, Vol. 1 arrived on Decca in December 2018. It featured the Metropole Orkest conducted by Jules Buckley, as well as collaborations with Laura Mvula, Moroccan singer Hamid El Kasri, the a cappella groups Take 6 and Voces8, and Suzie Collier, Jacob’s mother. Djesse, Vol. 2 followed in 2019 and found Collier exploring more intimate acoustic settings alongside an equally impressive list of collaborators, including Lianne La Havas, Oumou Sangaré, Sam Amidon, Becca Stevens, and others. Both albums earned Collier Grammy Awards, including Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella for “All Night Long” off Djesse, Vol. 1, and Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals for “Moon River” off Djesse, Vol. 2. The following year saw the arrival of Djesse, Vol. 3, which featured collaborations with Tori Kelly, T-Pain, Daniel Caesar, and Ty Dolla $ign, among others. ~ Marcy Donelson