Now if you’ve been paying attention this month The Digital Fashion Platform has been bringing to you some great Underground Artists. Leading the way was the cool house sounds of Zak Abel, which was followed by the energetic vibes of DJ Just Jay and the creative New York band Village Psychic. But Last week we took a trip to the Midlands to source that Diamond in the ruff and were lucky enough to find two when we interviewed these two Neo Soul Singers for this weeks ‘Underground Acts Takeover.’


[Image Source: Christof Jennings Facebook]

It’s great to finally get you both together and speaking of togetherness is it right to say that you are in fact a double act or is that wrong? Because there are quite a few collaborations with the two of you on vocals so it is easy to assume that this is the case.

CJ:No that’s not right! I am an Individual artist Christof Jennings, and we are all individual singers, but it is really hard to find good backing vocalists so we all do it for each other.

Ad:We are friends as well so I think that this is where the confusion comes of us being a duo act. But as friends we bounce off each other. We are always involved with each others music from the writing to production, so it makes it a lot easier when it comes to performing the song together and doing the backing together. And its Birmingham and Birmingham is very small so it makes sense to perform together in some aspects, but this is why I guess people assume that we’re a collective.

So you just mentioned backing vocalists do you really find it that hard to find good ones?

CJ: The problem is that there are some artists who do their individual stuff great but when it comes to backing they can’t and just want to take the lead and there is a reason why it is called “backing,” if you know what I mean? So since college we have worked together and it’s been cool.

What drew you to music?

CJ: I suppose my Nan in a way… I used to always sing and this was in Jamaica. I was about 6 or 7 when she died. I used to sing to her all the time and her dying wish was that I sing because this is what I loved and to sing at her funeral, which I did. And that was it, that’s when people realised I could actually sing, and I have been doing it ever since.

Ad: I was always fascinated with what was going on in the world and a bit of a dreamer so at a young age I started writing little poetry and it was a similar thing with my Nan and about being around her and in that environment, so any music that was playing on TV at that time I would write over it. Murder She Wrote was my first one at 8 and from then I wrote over anything, any sound I could hear, and then at 14 I heard an advert on the radio for singers to come forward and I did and sung for local reggae and soul artist and that’s how I found my feet and I have been doing this professionally ever since.

How would you describe your music?

Ad: Very soulful and coming from Reggae and Hip-Hop as a child growing up. Reggae was in the home but Hip-Hop was my rebellious stage. So much of my undertones are heavy base but overall Soulful R&B.

CJ:I was raised on Gospel so this was what I was conditioned to sing and then after I moved out and started doing things on my own it was more R&B Soul with a very Gospel Base

Being Underground Artists is not an easy feat, but what have been the most challenging experiences of the music industry at this level?

Ad: God living in Birmingham for one!..… And having a decent network of people that can help you to progress. And just having that place of outlet. A lot of people are getting on to it now but there’s nothing official, if you know what I mean? Even though technology is there to help you do it yourself, I am old school, so I want to know that people are there and meet people and get to know directly that they know my music is here personally. I love to gig and I love the intimate side of that side of music.

CJ: As Adante said it is definitely being in Birmingham, it’s a detriment to all of us, because Birmingham is a place where you hone in your talents and then you go to London or to Europe to distribute it. For example if you went to Atlanta and you made a name for yourself over there then suddenly everyone in Birmingham is on your case but trying to build from here there’s not enough support and there needs to be more support. Don’t get me wrong there is support but there needs to be more support from the home and gaining payment for an artist here is just one of the things that is also difficult.

[Image Source: Adante D]


[Image Source: Adante D]

Adante this question is more directly focused toward you; as a female singer do you find there are more demands or expectations for you?

Ad: Obviously with any woman in the media you are constantly thinking image – do you fit in or whatever else? But because I have been doing this for so so many years I am passed that phase and I do not really focus on what anyone else may think, I just focus on the music and the fact that this is something that I really want to do and has kept me going throughout my life and something that I said I would never give up until I stop enjoying it. Therefore, I enjoy what I do so I will continue.

Christof, do you find there are less demands on you or do you feel it’s just as challenging?

CJ: Just really the demands that I put on myself really! Things like, how am I going to look tonight? Have I worn this before? Has this outfit been snapped in Facebook already? But really it is all about the music in the end.

Where have you guys performed thus far?

Ad: Locally Mostly. We did have the opportunity to travel out a bit more this year but I would absolutely love to perform in Manhattan or Dubai in their Jazz cafes.

CJ: We did London last year a club in Soho and we have done a few festivals.

What was your best show?

Ad: For myself it was the 50thAnniversary of Jamaican Independence that was a big honor for me and to be a part of that entire scene in Victoria Square.

CJ: For me it was when I performed with a 17-piece brass band for Collab-Live. The crowd that was there was amazing and that made me very proud.

Now Christof this one is for you; those that have had the pleasure of meeting you, know how forgetful you can be at times but have you ever completely forgotten a set or lyrics to a song?

CJ: Hahahha…. Yes! Oh my God yesss… actually its not more that I forget, it’s more that I get so taken by the music and the band and BV’s or sometimes it’s when I hear those girls harmonies, and I just have to break my neck and look back at the girls like “whaaat!!!” ….This is how I get carried away and forget myself sometimes.

And the humming starts?

CJ: Haha! Yes!… the humming starts, just to carry the song so that the crowd thinks it’s just a part of the vibe and not an improvisation. But it is true that sometimes I get blown away by these guys and their vocals and its just a magical sound and experience and you really feel the music and that’s what its about.

[Image Source: Christof Jennings Facebook]


[Image Source: Christof Jennings Facebook]

Commercially who would you love to work with?

CJ: Bilallal and I would love to work with D’Angelo! Producer wise Nelly and Kandi Tuker.

Ad: Definitely D’Angelo, and people like Slum Village. Definitely Neo Soul artists, it would have to be that kind of groove.

Musically what are your pet peeves?

Ad: Just be committed and have a little bit of discipline. As we said in the beginning we work as a team and when you are working with a team, even though you may have your own individual personality, when you work in teams you have to be disciplined because if one pulls out it effects everyone. So be disciplined and considerate.

CJ: Lateness is my pet peeve. Be on time and be punctual because we have to pay for rehearsal studios and studio time and time is money so being late is a no no for me.

As this month it is all about shining a light on talented underground artists, we like to ask this question to those that know what it is like at this level of the industry. What would be your advice to aspiring artists aiming to go into the music industry?

Ad: Learn your talents, hone into your talents and spend some time to nurture it. Study and acquire as much information you can that is available to you. Get as much of your skill out, so that you are not relying on anyone for anything, and definitely learn an instrument.

CJ: Make sure that you know the industry side of things as well. I can’t stress enough that you should definitely learn the business side of things because there are a lot of charlatans and sharks out there that want to pray on those that are not so well informed and they will just take, and take, and take from you, especially promoters. And in the business as soon as they are aware that you are not as clued up business-wise they can take advantage of that fact and as soon as they are aware that you understand the business side you will be treated completely differently.

[Image Source: Adante D]

To follow more on these two incredible artists and their jaw-dropping vocals go to their media links below|




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Edit & Words By: Florence Bailey