By the end of February, 2020, singer-songwriter Jarell Ebuka performed at London’s Sofa Sounds, an intimate acoustic concert with just about 100 people in attendance. At the end of his set, his brother said it was the best show he’s done, connecting to the lyrics mostly because it was acoustic.
This was the nudging Jarell needed to release Stripped this week Thursday, a 5-track EP that renders his previously released songs into acoustic compositions. Jarell’s sonic world has always been orbiting around the guitar since releasing his 2015 debut Where Has It Gone on SoundCloud. And on Stripped, the songs take a spare, naked form, away from synthesizers and electricity. It’s in the quiet confessional RnB of All Or Nothing, and on Abuja, an ode to the city he’s resided in for years aside London.
”I have always been drawn to the guitar from a little age but I never got the encouragement. By the summer of 2008 I had saved up some pocket money and bought my first guitar. This inspired me to learn guitar driven songs and also focus on ‘singer/songwriters’ who had songs that mostly emphasised on guitar, vocals and lyrics.” Jarell says.
These artistes were John Mayer, James Morrison, Norah Jones, Bob Marley, Tracy Chapman and the likes. Born Chukwuebuka Jarell Enujuba and the youngest of three children, Jarell grew up in the 90’s listening to the Christian worship songs his dad mostly played in their house. His uncle who picked him up from school had an epic taste in music, playing Lucky Dube, Simon and Garfunkel, Brian Adams and so on. His mother loved country music and she would always play Dolly Parton on the car radio.
These early influences have shaped Jarell’s sonic appetites, especially on his 2020 Dancing in the Flame EP with opener The Fire mashing up traditional folk and Rock ‘n Roll. On Instagram, he upholds a tender, country-indie aesthetic powerfully drawn from simply holding his guitar, wearing knitted beanies instead of cowboy hats and the nerdy charm from prescriptive eyewear. Although love is a common theme in Jarell’s discography, there are also narratives on the human condition.
An unforgettable moment for him was after performing in London, a little girl walked up to the stage and handed him a picture she drew of him while he was performing. ”It was so sweet. It’s currently hanging in my studio. But now I look back on it, I think her mum fancied me [laughs]. If you scroll through my Instagram, you will see it.” Jarell reminisces.
Interestingly, Jarell has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Amination and Visual Effects. In the music industry, this has proven valuable as music videos can be done in animated mediums. For Jarell who is both singer and animator, he’s still trying to find a common ground with both worlds. ”It’s not easy. They’re actually both tasking respectively, more so animation. But with technological advances, both Animation and Music production have become a lot easier and faster so I’m very enthusiastic for the near future, I’ll find a good balance soon.”
The coronavirus pandemic was huge global disruptor last year. As such, many artistes had to cancel concerts and tours and pushing new albums and releases digitally. ”My artiste friends and I really went through it last, yeah. Live shows are mostly our source of livelihood. Most of my shows are usually intimate, I prefer it. There’s something beautiful sharing your music to a small room of people who are actively listening to your music and hearing your story. I’d always prefer that to big shows.”
Jarell also has a Masters in audio production, enabling him to record and self-produce his songs. ”It’s all me. I’m still independent, I’m really not looking to get signed until I get to a point where I have enough clout to negotiate a deal on my own term.”
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.