Catch up with NYC-based singer-songwriter Jamil Kassam and watch the video for his single "Rise Now" off his upcoming 2 part album.
What first got you interested in music and songwriting?
Jamil: It's always been a part of my life. When I was little, my parents took me to singing classes, so I've been singing my whole life. I took a break from music after high school - I went to college at a business school - but the music was very present and, after finishing my Masters and going through my thesis, I realized that I really wanted to go into music and I was not going to be happy unless I did it. So, I quit everything and I wanted to have a proper education in music, so I applied to Berklee and I just finished it. And at Berklee, I actually explored all the different fields like performance, arranging, composition, and I realized that songwriting was actually the field that I really wanted to be in.
Do you remember the first song you wrote?
Yes, I actually remember. The first song that I wrote is going to be part of the EP; it's a special song called "From Your Heart".
Which musicians would you say that you've been influenced by?
Michael Jackson is a big influence on me. The RnB vibe of Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye, all of them, but Michael Jackson is one of my idols. And I'm also a big fan of Freddie Mercury from Queen. Those two are like my mentors [laughs].
Is there a song or an artist that you're hooked on right now?
Right now, I'm in love with Years & Years, 'cause their whole album, Communion, is amazing; I've been listening to it over and over. I am a huge fan of the songwriter, Justin Tranter, who actually wrote "Sorry" and "Hands To Myself", so most of his songs, I love them... I'm also a big fan of Sia.
What words would you use to describe your own sound?
So, I think that my music has a strong pop soul identity, but my sound is probably influenced from my cultural background and style, because I grew up a little bit all over the world and I feel like my sound is a combination of a multifaceted musical journey. It's a little bit of RnB, a little bit of pop, a little bit of world, and a little bit of electronic music.
What were your inspirations behind your single "Rise Now"?
It actually started at Berklee. We had to write a song about someone else's story and I had a good friend of mine who was going through the struggle of coming out as a gay man, so I actually started writing a song about him and that struggle and, as I was writing and showing it to people, I actually realized that people started to identify with the song and it related, personally, to their own struggles. So, I wanted to get something more universal so everyone could relate to it; whether it was an issue of race, gender, orientation, being bullied, or just any sort of conflict, I wanted the song to be a hymn to all of those who needed those words, basically.
Are your singles "Have Me All" and "Rise Now" indicative of what we can expect to hear on your upcoming album?
You're going to be able to hear "Rise Now" but not "Have Me All". I think, as an artist, we all make, not mistakes, but we start with something and then we realize that our sound is somewhere else and want to explore a different kind of sound and I believe that "Have Me All" is me as a former musician. I want to bring something fresh and new. I'm going to have 12 songs, I think, and I might want to break up the album into 2 parts, because the whole album is actually a story and the Part 1, the one that we're going to release first, is going to be called Citizen Of The World.
Is there a song off Citizen Of The World that you're most excited to share with fans and listeners?
The song "Citizen Of The World". Because it's actually my story and I really want to share it with people. I was super excited to share "Rise Now", too, because it's a really special song to me. The other song that you referred to, the first song that I wrote called "From Your Heart", was the song that I wrote when I made the switch between my business career to my musical career, so those three songs I'm really excited to share [laughs].
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
I really want to inspire them to go out of their comfort zone and then be whoever they want to be, basically. I also want them to have fun and dance to my music and relate to it. I know that my struggles and my story, I'm not the only one who actually went through that, so I hope it will be something that will inspire them.
Is there anything you want to add?
I'm still working on music. I'm actually in Boston right now to record more songs. I want to pitch, also, to other artists because, as a songwriter, I'm being very prolific.