Jude the Obscure Interview: “Over lockdown I found myself making completely different music than before…”

Jude the Obscure is a musician of migratory sound and following the release of his debut EP ‘Moments’, he is beginning to make more than just his mark.

Jude the obscure is many things. His musical talents and broad spec sheet of skills within the game allow him to glide his way into many genres. His noteworthy appreciation for more than just one habitat of music pushes him into new sounds, though ultimately an idiosyncratic quality lingers throughout notes of jazz, Hip-Hop and conversational spirit.

We met and explored the origin story of JTO, an artist who we think is not just going places, but new realms.

Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us. What was your gig like in London?

I couldn’t have asked for it to go better. I was born and raised in London so it was incredibly special for me to go down for my first show back after lockdown and play to a sold-out show of friends and fans alike. Had a great time.

You live in Manchester now, what are the differences between the capital and your adoptive city?

A hard question for me to answer really – I initially moved up here for university and naturally, being under 18 for most of the time I lived in London, I didn’t have much opportunity to explore the scene there. Manchester feels proper organic though, there’s a big emphasis on community and helping each other grow here. It’s also a hell of a lot smaller haha, saves me trekking two hours to go to gigs. 

Where did the name ‘Jude the Obscure’ come from? And what are your origins in music?

It’s actually lifted from a Thomas Hardy book of the same title (which I was named after). I come from a musical family – my mum was a professional singer in her younger years and my dad is a big music lover. They made sure I was brought up through music; piano and trumpet lessons, singing in choirs etc. It’s always been a big part of my life. 

There are heavy notes of Jazz in your work. How would you describe it?

When I started this project, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by some incredibly talented players and musicians. We all loved what was coming out of the London Jazz scene at the time, and I wanted to put something out that not only represented me but also the underground scene I’d experienced up here in Manny. The first EP is definitely an amalgamation of those things – whether or not that’s ‘jazz’ is up to you, but it’s definitely reflective of my musical interests at the time.

On ‘Strong enough’ you spit some bars of fire. What prompted you to change your style up? Will there be more of the same?

Thank you! Whilst I’ve never advertised myself as an MC, I’ve always enjoyed spitting and its expressive capabilities. It’s a whole different world to singing. I’ll definitely find room for it in future projects, for sure! 

You’ve released a steady string of singles and an EP. Have you planned for an album? Or are you staying the current course?

An album would be great, but currently, I want to focus on consistency before I commit to any large-scale projects. 

Do you work with session musicians or a band?

I have an incredible band that I’ve been playing with for about two years. They’re some of the best musicians I know and I owe them a lot. 

You mentioned you’re a trumpet player, is that you we hear in your work?

I wish, haha. I play the odd line here and there but all the flashy impressive stuff is 100%, not me. All credit goes to my good friend Aaron Wood – a silly, silly player. 

When we play your music, we hear similarities between you and Mulatu Astatke. Which artists would you say you connect with?

It’s all over the shop for me – I was influenced by some heads in the London scene as mentioned before; Ezra Collective, Loyle Carner etc. But I was really into projects like Jamila Woods and Avantdale Bowling Club when writing some of the tunes for the first EP. At the same time, I routinely rinse names like Mac Ayres, Lucky Daye, and Frank Ocean, and I’m currently really enjoying Cleo Sol‘s latest project.

If you could pick any movie you would want your music to appear in, what would you choose?

This question has fully stumped me but I feel I should pick something topical, maybe the new James Bond? 🤷🏻‍♂️

How have you changed as a person the more you’ve progressed in music?

I’ve become a lot more confident in myself but I think that’s natural – I generally take an introspective approach to my writing, so feeling exposed and vulnerable is part and parcel of that process. The more I’ve come to accept that, the more confident I’ve had to become in myself and what I want/need from life.

What’s the story behind ‘Far from sense’? Because you switch it up a lot, are there other genres you plan to delve into?

Over lockdown I found myself making completely different music than before as I couldn’t write for a band anymore. I’ve always liked darker alternative R&B and I guess ‘Far From Sense‘ was an experiment for me. I wanted to see how far I could push the boat out with my listeners, and it did well. I’ve no plans as to what’s next though, maybe a folk album?

Photography: Ty Faruki