Jacob Collier on his relationship with Quincy Jones: “I said ‘I don’t want any help with mixing, I want to do it all myself’... he really respected that”

Jacob Collier and Quincy Jones
(Image credit: Rachel Luna/WireImage)

As he gears up for the release of Djesse Vol 4, his new album, Jacob Collier has been speaking to Vogue about his relationship with mentor Quincy Jones.

Collier caught the producer’s attention when he started posting harmonically complex covers on YouTube more than a decade ago, and confesses that he couldn’t quite believe it when the super-producer got in touch.

“I thought one of my friends was pulling a prank,” he says. “But then I got on Skype and there he is like, ‘What’s going on? How many girlfriends you got?’ I was like, ‘Oh, 47’, and he’s like, ‘Oh man, I only got 22.’ And he does have 22!”

Of his relationship with Q, Collier says: “The amazing thing about the way he handled me when I was just starting out is, he didn’t try and control me at all. I said ‘I don’t want any help with mixing it, I want to do it all myself.’ Obviously, Quincy is like, the best producer of all time, but he really respected that. It gave me the chance to learn things on my own terms.”

Jones turned 90 this week, and Collier was among those paying tribute, calling him “the greatest living musical superhero.”

Winding back a little, Collier also chatted to Vogue about his formative musical experiences: “I got one of those Casio keyboards with 200 sounds, and I would spend a lot of time going through them, building up layers, determined to make stuff,” he reveals. “I’ve always believed that you don’t need a lot to be creative, just a space where it’s safe for the ideas to come to the surface, and time to mess about. Having Logic and a piano and a microphone was just unbelievable. How I started my YouTube career was just by extending my musical limbs in a visual way.”

When talk turned to how he managed to master multiple instruments, Collier explained: “I was singing basslines 10 years before I picked up a bass - I knew the feeling of it and would just ask, ‘how do I get the thing that’s in my head into this instrument?’ We call it vocalising: you learn it internally first, then you transfer it into the instrument."

Collier’s style is undoubtedly individual, fusing elements of jazz, folk, pop and R&B, and he puts this down to his free-thinking approach to creativity.

“When you learn music, you’re trained to think [in terms of a] ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’,” he says. “It’s all just made up. You have to find your own way. And so often [in making music], the things that are deemed wrong, or unconventional, or strange - those are the things that work the best and move people the most, because people are moved by things that aren’t perfect.”

Check out the full interview on the Vogue website.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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