Jaz Karis Is a Force To Be Reckoned With In Soul Music

From her early days in the choir to collaborating with Tone Stith on the sultry new track "MET YOU AT A BAR," South London’s Jaz Karis shares her musical journey, creative process, and the inspiration behind her upcoming album set to drop in 2024.

The United Kingdom has a long history of being a bastion of R&B, and Jaz Karis is one of the region’s brightest young stars. The South London songstress was recently named one of Wonderland’s artists to watch for 2024 with her unique blend of traditional R&B, contemporary soul, and stellar musicianship.

A prolific singer/songwriter, Karis has released several projects, such as “Into the Wilderness” (2017), “Summer Stories” (2019), and  “Dear Jaz” (2022), that has earned her high-praise for her velvety voice and impeccable songwriting.

For her latest single, she teamed up with Tone Stith the seductive new track “MET YOU AT A BAR,” which will give lovers of R&B all the vibes.

Growing up, Karis was surrounded by music, and it left an indelible imprint on her. For as long as she can remember, she has always known that she wanted to be a singer, and her parents made sure to invest in her talents.

“I had a great childhood,” she recalled in an interview with “My mom was one of those moms that l put us in every extracurricular activity. I started learning piano when I was eight, and music was always playing. My mom was very big into gospel, and my dad is from the Caribbean and his music was always present."

“Then I went into the choir at church and I started to learn the techniques of how to sing. I started going to talent competitions in my school and I decided to pursue music when I left my normal school to go to a performing art school,” she continued.

As she began to take her music more seriously, she enrolled in The BRIT School, a British performing and creative arts that fueled her passion for artistry. At the BRIT School, Karis began to cultivate her musical gifts as her knowledge of music continued to expand, and she met some of the future members of her touring band.

“The BRIT School helped me and made me aware of so many genres of music that  I would have never listened to if I hadn't gone there. I think it’s really important just to find out what you like, and what you don't like but with an open mind. It also helped me to develop my love for live music all over again and I met a lot of my band members that I play with to this day I met at BRIT,” she explained. “It really helped me to work on my craft, but also honed in on the sound I wanted to make.”

When asked to describe her style of music, Karis unequivocally said that she considered herself a part of the lineage of soul singers. While she has “experimented with other forms of R&B and even with house music,” being a great soul musician is her greatest aspiration.

“I think I've always known that I wanted to use the word soul to describe my music because I think it encompasses so many different genres at the same time and it’s more like a feeling,” Karis said “I would like to think that whatever I create has a feeling even if it blends into a different genre. But I still like the word soul because it allows me not to be boxed in one place. R&B is my main route, but I do, from time to time like to color outside the lines.”

Before finding her path in the music industry, Karis made the bold move not to enter college but instead chose to work in retail in places such as “IKEA and the John Lewis department store “ which allowed her to fund her dream. Although she experienced some struggles and her vision of being a musician looked “bleak” sometimes, it was during those moments that she cultivated the resilience that shaped her into the artist that she is today.

“There's no rulebook on how to start in the music industry. I was releasing stuff on SoundCloud and then I came across a guy on Instagram playing keys, which reminded me of church. Just on a whim, I DM’d him on Instagram. I don't even know how I was following him. I said, “Hey, would you be up for a session? I've got these demos”. After I sent the demos, he said, “I love your voice. Let's do it.”

“To me, it felt like this was a life-changing session because I was literally on the brink of giving up this whole dream. I want to shout out Mikekeyz who helped me put together my first EP,” she remembered. “He let me use his studio for free and he introduced me to Sillkey who produced a lot of stuff there. That project was the one that got me started.”

Regarding her creative process, the right vibe is essential for Karis to compose her music.

“I think for me, it usually starts with a feeling I'm from the music I like to start with the music and the feeling that evokes in me. Then I start singing some melodies and from there, I  start to build a story that I usually draw from my real life a lot and just be a bit dramatic about what happens in the story. I just let the music lead me to what kind of feeling I want to go with.”

On her last project, “Dear Jaz,” Karis said it was her “most personal EP to date,” with standout tracks such as “Complicated” and “Side of You” that captured her evolution as an artist. 

After releasing “Little Blue Moon” earlier this year as a teaser, Karis is currently working on another yet-to-be-titled album that she plans to drop in 2024. As the leadup to the project, Karis worked with fellow R&B stalwart Tone Stith on the sensuous“MET YOU AT A BAR.”

Produced by LA natives the Prodigal Sons, she described the song as “a depiction of a lot of dating experiences in my generation. It’s full of romance and sweet nothings but ultimately doesn’t lead to anything serious because of the lack of trust between two people.” 

As a long-time fan of Stith, Karis expressed her excitement about the collaboration and the undeniable chemistry conveyed by their performance.

“When I met Tone in person in LA, I told him how much I loved his music and that we should connect,” she said. “He was so humble and he had really good energy. We got together in New York in 2023, and I played him a song in the studio. He was messing with it so I told him to jump on it because he would be great for the song and he did. That's how it happened. It was really organic.”

“Sometimes features can be really polite but then he came right back at me and I loved it. So I was like, ‘Talk your stuff’ and I was glad that he did. I think it gives this song a great male perspective.”

If “MET YOU AT A BAR” is an indication of the next phase of Jaz Karis’s career, her next body of work will surely catapult to even higher heights. Being in a great space has led her to create more freely which she said is reflected in her new music.

“This stuff really came easily and the music was very organic with a lot of live instrumentation. It was very free-flowing and it felt like a jam but there were stories,” Karis said. “Each place I went was a different story, different feeling, and different energy and somehow it tied it together. So I'm really excited for this. I do feel like it's my best work.”

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