Just because he is a rising artist doesn’t mean he is a stranger to the industry. With a powerful set of vocals under his belt and an even more powerful story, JeRonelle is back with a new single and ready to cement his place in the R&B world. His most recent single “Stuck” has led him back into the limelight as he prepares for the release of his forthcoming EP. I had the chance to sit down with him and talk about his journey thus far, from discovering his affinity for music and leaving home to pursue it to landing a spot on The Four, to where he is now, and everything in between.
From the age of three, he was immersed in a world filled with music. With a mother who was a singer herself and having grown up singing in the children’s choir, JeRonelle was made aware of his gift at a young age. “Music is really where my life was just happiest.” As we further discussed the pursuit of his dreams, he recounted the moments he spent engrossed in his studies of other musicians.
“There wasn’t really one specific moment. I just remember, driving around in the backseat with my mom or with my grandma, listening to gospel mixtapes and asking, ‘Can I hear it again?’ and having them rewind the same tapes over and over again. It was really the first time that I really paid attention to the harmonies and was trying to find ways to mimic what I was hearing. I grew up on The Jacksons and Earth, Wind and Fire, and even Usher. And I just knew that I loved the feeling of these sounds and just knew that music would be my path.”
With the discovery of artists growing through apps like YouTube, he believed he would have his chance to shine and by the time he was in high school, he decided that he was going to take the steps to make it happen. From there he left his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and went on to attend Clark-Atlanta University in Atlanta Georgia, where he graduated at the top of his class. He made his way to his next and hopefully last destination, making the big move to Los Angeles in 2016.
One of his biggest breakthrough moments would come to fruition with his move, as he was eventually casted on Fox Network’s season two of the musical competition series, The Four. With Meghan Trainor, DJ Khaled, and Diddy himself as the judges, JeRonelle was placed in the room with some of the industry’s greatest and was given his time to shine, but not without a couple of closed doors beforehand.
By the time he made it to The Audition room of The Four, he had already decided that he was giving up on those particular kinds of quests, and shared how it all fell into place.
“When season 1 first came around, it was still a pretty new concept. I was intrigued like most because it seemed like it had more of an R&B and Hip-Hop vibe. After not hearing back and already sending in auditions for other shows, I decided I wouldn’t pursue it again. Moving forward, I am at my friend’s birthday party, and I just got onto the stage to sing with no expectations. One of the producers for season two approached me about trying again. I was reluctant because, at this point, I had already been told “no” and didn’t want to go through that part again, but with his encouragement and essentially coaching me on song choices and stage presence and how to just stay out of my head in front of the judges and other producers, I decided to give it another shot.”
Though the show would depict a studious artist who appeared in the audience before making it onto the stage himself, the reality of JeRonelle’s situation was something else entirely. Facing a series of ordeals that would be enough for others to pack it up and head back home, but he persevered and made it a point to not hide his obstacles, but rather share them with others. In a recent interview with Dash Radio, he shared the story that didn’t make it to the cutting floor on The Four.
During the filming of the series, he was placed in an unfortunate living situation after a roommate scenario took an unfavorable turn with others not doing their part. On short notice, he was forced to quickly find a place to stay, which led him to transitional housing. He detailed his emotions during this time as he was against it but continued to push forward on his dreams.
“It was a very very surreal moment for me. You know, I had just graduated two years prior so I was still somewhat fresh out of college and I went from graduating top of my class to this situation. And then, this opportunity just pops up at the same time that I’m going through this struggle, so it was kind of like ‘God, what are you doing here?’ I really wished that I had made it to that final week because I would have loved to have the opportunity to really share my story. I wasn’t just the singer who studied singing in school and sat in the audience so I could study the other contestants. It was bigger than ‘I just wanna be on tv’ or ‘I just want a record deal because I was on that show with Diddy’. I was genuinely trying to change the trajectory of my life because I was really going through it. I mean, having to go to rehearsals and take the bus and the train, all the way back to this facility. I wouldn’t trade anything now because it was just what was meant to happen.”
It was impossible to not gush to JeRonelle about his mind-blowing performances of Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work” and John Legend’s “All Of Me” on the show and of course his memorable exchange with Diddy as he exited the show.
“You know, you forget about these things sometimes until somebody brings it up. Like the year that one guy went viral with that meme for them doing that stare back and forth. And it’s great because Nobody else can say that they did that. But to say that, I convinced Diddy to get out of his chair and dance and do the Diddy Bop on stage with me and just have a good time. That’s just something different.”
As an artist who has been able to triumphantly sing some incredibly difficult covers of songs by a few of the industry’s most notable artists, I was curious to see what JeRonelle’s dream opportunities would be. When asked what songs he would like to cover if given the opportunity to perform alongside the original artist, with no rules, he of course did not disappoint with his selections.
“First would be “Beyond the Vale” with Darryl Coley. Definitely a John Legend song, and that’s a hard choice but either “All of Me” or “Used to Love You.” And during the holiday season, I had performed Donny Hathaway’s “Song For You” alongside Stevie Mackey and he said then that he thought I should perform that same song with Lalah Hathaway so now I want that to happen as well.”
As we continued to chop it up, JeRonelle continued to exude nothing but optimism and positivity. While he was honest about his struggles and the unspoken hurdles that many independent artists face, he has yet to let that slow or wear him down. With a new take on life and relationships, he shared his outlook on his upcoming EP and how it will deviate slightly from his previous formula.
“My last two projects thematically followed the story of a relationship, how it starts, hits its peak, falls apart, and then the moral to the story. This project is focused on the aftermath of relationships as a whole. And not just romantic, but relationships with family, friends, peers, and even myself.”
Referring to influences from Janet Jackson’s “Velvet Rope” and Jasmine Sullivan’s “Heaux Tales”, he plans to sprinkle in some pop elements but will stay true to the traditional R&B sound that he has so flawlessly achieved. In discussing his admiration for what Jasmine Sullivan has attained, he aptly states “if she can do all of that vocally, and still get all of this mainstream attention and success, which we have all wanted for her for years, but if she can do both, then why am I limiting myself? Why am I trying to clean up these spots vocally to appease other people? I just have to do what comes naturally and the people who are meant to find it, will.”
Describing his own sound as soulful, vulnerable, and honest, JeRonelle is ready to come back with more music and is determined to make this year his. As a listener, he has the ability to morph into various sounds and still maintain such deep messages behind each track and emote so powerfully through his vocals. His continued motivation to study other artists throughout his childhood paid off, as he has now worked to master his own sound and integrate the traditional elements of R&B that we all crave.