Jamaican singer Hezron dropped his soulful and intimate debut album The Life I Live(d) in late May. As the title suggests it’s an album based on experiences; both his own and from people around him. Reggaemani had a chat with Hezron about his music, his experiences and why he relocated from the U.S. to Jamaica.
Hezron Clarke was born in St. James, Jamaica, and developed his singing and talent being a member of the local church choir. He later moved to the U.S. and transitioned into R&B as a young adult.
“I did R&B in the U.S., but Jamaica took over,” he explains when I talk to him over Skype from Jamaica where he is doing interviews from Tad’s Record’s office.
The Life I Lived(d) is Hezron’s debut album, but it sounds remarkably mature thanks to his powerful voice and the skilfully produced riddims . Over the years he has steadily been building a name for himself in Jamaica and abroad through a number of hit songs, including So in Love, Forever and Always and Can’t Come Between. He has also been compared to Jamaican crooner Beres Hammond as well as a highly acclaimed soul singer.
“Hezron is one of the most soulful reggae singers in Jamaican history and to me, he is the Teddy Pendergrass of our beloved genre,” says Tad Dawkins, President of Tad’s Record, in a press release.
Being compared to these two individuals might come with great obligations, but Hezron is cool and calm.
“I’m more than happy to hear such comparisons, and those two are some of my influences, and they represent different styles. But I’m also influenced by Luther Vandross, Dennis Brown, Bounty Killer and Buju Banton,” explains Hezron, and continues:
“When I grew up most things were about those singers; their melodies and style and their style and passion. They represent different flavours with multiple melodies.”
From Jamaica to the U.S. and back again
But singing reggae wasn’t always the case for Hezron. He started in the R&B vein after he had migrated to the U.S. to get a better life.
“Jamaica is a tough country, and it’s a better living overseas. The U.S. is a first world country, but music called; it was a true calling from Jamaica. It was natural for me to go back, since I grew up in a reggae environment,” says Hezron.
He was involved in the local reggae scene when he lived in the U.S – did a few gigs and things. But the scene wasn’t as authentic as the one in Jamaica, so he felt compelled to return to Jamaica to fulfil his destiny as a reggae singer.
“I wanted the true vibes and then you need to be in Jamaica,” says Hezron, and continues:
“It feels good to be back. There are good vibes here. And what has happened to me is great. It has brought out the best in me. It’s a hard place though, and you need to struggle a lot. But poverty builds character. Great words have come from this.”
Everyday life channelled through music
The Life I Live(d) comes as a double disc with a whopping 26 tracks anchored in reggae’s scorching drum and bass backbeat with an organic and richly textured sound. The lyrics are personal and intimate and deal with love, violence, relationships and poverty.
“I write about life and everyday situations. My life and other people’s life,” he explains, and continues:
“I’ve been a musician for most of my life. It has been serious for many years and I put my stories to melodies. It’s about my own experiences and other peoples stories that I have seen. It’s like everyday things channelled into melody, lyrics and music. That’s the life I’ve lived, what I’ve seen.”
Singing for the people
Hezron is dedicated to what he does and is serious about his music, and that is shown on the album, which is carefully produced and well-crafted from start to finish. Music is his life.
“It may sound boring, but my life is about music. I go to work and start working. That repeats every day. I practice with my band and it’s all about music. I love it madly. It’s my life,” he says.
Hezron describes The Life I Live(d) as his most important experience as a musician yet. It’s his life’s work and a testament that reggae music lives and breathes.
“When I came back from Jamaica people said that reggae music was lost, that talents have been lost. But I still went back and wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted people to see the depth of my talent; I wanted a career in this great music,” he says, and continues:
“It’s the vibes of Jamaica, the vibes of my country. You need to understand that people cry, you have to understand the people. And I believe I understand all that. I have taken time to write songs and wanted to put out something that the world would respect. That’s why the album has taken some time to finish. That was important to me.”
Reggae music has over the years often been described as the people’s music. And this is something that Hezron comes back to when discussing his album and his music.
“This is the only music that accommodates the stories of people, common man stories. It’s a fight against oppression, but it’s also about love and relationships. And with our music we praise the Almighty. Reggae accommodates everything and it make you dance. That’s why I love it,” concludes Hezron.