On this show we talk with Alligator Recording artist Jarekus Singleton!
At just 29 years old, Jarekus Singleton is a musical trailblazer with a bold vision for the future of the blues. Springing from the same Mississippi soil as Charley Patton, Muddy Waters and B.B. King, Singleton’s cutting-edge sound—equally rooted in rap, rock and blues traditions—is all his own. He melds hip-hop wordplay, rock energy and R&B grooves with contemporary and traditional blues, turning audiences of all ages into devoted fans. With his untamed guitar licks and strong, soulful voice effortlessly moving from ferocious and funky to slow and steamy to smoking hot, Singleton is a fresh, electrifying bluesman bursting at the seams with talent.
Singleton’s Alligator debut, Refuse To Lose, features a scintillating guitar attack and lyrically startling original songs all sung with a natural storyteller’s voice. Produced by Singleton along with Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer and recorded at PM Music in Memphis, the album is an impossible-to-ignore first step onto the world stage. With songs telling real life, streetwise (sometimes funny) stories brimming with surprising images, pop culture references, infectious rhythms and unexpected musical twists, Refuse To Lose unleashes a new wave of blues for a new generation of fans.
Jarekus Singleton has been tearing up clubs and festivals across the South, and has performed twice at the world-renowned Chicago Blues Festival. He has been featured at South Carolina’s Lowcountry Blues Festival and Festival of Discovery as well as many other festivals in the South and clubs throughout Mississippi. With the addition of high-visibility performances including Springing The Blues Festival, Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco, The North Atlantic Blues Festival, The PA Blues Festival, The Cincinnati Blues Festival, and The Festival International du Blues de Mont-Tremblant, Singleton is on the cusp of international stardom.
Born into a family of church musicians and vocalists on July 11, 1984 in Clinton, Mississippi, Jarekus Singleton was immersed in gospel music as a child. Taught by his uncle, Jarekus began playing bass guitar at age nine in his grandfather’s church band. He later switched to lead guitar and began to sharpen his instrumental and vocal skills, falling in love with the music of all three Kings (B.B., Albert and Freddie) as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan, rappers Twista and Jay-Z, and even country artist Brad Paisley. In his late teens, Jarekus pursued a career in basketball, becoming a top-seeded national player in college until an injury took him back to his music full time. For a short period he performed as a rap artist, writing his own lyrics. Before long though, he began combining his rap wordsmithing with the music of his Mississippi heritage, creating a thoroughly modern, masterfully updated take on the blues.
In 2009, he formed The Jarekus Singleton Blues Band, quickly building a reputation as a tremendously gifted musician and performer. Jarekus self-released his first CD, Heartfelt, in 2011, and fans and media quickly took notice of these brand new original songs. Three tracks from that CD play in regular rotation on B.B. King’s Bluesville on SiriusXM Radio, the most-listened-to blues radio station in the world. But radio wasn’t alone in praising the rising blues star, as the rest of the world began paying attention. Singleton was named a “star on the rise” by Blues & Rhythm magazine in the UK. Guitar Center named him the 2011 King of the Blues in Mississippi. He received the Jackson Music Award for 2012 Blues Artist of the Year and for 2013 Local Entertainer of the Year. The Jackson Free Press named him the 2013 Best Local Blues Artist.
Living Blues praised Singleton for his “emotional intensity,” saying he “blends styles and elements across genres and generations.” Audiences at his shows run the gamut from older blues fans to younger rockers and rap aficionados, all of whom call him their own. “Blues is honest music,” says Singleton, who, with Refuse To Lose, is determined to put his own stamp on the genre. “I love the blues tradition, and have always been inspired by the masters. But I want to create something for today’s audience that is as original and new as those blues masters were when they first started making records. I want to create blues for the 21st century.”