The pop star shares his new single and outlook with The Way of Us
Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photographs: Nick Gordon | Video: VCG
The son of a preacher, Jimmy Nevis discovered both singing and his sense of style at church, with his formative years spent in the choir dressed in his Sunday Best. So when Jimmy Nevis talks about salvation and redemption, it isn’t exactly a revelation.
The Way of Us visited the artist in studio while working on his new track ‘Ballin’, and throughout the day there were hints at this next album being something of a second coming.
Two albums in, and no longer signed to a major label, 25-year-old Matthew Le Roux has a new list of priorities now – none of which is producing a radio-friendly unit shifter.
Jimmy Nevis is currently letting the journey take precedence, staying true to his artistry and wanting to do everything he does in as authentic a way as possible.
“I always felt like I lived two different lives, and there was a large part of me that I kept a secret. Growing up I would dance and sing in my back-yard and only later I surrendered to that and decided that this was what I wanted to do.”
But first Matthew needed to overcome his crippling shyness, and so the Jimmy Nevis persona was born.
“There’s this person that I know I can be, who enjoys pushing things and being risky, and that’s Jimmy Nevis. He was an outlet I started using in high school already and through that I’ve never had a problem with my shyness onstage. I think it’s just about directing my energy and focus.”
Jimmy says that the past five years feel like 20. There have been lost relationships, newly formed ones, disappointments, celebrations, and a lot of hustle, but ultimately, this year has been different to all those preceding it.
“I’m an independent artist now. I’m taking more risks and trying different things. I feel I’m pushing my craziest thoughts out there. I’m in a constant state of vulnerability and that’s quite empowering. I hope to proceed like this for the next five years at least.”
Nevis’ revitalised sense of self-expression is illustrative of how he is diversifying what he’s creating – and through more than just his music. Shifting his personal style from more traditionally masculine styles of dress to the realm of gender-neutral clothing, Jimmy made a conscious decision and began to recognise the influence his music and presentation has among people. At the time of writing, his clothing label, York Yard, had already been presented at two pop-up stores at Canal Walk and the V&A Waterfont in what Jimmy sees to be the logical next progression for someone who decided some years back to only wear local brands.
“There’s a whole lot of power that comes with my role as a musician, as someone who has influence, and because there’s so much tied up with masculinity and the way men are supposed to dress, I thought that’s not necessarily how I am.”
Still, while these brand extensions are important to Jimmy, who sees all creativity like a song – something that’s built in layers – music will always be his focus. It’s difficult to think that prior to this new single, Jimmy almost packed away his mic. If there was a theme for the new album it would be his quarter life crisis.
“I went through a very intense time at the start of the year. I was down about a lot of things. To the point where I was going to leave the industry because I just wasn’t in a very good space. I was kind of fearful and worried that I wouldn’t achieve what I needed to. I was questioning who I was.”
This headspace made the songwriting process more real, and was a cathartic exercise for the artist to unpack his life, to see who he really is, and stop ignoring the things he’d been pushing aside.
Jimmy explains that ‘Ballin’’ didn’t follow the typical process and was freestyled in studio after Sketchy Bongo told him to go into the booth and do his thing.
“I did some melody lines and eventually got the hook, which was so smooth. It felt like something old but also new. Even though it’s about me it’s not my story alone, it’s our story. Pop has never been static. It’s always been something that’s allowed a sort of exchange.”
Jimmy Nevis understands that being a pop artist is about being adaptable, that it’s not just about giving people what they want, but directing them and getting them to understand where an artist is coming from.
“I really want to give people an insight into some of the things that I went through this year. My life feels like salvation and this album is redemption and the songs are celebratory of a life worth living.”
This epic finale is the culmination of one journey and the beginning of another, and as long as Jimmy Nevis keeps sharing his trials and tribulations through song then we get to enjoy the journey, too.