Jean-Marie Lincoln says music has always been in the soul of him and his family. His early talent was fostered by a supportive family and today he’s just released a personally-poignant new album. He relates to Kreol the highlights of his rich and colourful life, as a talented musician.
British singer-songwriter Lincoln Jean-Marie has had a career as rich and enjoyable as his parents’ St Lucian dumpling soup. His influences and interests are diverse; a mixed pot of Creole culture, British success, a Christian heart and a music-loving family.
Music is felt as well as heard explains the musician. “At school, we were not taught the type of music that moved me so I never connected with music lessons in any way,” he explains.
“My first music teachers were all the vinyl records from my family’s record collections. I would sit for hours listening repeatedly to songs from many different genres, really feeling and examining each of them. I did not realise it at the time, but I was like a sponge learning how to put songs together.”
His smooth style blends the modes and voices of artists from previous, more experimental eras.
“I admire many different artists for many different reasons,” he says.
“Focusing on vocal ability, I would say firstly Donnie Hathaway because I can feel every single word that he says. He meant it! Karen Carpenter had the single most smoothest delivery and tone that made you feel you are lying on a bed of feathers,” he adds.
He also credits the artist Lauryn Hill because of her authenticity and connection to such a beautiful instrument, her voice, and Will Young, because of his innate ability to communicate with the audience and make it all look so effortless. The work of these talented singers inspires and motivates him but he knew from a young age that music was in his soul.
“My most profound and favourite musical memory was sitting down at the age of about nine years old listening to a song called “Get Away” by Earth Wind and Fire,” he tells us.
“My older brother had an amazing stereo system and I had one speaker on my left and one to the right. I was so into the song I lost all sense of space and time. That is when I knew I had an extraordinary relationship with music.”
He comes from a musical family and his sister entered a singing competition on Capital Radio when he was about ten years old. Hearing her made him realise from a young age that if you had a talent like singing, it was possible for everyone to hear it.
“You just had to put yourself out there,” he says.
His music-loving older brother also gets another mention for nights spent listening to reggae and soul music, while his older sister listened to a lot of commercial pop and his mother tuned into jazz classics like Billy Holiday and Nat King Cole.
His very first musical instrument, bought many years ago, was an Ensoniq EPS sampling keyboard which he has used on everything he writes, “It’s part of my musical family”, the committed Christian says. Today he composes by programming every single one of his instruments on the computer, but he can hear every song he writes in complete detail in his mind. His favourite instruments are the piano and bass guitar, “because of all of the flourishes and colours it can put into a song and because it is generally the backbone and anchor of a good song.”
This innate ability to understand musicality has stood him in good stead.
“Music has always been instinctual to me. It is woven into me,” he explains. “It helps me to feel better when I am down, it always takes me to another place even when I am only imagining hearing my favourite music. I was born with an ability to see music in my mind’s eye in different colours.”
“This has helped me in my work with remembering parts and melodies with greater ease,” he continues, “I thank God that he created me this way and gave me such a wonderful gift of music. More than practice I guess it was the confidence to really know that I was good enough at doing what I was doing.”
His confidence, ability and ambition have taken the singer to great heights. He has performed in many different public settings from stadiums and arenas to studios and TV shows. He often works as a session singer, performing alongside the likes of George Michael, Robbie Williams, Craig David, Will Young, Lemar and many others, as a member of their bands touring around the world.
“I absolutely love the stage, the bigger the better,” he says.
“I remember performing at Madison Square Garden in New York, the 2012 Olympics and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. They were the most astonishing shows I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in. My favourite performance was being on stage at the 2012 London Olympics and seeing more than 80,000 people with their flashing cameras and roaring cheers putting out all of that appreciative energy.”
The show also gave him the chance to meet Stevie Wonder.
“I guess the only thing that could top that would be to win a Grammy!” he says.
These big opportunities are a challenge and a rush, Lincoln explains: “This is really strange but the bigger the stage the less anxious I am. I guess it’s seeing a sea of people and not having to concentrate on any one person. However, it can be quite different in a small intimate setting, that’s when you feel your heart is out on your sleeve.”
He’s not one for Dutch courage: “I prefer to be completely sober when on stage as I have more control over what I am doing. I say that because I have tried alcohol before going on stage in the past, but it just doesn’t work for me when performing. I need to stay sharp. I guess the only way to get over performance nerves is to perform so much that it becomes second nature, like breathing.”
He has an upbeat and dynamic approach to these types of challenges. His latest release is an EP called Inspired which is out now on SoundCloud and YouTube. “One of my favourite songs off the “Inspired” EP is called, “Call Out Your Name”. It’s about overcoming obstacles in our lives whilst remaining positive and is truly an uplifting song.”
His own faith is a significant driver for the British artist, “When I became a Christian, I felt a huge surge of inspiration that I had not felt musically for a long time and with that came many songs. I decided to make an album of songs that reflect positivity and my spiritual beliefs.” He’s hoping “Inspired” gets to be heard around the globe and that he has the chance to perform it in many different places and most importantly to inspire many different kinds of people.
Off-stage he’s still always the performer, “I love to do impressions, I love to act, I’m a very good cook and I love renovating old wooden things like doors and furniture,” he says. “It’s the creative thing with the hands I guess,” adding that this also translates to the kitchen. His best recipe is St Lucian dumpling soup which takes about four hours to cook and consists of the finest beef with hard dumplings and has – what he says – is the richest, thickest broth ever.
This tasty dish reflects his family’s origins, “I was born in London but fortunate enough to grow up in Saint Lucia for a few years, enough time for me to be able to learn my parents’ language (Patois) and cook some of their dishes,” he explains. Today, he’s hoping his career continues in the same international and diverse flavours.
“I have played on some of the world’s biggest stages with some of the world’s biggest artists and now I would like to revisit many of those places but with my very own project,” he says. “It’s all about what God has in store for me. I’m ready!”