As the the NPR staff gathered to watch his performance, Jacob Collier sprinted full bore down the hallway. It seems the North London 24-year-old can hardly contain his creative energy. It comes out in his wardrobe and most definitely in his music, but it’s not misdirected or out of control. These are intricate and precise compositions, like a ship in a bottle made of thousands of planks of wood, yet light enough to sail in a breeze. It’s on a scale you wouldn’t imagine. Here’s an example: This year he covered Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River” by recording himself 5,000 times and working in 144 other vocal submissions, and then he printed and sold signed copies of his Logic Pro audio session for fans while on tour. Though this is is a regular day for Jacob, his output continues to astonish everyone around him, both in its quality and sheer quantity. This year alone, he’s putting out a project called Djesse with four distinct and complete volumes. Many of the songs are being written along the way, including one crafted specifically for the Tiny Desk called “It Don’t Matter.”
The whole Tiny Desk Concert has a lot to unpack. Check my math, but by my count Jacob plays seven instruments, if you include his singing. And you should — Jacob’s stamp has always been to use voice in his compositions like a Swiss army knife, and virtually every combination of band members harmonizes at some point in the show. It’s reflective of his philosophy on music as a connecting tool, to use the instrument we all possess, which drew me to his art in the first place. And as if to make good on those beliefs and bring all of us into one moment, he invited the crowd to sing the final lyrics of the concert together. It was the end of the show, but not even close to the limit of Jacob’s imaginative bounds. He obsessed over leaving us a gift: a fake ID fashioned out of a passport photo and an Oyster Card — London’s public transit fare card — which now sits on the hallowed shelves of the Tiny Desk. Extra credit if you can spot it in future episodes.
- “Make Me Cry”
- “It Don’t Matter”
Jacob Collier: vocals, piano, guitar, bass, melodica, cymbal; Becca Stevens: vocals, acoustic guitar, charango; Christian Euman: vocals, drums, percussion; MARO: vocals, acoustic guitar, keys; Robin Mullarkey: vocals, bass, percussion
Producers: Colin Marshall, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kara Frame, Beck Harlan; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Paul Georgoulis; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR