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Meet Joy Crookes, the singer tipped for the Brits Rising Star Award

Joy Crookes has been crafting her distinctive neo-soul sound for years, but now the 20-year-old is getting the recognition she deserves with a Brits Rising Star nomination.

The Brit Awards have been a springboard for some of Britain’s brightest stars, with the Critics’ Choice nominations recognising the talents of everyone from Adele to Emeli Sandé long before they became bestselling artists. Now, the nominations for the 2020 award – rebranded as the Rising Star – are in, and all three of them are solo female artists.

The nominees are Filipino Londoner Beabadoobee, a 19-year old indie artist; 24-year-old jazz vocalist Celeste; and Joy Crookes, a 20-year-old R&B singer hoping to follow in the footsteps of some of Britain’s greatest female artists.

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“I remember watching the Brits as a child – especially seeing my favourites like Lily Allen, Corrine Bailey Rae and Amy Winehouse up on the screen,” Crookes said. “This is an insane moment for me. I’ve always looked up to these inspiring and strong women so to be able to be recognised in the same way they were is overwhelming.”

Born in South London to an Irish father and a Bangladeshi mother, Crookes has been soaking up the multicultural influences of her hometown and pouring them into her music since she was a child. As her latest EP, Perception, came out, we caught up with the singer to discuss some of her most formative firsts.

The first single I ever bought…
Was London Calling by The Clash with Armageddon Time on the B side. If I bought that when it came out, I would have lost my mind. It has to be one of the most pivotal songs of its time. As a teenager I was also obsessed with Kate Nash, I remember when I first discovered her. I was sat down in front of MTV and Foundations came on and I was blown away.

The first gig I went to…
Was Dub Pistols in Brixton with my dad when I was seven. I ended up falling asleep during it. Although I can fall asleep anywhere, it’s kind of shocking, so it was no reflection on them.

The first time I knew music was my future…
I used to go to a Catholic state school for the first eight years of my life and all we used to do was sing hymns, but then this guy came to the school and did a jazz and blues workshop. I had never heard that kind of music before, the guy made us sing an old American blues song and I remember thinking, ‘Yes!’ I wanted to sit at the front and do all the hardest parts to all the songs. I was really eager to be involved. Understanding those songs, their weight, what they meant and where they came from was a moment that changed my perspective towards music. 

Joy Crookes Irish Bangledeshi

The first thing that inspired me…
Was probably my area. London is so multicultural, you hear music everywhere you go and I think because of that it can really fast forward you into music. You have so many different avenues to go down.

Everyone always goes on about how my heritage influences my music, but I don’t sing a chorus in Hindu and then the bridge in Gallic – it doesn’t work like that. No one says that Amy Winehouse wrote Back To Black because she was Jewish. People think I do things because of my ethnic background but that’s not right. The point is, as a human I have many sides, I can be really emotional or really silly. It’s not because I have mood swings but because that is how I am. That’s my personality. And it’s my personality that comes out when I create music.

The first time I realised I was good at my job…
Well I wasn’t really thinking about my ability when I was doing the workshops, I was just having fun. But then when I started learning instruments, and that’s when I wanted to challenge myself. And now I can play bass, guitar, piano and will sometimes compose song if I sit down at a piano long enough.

The first job I made money from…
Was when I was at primary school. I’d work out my budget for buying my parents Christmas presents and then I would go to Poundland and buy a pack of 10 candy canes for one pound and then sell each cane for a pound each. Then I’d sell some of my old clothes, and at the end of it all I’d have enough money to buy presents for my entire family. 

The first thing I do in the morning…
Is panic. I think about what I dreamt of and generally can’t remember what it is. I get quite stressed, but I think that’s from living in London.

The first thing I spent my money on…
Was a pair of red Dr Martens from the original store in Camden. They’re too small for me now and give me blisters but I’ve still got them to this day. They’re amazing.

The first piece of advice I’d give my friends…
Is to stay as honest as possible and walk with purpose. Two very different things.

The first artist Stylist readers should go and listen to after this interview…
Is Hallelujah Chicken Run Band. Everyone will love them! I went to a talk with Richard Ayoade who mentioned them and since then I’ve listened to them so much. 

Images: courtesy of Toast Press

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