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[VIDEO] Blues prodigy comes to Rixeyville

Wednesday, Jul. 16 | By Hannah Dellinger
Only recently signed to a major label, Jarekus Singleton is the rising star of the blues world.
Courtesy Photo
It’s not often that an act like Jarekus Singleton comes to play in the Piedmont area.

Singleton will perform in Rixeyville on July 26 at Verdun Adventure Bound for the Red Hot & Blues Day festival.

“I’m very excited to play Rixeyville, because I met some of people while I was on tour this summer that told me that they were from Virginia and that they’d see me at the festival in Rixeyville,” Singleton said. “This happened at least three times, so I think people are as excited as I am.”

Singleton has been deemed “the next big thing in the blues world,” and it’s easy to hear why.

His driving, rhythmic guitar has a fast-paced updated blues sound like no other. His lyrics tell autobiographical stories about his own life struggles. There are elements of hip hop and rap in his vocals and dirty rock and roll hooks that make his music very danceable. Watching Singleton play is mesmerizing. He sings from his soul and fills the stage with his presence.

“I heard my first blues song when I was 15,” said Singleton. “I heard it at a local club that I snuck into. It made me feel a certain type of way. It was one of the best feelings I had ever had. I had been missing out on this good music, I had been listening to hip hop and R&B, and once I started listening to more blues, I was like, ‘Oh man, this is where I need to be.’”

Singleton said that the first blues song he ever heard was “I’ll Play The Blues For You” by Albert King. After that, his life was never the same.

Singleton, 29, grew up in Jackson, Miss., where his family was heavily involved in church and gospel music. His father, his mother and his uncle all played with the church band.

He started learning the bass guitar at age 9 from his uncle.

“One night we had church service, and my uncle needed someone to play the bass guitar, so he taught me the basics that night,” said Singleton. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just did it.”
Singleton says that he never received any formal training for guitar or singing. He just learned from his family and other church band members.

After a short stint as what he calls an “unsuccessful rap artist,” Singleton formed his blues band in 2009.

“I was not a great rap artist, but I was always a word smith, I always had my way with words,” said Singleton. “I just loved to rhyme all the time, even when I was growing up.”

Singleton uses his hip-hop background to rejuvenate and enliven his vintage blues sound. Because of his modern influences, Singleton says that he has seen a lot of younger audiences coming out and enjoying his music.

“People from my generation are coming out to these shows, and they are from all kinds of different ethnic backgrounds,” he said. “I think there’s a bright future for blues. I’m willing to take it upon my shoulders and bring it into the future.”

Singleton says that he often hears from fans after shows that they normally aren’t into the blues, but that listening to his music has made them appreciate the genre.

It’s hard not to be drawn into Singleton’s music when you hear it. It is clear that it is coming from the heart. Most of his songs are about personal experiences, and you can hear genuine emotion emanate from his guitar.

“I like to sing my songs, because I can sing them with conviction, because it’s all true and I went through it,” he said. “Songwriting has been a part of my healing process, since I’m getting my story out there.”

Singleton was only recently signed with Alligator Records in Chicago this past January. Before that he spent years trying to get recognized by major labels. The tough times finally paid off and now Singleton is touring all over North America.

“My biggest struggle has been getting through those tough times,” he said. “You don’t see what’s on the other side of the spectrum. The hardest thing for me was to was have faith that someday someone would recognize what I have.”

Now that Singleton is on the international blues stage he wants to use the spotlight to inspire his fans.

“I want people to understand that I’m just like them, but god gave me a way to purvey my struggles through music,” said Singleton. “It’s an unbelievable feeling and I have to use my gift responsibly to inspire others and not take it for granted. If I’m not inspiring people it’s probably time for me to give it up.”

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