Montell Fish grew to become a musician the identical approach he started his newest album: with a damaged coronary heart. “I used to be passionate and I went by means of a breakup,” he says. “Each time I am going by means of a breakup, I write a superb album.”
On the time, Fish was 16 years outdated, and newly kicked out of his mom’s home because of a budding romance with medicine. (“Weed edibles, after which psychedelics like shrooms,” he elaborates). Shortly, he spiraled right into a state of despair, unsuccessfully juggling the breakup with a girlfriend and familial tumult, turning to music creation, and finally, God, for reprieve. “I used to be simply so low and depressed that I began calling out to God like, ‘In the event you’re actual, present me,’” he explains. “After which I started to see the God that my mother knew.”
Born in Pittsburgh, Penn. to a religious Christian mom and a faithless father who break up when the singer was six months outdated, Fish grew up in a world of deeply entrenched duality, one thing that got here to outline his identification. “I’d be at my mother’s home–no express video video games or music, we’re going to church each Sunday, gospel music in the home. At my dad’s home, we’d do no matter,” Fish explains. “So, I all the time had two sides and that’s the place I believe I discovered methods to play characters.”
“I simply don’t know who I’m generally,” he goes on, “I may very well be actually non secular, then different occasions I may very well be a totally completely different individual – I believe all of us try this to some extent.”
On his hauntingly melancholic new album Jamie, his first distributed by Virgin Music (launched July 22), Fish is unquestionably grieving. Over the course of its creation, the emotive singer-songwriter was immersed in sorrow, shaving off his dreadlocks and dropping 40 kilos, his outer being reflecting the depressive nature of the 10-track providing. Strolling listeners by means of a gallery of his unfiltered desperation following love and loss, Jamie captures a heart-wrenching longing all too acquainted to audiences throughout genres. The album’s manufacturing is barebones, with desolate guitar instrumentals and teary vocals capturing Fish’s isolation throughout this chapter of his life. (Appropriately, he produced, wrote and recorded your entire album himself.)
The intro observe – additionally titled “Jamie,” after the ex-girlfriend who impressed the challenge – opens with distant, distorted electrical guitars, layered with Fish’s chorus-filtered falsetto declaring, “We don’t even converse no extra.” The lonesome line speaks to the musician’s deceptively easy songwriting – lyrics written in 5-10 minutes, that at face worth are black and white, however overflow with nuance by means of his supply. “Form of like a Pixar film,” he provides.
It displays Fish’s private journey, a former Christian rapper and YouTuber with once-unyieldingly inflexible views on the world – views which have since softened and advanced, with out the sacrifice of his religion. Right this moment, the singer nonetheless releases all of his music below the Christian style on streaming platforms, with the intention of redefining Christian-based artwork. Simple lyrics like “I’m simply rolling by means of the forest whereas studying some Revelations” now give option to superbly self-deprecating, spiritually tinged tracks which have amassed hundreds of thousands of views on Fish’s TikTok and YouTube channels.
“I didn’t need to make gospel or modern Christian music,” Fish says, “So I started experimenting.”
After gracing the stage at Pharrell’s One thing within the Water music competition in June, the singer born Montell Fraser was introduced as Spotify’s Artist to Watch (full with a Occasions Sq. commercial). Fish later introduced a distribution take care of Virgin Music Label and Artist Companies, marking his first main label endeavor – a far cry from crafting beats on Fruity Loops in his cousin’s basement studio after faculty. “I bought in hassle in school as soon as and my mother was like, ‘You may’t go to the studio,’” he recollects. “I used to be 14, and I cried. I used to be like, ‘Oh, I actually like doing this.’”
Regardless of the key label deal, Fish continues to maintain his circle tight, working solely inside his personal label, Lord’s Youngster, and with director Caleb Wild, in addition to supervisor Patrick Bradley, bringing in most of his income from streaming and excursions. “I don’t like working with folks,” he provides with amusing. “I’d fairly simply do all the pieces.”
Seated on the Naval Cemetery Panorama in Brooklyn, Fish dons an all-black ensemble, his cotton t-shirt absorbing the blistering summer season solar as a mist of sweat varieties above his forehead. The outfit is suitable, contemplating the theme of his album and people laid to relaxation under his toes (after transient deliberation, Fish determined that the previous navy cemetery turned backyard could be the proper scene for his first main publication interview).
“There’s this platform tradition now the place when you have a platform, folks need to hearken to what you say,” he says. “That fed my ego [and] nonetheless does.”
The East Coast born and bred singer started his rise at 18, by means of an virtually fully Christian viewers and publishing over 500 movies within the final 5 years – together with Jesus-centered raps, musical manufacturing tutorials and vlogs titled “3 methods to maintain your concentrate on Christ” and “5 Christ-Centered Artist I believe you must hearken to.” In his early days, Fish’s hottest video was surrounding pornography dependancy, a vlog he revealed at 18, which has garnered over 650,000 views up to now.
“I didn’t know what I used to be speaking about,” he displays sheepishly. “I used to be a monster in some senses. In different senses, it was real.”
Whereas different artists and their groups would rush to delete the doubtless incriminating archival movies, Fish has left them alone. “I sort of just like the problem of individuals placing me in packing containers generally,” he says. “I do know these movies are placing me right into a deeper field, [but] that’s part of me.”
It’s his unapologetic vulnerability that has attracted virtually 4 million month-to-month Spotify listeners and over 35 million likes on TikTok, lots of of 1000’s of app customers sound-tracking their movies with a number of seconds of the Fish’s soul-baring music. However the transfer away from extra “aggressively Christian” music got here at a price. Fish says he misplaced a subset of his following with the pivot, some former followers declaring that the singer would go to hell for the sin of his “sulky” music.
“I do know if I used to be 18 and freshly saved, seeing an artist like me, I in all probability wouldn’t hearken to them [either],” he acknowledges. “I’m nonetheless very a lot a faith-centered individual, and I like Jesus. However I believe a whole lot of my artwork has taken a unique approach of telling these tales.”
And whereas the singer is vilified by some because of the extra secular nature of his new creative chapter, Fish says the transformation was guided by prayer. In Could 2021, Fish posted a clip of his somber acoustic observe, “Discuss 2 Me,” on TikTok. “I bear in mind praying proper earlier than like, ‘God, I don’t know if that is gonna do something, however have your approach.’ After which I awakened the subsequent morning to 100,000 views.”
The confirming response to the video catapulted Fish right into a broadened fanbase and unprecedented alternative: “It’s humorous as a result of I all the time felt like God advised me I’d have 50% Christian followers and 50% non-Christian. And now it appears like that is the imaginative and prescient of that.”
Whereas Jamie dropped simply days in the past, Fish is already teasing his subsequent album, Charlotte. The initiatives comply with a trilogy (Jamie Charlotte Marshall) centering the levels of grief. “Denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, despair and acceptance,” he lists. “However I simply needed to do it in three [projects] as a result of seven is approach too many.”
Fish’s multi-platform strategy to his artistry additionally contains releasing films, and finally beginning a high-end clothes model, named after the trilogy of initiatives. Right this moment, his Instagram web page is cryptic and sparse, with a pair digital digital camera pictures of “Ghost Boy 4045,” a persona Fish is creating, impressed by his rising fame and attain. “I’m on this new a part of my profession,” he says. “Extra persons are noticing me and these characters are the one approach I can course of [the pressures].”
Regardless of the mass of followers and foes categorizing Fish into binaries – saint versus sinner, good versus evil – the singer stays centered on pushing boundaries by means of his genre-less tackle storytelling that has captured the hearts of hundreds of thousands. “It’s simply my life,” he says. “I can’t conceal a lot, and I’m simply studying an increasing number of [that] the one approach you’re gonna get far is if you’re fully your self.”