Originally from Suriname and based in the Netherlands, Yerry Rellum recently released his hit single, 'I Feel Love' with Walboomers Music. 'I Feel Love' saw a heavy promotion on UbuntuFM Radio. Ikenna Okeh now sits down with Yerry for an in-depth interview.
Thank you for granting us this interview, Yerry. I'm at a loss for where to begin with my questions, mostly because there are quite a lot of them competing for attention but I think I will give first place to my curiosity about your evident ancestry. You look every bit African. Am I correct in my assumption? How does an African end up in Holland doing R&B/Soul music? What's the story behind it?
Well, you’re almost correct in your assumptions, but I’m not African. I’m a born and raised in Amsterdam in The Netherlands but my parents are from Suriname. Suriname is a country in South America that borders with British and French Guyana and Brazil. Suriname was a former Dutch colony of The Netherlands, and lots of Surinamese people live in Holland. So that’s the story behind that.
In every artistic journey, there is always the first step. That first step is not only decisive for the long run, but it is the most important; even more than the summit, wouldn't you say? Your musical journey began in 2005 with the release of your first album, 'Exception To The Rule'. Still, were there decisive moments prior to 2005 and leading to the release of 'Exception To The Rule'?
I totally agree with you on that one! Prior to the release of that album, the decisive moment was going to Paris, France, to network via a good friend of mine. In Paris, I met the producers of the album and we connected right away. The next thing I know, we started recording demos which led to ‘Exception To The Rule’.
'Exception To The Rule', being the title of your first release, must hold some significance. Is there some underlying meaning to the choice of title? Or plainly put: are you the exception to the rule?
Well in a way, my story – a Dutch singer from Surinamese descent signed to a new French independent label, making R&B/Soul music and singing in English – is quite exceptional. So that’s why we named the album ‘Exception To The Rule’.
Looking back on the way you have come, your life's experiences with growing up and becoming the artist Yerry Rellum, what brought you to venture into music? And what can you recount as being instrumental to shaping you musically?
At a very young age, I was interested in music because my uncle was a musician, so my brother and I were always hanging out in his studio. It developed even further to a point where I wanted to become a DJ because I always bought a lot of records. Plus I grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, etc. That shaped me musically but also Hip-Hop influenced me.
I watched your music performances on YouTube, especially your participation in The Voice Of Holland 2017. In my opinion, they are performances with a lot of feeling conveyed in them. And talking about the tonal quality of your voice, it's as original as it is melodious. How has your appearance on the Voice of Holland influenced your career?
The experience in performing in front of a live studio audience and millions at home watching was kinda new to me, but it definitely helped put my name on the map as far as the mainstream audience is concerned. Till today I’m being complimented or recognized for what I’ve done in the show.
What does music mean for you? And how does Soul as a music genre serve your musical purpose? In other words what did you make a choice for Soul rather than, for instance, Hip-Hop, Jazz or Blues?
The choice came gradually because as you mature and grow as an artist, your musical interests grow at the same time. To be honest, I can’t really relate to the R&B music that some artists are making nowadays, but the mature Soul/Pop music I can definitely hang with. That’s what I’m trying to write and make.
Let's talk about 'I Feel Love'. It is your latest single released on February 2nd to wide acclaim; so much as making it to the SingerSongWriter FM single of the week a month later. It's a great song; very expressive both lyrically and musically. What's the story behind the song? How has it been with recording the song and seeing it get this much attention in the United States as elsewhere?
Thank you. The story behind the song is very simple. It’s feeling so much love that you’re getting from another person that which you thought wasn’t possible. And because you’re getting love it becomes easier to give love. The search for the song wasn’t a smooth process. I recorded different songs but that wasn’t doing it for me. Then I recorded a demo of ‘I Feel Love’ and that felt good. Then we met Wouter Hardy, the producer of ‘I Feel Love’ and he presented us with the song ... and me and my manager instantly thought ... this is it!! This is the song that we’re gonna release.
It has become something of a global tradition to look to the United States as the poster child for musical excellence as far as commercial success goes. Do you subscribe to this notion? What is your take as regards the position of the music industry in Holland in comparison to the United States? What would you consider necessary in improving the stand of the Dutch music industry?
Of course, we look to the United States as far as Pop, R&B, and Soul music goes because that’s where it all started but Holland is a small market and now has more eyes for young urban talent that can appeal to a younger audience. But there are not enough artists that cater to a much more mature and sophisticated audience. I think that that needs more improvement.
How has the road been for you musically? Would you like to share any remarkable experiences?
The road has been hard and long but it’s all been worth it because it got me to where I am today. And this is only the beginning.
If you were to do it all over again, what would you have done differently?
Honestly, I don’t really look back but I’m grateful and happy that I’m surrounded by good people and great energy.
I love the instrumental accompaniments to your song. They often consist of an informed selection of sound equipment so arranged as to birth products that suitably complement your vocals. Do you use the same sound producers? Evidently, you have a good working relationship with them.
I have to give credits to Wouter Hardy who did an amazing job as far as choosing the right sounds that created an atmosphere where my vocals fitted on like a glove. We had good chemistry during the recording and mixing processes.
Is the moment wholly committed to promoting 'I Feel Love' or is there a new project ongoing?
Yes we’re heavily promoting ‘I Feel Love’ but there is more on the way because like I said, this is only the beginning.
Besides music as an art form, have you ventured into other art forms? In addition, what is your audience to expect from you in the years ahead?
I also acted in two Dutch movies, a Dutch TV show, but music is my biggest passion. On the other hand, I won’t say no to a movie role. Also in Holland, I’m doing a musical theatre tour called ‘A Man’s World’ which will be playing in 45 theatres throughout, starting January 2019. So that’s what I’ll be doing and putting out new music, which you’ll definitely hear of.
Before we wrap up, do you have a word in parting for your audience and maybe some words of wisdom to the many young and upcoming artists who aspire to get their voices heard on the music scene?
Yeah, I think I do … Keep believing in your dreams even though the road is hard sometimes, and keep following your heart. The heart doesn’t lie to ya.
Thank you for the time, Yerry. It has been an insightful one with you. From UbuntuFM, accept our kind wishes for the best in the pursuit of your musical career.
Thank you very very much for the support, you guys are awesome. Much love and blessings!!!