The Confident Soul of New Artist Jaz Karis

Jaz Karis’s vocals serve as a sweet and confident guide through her debut EP 'Into the Wilderness'

Jaz Karis has the kind of voice that makes you curse genetics. Her voice makes you wonder what celestial organ in her body is producing this ethereal noise, and if the rest of the general population even has it.  Even then, most of us wouldn’t have the discipline or courage to put out an EP at the age of 20. Adopting a soul style with at times a jazz-like twist, Jaz’s debut EP Into the Wilderness is a showcase of a woman who truly can sing.

Jaz and I caught up on the phone in early November, her south London accent permeating the stale warmth of my apartment.  I had just become acquainted with her deeply soothing vocals; I didn’t know that weeks after her interview I would still find myself walking around my apartment, humming the choruses of her songs ‘You Do’ and ‘Sugar Don’t Be Sweet.’ Jaz’s speaking voice flittered through the room with the same resounding confidence as her singing voice. Although she has a determined composure that should feel intimidating, her youthful excitement made me feel at ease. Just having recently graduated from the BRIT School of Performing Arts and Technology, Into the Wilderness is her first EP under the all-female run label, Salute the Sun Records. She explains to me that the EP was an effort to showcase her vocals. However, it was also a bit of everything else: “It’s about what I’m feeling at the time and what the music brings out of me,” she says.

jaz karis roundtable journal

Whilst every song is guided by Jaz's vocals, each song presents a uniquely different sound. ‘Sugar Don’t be Sweet’ is mystical, with an ethereal and simple guitar riff fluttering in and out as she varies between humming and storytelling. ‘Want’ on the other hand, has more of a jazz feel, as she grooves along to a piano and light drum, declaring without the least bit of sadness: “You never wanted me babe.” This multifacetedness makes Into the Wilderness unlike the other EPs, that can often feel single minded and stagnant. Rather, Jaz’s debut EP is a six-course meal  garnished with the musical collaborations of Sillkey, Blue Lab Beats, and Mike Musiq.

Each plate though is seasoned with love, and in particular, self-love. This is the same vein as other vocal powerhouses. In 2016, Solange dropped the phenomenal A Seat at the Table, crooning over the interminable cycles of sadness and anger inherent to a woman of colour constantly marginalised in western society. Just this year, SZA released her complicated album Ctrl, which  wavers between reminding people she’s the shit and yelling exasperatedly, “I think I need therapy!” So Jaz isn’t alone as she laments on her track ‘You Do’: “I don’t love me like you do,” and then flies off into a passionate duet with Hip Hop and R&B producer Sillkey in the next.

Potentially the most interesting thing about Into the Wilderness  is the song ‘Sugar Don’t Be Sweet’ whose live music video Roundtable premiered just a few weeks ago. It’s the product of a multidisciplinary engagement within the arts, effortlessly combining literature, illustration, and music. Inspired by Brazilian author Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist, Jaz sings candidly about the love affair between Coelho's main characters. After writing it, a determined Jaz (who had’t even been signed to a label yet) posted online looking for an artist to illustrate her piece. Venezuelan artist Jesus David Mora eagerly responded. “I wanted to see what I could see in my head,” she explains. “I was just putting it out there on a whim,” she laughs, “I think the best things come from that… or at least have in my own journey.” That’s the thing about Jaz. She knows what she wants, and she wants to work with others to achieve it.

Into the Wilderness is about this journey; about Jaz entering a new world that is often times scary and disorienting. With all the various music platforms – from Soundcloud to Spotify to Apple Music, the music world can often feel oversaturated, making it hard for a new musician to “catch their break.” However, as the title of her EP suggests, Jaz is undaunted by this, using her voice as her very own guide as she heads into the wilderness.

jaz karis roundtable journal
jaz karis roundtable journal

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Sarah Adler