In-depth interview : Jeuru
Words by: Jonathan Holst Bruus
Photos by: Mads Alexander Lund
The first notable thing about Jeuru's music is his voice and the fragile universe that surrounds it. It's heartfelt, honest, and it remains clear from the very first listen that he's trying to convey a feeling or to tell you something really important. He has something crucial to share, and he wants the listener to participate. Not to seek into another room or use it as simple background music. He wants you to engage.
And the same goes for his live performances.
Witnessing Jeuru perform at this year's Heartland Festival was an ecstatic and memorable experience. Incredible energy was present from beginning to end and Jeuru circulated between every thinkable emotion. Everything beautifully collided into a breathtaking ending with guitar-solos, sweeping synthesizers, and massive Arena-rock drums that reminded one of a '90s power ballad – in the best way possible.
Tracks such as Distorted Rainbows, Midnight Lullaby, and King of the Cruel were all played during the concert, and are also featured on his debut release, King of The Cruel.
It was those songs that introduced the American-born singer to a wider audience, and it is undeniable that deep thought and emotion lies behind it all.
With all this in mind, I finally meet up with Jeuru in a local café a cloudy spring-afternoon in Copenhagen. The tall, androgynous man greets me with a warm and welcoming smile. He allows me to ask deep and very private questions about his artistry, and during our conversation, I quickly discover that the songs on the EP come from a very personal and intimate place.
The main subject is his family, and the songs were written after a life-changing experience he had in New York City, in which he describes “as some kind of rebirth”.
The episode changed Jeuru's perception of life completely and encouraged him to go into his childhood trauma, write about his abusive father, and to finally tell his story to the world. To let it all out – and most importantly, to be a voice to those who might have experienced the same.
Jeuru finished up King of the Cruel in Copenhagen where he unexpectedly settled down in 2017. Besides that, he worked with the Danish duo, KYO where he contributed vocals to their 2017 album, All the Same Dream.
Knife Hi Jeuru. How are you doing?
Jeuru I'm great, thank you. Currently in the studio. Constantly trying to bang out some new demos.
Knife For what?
Jeuru Maybe a single. Just typical music stuff, you know. We'll see what happens.
Knife Yeah. It can be hard when you plan too much. Sometimes it's better when it happens organically.
Jeuru That's true. When I began to write music I had everything planned out. Themes, concepts, different ideas for covers etc. Nowadays I'm trying to work more free in that sense. But I can't help it – I'm kind of a planner.
Knife I think it's something you do in the beginning. You plan so much – all that you mentioned. But then you dive into the creative process and realize it's kind of hard to plan.
Jeuru Exactly, I went through so many demos and ideas I went away from. I can be really hard, but yeah, that's also how the creative process is. You have to let something go and accept that.
Knife How did you end up collaborating with KYO? Was that planned out?
Jeuru Haha, not at all. I was hanging around at their studio in Amager where I was working on another project. That was my first brief period in Copenhagen, which was at the beginning of 2017. Around February.
I was in the studio, and Frederik (Valentin) came by. He really liked my voice and asked me if I could send him some voice memos. First I was like, “who is this guy?”, that was my initial thought, but then we went into the studio together. The first track we made was Take Me Home. It all happened very organically and suddenly he was like, “we have an album!”
I freestyled a lot on the album, and never really wrote anything down. I just got into the studio and sang how I felt into the microphone. That was a beautiful process. I never worked that way before, and it taught me a lot by myself. No planning out. When I look back, those feelings are like real true feelings. Everything was like one or two takes.
I'm really happy we did it. So many people have reached out to me and said how much they loved it.
Knife Any plans of working together in the future?
I don't know. Time will only tell. We all like to do things organically. Again, It's hard to plan ahead of time. We'll see what happens. I wouldn't mind working with them again.
Knife ... And I wouldn't mind another collaboration. But what about your own EP? King of the Cruel. How was it to create that?
Jeuru Well, that was my first real project. It took years on top of years to create, because of the fact that everything kept changing. Sometimes life gets crazy, and you go through some crises. So by the time I actually got settled in Copenhagen, I thought to myself “damn, this has been a long process, I just can't wait to get this done”.
Knife When I listen to the EP, I get the impression that you are trying to get something emotionally important off your chest? Everything seems very honest and extremely thought-through? It's quite heavy, but also with a lot of hope.
Jeuru With this EP, I was trying to convey the feeling of just trauma. I don't think I stated this before, but I mainly wrote the EP about my parents and also coming from abuse.
My father had a hot hand as I always say. I wrote Distorted Rainbows mainly about trying to get away from that, trying to get over the things that were done to me, things that my father did and my mother didn't do. Just coming from that really dark place, growing up and realizing, “hey I don't have any support or any love”.
There are those moments in your life when you're coming of age, and you're like, “damn, where is my foundation?”, and you don't have any. You feel alone in the world.
Once I turned 21, I was living by myself in Brooklyn, and I realized, “I'm not feeling good these days”. If you don't have a family or someone who's gonna step up to the plate and say, “hey are you okay?”, then it can be extremely hard. The EP was a way for me to get all that out.
Knife Would you describe it as a coming of age EP?
Jeuru Yeah, in a lot of ways. A reminder of how the darkness consumed me in all those years, but also like you said, with a little bit of hope, trying to say, “okay, well I know how I can move past that”. Not get so caught up in the web anymore. Just wanting to live life a little bit freer. Learn what love is.
Knife Are you still in contact with your parents?
Jeuru No, I don't speak to them, so it kind of felt natural for me to grow apart from them. We were never close in the first place, you know? I did try to bond for a couple of years, but it didn't work out. Coming from this pseudo-love, bad parenting and stuff like that. I don't think my parents were able to be the parents a child deserves. So in order for me to heal properly, I distanced myself by choice.
Knife Would you like to re-connect?
Jeuru No. In a way, I'm not mad at them anymore. For many years I walked around with big anger towards them, but I have moved past it since it doesn't really serve me any purpose anymore. I don't need them in my life. I can say, “hi", to them, but that's pretty much it. Last year I saw my father for the first time since 2016 at a funeral, and we just shook each other hands. It was kind of shocking to see that was our exchange, but at the same time, I couldn't be surprised. The attitude was kind of like, “you're good?”, “yeah”, “cool”. That was pretty much it. And I am good, so it is cool. I don't really miss them, I have a lot of foundation now.
Knife What kind of foundation?
I found a family here in Copenhagen. I met them back in New York, and we hung a lot when they visited. Like with the whole family. Children, mom and dad, you know. We got really close, and then they asked me if I would like to come and celebrate Christmas. That was back in 2016. Then I came, and they just gave me so much love it was unbelievable.
Knife That's really beautiful.
Jeuru Yeah, it's the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me. I had no choice, but to open up my arms a little bit – because it was either that or to lose a possible new family that could offer you some real shit in life. So I got a new family, my chosen family. It sounds a little strange, but people understand it when they see me in it. Even my cousin, who I am close to back in America, understands it. She's so happy that I have someone who takes care of me. Sometimes it's nice to take a risk and trust your gut in life.
Knife It's beautiful to hear things like that actually happen. That people go against the grain and chooses their own family, you know?
Jeuru Yeah, exactly. First I was like, this is a little weird, I don't really know about this, but then I was like, “why not? Life is supposed to be beautiful. It's supposed to be interrupted by magical fantasies. It's not always supposed to be bad", which was something I also had to accept.
I used to be so pessimistic about everything, “oh that's not possible”. “It is not possible to cross the road and find a new family.” It seemed so impossible, but it did happen, and I had to accept that as the truth, but also accept that life isn't just always dark – it's also beautiful, and sometimes you have beautiful gardens to walk through, it's not always just rainy and cloudy.
Knife And all that helped? Along with creating the album, maybe?
Jeuru Yeah. Creating the album, but also just getting out here, meeting so many new people who offered me real love and meaningful friendship. You know, people who took me in and said to me, “I understand you, I hear you out “. And that's exactly what I felt that I deserved. So it was nice to get that.
Knife Earlier on you mentioned you had a point in your life where you kept saying how “fine” you were all the time. When did you start to go into all that, and realizing you weren't fine?
Jeuru Yeah, I kept saying I was fine, even though I was experiencing really bad days, where I didn't go out of bed, I didn't shower. I didn't participate in anything.
Knife Did you suffer from depression?
Jeuru For many years. It hit me hard when 2015 came. I was at the end of my ship, and then I got hospitalized because I tried to commit suicide. It was during a moment where everything escalated in my mind, I kept repeating the phrase, “I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine” and then it snapped.
Back then, I kept it as a secret that I was going through a bad period of time. Then I got hospitalized for suicide and everyone around me realized... I was such a goofy guy, you know? Always laughing, always cracking jokes. But then it became really, really serious.
Everyone around me was in a shock. After all that happened I was kind of like, “oh, I'm not okay.” Then I stopped to hide it. It was almost like a rebirth because it was from that suicide attempt I really started to grow.
Knife How did you try to commit suicide?
Jeuru I was walking through the city, feeling really down. I was trying to do some last phone calls to my cousin and my aunt. Crying and telling them how empty I felt, and that I didn't want to live anymore. They were crying over the phone telling me to stop, “you can just leave everything in New York, and come stay with us for a while, take a break”, then I was like, “no, this is it. I don't feel like doing this anymore”.
Then I saw this crazy traffic coming in, in the middle of Times Square. It was around 2'o clock in the morning, a flock of cars were coming in and I thought, “I'm gonna jump in front of these cars”.
Knife And you did it?
Jeuru Yeah I did it, but the weird thing is; the car that was supposed to hit me, drove past me so fast, and the guy on the passenger seat threw his drink in my face. I guess he was really mad that I wanted to put them in a situation like that, which is understandable. My death would have been on their consciousness.
Then these two girls on the sidewalk asked if I was okay, and I told them I was trying to kill myself while I was laughing about it. I literally lost my shit that day. Afterwards, I went down to the subway station, the two girls followed, and I guess they got really scared because they called the cops.
I don't know how that night would have ended if those two girls, those two strangers, hadn't asked me if I was OK. I know for sure that I wasn't going to call the cops... I don't know... I probably would have done some extreme shit that night.
The cops escorted me out of the subway station, into an ambulance, then to the hospital where I was going to see a psychiatrist for the rest of the night. Then the psychiatrist said to me, “there is nothing wrong with you, you may be depressed a little bit, but from talking to you, you know what you want in life, you just have to do it and you have to put yourself among better people, you need to start over, and you need a better foundation, you need a better support. I don't want to keep you here. I have a batch of crazy people who can't even focus or anything”, she said, “you can do it”.
The whole suicide experience opened up my eyes a lot. The psychiatrist kind of understood me, and gave me all this advice. You need to see a therapist, you need to do all these things, but you have to try. And well, she was right. She just had such faith in me, which gave me a lot of confidence.
After all that, I went to see my cousin and my aunt in Virginia and lived there for a while. Then I came back to New York, hit and harder than ever. It fueled my fire to be like, “all right, this is what happened. Now I'm gonna own it, I'm gonna say, you know what? This is my truth. I've been dealing with this, but it's not going to get me, I'm gonna fight past my depression, all my crazy self-harm and really work with myself.” `
Knife And then you began to dig deeper into all those feelings and translate all the trauma into music?
Jeuru Yeah, it took me around five months. I got a place in Brooklyn and then I started to work on music more seriously. I thought to myself, maybe I should try to do music more professionally? What if I just believe in myself that much? Then I began to write King of the Cruel in my bedroom.
Knife Why did you pick that title for the EP?
Jeuru It was the idea of coming from that cruel lifestyle, that cruel family, having crazy things being said to me all the time.
Knife Is your father the king of the cruel?
Jeuru He was, but then I said to myself, "I'm going to be the king! I'm going to get you in my own way, I'm going to show you that you can't hurt me!" – it was more of a sinister thing – "I'm going to tell my story to people and I'm going to let them know that you're not the kind of man you pretend you are, and you just have to live through that moment".
Knife So it was payback time?
Jeuru Haha, yeah. It was payback. I was really angry and I wanted to show him who the cruellest man in the world could be. My mother and father always underestimated me, but now it's my turn. You had your chance, now it's mine. You gonna see me all over the world, hear my voice, and you have to deal with it. Deal with the fact that you never owned up to what you did. You fucked up and you feel prideful about it.
I will be honest and tell my story. And hopefully, other people will listen to me and be open about their shit too. Even if it's a small group of people, if they can pick up on that and get some confidence from it, then I kind of felt like I did my job. That's what it's all about.
Knife Now you touched upon the whole father issue, your past, the family trauma etc. Will you go further into this in the future?
Jeuru No. I don't want to give power to that anymore.
Knife So the chapter is closed so to speak?
Jeuru Yeah, I closed off that chapter. I don't think about it anymore and it doesn't affect me in any kind of way, you know? But I've grown so much from it, and I'm really thankful from the process I went through. It was a chapter in my life, but I'm in a different place now. I have a different mindset and I've fallen in love with myself completely. I do things my own way and fuck it, I just want to have a good time. Possibly fall in love with somebody, be as sexual as I want to be. I deserve that, I deserve to go out on crazy adventures, and not have anything holding me back. So that is what this next chapter is all about. I still write things deeply of course, but more in an uptempo kind of way. Still realizing things. But realizing things in a more kind of positive way, not trying to be like, “oh, I'm so much in the dark.” Obviously, I still have dark times and dark days, but I also have a lot of good days. I have nothing to be mad about right now. Only good things are happening at the moment.
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