R&B singer Jorja Smith makes her San Francisco Popscene debut at the Rickshaw Stop. (Chloe Newman)

R&B singer Jorja Smith makes her San Francisco Popscene debut at the Rickshaw Stop. (Chloe Newman)

Soul singer Jorja Smith takes time to break into music biz

In this era of star-making vehicles like “The Voice” and “American Idol,” a lot of young vocalists are searching for the fast track to fame and fortune, but British newcomer Jorja Smith isn’t. At 19, the soulful singer, who has been pursuing music seriously for three years, has one EP and a handful of supple, sparsely-adorned singles — “A Prince,” “Blue Lights” and “Where Did I Go” — to her credit. And she has no plans to release a debut album any time soon. “I’m not rushing into anything,” she says. “What we’ve done so far has been really good, so I just want to carry on doing that.”

Your dad was in a band called Second Nature. Not the American boy band, of course.

No, no. It wasn’t a big band or anything. It was just a band with his friends, and they used to just play universities and stuff like that. But he did a little writing and singing, which is probably where I got it from. They didn’t do covers – they wrote their own songs. I wasn’t born yet when my dad was in the band, but my mom had live recordings of them, and she used to play them around the house. And that really got me interested in recording.

Did your father help you?

I used to write all the time at home, and I’d show him what I’d just written, and ask my dad what he thought, and he’d help me out sometimes. He really enjoyed writing with me. And he gave me so much advice. He told me to always be me — that’s probably the best advice he gave me. But I’m still finding myself, really — I’m still a baby in this industry. But I knew I wanted to be a singer from a very early age.

And you sang in choir, too?

I was on a music scholarship from school; that’s how I got into my secondary school. And I had to sing in a choir because everyone had to do it. But we were good. We sang choral music, and at Christmas we’d sing in church. I didn’t do a lot of solos, but I used to be so scared of singing them. I’m quite confident now singing. But it used to take me forever to get ready to sing alone. I’d always cough before a performance.

But how scary was the London music industry?

It wasn’t that shocking. Because I’ve been working with my manager for three years, I’ve been slowly given tastes of what’s to come, I guess. So I can prepare myself, and now I’m just like, “OK. Cool.” But I’ve found that everybody knows everybody in London — it’s so small that it’s crazy.

Jorja Smith
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Jan. 27
Tickets: $15 to $17
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.eventbrite.comBlue LightsBritishEPJorja SmithPop MusicPrinceWhere Did I Go

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