Added: Mar 4, 2024

Jacob Collier, a Grammy-winning musician, gained fame by uploading videos on YouTube from his bedroom. He values creativity over conforming to algorithms or formats. He believes in making things that matter to him rather than focusing on reaching a wide audience. He started by experimenting with iTunes visualizer and then moved on to creating Acappella videos, showcasing his musical talents.

Key takeaways


Jacob Collier values creativity over conforming to algorithms or formats, focusing on making things that matter to him rather than reaching a wide audience.


Jacob's breakthrough moment came when his Acappella cover of Stevie Wonder's song received positive feedback, including validation from Quincy Jones, boosting his confidence as a musician.


Jacob believes in expanding one's capacity beyond what is known, emphasizing the interplay between intuition and intellect in the creative process.


Jacob highlights the importance of having the courage to make mistakes and the confidence to take the first step in the creative process, encouraging artists to trust their instincts.


Jacob shares insights from conversations with Herbie Hancock about Buddhism and finding lessons in adversity, resonating with the transformative power of music.

Early Beginnings and Self-Taught Journey

Jacob was largely self-taught, with a few teachers along the way. He started playing the violin at a young age but switched to the piano and other instruments as he found them more engaging. His mother, a talented violinist and conductor, supported his musical exploration without pressuring him. This allowed Jacob to develop a deep connection to his craft and explore his creativity freely.

YouTube Success and Validation

One of Jacob's breakthrough moments was when he uploaded an Acapella cover of Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing." The video garnered positive feedback, including an email from Quincy Jones, a legendary figure in the music industry. Quincy's interest in Jacob's music and chords was a validation of his talent and creativity. This early recognition from a respected figure like Quincy Jones provided Jacob with a sense of kinship and reassurance that his work was being seen and appreciated.

Contributing vs. Participating

Jacob emphasizes the importance of contributing to a conversation rather than just participating. He believes in being open and willing to be surprised by oneself in the creative process. He values the journey of self-discovery and constant growth as an artist. His approach to creativity involves a balance between intuition and knowledge, allowing for a deeper connection to the craft and the ability to create from a place of authenticity.

Learning and Growth

Jacob's quote about ears dictating everything reflects his belief in expanding one's capacity beyond what is known. He values the interplay between intuition and intellect in the creative process. He acknowledges the importance of cross-pollination between different learning styles and approaches. He sees value in marrying intuitive and cerebral forces to create a unique and impactful artistic expression.

Courage to Make Mistakes

Jacob highlights the importance of having the courage to make mistakes and the confidence to take the first step in the creative process. He believes that the fear of making mistakes can be paralyzing and hinder artistic growth. Embracing the possibility of failure and learning from mistakes is essential for artistic development and innovation. He encourages artists to be bold, experiment, and trust their instincts in creating meaningful and authentic work.

Meeting Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock

Jacob recalls meeting Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock in Switzerland, where he had the opportunity to ask them questions about life and music. Despite being offered management by Quincy's team, Jacob declined, preferring to pursue his own path. He values authenticity and staying true to his vision rather than seeking external validation or success.

Debut Performance at Montreux Jazz Festival

Jacob's first major gig was opening for Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Despite feeling nervous, he delivered a 30-minute performance in front of a large audience, including Quincy and Herbie. He reflects on the pressure of being labeled a prodigy and the expectations that come with it. He navigates his nerves by focusing on his love for music and the joy of creating.

Evolution of Comfort on Stage

Over the years, Jacob has evolved from feeling internal and focused on the music to being more outwardly engaging with the audience. He emphasizes the importance of being comfortable with oneself and embracing vulnerability on stage. His enthusiasm for music and genuine connection with the audience are key elements of his performances. He values authenticity and emotional expression over technical perfection.

The Power of Enthusiasm in Art

Jacob's enthusiasm for music is a driving force in his artistry. He believes that genuine love for the craft can be contagious and draw others in. His childlike wonder and curiosity are evident in his interactions with fans and fellow musicians. His passion for music transcends labels and expectations, allowing him to connect with audiences on a deeper level.

Conducting Audience Choirs

One of Jacob's signature live performance elements is conducting audience choirs, where he leads the crowd in creating harmonies and melodies. This unique approach showcases his ability to bring people together through music. By creating a space for collective expression, he demonstrates the power of collaboration and connection in his performances.

Lessons from Herbie Hancock and Buddhism

Jacob shares insights from a conversation with Herbie Hancock about Buddhism and finding lessons in every experience. Hancock emphasizes the interconnectedness of humanity and the importance of learning from adversity. Jacob resonates with the idea of alchemizing friction and uncertainty into creative expression, reflecting his belief in the transformative power of music.

The Impact of his Upbringing

Jacob reflects on his upbringing and the impact it had on his creative journey. He talks about the validation he received from his mother, who was creative and open-minded, and the validation he felt he lacked from his father. This combination of validation and lack thereof fueled his desire to create and express himself. He emphasizes the importance of accepting oneself and embracing all aspects of who you are in order to grow and evolve as a person and artist.

The process of self-discovery is ongoing for Jacob, as he continues to unravel himself and explore different facets of his identity. He believes in the power of being present in the creative process and finding inspiration in the act of creating. He values the journey of self-discovery and acknowledges that there is no rush to figure out who you are or what you want to do. He encourages individuals to trust the process and have faith that they are moving in the right direction, even if they may not see it at the moment.

Building Trust With One's Audience

Jacob discusses the role of the audience in creative work and the importance of building trust with one's audience. He believes that the primary currency an artist has, besides their perspective, is trust. He emphasizes the value of creating authentic and resonant work that moves people on a deep level. He challenges the notion that success is measured by the number of people reached and instead focuses on the impact and resonance of the work with the audience.

Jacob shares his perspective on the evolving landscape of creativity and the democratization of art through platforms like YouTube and TikTok. He highlights the importance of finding one's people and building relationships with a core audience. He believes that the key to success lies in telling stories that expand over time and building trust that lasts a long time. He encourages creatives to be true to themselves and tell stories that are meaningful and authentic to them.

The audience comes last

Jacob Collier reflects on the idea that the audience comes last in creative work, a concept popularized by producer Rick Rubin. While initially skeptical of this notion, Jacob acknowledges that there is value in creating work for oneself and being true to one's vision. However, he also believes that there is merit in creating work for others and collaborating with an audience to create something new and inspiring.

Self-awareness in his Creative Process

Jacob emphasizes the importance of self-awareness in his creative process. He describes his room as a safe space where he can fully express himself and explore his creativity. He likens the process of creating music to tuning into his internal weather, understanding his emotional state, and allowing that to guide his creative decisions. He believes in being open to what inspires him each day, whether it's a particular instrument, mood, or idea. He encourages embracing the nonsense and allowing ideas to flow naturally without overthinking.

The Role of Routine and Discipline

While Jacob values self-awareness and openness in his creative process, he acknowledges the importance of routine and discipline in other aspects of life. He recognizes the need for balance between pushing through challenges and knowing when to take a break. He emphasizes the importance of listening to one's body and mind, whether it's in the creative process or daily routines like eating.

Covering Other Artists' Songs

Jacob discusses his early experiences with rearranging and covering other artists' songs. He explains that this process allowed him to experiment with different musical styles and techniques while maintaining a sense of familiarity for the audience. Remixing and collaborating with previous work helped him develop his own unique voice as a musician.

Through arranging and reinterpreting music, Jacob found a way to play with audience expectations and create moments of surprise and delight. He describes how he would take familiar melodies and harmonies and twist them in unexpected ways to evoke emotional responses from listeners. This approach to music-making allowed him to tap into his creative instincts and explore new possibilities in sound.

AI and Creativity

The discussion also touches on the role of AI in the creative process, particularly in music. Jacob expresses excitement about the possibilities AI offers in generating new sounds and experiences that may not be achievable through traditional means. He acknowledges the fear surrounding AI but sees it as an opportunity for artists to ask new questions and push boundaries in their work. He believes that AI can be a valuable tool for artists, allowing them to design and build worlds that were previously unimaginable.

The Importance of Empathy and Connection

Jacob emphasizes the importance of empathy and connection in a world increasingly influenced by technology and AI. He believes that focusing on empathy and deepening our understanding of each other is crucial for the future of humanity. By treating AI with kindness and respect, we can shape a more positive and collaborative relationship with technology.

The Music Industry and Artist Rights

The conversation also touches on recent events in the music industry, such as the dispute between artists and record labels like UMG. Jacob expresses support for artists and believes that they should have access to their work and be fairly compensated for their contributions. He values impact and connection over financial gain and emphasizes the importance of artists being able to communicate with their fans and share their ideas freely.

Personal Style

Jacob's personal style is influenced by his love for color and pattern, which he finds visually stimulating and uplifting. He values comfort and agility in his clothing choices, reflecting his dynamic and expressive personality. His family's clothing line plays a role in his fashion choices, adding a personal touch to his wardrobe. His style reflects his creative spirit and his desire to express himself authentically.

Home and Connection

Jacob reflects on the concept of home and how it has evolved for him over time. He sees home as a place where he feels comfortable and connected, whether it's his childhood room in London or the world at large. Home is where he can express himself freely and share his creativity with others, creating a sense of belonging and connection wherever he goes.


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