Mississippi born and bred Jarekus Singleton has solidly built his reputation as one of the leading up-and-coming blues singer/songwriter/guitarists on the music festival circuit today. But, for the 29-year-old, there was a time in his teens when hoop dreams, not music, was what he was building his future on. He was raised in a family of church musicians and was recruited by default to play bass, and later guitar, in his uncle’s band. “At the time I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just trying to get with the groove,” says Singleton.
Years later he maintained a presence playing with local bands and was also a DJ/rapper in college. Concurrently, through his youth, he had played on little league basketball teams and racked up numerous MVP awards. In 2009 he had tryouts with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers, but a career-crushing ankle injury halted him in his tracks.
“I’m not about the success at all. I’m
about the significance.”
Thankfully Singleton kept his chops up with music and earnestly shifted his focus. “With everything I do I’m not about the success at all. I’m about the significance,” says Singleton. “I don’t like underachieving, so I’m always looking for a new way to convey what I’m trying to say.”
The winner of several International Blues Challenges, Singleton started his own band in 2010. He aggressively sought out labels and sent Alligator president Bruce Iglauer countless demos. Iglauer replied consistently with encouragement and support.
The turning point came in 2013 at an IBC event in Memphis. “It was epic,” states Singleton. “Bruce was there along with some other record executives. I traveled back and forth to meet him in Chicago and we got to know each other as men. He finally said, ‘Jarekus, let’s be family and make a record.’ Bruce is a tough critic. So for him and his staff to take that step is a huge privilege and honor for me!”
Simply put, it was perseverance and self-motivation that propelled the modern bluesman to where he is today. “Nothing was handed to me, man,” says Singleton. “You can do everything perfect and it still might not work out. It’s not what happens to you but how you adjust!” Jarekus Singleton’s Alligator Records debut Refuse to Lose will be released globally in May 2014. – Eric A. Harabadian