Emerging reggae musician Romain Virgo channels his own experiences with love, loss, relationships, and romance into his brand new studio album, Love Sick, available March 30th from VP Records. The 17-track album features a number of singles, such as “Now,” “Trouble,” and the lead single, “Still.” It also includes a cover of the song “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith.
The 28-year-old Jamaican crooner’s third full-length album, which was executive produced by Niko Browne for Lifeline Music with additional production by Sting International and Vikings Production, presents a new pop-reggae sound laced with his signature lovers rock style woven throughout.
Romain Virgo will be embarking on a European tour following the release of his album, at the end of March, featuring special guest Sevana. The tour will include stops in Germany, UK, Holland, and Switzerland, with additional plans to tour the U.S. later this year. Salute Magazine recently caught up with Romain Virgo to talk about reggae, his musical influence and his upcoming album, Love Sick.
SALUTE: How did you first get your start in music?
VIRGO: I got my start in music in 2007, winning a competition here in Jamaica called Rising Stars, which is similar to competitions like X Factor, American Idol, and The Voice. I won at age 17 in 2007 and that was what gave me my big break.
From there I started working with a few producers that are well known in Jamaica, and people that work with some big reggae artists including names like Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths, Buju Banton, and Wayne Wonder and the list goes on. Donovan Germain was the first producer to produce a song that became popular here in Jamaica called “[Mi] Caan Sleep” and that was the start. That was how I got my break in the business of music.
SALUTE: Who are some of the artists you look up to?
VIRGO: I grew up listening to people like Beres Hammond as I mentioned earlier on. Alton Ellis, Garnett Silk, Sanchez, Luciano, Buju Banton, Sizzla Kalonji. I used to listen to people like Percy Sledge, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye. These are the kind of artists that I basically grew up listening to. I give thanks to my mother because a lot of people would ask why would somebody my age, who was born 1990, would listen to this kind of music? My mom used to play this kind of music in the house. There was also a sound in my community called “Black Spider Sound” that would play every Saturday and Sunday evenings… that’s where the music I play and listen to is coming from.
SALUTE: What are some of the challenges facing young reggae artists?
VIRGO: Everybody who is doing reggae and dancehall music would love for all music to become mainstream music. We all believe that it’s so powerful and that our voice is our talent and that we need to be heard. The challenge we face is probably crossing over, meaning getting other people to listen to us. All the other genres of music. Something we’re all doing as artists now is to just “do” music… not to be limited to any genre per se. I’m an artist who mostly does love music, but from time to time I find myself doing songs with a bit of other influences. Instruments and sounds from other genres of music that we put into our music to kind of make it more interesting and more appealing to the ears of other people who wouldn’t necessarily listen to a lover’s rock, or dancehall, or a reggae song.
For example, my album that I have coming out, there are three songs on it… “Now,” “Still,” and “Will you be there.” Most of them, if not all of them, are basically dancehall but there is a modern sound to it that is coming from other genres of music that I personally believe will open the ears of other people out there to listen to the music. Because they’re hearing something that they’re used to from the other genres that they would be listening to. It’s a challenge to try and make that crossover. Trying to get people out there in the world that wouldn’t be listening to reggae/dancehall music to open their ears some more. That is one of the main challenges that we face.
SALUTE: Tell me more about your new album.
VIRGO: The name of the album is Love Sick, and it’s my personal inner story. It’s a theme of events that happened in my life over the years. I decided to put them in song and just be free and vulnerable and put something out there on record that I know everything about. That was basically the concept behind this entire project. It’s an album that has only love songs on it. There are 16 tracks on it and they’re all love songs. I think it’s a beautiful project. We tried to not just stick to one sound. There are three songs like I mentioned, that have this dancehall crossover sound to it. We have a rub-a-dub roots kind of sound of music. We definitely have the lover rock’s sound on it. We have a song that we couldn’t even call dancehall or lover’s rock… it’s just soul music. Two of the songs, “Cannot close my Eyes” and another song, “Heartbeat,” are songs on the album aren’t necessarily reggae music or what you would hear from a reggae artist, but it was what I was feeling at the time. We just made music and I think people out there will connect with them the same as they would connect with any other song that I put out.
SALUTE: What’s next for Romain Virgo?
VIRGO: This is my third album. My dream was always to be on the road. You want to create and you want the album to be a big album and for people to buy the album, but I think an interesting way to get the album out there is to go on the road and tour the album. No matter how small the crowds would be, whether it’s a club tour or a festival kind of tour, we just want to be on the road with this project and bring it to the people and introduce it as much as possible.
Starting this weekend we’re going to be in Belize. Right after we leave for Europe and UK Tour which starts on the 27th. We leave Jamaica on the 25th. Hopefully, that will be the start of what we really want to do, bringing this album on the road and getting people involved in it. If we can do this for the rest of the year it would really be a great way to push the album out there and get people involved as much as we want them to. Hopefully, this album can surpass my expectations… I look forward to all good things, to be on the road, and to push out this album as much as possible.
‘LOVE SICK’ EUROPEAN TOUR:
03.28 – Berlin (Germany) @ ASTRA
03.29 – Munich (Germany) @ BACKSTAGE
03.30 – Hamburg (Germany) @ FABRIK
03.31 – Dortmund (Germany) @DKH
04.01 – Amsterdam (Holland) @ MELKWEG
04.04 – Birmingham (Uk) @ O2 INSTITUTE
04.05 – Manchester (Uk) @ BAND ON THE WALL
04.06 – Leeds (Uk) @ WARDROBE
04.07 – Cardiff (Uk) @ GLEE
04.08 – London (Uk) @ SCALA
04.10 – Den Haag (Holland) @ PAARD KZ
04.11 – Groningen (Holland) @ OOSTERPOORT Kz
04.13 – Basel (Switzerland) @ KASERNE BASEL
04.14 – Zurich (Switzerland) @ ROTE FABRIK