Jeangu Macrooy on Influences, New Music, and the Eurovision Song Contest
Jeangu Macrooy is a modern pop-soul singer-songwriter born in Suriname and based in the Netherlands.
Macrooy represented the Netherlands at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest, performing his uplifting and catchy single, "Birth Of A New Age." After what feels like an eternity of widespread lockdown and isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the song is a refreshing, positive call for togetherness. "Birth Of A New Age" was inspired by the unity and spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the involvement of the LGBTQ+ community in fighting injustices, and is a powerful anthem of love, acceptance, and equality.
Macrooy's rich vocal tone and thoughtfully cheerful songwriting are guaranteed not only to put a smile on your face, but also to have you singing along by the end of the song. The single's layered choral backing vocals help lift the upbeat melodies and emphasize lyrics about finding empowerment in one's roots and identity: "Yu no man broko mi" (Sranan for "you can't break me"). The clever use of piano throughout the song allows for a vast, dynamic soundscape with both full, energized moments and delicately vulnerable ones.
The accompanying music video for "Birth Of A New Age" is a stunning combination of traditional and contemporary fashion, dance, and backdrops, and reflects the song's messages about the relationship between identity and how it is perceived in an ever-changing modern world.
We spoke with Jeangu Macrooy about his influences, new music, experience at the Eurovision Song Contest, and more.
Read the full interview and listen to "Birth Of A New Age" below:
At what age did you start playing music?
There was always music in my household, and I was around ten years old when I discovered that I love to sing. I joined a boys’ choir, and then when I was 13, I got my first guitar. That was when I knew I wanted to be a musician. When I was 15, I wrote my first song with my twin brother, and it just kept growing from there.
How would you describe your sound?
I was born in Suriname, and when I started out, my brother and I were a duo. We played mostly emotional singer-songwriter-type songs on guitars. When I came to the Netherlands and became a solo artist, I released my first EP. The EP was described by an article as “folk-soul.” There are guitars and strings, but also a really soulful sound. My first full album was more of a retro-soul sound, and the second album came from a lot of different genres. I would describe my music as modern soul.
Who or what are your musical influences?
I have a long list of influences, but I am most inspired by artists who write their own songs. It ranges from Bob Marley to Taylor Swift-- and everything in between. I am more inspired by someone’s ability to tell a story than a genre or the way someone sings. I love John Mayer, Beyoncé, Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, and D’Angelo, to name a few. I love music, so I just consume as much of it as I can.
What is your songwriting process like?
It’s a very personal process; it’s almost as if I’m singing about things I wrote down in a diary. It’s always been a way for me to make sense of my life, experiences, and the world around me. It can be really positive, empowering, about love, and also about my upbringing, which was Roman-Catholic, and how I decided to go on with being spiritual, but not in the context of a religion. I’ve also written about colonial history between the Netherlands and Suriname. I think my songwriting mainly comes from personal experiences and perspectives.
What message do you hope to convey with your music?
I just want to bring inspiration to someone else’s life; that’s what satisfies me as an artist and gives me purpose. Whether that be lifting someone’s spirit, or just showing them that they’re not alone, I want my music to help other people.
"I just want to bring inspiration to someone else’s life; that’s what satisfies me as an artist and gives me purpose."
Talk to me about your latest release “Birth Of A New Age.”
I made it with my long-time producer, and I think the first seed of inspiration for it was planted last year. There was a Black Lives Matter demonstration here in Amsterdam, and many others around the world. I looked around me and I saw such a diverse group of people all speaking up for equality and against injustice. That really inspired me because it’s easy to think, in these chaotic times, that things are doomed. We deserve to be seen, heard, respected, and loved; any human being deserves that, and seeing so many people stand together really inspired me. As a gay man, I also looked at the queer community and saw so many people putting their fists in the air to fight for equality. “Birth Of A New Age” is an ode to those people, and also to positive and empowering feelings.
"We deserve to be seen, heard, respected, and loved; any human being deserves that, and seeing so many people stand together really inspired me"
Tell me about your experience at the Eurovision Song Contest?
It was an honor to represent the Netherlands, and I was so happy that the event was able to take place. I was set to perform at Eurovision last year, but the event was cancelled due to the pandemic, so I wrote a new song for this year. It was really awesome to perform again, to be surrounded by other artists, and to have an audience. My team had a great time, and it was a really positive experience.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I also paint and draw, although it’s not really hidden. The covers for my first EP and album are both self-portraits.
What’s next for Jeangu Macrooy?
I’m very invested in writing new music right now-- I’m working on my third studio album, which I want to release next spring. I’m also going on tour in the Netherlands in December, and am hoping to play abroad when the COVID-19 situation improves.