Who is Jacob Collier, the viral musician turning audiences into choirs?

2 February 2024, 17:49 | Updated: 6 February 2024, 13:30

Who is star musician Jacob Collier?
Who is star musician Jacob Collier? Picture: Getty

By Siena Linton

Multi-Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and producer Jacob Collier is one of the brightest musical minds of the 21st century. But how is he so talented, and how did he become famous? We investigate...

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Hailing from North London, Jacob Collier first shot to fame in 2013 with a series of innovative arrangements and covers uploaded to YouTube.

His signature close harmonies and ‘crunchy’ chords brought a unique spin to well-loved classics from Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’, to Gene Wilder’s ‘Pure Imagination’.

Almost overnight, Collier had struck on the perfect recipe for viral Internet fame, and soon became the Crown Prince of Harmony and heir to Eric Whitacre’s throne.

In recent years Collier has reached further renown with energetic performances which see him turn large audiences into sublime megachoirs, directed with simple hand motions.

The 29 year old also shares his mind-boggling understanding of complex music theory, with a brilliantly simple way of breaking concepts down into manageable, bite-size chunks.

Read more: Incredible moment Jacob Collier turns his entire concert audience into a choir

Pure Imagination - Jacob Collier

Who are Jacob Collier’s family?

Born on 2 August 1994 to a family of musicians, Collier’s musical pedigree is multi-generational. His mother, Suzie, is a professional violinist and conductor, as well as violin professor at the Junior Royal Academy of Music – the youngest to hold that appointment.

Her own father, and Jacob’s grandfather, Derek Collier, was also a violinist, and taught at the Royal Academy of Music as well as leading the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

All three have been awarded Fellowships of the Royal Academy of Music, with Jacob becoming the third generation of the Collier family to be bestowed the award in July 2023.

Jacob also has two younger sisters, Sophie and Ella, and told Jazzwise in 2015: “We sing Bach chorales together as a family – it’s just so much fun.”

Where did Jacob Collier study music?

Jacob Collier grew up in north London, attending the Mill Hill County High School before transferring to the specialist Purcell School for Young Musicians.

After leaving the Purcell School at 18, Collier joined the Royal Academy of Music to study jazz piano.

As his homemade videos began to gain traction, Collier gained the attention of jazz legend Quincy Jones, who contacted the young musician and later became his mentor. Jones even arranged for Collier to attend Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland to meet Herbie Hancock.

What is Jacob Collier’s vocal range?

Jacob Collier has a reported vocal range of just over four octaves, spanning from around A1 (three ‘A’s below middle C) to B5 (two ‘B’s above middle C).

Both notes feature in his viral arrangement of Henry Mancini’s ‘Moon River’.

Jacob Collier - Moon River

In a 2015 masterclass at Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA, Collier responded to a student who asked how low he could sing: “It depends on the day.

“I strive to get colds,” he joked. “And then wake up early as well, to get low notes. I can normally go down to a D, and then any lower than that is just pot luck.”

He went on to explain that he once recorded a series of sounds on one day with a particularly low range, so he could drag and drop the samples into future recordings when he can’t sing so low!

Read more: What is a Baritenor? Meet the singer with an incredible three-octave operatic range

What music has Jacob Collier written?

Jacob Collier released his debut album In My Room in 2016, featuring his own original songs in addition to three covers. It was written, recorded and mixed by Collier in his family home in north London, and he embarked on a one-man show tour shortly afterwards.

His four subsequent albums are titled Djesse Vols 1-4, with one released each year from 2018 to 2020, and the fourth volume due for release in late February 2024.

In addition to the music featured on his albums, Collier has also released arrangements including Harold Darke’s ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ and Parry’s ‘Jerusalem’.

Collier has collaborated with major music artists from Coldplay and Stormzy, to Alicia Keys and Shawn Mendes.

Jacob Collier won his sixth Grammy Award in 2024, at the age of 29.
Jacob Collier won his sixth Grammy Award in 2024, at the age of 29. Picture: Getty

What awards has Jacob Collier won?

To date, Jacob Collier has been nominated for 10 Grammy Awards, and won six. He won his first five awards between 2017 and 2021, following up with his latest win in 2024 for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals.

He has even made history as the first British artist to win a Grammy Award for each of his first four albums.