Antigua & Barbuda’s Jamal Gordon is moving on up. The young singer has inked a distribution deal with VP records and is expected to release his first seven-song EP in New York in November.
Before then, locals can get a taste at an October 4th listening party, planned to coincide with his birthday, at The Yard on St Mary’s Street. A musical documentary, Just Dance, and TV sitcom, PG101, are also in the works. This is all according to the 12-year-old’s manager, Dr Noel Howell, who sees a bright future for the musical wunderkind he describes as “a diamond in the rough.”
Jamal told OBSERVER Entertainment that he wants “to be one of the biggest singers” in the industry like his musical idols Michael Jackson and Justin Beiber.
The VP deal came on the heels of a busy summer for the youth; between dance lessons and concert dates in several US states, including a gig opening for reggae stars Shaggy and Christopher Martin at the Jamaican Jerk Festival in Queens.
Of VP, Dr Howell said, “they liked him from day one.” And what’s not to like about the soulful quality of his young voice – which, teaser, just soars on Tomorrow, one of the newer songs on an EP that will also include Don’t Fight the Feelings, Just a Crush, I’m Good, I Need that in My Life, Let Love Shine, and one folks should already be familiar with Too Young.
Dr Howell said Jamal’s breakthrough number, the video of which can be seen on You Tube, was his cover of When I was Your Man by one of the boy’s favourite artistes, Bruno Mars; a song the boy delivers like a seasoned professional.
“I haven’t worked with an artist that young before,” said Dr Howell, medical doctor in the US for many years and now film producer, publisher, film academy founder, and artiste manager. It was through his work with another young talent that he came to know Jamal.
Dr Howell had published Little Rude Boys/Girls written by Deshawn Browne. During a promotional book event at Golden Grove school, he heard Jamal sing for the first time. Right away he was impressed with his range and the way he emotes from the heart, especially for one so young.
Dr Howell also runs a scholarship programme for young people, giving them access to private education. As fate would have it, a year later, Jamal was recommended by the school for the scholarship.
Thanks to that coming together, Jamal is now a student at St Joseph’s Academy and a singer with opportunities opening up before him that some have to scratch years to access, if ever.
Both Jamal and Dr Howell admitted they thought it would take much longer.
“I am pretty much surprised,” said Dr Howell, who set things in motion when he reached out to California based-filmmaker D Channsin Berry. Berry, he said, was similarly “blown away” by Jamal. Before long, the boy was flying to Los Angeles to record a demo. Dr Howell has also spent time grooming the young man, including the aforementioned effort to step up his dance moves.
It’s all culminated in this summer’s concert dates in New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland, and, of course, New York. The new VP deal is the pay-off. Still, school remains a priority.
“I have a time table so when it’s time to sing, I sing; and when it’s time to study, I study,” Jamal told OBSERVER Entertainment. This is one of the reasons why the major events such as the touring and the launch are scheduled to coincide with school breaks.
“I have to protect him from myself,” said Dr Howell, referring to his need to balance his enthusiasm to push Jamal toward the bright lights of Broadway with the need to just let him be young. In fact, there are opportunities that they’ve had to let pass.
“I’m impressed with his work habits but sometimes we have to remember…to allow them to be kids. I try to implement my own things where I try to keep him grounded,” Dr Howell said. The concern for his youth also extends to the choice of music; Dr Howell said he’s careful about that as well.
“I am not giving people nothing to talk about because at the end of the day, I am responsible for this young man,” Dr Howell said.
Jamal’s parents, Winston and Myrna Gordon, meanwhile, are supportive of this journey their son is on and travel with him when they can. They’ve clearly done something right, though even Jamal said he doesn’t quite know where the musical talent comes from, just that his mother recognised it very early on.
Jamal is personable and down to earth, Dr Howell said, adding, “I hope he doesn’t change.”
He said he’s always telling the young singer, “just be yourself and keep the respect that you have.”
Dr Howell’s involvement, in the arts and in youth development, have become something of a passion for him; an all consuming one.
“I sold my clinic. I’m doing this full time,” he said, “(and) it’s not been financially rewarding. I’ve been spending a lot.”
He’s willing to take the risks, he said, because he believes he’ll see the benefits down the road, and he believes that Jamal has a very bright future ahead of him.