‘Are you sure that I’m the one you want?’ asks singer Jameel
Korrin Jameel Lightbourne was thrust into the limelight this summer with the release of Johnny Barnes.
He’d been surprised by John Woolridge’s request that he sing the lead in the song honouring the late “Bermuda icon”, and even more surprised by the huge response to his voice.
Despite all the positives, he had been happy when he was just singing before the familiar faces in his church.
“My family was pretty supportive. They wanted to talk about it – a lot. But I don't like the limelight so, at the end of the day it was very awkward for me.
“I’m super critical of myself so hearing the recording, the final product, that was like, ‘Oh my God.’ But feedback has been a lot better than I expected.”
The 30-year-old has always been musical. In primary school a teacher suggested he might benefit from having private lessons.
Mr Lightbourne started with violin and then piano before he gave them both up and began singing.
But although he enjoyed it, it was also short-lived.
“I think it was because I didn't see the amount of praise that I expected to receive. My cousins sing. I was the youngest cousin and I used to sing all the time and they found it to be obnoxious.
And then when puberty hit, my voice started to drop and if you don't have a coach, you start to figure this is not for me.”
He began spending a lot of time with his older brother, who had a music studio.
“We recorded a few tracks that were dancehall – completely different to what I'm doing now. Raunchy, hardcore. The voice was always there, people would be: ‘You can sing, you can sing!’ But really, I wasn’t singing like that.”
In 2014 Mr Lightbourne graduated from university and returned to Bermuda where he went through “a little soul-searching phase”.
It led him to join the Southampton Inspirational Choir and Restoration Ministries Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Praise Team “without voice lessons at all”.
“I guess I had an early midlife crisis. I wanted to find purpose; something felt like it was missing. During my time at university, being out there by myself, I had more time to talk to God, to kind of figure myself out,” Mr Lightbourne said. “And then when I came back I [decided] I didn't want to sing songs about things that are dishonourable, for lack of a better word. I would rather dedicate my voice and my all to singing songs that I believe are pleasing to God.”
He continued: “I was singing every week and I was like, I know I'm not doing it right so I need to invest in a vocal coach. Once I determined that, everything just started to fall into place.”
Reverend Dr Georgette Prime-Godwin invited him to share his testimony with her and to attend her installation service at Emmanuel Baptist Church.
“I started going there and she provided me the opportunity to be the worship leader at that church,” Mr Lightbourne said. “It was a small church but she gave me a platform to explore myself when it came to leadership.”
For a few months it was a full-time role until Mr Lightbourne decided it put him under too much pressure.
On the back of a suggestion by a sound technician he met at a three-day conference he led for Emmanuel Baptist Church, he began lessons with Marcelle Clamens, the late opera singer and teacher.
“She was able to teach me the foundations – of singing techniques, breathing; she helped me to explore my range and kind of fall in love with my voice again, for lack of better words.”
In 2020 he decided he was ready and again took on the role of worship leader at Emmanuel Baptist Church, full-time.
“I haven't really done any live [performances] apart from church and Marcelle’s memorial service back in 2019. I'm pretty much very, very new to this,” Mr Lightbourne said.
He wasn’t “really sure what to expect” when Mr Woolridge approached him.
The record producer, who also heads the music department at the Berkeley Institute, was impressed after hearing Mr Lightbourne sing at a church worship night and was certain he was a good fit for the musical tribute Greg Morrison had written to Johnny Barnes.
“I listened to the song and it wasn't what I was used to,” Mr Lightbourne said. “So I knew that in itself would be a stretch. The style of it was completely different from what I was used to and it had to be duplicated in the studio. And my voice, obviously, is not the same as Greg’s.
“At first I was like, ‘Are you sure that I’m the one you want?’”
The experience however, was a good one with Mr Morrison and Mr Woolridge giving positive feedback.
“Let's go back and do this a little bit differently, make your voice a little bit softer. It was fun stretching,” he said.
“With church, you mainly see the same group of people every week apart from when it's a special service or something and we have a lot of visitors.
“I'm so grateful for that opportunity in itself because it got me used to standing up in front of people and coming into my own – becoming one with my personality and my leadership style.”
His dream isn’t to become a superstar but he is now more open to singing in front of a wider audience.
“I don’t like the limelight,” Mr Lightbourne laughed. “Best case scenario, what if I pursue this full-time and things actually blow up and I become world-famous. Can I handle that? Probably not.
“As far as my talent goes, I want to continue to develop that. I do have a passion for music. I would like to have more opportunities in the studio.
“That experience with Johnny left a good impression on me. I actually looked forward to going in the studio and making sure we got it right.
“I guess an ultimate dream would be to be singing in hotels. A little side hustle. It's kind of up in the air at the moment.”
Follow Korrin Jameel Lightbourne on Instagram: @_jahmeel