The North-East's, genre-fusing musician speaks on his preparation for the release of his debut album 'Hope Above Adversity', the emotional process of putting together the project the wide range of artists he takes inspiration from.
Over the past year, you’ve been releasing singles from your upcoming project, the latest being ‘Hang My Head’, what were the initial inspirations for the track?
'Hang My Head' will be from my debut album 'Hope Above Adversity’ which I’ll explore more in a little while but this particular song is about experiencing existential disappointment, in moments where you reflect on something you’ve done in your life. It could be not getting something meaningful across in an important meeting or conversation with somebody, to missing an opportunity or feeling like you’ve let people down. The kind of disappointment that only people who truly know you deep down can see you are experiencing, and how low moments like this can motivate action & light a fire underneath you when you feel like you could have done better and can help you know your character going forward.
How was the process of working up to this upcoming project, especially over the lockdown?
It was an amazing experience, one that wasn’t easy and had many ups & downs, especially with lockdown. Working over zoom with producers & writing was very tricky but It forced me to get creative to stick the landing on arguably my life's work so far. I’m very excited for fans & new listeners alike to hear it.
What are the main themes you will be exploring within the project?
The upcoming album 'Hope Above Adversity' is an artistic statement about my experiences, themes of overcoming insurmountable odds, poverty, social care and post-traumatic growth. It's been a lifetime in the making and this record and journey of myself and my younger brother Daniel is the only thing that has kept me from being in prison, on drugs or worse.
" ... if I can do it, anybody can, be bold, dream, don’t take no for an answer ..."
Sonically, what were your biggest influences going into creating the album?
I’ve always been a massive fan of garage rock bands like The Black Keys & The White Stripes and their sort of simplistic balls to the wall approach to writing in a lot of their material resonated with me and is a giant influence in my life in general. As well as very visual and creative cathartic storytelling from artists like Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco & Stromae. These are the core fundamentals of my musical inspiration with of course being a kid that's been raised in the digital age meaning I’ve naturally been exposed to practically every genre of music there's ever been for a nanosecond from YouTube & Spotify clips aha! You can’t escape that these days but I’m certainly a beneficiary of that too.
All this mixed with producer & legendary songwriter Eg White’s classically influenced approach to making music with great musicians mixed with my technique of throwing it out the window and do what your gut tells you made for an interesting middle ground routed in a lot of funk, gospel & soul. Artists like Sly and The Family Stone & Bill Withers are a natural place we hung our musical hats when our two worlds met and we ended up converting many older demos I had through this new lens as well as leaning heavily on cutting up samples and other Hip-Hop staples to really have my sound shine true.
What was one thing you learnt about yourself in the process of creating this project?
That I can be terribly stubborn and prescriptive when it comes to my musical identity. As far as my debut album goes, given what I’ve been through to take it this far. But ultimately, don’t get in your own way if a door opens to a new creative venture just because you told yourself once, something needed to be exactly one way.
What message do you hope this album brings to its listeners?
That if I can do it, anybody can, be bold, dream, don’t take no for an answer and never let anybody or anything decide your life for you.
"... I began to use music as a way to put faces to names so to speak in terms of my feelings & how I perceived the world."
How does being an instrumentalist aid you as a writer and performer?
I’m not Mozart or anything - it's a very bootleg and self-taught approach to playing different instruments on the tracks but I find it an indispensable tool for opening yourself up.
How important is it for you to remain eclectic within your sound and never allow genre boundaries to confine you?
It's inherently a part of who I am. I make music as, when growing up in the circumstances I did, music is a way to emotionally regulate and I began to use music as a way to put faces to names so to speak in terms of my feelings & how I perceived the world which as a child experiencing untold abuse and adversity is like the outside looking in.
If you had to choose two of your tracks to best show your range as an artist, which would you choose and why?
"... I can only tell you how excited I am to be able to share it & with it myself to the world."
How does this latest album show a growth in your sound from your debut EP ‘Monsters Under The Bed’?
I think its an elaboration on what the Monsters EP eluded to & I can only tell you how excited I am to be able to share it & with it myself to the world.
Being from the North-East, are there any local artists you would recommend?
Definitely, there are some amazing artists in our scene in the north east, Trunky Juno, Jak Lvr, Jon Dole are some I’ve been listening to at the moment, but you’d have to come here yourself and see some live music to see how much cool stuff is floating around right now.
Which artists first inspired you to get into music and who is inspiring you today?
I’d say The Black Keys, The White Stripes. Stromae, Lupe Fiasco & Kid Cudi would be up there. & today I’m loving the whole bedroom pop movement and everything that's sprouting from it, Benee, Oliver Tree, Gus Dapperton, Remi Wolfe, all this shiz.
If you had to recommend five artists to your listeners, who would you choose?
What’s coming up for the rest of 2021?
'Hope Above Adversity’ will be out on the 9th of July, you can pre-order it on my socials anytime before then. And then I shall, covid permitting, be out in the states playing some shows before doing some UK shows to finish off the year!