JOEL CULPEPPER

The South-East London based artist talks about the release of his latest single 'Poetic Justice' alongside Tom Misch, starting his own imprint Pepper Records and his upcoming 'Sgt. Culpepper' album.

How did ‘Poetic Justice’ the new collaboration with Tom Misch come about?


I got to write this one with Tom Misch after a session for his album project with Yussef Dayes. Tom reached out after hearing “Afraid to be King” produced by Roy Davis Jr. Pleased he did ‘cause I’ve been a fan of his work for a while. I feel like Justice is poetry but it’s also complex. Part of justice is forgiveness, no longer enslaved by the pain of what someone’s done to you but the ability to move on from it.

What was the inspiration for your latest single ‘Return / W.A.R’?

The inspiration musically for both songs are juxtaposed. It's like Soul Vs Funk. Both are intrinsically linked to me as an artist who is black and the black experience. Hoping the writing within both songs is something that individuals can access and use for themselves personally.  


What was the process of creating the double single and who did you work with on the release?


Return was produced by Redinho and W.A.R was produced by Swindle, Jimmy Hogarth and Shawn Lee. Wanted to visually represent the different influences and worked with photographer and friend Michal Augustini to create a split concept.  

What can we expect from your upcoming album ‘Sgt. Culpepper’?

11 songs, 4 chapters that genre bend. Hopefully all cohesive and reflective of me as a person and artist.

"We followed a blueprint that Berry Gordy and Smokey left with Motown. It wasn't called Hitsville for no reason."

How was the process of creating this project and what were the themes that you wanted to explore within this debut?


The process involved a traditional approach. Although, there are ten producers on the record myself and executive producer Swindle went to a residential studio for a week. We got one drummer to play across the whole album, one bass player, same horn and string section to give it the glue. We followed a blueprint that Berry Gordy and Smokey left with Motown. It wasn't called Hitsville for no reason.

How was working with Redinho for ‘Sheriff’ and what was the process of creating that track?


Redinho and I have a great chemistry. We laugh a lot in the studio and I remember us bonding quite quickly over Curtis Mayfield. Sheriff happened pretty organically. He made it and I wrote to it pretty much in one session. Music is the best when that happens. He then produced Return which I knew was another banger.  

 

How was creating the visuals for that track?

It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. The director and cinematographer for 'Return / W.A.R' Leo Horsfield and Josh Fry had a real vision for the songs they heard. An apocalyptic London, dystopian but also nostalgic. My definition was Jackie Brown meets The Matrix. 

"I’ve learned so much through collaboration. I’m the best version of myself when working with others."

How important do you find collaboration is for creative growth?


I’ve learned so much through collaboration. I’m the best version of myself when working with others. The album features so much work from various producers that have all elevated me as an artist.

How has lockdown been for you, creatively?


Lockdown has been a really difficult time in periods to create music. I think although there has been an influx of time to make it, music is created by inspiration of life and things happening. There has been some creative points which I’m excited for people to hear in the near future.  

Can you tell us about your label imprint Pepper Records and how the label came to fruition?

 

Pepper Records is a real new venture for me and my team. I felt it was an important message to release this project under my own imprint. In a time where ownership is so important I was really blessed to be presented with the opportunity to set up my own shop. 

"I felt 'Woman' was the most dynamic song to perform, it’s inspiration was instinct ... I remember we didn't write anything down, it was just a feeling. "

How was performing on COLORS with ‘Woman’ and what were the inspirations for that track?

 

Colors is a great innovative platform that has helped many careers including mine. The team in Berlin have been extremely supportive since doing the show, Germany have become family as a result of them. I felt 'Woman' was the most dynamic song to perform, it’s inspiration was instinct. Produced by my brother Swindle I remember we didn't write anything down, it was just a feeling. 


How was opening for Stevie Wonder last year at BST and how important is performing for you?

It was a real highlight of my career so far.  My trailer was in between Corrine Bailey Rae and Lionel Richie. Stevie has been a constant influence throughout my musical life 

 

How did growing up in South East London influence your sound?


I really hear the difference between artists from South East and those in the surrounding areas. Just a vibe. Growing up in Peckham and then Catford gave me a sense of identity.

Which artists first inspired you to get into music and who is inspiring you today?

 

There are so many, everyone from Omar and Stevie Wonder to Tevin Campbell and D’angelo.

If you had to recommend five artists to your listeners, who would they be?

 

At the moment been listening to Randy Crawford, Badbadnotgood, Marcos Valle, Yussef Dayes and SAULT.

What’s coming up for 2021?

 

Really looking forward to my debut album 'Sgt. Culpepper' later this year.

 

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