Welcome friends and feast your eyes on this in-depth and incredibly interesting interview with smokingsforcoolpeople. We get into the thick of it, so grab a cuppa and get comfy.
You don’t wanna miss this!
What would you say first sparked your interest in music/who inspired you to make music?
The initial spark ignited out of the tragic death of my beloved Grandmother Enid. One of her last wishes was for me and my sister to sing at her funeral. I was 6 or 7 years old and my sister was about 17/18.The ah haaa moment came when I outperformed my sibling, although it was a very sombre event, the crowd went wild and from that day I was gently cajoled into church choirs, school plays and auditions for stage shows etc.
My Grandmother left this earth gifting her lineage with song and beat. Till this day I continue to be inspired by her. I grew up in the 90s and was heavily influenced by a lot of the R&B/Soul music of the late 80s and early 90s. I also grew up in 3 different countries so the musical styles were quite different. First Jamaica where I was really young so only remember the deep reggae and bashment basses. In the U.S.A I predominantly listened to the New Jack Swing, R&B, Funk and Reggae my uncle listened to, whereas, when I moved to the U.K it was very difficult to hear this type of music (especially in a Christian Household) So I predominantly listed to the U.K Pop, and brit pop my school friends were listening to. It wasn’t until I moved out of the parental home at 16 before I could access the U.S R&B again and really fell in love with the sounds of Bad boy Records, SoSo Def, Babyface, LA Reid, Rodney Jerkins, Jam & Lewis and Quincy Jones to name a few.
How would you describe the music you are currently creating?
The music I’m currently creating is a mixture, reflecting my late teens. I rebelled Hard and was always trying to convince some bouncer to let my young looking A** into some club, whenever I did manage to get it, UK Garage, Funky House, Dub Step were the beats which kept me on the dancefloor all night. The music I’m creating now is an ode to that period of my life. I have some R&B tracks, I have some funk tracks and I’ve also experimented in merging the R&B with the dance, in one track e.g., “Ghosting”, you have a smooth R&B syncopated beat for the Verses and then 4 on the floor for the Hooks.
I have a very eclectic production style, and the music I create I think reflects that. I would say the music I’m currently creating has Soul/Gospel as the foundations, R&B as the structure, roofed with Pop and Dance to keep my listeners engaged.
What does your creative process look like?
This depends on the project. e.g., When creating for sync, I’m trying to get a feel of the scene or whatever brief they may send, often this includes watching any visuals many times to understand the scene and any dialogue and gather inspiration. For commercial briefs for singers, I will often go and check out their music, what they have previously performed and then I’ll try to create something that fits that particular brief.
For the “Damian” Project however, my creative process was different because of the connection with the music, the artists and the genre. This was a passion project so when creating, myself and the artists would have mini writing camps where we would listen to a lot of music and reminisce about what we were doing at time that track was released. I usually compose the beats in a very basic manner getting ideas of instrumentation down using Logic Pro X as DAW of choice. I would then call in the musos, I am lucky to work with some of the finest musicians on the Birmingham music scene, 2 of which are my neighbours.
So usually BJB [Ben Bartlett] (Guitar) would get a call from me asking when he’s available next, the day after we’d record any melodies I have in my head along with some of BJBs ideas also. Then comes [Chris Russell] (Keys) who is an uber talented drummer from my singing days but who happens to play Keys and Bass. I can usually record about 2 tracks with them per session after which I mix the beat a little for context and for the artists to write their parts. The artists then come over to my home studio to either write or record what they have written. On this Project “Damian” I wrote with them because sometimes artists find it easier to write when they have another person to bounce ideas and melodies off. For “Excuse me”, the heavy lifting in terms of writing the lyrics was done by Sykes, She had the idea of what she wanted for the hook, and asked me to vocal it, so this track in particular was pretty straight forward leaving me to concentrate on the mixing and mastering.
Who would you most like to collaborate with? (let’s send it out to the universe and make it happen!)
I would really love to collaborate with MNEK, his production style is wavey and I like the way he also fuses different genres, e.g., in “Sweet Melody” by Little Mix, the way he fuses dance with afrobeats and some sprinkles of the trap hi hat OHHH MY DAYS!!! LOVE!!! You can also hear the same in his remix of “Holiday” by Little Mix where his fusion of R&B, dance and little dancehall is just impeccable. I would also love to work with Pharell Williams. Will.I.AM, Timbaland and Missy Elliott because They are too sick at the production and engineering.
What is the one message you would like to send out to your fans?
Honestly, do what you love. At the moment we are all in the same boat trying to navigate life, adjusting to this global pandemic and now a war in Europe between Russia and the Ukraine. We are all living in unprecedented times and more than ever it’s important for yours and my mental health to do what you love and don’t be afraid to fail.
What’s your top tip to rejuvenate your creativity/get over a writer’s block?
A change is as good as a rest. Meaning, change your perspective or outlet. (Write from the other persons perspective).
For me, 4 years ago I went through a writer’s block and decided I didn’t want to sing anymore, so I pivoted into music production learning a new skill and developing my theory and composition prowess. Having said that, I’m Dramatic AF. For normal people, I would say take a step back from subject, sometimes when we are in the zone it’s really hard to gain perspective. What helps me is to step away from the subject, go do something, a walk, play a computer game something to get your mind off the subject. Then come back to it on a different day. Sometimes however, we don’t have the luxury of stepping away because of tight deadlines, in these cases it really helps me to get 2 nd and 3 rd opinions. By asking people, other writers, it’s helped me greatly in the past because someone else may have a totally simpler way of saying something. Yeah, no man is an island, if you can’t get help at the time you’re writing, Take a break, come back to it with fresh ears, eyes and heart.
What’s next for you, what do we have to look forward to/ what are you currently
After the release of the full “Damian” project which contains 8 tracks and will be released as a series of singles, I will be releasing another project from one the artists I am working with called Sol Morgan. His voice is superb and I can’t wait for you to hear what we’ve been cooking up in the studio. Sol wants to release his debut E.P later this summer so currently we are strategising his releases. His E.P is mostly dance/pop music with a sprinkle of reggae and a dash of soul, we’re really excited about it. Along with the releases, I am currently signed to ‘The Hook & Co’ (a sync agent in Canada) so I am always creating music for the weekly briefs that come from there, mostly apparel advertisements and some film and T.V compositions.
I have also started a project with my cousin who is a writer based in St Catherine Jamaica. Danielle writes the most beautiful poetry and has just published her first book of poetry called “The New Wave: Metaphors and Realities”. I am currently composing music and soundscape to go along with her poetry. It’s really interesting because the only communication we have is through social media and WhatsApp, Danielle has been recording herself reciting the poetry to which I then add music and soundscape over. We are having loads of fun with this one because it allows us to think out of the box, e.g., In one of her pieces “Seeded Grapes” she speaks about a cart boy, we thought it would be advantageous if we recorded the sounds emanating from the markets in Kingston to provide a backdrop where I can then add the instrumentation. This too is a passion project and can’t wait to really get stuck in and possibly plan a trip out to Jamaica to record her properly as opposed to the WhatsApp audio.
Lots of exciting things lined up for 2022 and beyond. Let’s get it!
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