An interview with singer-songwriter Patrick Craig :)
1. What’s it like being a musician based in Leeds, UK?
Very different to London. Leeds has an amazing mix of live music venues, and the scene here is so vibrant, not like London where there are 1000’s of similar venues and many similar musicians. But then again, Leeds isn’t as big, so there are pro’s and con’s to both cities I guess.
2. You’ve shared the stage with Ed Sheeran - What’s been your best gig a) to perform at and b) to attend?
a) The best gig I’ve probably ever done was at the Troubadour in Earl’s Court. I went there with no set list, no idea of the other bands and no idea of the venue. It was the first time my parents had seen me play and the crowd were on fire, a perfect mixing of appreciating my songs and joining in with covers. I hope to play there again soon.
b) The best gig I’ve ever seen will always be smaller venues, seeing Frank Turner at in-stores have always been fun, but I have to admit seeing Green Day at Wembley Stadium made me think a lot about how to put on a show. I’m most excited to be seeing Bruce Springsteen this summer at Wembley….
3. Tell us about your signing with Alumni Records.
It’s not really a signing, Alumni are a group of friends of mine who put out an EP to kick off their label, and I donated a track to it. I own the rights, they just own the recording. But nothing’s been signed, nothing big has happened, its all been quite fun, but I don’t know what the future is going to bring.
4. How do you write?
I seem to have two methods of writing. One is to save lyrics and notes on my phone, and then put it all together later. However, most of my songs have come from doing single take demos in my room. I’ll then listen to it, tweak some lyrics or otherwise, re-record it, don’t listen to it for ages, then listen and make final adjustments before recording it properly, taking it to the rehearsal room or playing it live.
5. A lot of your songs are very honest. Have you ever written from someone else’s perspective?
I’ve written songs from the point of view of characters sure, but most of what I do is about me. As narcissistic as that sounds, what my music is about is what I’ve been through, although often fictionalized versions of it. Whenever I’ve written from the point of view of another it sounds too distant from me, and I don’t like that. So I normally just turn the character into me.
6. What’s the plan for the year ahead?
2013 is looking to be interesting. I’m writing a lot at the moment, so the plan is to spend a month or so recording. It will kill me not playing live as much, but I need to take some time and work on writing. The overall plan is to release an EP about the end of spring, play lots of festivals and gigs over summer, and then release an album autumn, time permitting.
7. How do you juggle studying and performing?
With difficulty! Luckily they are very separate in my life. I can be reading a book or writing an essay, and then that evening go and play a show. I’ve got past the point where I get really nervous and spend the day before a show preparing, so I think I’ve found the right balance.
8. Do your songs evolve and mean something different to you as the years go by, or do they always return you to the same time and emotions?
The happy songs make me happy to play; the sad songs still make me sad. I might be sad about a different situation or a different girl, but its still the same emotion. There have been times when I’ve played old songs and it’s overpowering, remembering the situation that caused me to write the song, but that’s part of the joy of baring your soul to an audience.
9. Dream collaboration?
Pixie Lott, cause I fancy her a bit. A project I would love to do is working with Chris T-T, a huge influence on me, but we’ll have to see….
10. Who are you listening to at the moment?
Currently there are a couple of groups I’m listening to. I was just put on to Sean McGowan’s stuff (www.facebook.com/seanmcgowanmusicuk), a guy who’s just supported Frank Turner. Really liking his stuff, along with Rob the Liar (www.facebook.com/robchapmanmusic), another singer/songwriter who’s genius. Both of them are from Southampton and I know I’m going to have to visit. Something a bit different I’m listening to is a group called ∆lice Fvck (Or Alice) (www.facebook.com/aliceiswonderlanduk) who are two producers from Leeds who have written some great songs based on Alice in Wonderland. Check their stuff, and also my friend and mentor Tim OT (www.facebook.com/timotacoustic), whose new album is out soon and I’m very excited….
I caught up with of Verona's Mandi Perkins over the weekend for a quick chat. Here's what went down:
Tell us a bit about your album, The White Apple
The album is a collection of songs about realizing what is real and what is an illusion and learning to tell the difference; It’s about letting go of the things that cannot be changed. It was written over the past year and a half and it encompasses the experiences we went through during that time.
The actual title of the album, “The White Apple,” comes from one of the songs on the album, which essentially encapsulates the feelings I described above. “The White Apple” song was inspired by a friend of mine who was going through some tough times and she couldn’t cope, so she went on a crazy trip for a few months. It’s about feeling lost and alone and trying desperately to escape.
A lot of your album tracks are longer than the average pop song - What do you class yourselves as?
Today’s classifications of music are so blended that it’s hard to pick just one. We’re basically an amalgamation of several different genres - futuristic rock, mixed with electro indie and psychedelic trip-pop.
How do the three of you make music together?
Usually we’ll go song by song. We’ll record right after we’ve finished writing something in its entirety and then Dillon will produce it. We’ll all listen to it several times and then Dillon and Jeff will usually mix it. Sometimes the songs will take longer to write so we’ll have to go back and record from top to bottom. While other times, we’ll record the same day we’ve written the song.
You take your name from a Shakespeare play - Do you ‘stick to the script’ when it comes to writing lyrics or do you like to experiment?
I definitely like to experiment. When I write, it’s usually about an event that has just happened or something that has been on my mind from the past. Then we write the music for the songs in all different ways. Sometimes I’ll have lyrics already written out and I’ll show them to Dillon and he’ll make a musical world for them or he might play chords that inspire something in me.
Sometimes, as in the case with “They will Fall like Roses,” the lyrics will be written in real time. Dillon played something really interesting on his guitar and it took seven minutes to write the lyrics from top to bottom. The bridge especially just flew out of my mouth. I didn’t even know what the song was about until we were finished; It was almost a stream of conscious. The demo is what we put on the record. There was no way to change any lyrics in the song after that or make another version.
Then there is a situation like with “The White Apple,” where you write it in parts over several months because you have something you know you want to say, but you want to be sure to say it in the best possible way.
What do you think social media is doing for music?
Social media allows the world to find you. As an artist, it’s especially great because that is usually your goal- to have people hear your art. You no longer need some corporation to put your music out to be able to connect with your fans. Now that there are so many social platforms though, it can also be a bit overwhelming. New technologies are coming out every day and older platforms are sometimes just tossed to the side. My Space is a perfect example. It was massive and then literally in a matter of months, it was a dead site. So you have to constantly be aware of the latest technology. But these social sites are great because you get to have interaction with people who are enjoying your music in real time. You can see what gets a reaction and what doesn’t and it’s usually in an unfiltered way.
I don’t think anybody really wants to be told what they should or shouldn’t be listening to - that’s not what music is about. You go and listen to whatever you want. However, you still can’t seem to stop the critics…
Even if you agree with their end of year lists (and they all seem to copy each other, anyway), you’ll probably prefer your own. More importantly, any list you come up with is likely to be the only one worth sticking to.
I’ve decided to ignore my own advice and share with you a few musicians I think will do well in 2013. You don’t have to listen to them and, of course, you can feel free to disagree…
JoJo (real name Joanna Levesque) is back with a new mixtape; Agápē.
This is her admirable solution to the delays surrounding the release of her third studio album; the same one which remains un-named despite an initial title of Jumping Trains.
Her last full-length release was The High Road in 2006 which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and was released on the Blackground label. Since then, problems with distribution have delayed the release of new material.
Fast forward to 2012 and Interscope has dropped her. In the middle of it all she’s still been making music.
In 2010 she released the Can’t Take That Away from Me mixtape and before that she featured on the track Lose Control on Timbaland’s Shock Value II. In 2011 she released the single Disaster (see below) and a second, Demonstrate, was released earlier this year. Neither managed to make much of an impact on the charts.
From the SoundCloud widget and the two YouTube videos below you should get a good idea of the progression and maturation of her sound over the years. FYI: she’s now 22.
Let’s not forget that this girl was offered a recording contract at the age of 6 (yes, 6, not 16) and she was signed (to Blackground) at the tender age of 12. Her debut single was a Billboard number one hit and she became, aged 13, the youngest solo artist to have a US number one.
Rinse songstress Katy B is back with a free four-track EP, just in time for Christmas.
I’m partial to the Zinc/Wiley and Diplo tracks and these are definitely the more similar in style to the singles from her 2011, Mercury Prize-nominated full-length release On A Mission. However, it’s the tracks with Geeneus/Jessie Ware and Jacques Greene which have been making waves.
It’s nice to see (and hear!) new material; after all, it’s been a year since her last single and over two years since she burst onto the scene with On A Mission. Listening to Katy B’s debut again, it’s easy to see just how instrumental (pun very much intended) her sound has been in pushing UK dance music thanks to the support of Zinc, Benga and Geeneus.
Tulisa Contostavlos is one third of Camden hip hop trio N-Dubz. Joined by her cousin Dappy and their friend Fazer, they were first signed to Polydor and then moved to their current home, the All Around The World label. They’ve been on a hiatus since 2011 and have each been busy working on solo projects. Tulisa has been focusing on her role as a mentor on the (UK) X Factor (leading UK girl group Little Mix to victory) as well as recording her debut album The Female Boss which was released in the UK on Monday.
The single in question, Young (above), shifted close to 122,000 units in its first week. That’s seventeen times as many copies of her album as have ambled off the shelves in the same amount of time. By contrast, Rihanna’s Unapologetic sold 238,000 copies in its first week in the US. Her seventh album in as many years, this is actually the Barbadian’s first Billboard #1.
But, comparisons aside, is it really all about album sales? Tulisa seems to think so, but don’t assume that that means she wants a number one album. Talking to Digital Spy, she said;
"For me, just like with N-Dubz, I don’t care about having a number one album, I care about going platinum."
It’s an admirable approach, if one that would make any PR team flinch, but it might actually turn out not to be so unusual in the industry. After all, hasn’t this been Roc Nation’s strategy with Rihanna for the past seven years?
We’ll have to wait and see how it works out for Tulisa but one thing’s for sure; it certainly worked for N-Dubz. Despite only making it to number five in the singles chart (with I Need You) and accumulating a fairly unremarkable eight top 40 hits as a group so far, N-Dubz have sold over 1.2 million albums. That’s a lot of albums, especially given that they’ve only released three.
I think the Boss might know what she’s doing after all…
C’mon Let Me Ride is the first single from her forthcoming album Don’t Look Down (KIDinaKORNER/Interscope) and features a top-form performance from Eminem as well as a deliciously hilarious chorus and subject matter AND a sample from Queen’s Bicycle Race.
In case you’d forgotten, this is the same musician who’s also brought the following songs into the world: Love the Way You Lie (sung by Eminem & Rihanna), Coming Home (with Diddy Dirty Money), I Need a Doctor (with Dr Dre & Eminem), Words I Never Said (with Lupe Fiasco) and, most recently, Room for Happiness (with Kaskade). She’s been in the game for a while, though, releasing material under the name Holly Brook and working with Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park) on his side project Fort Minor back in the day. They brought us Where’d You Go? which happens to be one of my personal favourites:
My Life was made available on the US iTunes store on November 26th and features vocals from Eminem and Adam Levine (Maroon 5). The single is the third from 50 Cent’s upcoming fifth album, Street King Immortal (Aftermath/Shady/Interscope), which will be released next year . Production comes from Symbolyc One (aka S1) and the beat has been taken from Dr. Dre’s next album Detox.
It’s a nice single, but the question is: is this a 50 Cent single? Or is it an Eminem single? Or is it actually a Maroon 5 single? More to the point, does it even matter?
Pop music today is a collaborative effort and, sadly, only rarely does an artist get anywhere by themselves. The majority of hit singles are sung by at least two people, usually with a rapped middle-eight to spice things up before the singer whips out a double chorus; but it doesn’t stop there. Take Nicki Minaj or Karmin, for example - they try to sound like lots of different people in the same song, manipulating their own voices just to keep things interesting. People are branching out, so: how long before we see Eminem on an Adele album?
It always interests me how an album sounds better, perhaps even more current and catchy than when it was first released, a few years later. Time (above)from Timbaland’s debut album Shock Value sounds fresher today than it did back in 2007. There’s something reminiscent of Alex da Kid’s work with Imagine Dragons in this album deep-cut which features vocals by California duo She Wants Revenge. Is it the drumming, the rock influences or the bass, or all of the above? Only time will tell…
Beneath Your Beautiful (above) last week became the first UK No. 1 single for Labrinth, the man more widely recognised as the creative force behind Tinie Tempah’s Pass Out. Featuring the vocals of fellow Brit, Emeli Sandé, the single is the sixth to be released from Labrinth’s debut solo album, Electronic Earth (Syco). The track is actually the product of three writers; Labrinth and Sandé, but also Mike Posner of Cooler Than Me (and, more recently Boyfriend(Justin Bieber) and With Ur Love(Cher Lloyd)) fame.
The song has a different sound to Labrinth’s other work (think Earthquake and Tinie’s Frisky) and is a definite nod in Sandé’s creative direction, but it’s easy to overlook Labrinth’s lesser-known Electronic Earth singles (Let The Sun Shine and Last Time) which have already proven his desire not to be pigeon-holed.
The track is a pop ballad with a pervading, classical-pastiche twist; the result being a hybrid somewhere between Love The Way You Lieand Read All About It (which Sandé wrote, see her album for a rap-free version) and a hollywood film score. The orchestral sound is uncommon, but not unheard of, in pop music.
Not so long ago the inclusion of a full string section in a No. 1 pop single was not uncommon at all - in fact, it was the norm. UK singer-songwriter Cathy Dennis is particularly good at stringyness:
Push and Shove (above) is the title track from No Doubt’s sixth studio album, released late last month on the Interscope label. The record marks the end of a considerable break for the band, their previous full-length release being 2001’s Rock Steady.
The track is produced by Diplo’s Major Lazer who area production team perhaps best known for their instrumental Pon de Floor which later became Beyonce’s Run the World (Girls)following a healthy dose of sampling and vocals.
Diplo (real name Thomas Wesley Pentz) is one third of Major Lazer, the other members being Jillionaire and Walshy Fire. They fill the shoes of DJ Switch, who left in late 2011 by playing the all-too-familiar ‘creative differences’ card to bring an end to the collaboration.
Diplo also has his own solo production efforts; he has worked with the likes of Marina and the Diamonds (producing Lies from the album Electra Heart) and MIA (producing Paper Planes, which got to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100). MIA approached Diplo in Fabric nightclub (London, UK) after recognising the ‘homelessness’ of his DJ set which she felt would compliment her genre-bending sound. Following the success of his collaboration with MIA, Diplo then worked on similar mixtape-style projects with Santigold, La Roux and Gucci Mane.
Also of note is the song Beat of My Drum which Diplo helped to produce for Nicola Roberts (one fifth of Girls Aloud) last year, with a little help from Dimitri Tikovoi (Placebo, The Horrors, Goldfrapp) and Maya von Doll (of the band Sohodolls). Whilst it didn’t do particularly well commercially-speaking, it is a great bit of Diplo noise and deserving of recognition:
N*E*R*D (an acronym of No One Ever Really Dies) released She Wants to Move in 2004 from their album Fly or Die (Virgin Records). Their deal with Virgin ended and they created their own Interscope subsidiary, Star Trek Entertainment, releasing their third studio album, Seeing Sounds, in 2008. The first single off that album was Everyone Nose (All The Girls Standing In The Line for the Bathroom), a song about taking drugs in nightclub toilets. The song reached No. 41 in the UK singles chart and failed to chart in the US, but has since gone on to become a pillar of hip-hop production as a result of its eclectic ‘Baltimore B-More’-inspired sound.
Pharrell Williams, frontman and main songwriter, has taken up a more behind-the-scenes role within the music industry since then. He’s currently working with Miley Cyrus, Solange Knowles, Lupe Fiasco and MIKA. He owns Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, clothing lines producing limited edition items with significant price tags. With fellow N*E*R*D Chad Hugo, he is half of The Neptunes, a record production team with an estimated net worth of $155 million. They can hold Justin Timberlake’s album Justified and Snoop Dogg’s Drop It Like It’s Hot (which also features vocals from Pharrell) to their name. He is engaged to girlfriend Helen Lasichanh with whom he has one daughter. At least now Everyone Nose…
British girl group Girls Aloud are back after a three year break with their new single, Something New. The track had been planned for release this Friday, but was leaked online yesterday which in turn prompted the release of the official audio on YouTube today.
Xenomania (who produced the track) clearly have high hopes for the girls’ comeback single, but Something New doesn’t quite live up to its name. In contrast with Xenomania’s recent number one You Bring Me Joy with their first signing Amelia Lily, the songwriting seems to have taken a back seat in favour of loudness. For starters, it’s a play-safe, repetitive chord progression and the verses are largely rapped and void of melody. Its chorus is catchy, but lacks definition from the verse. It has a quirky military vein, complete with military drumming and synth-solo trumpet pastiche of the Last Post, but these are lost in the excessive keyboards which make it sound as if a cathedral were the recording studio for the day.
Whilst it is refreshing to hear a pop song which is clearly being sung by five distinct voices (with equally distinct accents), Something New could easily be a deep cut lifted from one of their earlier albums. It bears a striking resemblance to their song Sexy! No No No from their fourth studio album Tangled Up (Fascination Records) which was released back in 2007:
That song sampled Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog:
Something New and Sexy! No No No are in the same key and share the same unholy cathedral-esque sound, but the latter is by far the better song.
Xenomania’s production talent is often overlooked and they consistently produce songs which manage to sound different from everything else in the charts. If Sexy! No No No were re-released tomorrow, it would do very well because it has a bass-heavy sound with loads of guitar which is being replicated across the board at the moment (see Justin Bieber’s Beauty and a Beat which amassed 10 million VEVO views in 24 hours, breaking One Direction’s record of 8.4 for Live While We’re Young). Unfortunately for Xenomania, they thought of this sound a decade before everyone else did…
I’d like to share with you the superbly named Mr FijiWiji.
I came across Mr FijiWiji’s (it really is a great name) remix of Deadmau5’s Aural Psynapse today on MrSuicideSheep's YouTube channel. The track has been circling the internet since April 2012, but I only just discovered its beauty. The distorted synth-guitars which kick in halfway through are exceptional. I then found his SoundCloud and liked what I heard.
Mr FW is 17 year-old Shawn Toodle from Pittsburg, United States and I suggest that you check out his music. You can buy his debut EP Keeping It Surreal on iTunes. You could also buy his t-shirt whilst you’re at it.
Sam Carter won Best Newcomer at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2010 and has self-released three records on his Captain Records label; the Here In The Ground EP (2008), Keepsakes (2010) and The No Testament (2012) which was released last month.
The above track, Separate Ways, is from his new record and is an exceptional piece of songwriting. This performance is taken from The Mahogany Sessions on YouTube, which consistently uncovers new folk talent.
I’ve just been sent the YouTube premiere of Ben Gibbard’s new solo album Former Lives which is being released later this month.
It’s been a prolific few months for the indie (I hate that word) frontman, releasing Codes & Keys with Death Cab for Cutie last year to critical acclaim and subsequently receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. Of course, somewhere between these two projects he separated from actress Zooey Deschanel ((500) Days of Summer, New Girl) and there’s no denying that his personal life has made for some exceptional music-making. The only problem is, most of Gibbard’s new music in a Major key. You flick through the 36 minute preview and are trying to find the tear-jerker, but it’s not there. Instead, there are waves of pizzicato strings, muted trumpets and pastiche flamenco guitar-playing. What happened to the songwriter who once sung, ‘if there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks, then I’ll follow you into the dark’? I kind of want him back, please. Seth Cohen wouldn’t listen to this.
The OC aside, this is an album of good music. It’s expertly produced and the lyrics are sensitive and searching. You can pre-order various album bundles and see his upcoming North American and European 2012 tour dates here.
If you were wondering whether Calvin Harris had an album out at the moment, you’d be forgiven for not being able to name it, cos it doesn’t exist. 18 Months is set for UK release on 29th October (Fly Eye Records) and will be his third studio album, the previous ones being Ready for the Weekend released in 2009 and I Created Disco from 2007.
It’s going to be a bit of a retrospective album, given that its lead single Bounce (that one with Kelis) was actually released way back in June 2011 and which, by the way, didn’t actually get to No. 1 in the UK. But since then Calvin (unfortunately, his real name’s Adam) has gone on to cement his place in the charts worldwide. We Found Love stayed at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks, took the top spot in a further 25 countries and has sales of 6.3 million making it one of the best selling singles of all time.
Of course, it will be interesting to see how his album fares. His first two studio efforts are both certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry, but that was last decade. Here’s the Tiesto remix of his new single, with vocals by Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine.
Tinchy Stryder released Help Me in the UK on September 30th, but the track has since failed to dent the charts. It’s taken from his upcoming fourth album, Full Tank, set for release this December (Takeover/Universal Island). It’s being speculated that, after the release, Tinchy will make an industry hop-over to Takeover Roc Nation, the label he co-owns with Jay-Z. Certainly, the lack of advertising for Help Me and Full Tank would suggest so.
It’s a shame, because this is a great song. First and foremost, the lyrics actually mean something (Tinchy is reaching out to God for help). The New Orleans-shot video is simple and beautiful, and Camille’s vocals lend the Art Bastian track a polished, infectious hook.
But he’s been busy, so perhaps his music is taking the back seat at the moment whilst he can afford it to. His business portfolio (at just 26 years of age) reads like a dream: he chairs Star In The Hood (his clothing brand) and Takeover Entertainment (the label he’s signed to), and is CEO of Takeover Roc Nation (his label with Jay-Z), Goji Electronics (his consumer electronics company) and Takeover/Cloud 9 (his joint music publishing venture with EMI). He’s also appeared in a Honda campaign and at one point had plans to buy Scottish football team Rangers FC. No wonder he’s looking for a little help…
Cher Lloyd has released her second single stateside from her debut Sticks + Stones (Syco Music/Epic) following on from the success of first single Want U Back which is certified platinum in the US and peaked at No.12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Oath ft Becky G is a light pop tune produced by Cirkut and Dr Luke who have done most of the successful pop songs in the past 6 or 7 years (we’re talking Britney, Ke$ha, Jessie, Katy etcetcccccc).
Lloyd appears to have dropped her distinct Lahhnndaahhnn twang. The result is a stereotypical and radio-friendly Americanised vocal which could easily be that of Avril Lavigne, particularly during the chorus. We’ll have to wait and see the effects of the homogenisation.
Sticks + Stones (Deluxe Edition), featuring Oath, will be released in the UK next month.
I urge you all to check out Bei Maejor…if you haven’t already! A highly talented musician from Detroit, Michigan with a string of exceptional mixtapes behind him prior to hitting the mainstream with ‘Trouble' ft. J Cole in 2011 (RCA records).
Whilst I’m glad he’s breaking new commercial ground, I’ve got to say his mixtapes are out of this world. I’m currently listening to MaejorMaejor which I’ve linked you to. Before that I was listening to the 2012 Upscale, which you can also find on DatPiff.com.