Neil Dowd sits down with an up and coming star to introduce their music to our readers. This issue, Carmen is in the spotlight.
Firstly, could describe your music to us? What genres does your sound incorporate?
Genre-wise I think it’s like a fusion between jazz, soul and urban hip-hop. I call it urban jazz, because I use a lot of jazzy chords and old school sampled beats.
Are there any artists that you would cite as your main influences?
The first one is kind of a strange one. I’d say Nai Palm, she’s the singer of a band called Hiatus Kaiyote. She writes the most beautiful, jazzy melodies and her voice has so much movement, so I think that’s why I love to write such jazzy melodies. And of course, Winehouse, her work with Salaam Remi, her first album is amazing, definitely a big influence. In terms of modern artists, I’d say Jordan Rakei. He makes really nice, soulful poppy stuff. So yeah, I think they’re the main artists I draw from.
Have these influences been the biggest factor in you shaping your sound into what it is today?
Yeah, I would say so. Just because when I was younger I would listen to them over and over again. Then as I got older and started to write, it started to come out in my writing.
Yeah, I’d agree with that. I find with my writing that I find myself subconsciously drawing influence from bands I listened to growing up, especially with vocal melodies.
I very much believe that listening is learning, and I think that’s how I learnt to write, by listening over and over to certain things. Of course with music, you’re drawn to what you like anyways, so if you can write in a similar way to the artists you like, you know that you’ll have an end product that you’ll enjoy
Talk to us about your song-writing process as a solo artist. How involved are your band (if at all) in your songwriting?
Sort of. I have a lot of different songwriting techniques. I’m not really one of those writers that waits for something to hit them because then I wouldn’t write anything. I very much believe in sitting down and being like ‘okay I’m going to write something’ and it’s always been like that. I think I’ve just trained myself to sit down and write something. I’ll always start with a different thing, sometimes it’s chords or a lyric. But in terms of the influence of the band, I write all of the lyrics, chords and melodies andthen I kind of take to the band and describe the vibe that I want the track to have andgive them different song references to work off of. So they have a massive input in coming up with ideas for live gigs. But I work back home with a producer and we choose everything. So there’s a lot of different layers to the process and people’s involvement comes in at different stages.
So you create the backbone and you’ll then collaborate with others to bring the whole thing together?
Yeah, so the songs already there. I’ll take a song that’s fully written in terms of its composition and then it’s just more of a case of building a sound around it.
Speaking of song-writing, you have an EP which is set to be released at the beginning of 2020?
Yeah, in February, hopefully.
How far along in the process of making the EP are you?
Well, everything is written. It’s kind of more piecing everything together and coming up with cool instrumentation stuff. It varies because there’s going to be about seven to ten songs. There’s going to be an intro and interlude, we’re also doing a remix of one of my old songs. Half of it is all written fully and the other three to four songs are still being fully developed.
I really love it when EPs and albums have interluding tracks!
Yeah, me too. I think it helps to create more of a story.
You recently released a single back in May entitled ‘Fake’. Talk to us about the lyrical themes of the track?
This is a hard one [chuckles]. Honestly, I wrote the track how it sounds, you know? I wrote the track about people who would perceive themselves as to be something that they’re not. It was written directly about the issues of bullying and bitchiness that occurs within young women that I have definitely experienced. I’ve never really written about it before. But yeah, a lot of people write about love and stuff like that but I wanted to explore writing about something different.
Would you say a lot of your lyrical content stems from your own personal experiences?
Yeah definitely, 100%. I never make anything that’s just ‘fitting for a song’. I never just try to find a rhyme that fits. I’m quite particular about my lyrics, I want them to be quite clever, I want them to have something to say. I don’t want them to just be there [laughs]. Like some pop songs just have repetitive lyrics that go over and over again and I don’t want that. I think I overwrite sometimes.
Will ‘Fake’ be a part of the EP?
No, I think it’s going to be all fresh material. There are some videos on my Instagram of snippets of different songs that are going to be on my EP. But the last two Spotify releases won’t be on the EP.
Do you have a timeline for when you’re going to begin releasing singles from the EP?
Yeah, I think I’m gonna drop the lead single in January. I’m also gonna release
something little this summer that’s separate to the EP. It has the same vibe as the EP.
I don’t want to pry too much, but when you say something little… [laughs]
Yeah, I’m gonna do a little cover and make it completely different from the original. I think it’s going to be in the exact same style as my EP. So I’ll release that this Summer whilst working on the EP.
Do you know what track you’re covering yet?
That’s a surprise [laughs].
Do you have any upcoming shows planned?
At the moment, we’re just confirming shows. But I think that we may have some dates soon. They’ll probably be more central London area.
Would you say you’re going to base most of your shows in the London area?
Yeah, for sure. Like I’m based in London and I feel like my music is very ‘London’ so I kind of want to stay there, for now.
I think in terms of creative arts, there’s nowhere better to build your foundations than London.
I totally agree. It’s such a creative city as well.
What are your plans for your future? What would you like to have achieved in five years’ time?
I still want to be enjoying writing and to be working with the amount of amazing and creative people that I work with and that I’m able to meet. I’m hoping to work with some of them future and just continue what I’m doing further. I’d definitely want to develop this into my full-time career, that’s my goal.
Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
I never know what to say when somebody asks this! I’m gonna do a couple of one-minute videos for the songs on the EP, so that’s something to look out for! [laughs].
Images via Carmen