I think the highlight so far has been writing Losing with MNEK. That song means so much to me as it bought a new chapter to the journey. It was our first ever writing session. I was kind of lost in the industry and new to the scene so didn’t have many friends in London. Me and Uzo just seemed to work really quickly and our close friendship was born. Over the past two years we’ve made a tight knit group of friends all in the industry and it’s such a valuable support system. We all work together, go for dinner and chill together. I feel like Losing brought all that to me.
Something that I remember really well, which is when I really became a fan, was when I saw you perform with Rudimental at Glastonbury last year. How did it feel to perform at a festival as massive as Glastonbury?
Ah thanks! I was really gutted because I had probably the worst tonsillitis of my life. I really wanted to enjoy it to the fullest because it’s such a legendary festival but found myself in bed for most of the day with fever. If it wasn’t for Sinead giving me ibuprofen before we hit stage I’d have been a wreck! I really wanna play it in 2015 so I can be a proper festival goer this time!
You’re working on your debut album, which which is highly anticipated. For people that weren’t at the show, can you give us an idea of what sort of thing we can expect from the album? What sort of vibe are you looking to achieve?
I like to describe it as left-field pop with soul, 90s, R&B references thrown into the mix. I’ve co-written the whole album so it’s a very personal musical portfolio. I wanted to create something where I could explain each song and know what its about, what was going on at the time and how I felt. I really feel like I’ve achieved that which is why I’m so excited about its release. It’ll be nice to see how people relate it to their own life and empathise with my own experiences.
You’ve got quite a versatile voice, you can absolutely kill the songs with a more soulful vibe, like when you auditioned for The Voice, and yet you’ve been putting out some absolutely killer dance songs, like when you co-wrote and provided vocals for Afterglow, one of my personal favourite songs. What sort of genre do you feel most comfortable or at home singing in?
Well I’ve been writing pop music since I was 13. I was in a band that I wrote, sang and played guitar in so I’ve always felt at home with quirky pop music although I hate to admit that [laughs]. I’ve been a massive drum & bass fan since I was 15 and featuring on two drum & bass tracks, one by an artist who I had their first EPs in 2010 and next thing I know 4 years later I’m writing to a beat sent over to me (by Wilkinson)! I feel more comfortable singing on genres I personally like and listen to myself.
Would you say that the kind of music you make has been influenced by the kind of music you listened to growing up?
Yes definitely! I’ve gone through a lot of different music phases but usually all of them have a cool melody or lyric that I’ve latched onto. Before I had the sound of the album my 4 main reference artists were Bon Iver, loved this band since I was 13 for their left field and unique approach to music. Ben Howard, fell in love with him when I was 17 after hearing Keep Your Head Up. Loved his classic, timeless song writing. Ellie Goulding for her accessibility in the mainstream while still staying true to her musical vision, a friend showed me her on YouTube and I became infatuated with her unique voice, and lastly Passion Pit who I discovered when I was going through my indie phase! Sleepyhead is my all time favourite song. I love the energy to the track and that whole album was weird and wonderful in lots of different ways. I really wanted to put all these aspects into a mixing pot and come out with an album of my own.
Is Glasgow different at all from any other cities you’ve played?
Its a lot colder! We weren’t there for very long but it seems like a cool city. Cities are usually much of a muchness to me as I’ve grown up in a small town surrounded by rivers, trees and hills. What really took my breath away was the drive up. I’m a sucker for a good view and the countryside is beautiful in Scotland and really made me want to put my walking boots on and cancel the show! [laughs]
We’re certainly known for being a rowdy bunch up here, but judging from the reception you got, everyone was absolutely loving it. What with Glasgow’s reputation, were you nervous at all tonight?
No I was super excited! Sometimes the further north you go the better the crowd reaction so I was looking forward to a lively, rowdy gig as I like to join in with the fun on stage!
Are you looking forward to coming back?
I am yes! I’ll bring a jumper and hopefully fit in a walk around the hills next time!
What do you do to get rid of the nerves? Or is it a case of just getting up there and doing it?
I love what I do so I usually just get really excited because I cant wait to get on stage and sing my songs! Usually when I get nervous though I get rather intense giggles and talk very quickly haha! I haven’t quite worked out how to get rid of that though!
What exactly was it that made you realise you wanted to sing?
I was 11 and I remember listening to Jojo’s song Get Out. I secretly sang a lot when I was growing up but it wasn’t until the local youth club put on a talent show did I get up and sing. I really enjoyed singing but only ever did it as a hobby. It wasn’t until I was 17 did I realise that singing could be more than just a pipe dream but a profession.
What is it that made you wholeheartedly go for it? It must have been quite a big step deciding to actually go for The Voice. What drove you to do it?
At 17 I was going through a very rough year. I was failing sixth form, on the verge of getting thrown out, working two bar jobs that I despised and trying to recover from a very traumatic relationship break up I had the previous year. I was also bored of being stuck in the same small town going nowhere, not experiencing new things and getting relatively depressed about it. I was really calling out for an escape rope. That’s when a guy I happened to know through working and singing at the open mics at the Cock and Magpie pub in Bewdley suggested I went to the public audition for the voice as he thought I could win it. I was working ‘til a late time in the morning at the bar the night before my audition and decided there was no way I’d be waking up early to go to an audition for a talent show. It was only by coincidence that a friend, who’s never rang me before and never rang me since, called at 9am which was when I had to be awake to make the audition that I decided there was no getting back to sleep now so I may as well attend. It’s a good job too!
Now, this is a pretty massive deal, being on tour with Katy B, who is a dance music phenomenon. What’s it been like being on tour with her?
It’s been amazing. I’ve seen this support tour as a kind of work experience. I’ve watched how Katy has worked really hard and seen how far I have to go before I can stand on a stage for an hour working the crowd. It’s been great to have been given the chance to watch someone of her level work really hard.
Obviously with The Voice, you’re used to performing in front of big crowds. How does it feel getting up in front of a crowd that’s there to see you every night?
Well, they’re there for Katy really but yeah it feels amazing to sing my own songs to such a receptive audience night after night. I’ve been really enjoying it, gonna miss touring!
It was a pretty small crowd last night, but you still gave it your all. What was your reaction to the size of the crowd?
I felt a little deflated if I’m honest. My set was moved half an hour earlier so I’m guessing most people were still in the pub! But one thing I did really appreciate, the people who were there were really listening & involved. I like a full crowd but sometimes the smaller ones are the ones you feel like people are more with you.
Is it a big adjustment going from performing covers to performing your own songs? Would you say you’re more emotionally invested?
For me it was more of an adjustment to sing covers rather than my own songs. I put my heart and soul into the small band I was in before the voice and really missed singing from my heart. So it feels good to be back singing songs I’ve written myself!
Overdrive is one of my favourite songs. Can you talk about the moment you found out you’d gone to number one?
This is a story I bore crowds with every time I play Gecko! I was in LA at the time, I don’t like America so far, I’m too much of an English bird to adjust to saying the word ‘rout’ rather than ‘roote’ (route). [laughs] But I was woken up with a phone call by my manager on the final morning of our stay in LA. I usually wake up in the afternoon so the call wasn’t taken to kindly! He said to me, You’re gonna want to hear this, I was like Hmm okay this could go either way, what did it chart? What did it chart!? There was a brief pause as Alex always likes to add suspense haha and then he said ‘You’re number one’ to which I screamed the hotel down! [laughs] The excitement was killed by a 10 hour flight back to the UK though!
What is your favourite song to perform live that you’ve been doing on the Little Red tour? Why?
I’ve literally just put a new song into the set called Get Down which me and MNEK wrote not so long ago. Its more of a ballsy track which I haven’t had the chance to do so I’ve been really enjoying that moment in the set. There’s also this song called Him and Me which is more of an emotional song which I always love to play. Fall is another one I love because of the harmonies my backing vocalists sing. It’s such a fun set to sing I don’t think I could choose a favourite!
What’s your favourite part of being on tour?
I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with my band. We haven’t had a lot of time before and this has been the first time I’ve been with them for more than one day. We’ve found some really cute tea rooms along the way (I love tea rooms!) and seen some amazing views over the past couple weeks.
Do you see yourself doing a headline tour after your album comes out?
I would love to do a headline tour next year! Will really have to train my vocals so it lasts for an hour with big songs but yeah if all goes well with the album next year I can see a headline tour on the cards.