Blackbear: an interview

Ahead of his latest album release, I talk to hit-making sensation Blackbear on his first Father’s Day, a future collaboration with Elton John and his feelings behind making “everything means nothing”.

As we’re all aware of now, 2020 has been a year of many grievances, brutal truths and realisations. Amidst this, people are looking everywhere for positivity and light, whether through memes about our current climate, seeing how our favourite celebrities are coping despite living in mansions the size of an island, and so much more. For Matthew Tyler Musto, otherwise known as ‘blackbear’, it’s been about satirising the seemingly shallow aspects of our concerns and educating ourselves on the significant ones, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. As well as this, blackbear has spent 2020 navigating newfound fatherhood and creating new music for his upcoming album “everything means nothing”—all lowercase, exactly like his name.

His summer defining bop ‘hot girl bummer’ has over a billion streams on Spotify alone, and he’s collaborated with Justin Bieber, Machine Gun Kelly, Linkin Park, G-Easy and Ellie Goulding. Yet, blackbear is an individual who still, as the kids say, “slept on”. The self-made music prodigy has a loyal fanbase and is making waves nonetheless, with Elton John even giving him a call as of recent. So with this in mind, I gave Matthew a ring, and we chatted about all things quarantine, changes and our favourite quotes.

How do you like to be referred to as in your day to day name wise?
People call me Matt or Matthew. Sometimes my therapist calls me ‘Bear’, I do not know why. Think he is trying to be all supportive like, “Come on Bear, you got this!” as if he’s cheering me on [laughs]. You can call me Matt, that is totally fine!

So, the story behind the name Blackbear, I heard multiple stories. From gangs being in relation to an addiction to Haribo gummy bears, but I need full confirmation.
Yeah, I had to go to rehab and the whole thing because I could not stop. Now we cannot have them in the house, every time I think about gummy bears or even see a gummy WORM, it is a gateway drug for me. No, I’m just being cheeky [laughs]. I like to see how far I can fucking take things to the point where it’s not even funny anymore [laughs]. When I was a child, I thought that God was this black teddy bear in the sky that you could just cuddle with. I came to find out slowly and later in life that this could both be true and not be true. You cannot tell me whether that is real or not, but it was one of my first true beliefs. So, I just named myself Blackbear because it was one of first creative thoughts.

Father’s Day has just passed, how did you celebrate?
Father’s Day was surreal for me. It was just one of the most beautiful, normal days for a normal guy that anyone can experience. I don’t want to take away the experience from anybody, but you just have to experience it, it’s just unexplainable. Just so amazing. It’s like…I’m someone’s DAD. That is the coolest part, this weird guy that you’re talking to right now is a parent of someone. It’s so strange, like we’ve gotten in the car before and my song was playing on the radio. That’s definitely a lifelong achievement for me, I just think that it’s just such a big flex, like, “Look how hard daddy worked!”, you know? I don’t know whether he’ll remember it, but maybe I’ll have songs in the future that will play on the radio.

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Photo by Sam Dameshek

What was the meaning behind the name Midnight for your son?
It just means new day, 12 o’clock. Fresh start, it’s a new chapter. So that’s what Midnight is for me in my life. He’s already smart in some way, he already has such a personality and is already his own person at 5 months old, it’s just so strange because he’s this little person that we made together.

How has becoming a father affected your creative process?
Oh! Good question. If it’s done anything relatively massive in my life…it’s made me more keen to the idea that I have to provide for someone. I need to make music that people are going to resonate with and really relate to, and really love, and keep me touring. I need to keep working so that I can support my family and I think that overarching idea has set in. I made Hot Girl Bummer as soon as I found out Michele (girlfriend) was pregnant. So, I thought, I need to step this up into high gear. No more fun and games.

How has quarantine changed the way you have seen life given recent events?
That was well put. Amazing. That was amazing. Is this my interview or yours? [laughs]. As soon as the death of George Floyd hit the news and started becoming such a massive thing, I will admit that THAT was the moment for me and a lot of other White people, like, that was our changing moment where we were like, you know what? I am going to post about Black Lives Matter, I’m going to make a pledge, I’m going to bring my child up the correct way, buy the books on Amazon and I’m going to teach him about racism, about these things. All I can say is that we are the teachers of the next generation. When I look at Midnight I see opportunity and I see change.

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Photo by Sam Dameshek

Have you been getting creative this time? Hot Girl Bummer part 2, 2020 edition? Or another summer-defining anthem?
So…you’re asking whether I’d make another satire record that pokes fun at our times? I just see it as this, I have a platform to say what maybe everyone is thinking but nobody is saying, thinking or even feeling. I know that the reason Hot Girl Bummer took off was because people really related to it. I stood in the club before and wandered why I was spending so much on a drink, on a table and why is it so important that I wear my fake diamond necklace when I’m going to be in the dark? It’s just all of these ridiculous little things that we do that I’m guilty of as well and so, the title was definitely more of a satirical take on our culture. We are generally getting into a time where it’s harder to not fuck up and not say something wrong and whatever it is as long as your intentions are right. I’m not worried about making someone angry because yes, I am sensitive to the way people feel today but at the same time it’s kind of my own therapy.

You’ve worked with a lot of accomplished artists- do you prefer the song writing process and working behind the scenes or releasing your own?
I enjoy making music for other people, especially when Justin Bieber or Linkin Park or somebody who is totally different from Blackbear. Like, Blackbear would never come out with a Linkin Park song! Mainly that is what I get out of writing for other people, I like to read the vibe of a room and get something out of them.

Speaking of which, you said in another interview that when you’re not creating Blackbear songs you’re writing songs of your own- is there a particular artist who you really want to write songs for? Dead or alive.
I actually recently spoke to Elton John, I know- it’s so insane. He called me on the phone and said that in the future that we have to work on something. That’s definitely something that we’ve been talking about.

A lot of your fans were heavily anticipating your new Queen of Broken Hearts EP which is now going to be a full-blown album! How come you are splitting the release dates?
So that it will be more digestible. I just want people to spend time with the songs. It’s kind of like eating a sandwich!

Having looked at the track list I noticed your album features LAUV and Trevor Daniel who I actually interviewed this past month. What made you decide that those were the artists to best collaborate with?
It was not the matter of these being the artists that I wanted to collaborate with, as much as it was the case of working on a song and just HEARING Trevor Daniel on this song. With if I were you, I thought that this sounded like the perfect LAUV song. I just had to ask Ari (LAUV) if he will do this. They are also just my good mates, they’re just great friends. It’s just really cool to take the opportunity for my friends to be on. We all sing about the same topics.

Your social media is typically littered in quotes, what would you say is your one mantra in life? A quote you like the most?
The last quote I posted was in my own words, it said “If you don’t learn from the past you will live there”. I love quotes, and in this album, I want people to feel…I think, I want people to feel validated in their individuality. I want people to feel empowered, I really want them to feel like they can be who they really are. Sorry, that is so deep.

Last question. What quote do you swear that you live by?
Live. Laugh. Love. [Laughs]. Okay, I love you.

album cover

STREAM ‘EVERYTHING MEANS NOTHING’ ON ALL PLATFORMS.

The Game: a conversation in lockdown

My 4/20 took a turn for the better when I received a DM from Jayceon Terrell Taylor aka, The Game. With this in mind, I decided to turn it into an interview. He was cool about it.

This feels quite surreal to write out, these words may not properly reflect the reality of how I’m feeling about this particular interview, so apologies in advance if this reads awfully (it will). When I first begun to fully pursue journalism as a career around two years ago, I never thought that I’d come across the people that I have, or been in the rooms that I’ve been in; not a flex, just a real and honest reflection of how far I’ve come throughout the years. So, no matter the popularity of the individual, I’ve always been immensely proud of the work that I have produced despite the amount of times that I’ve been rejected, dismissed or undermined.

Journalism has allowed me to explore all territories of music and speak to artists of any genre, from mainstream American acts like Sabrina Carpenter (pending), Madison Beer; Blackbear; Chantel Jeffries; Charlotte Lawrence to the more urban UK scene with Hardy Caprio, Bru-C and Kojo Funds. I have even spoken to Disney actors that I grew up watching, such as Bailee Madison (Wizards of Waverley Place, Bridge to Terabithia) and Alyson Stoner (Camp Rock, Phineas and Ferb, Suite Life of Zack and Cody) as well as an array of Indie artists too, like Mac Demarco; Girl In Red; Two Door Cinema Club and Charli XCX…you get the gist. What I’m mostly trying to say, is that journalism has taken me far and wide and so for that, I couldn’t be more thankful.

However, for a lack of better words; The Game is different gravy. He’s the Compton-raised, Dr Dre and Jay-Z mentored, raucous voiced, mesomorphic rap icon of the 00’s who embodies NW mother-effing A. Along with a golden discography featuring a long list of legendary collaborations of artists under his belt that are both old school and current; the entire ordeal is beyond comprehension.

Even the approach to this encounter differed from the usual, there were no managers, PR’s, no editors or any publicists- it was just The Game and myself on a sunny 4/20 with nothing but a screen between us. So for that reason, this interview will be as informal as the circumstances in which it stationed. I simply asked whether I could question him on anything that came to my head, to which he responded “Shoot 🙏🏾”. So without further ado, because honestly he needs no formal introduction- here is a painfully simple Q&A with the man himself, by me.

In the entertainment industry or life in general, do you feel it is more important to be liked or respected?

It’s far more important to be respected.

In your honest opinion, what is the meaning of a “good life”?

A life that is lived without fear.

Speaking of fear, we’re living amongst some pretty scary times right now. Has this time of social distancing taught you anything? How have you found it?

This has always been my normal life. I’m usually keeping me to myself and out of the way.

Always?

Ever since I was a child.

Who do you think is changing the landscape of rap music at the moment?

I think Future is responsible for what music has become in current day hip- hop.

What do you think of the way that rap is redefining its genre and shifting sonically?

I appreciate hip-hop in all facets. Whatever it recreates itself as every 5-10 years is appreciated. What I love the most about it, is that it keeps young African-American men with a source of income.

Which feature of yours are you most proud of?

Mary J. Blige on the Love It or Hate It remix! Goes hard.

Which song of yours means the most to you and why?

Like Father Like Son, I wrote it while my son was being born.

If you could only give one piece of crucial advice to your children, what would you tell them?

Don’t trust a soul.

That pretty brutal advice. Not even immediate family?

A soul. Family is sometimes your worst enemy.

Damn. You were famously in a coma for around three days, most people claim that once they got close to death’s doors they saw a bright light. Did you have the same experience?

Naw… it was just like an extended dream and I don’t quite remember what the dream entailed. Random, I guess!

What have you found to be the most fulfilling part of your career as a rapper?

That I’ve gotten to work with everyone that I have ever wanted to, I think.

Just because the people are asking…how’d you get them eyes?

Girl…[laughs]. From my grandmother. All love.

 

STREAM ‘BORN 2 RAP’ ON ALL PLATFORMS.

How a global pandemic affected my mental health

Calm in Chaos: a general rambling post from me amongst the uncertain times which are COVID-19 and how I generally stay sane when it feels like the world is ending.

As I’m writing this, I can hear at least three different species of birds chirping, couples laughing and friends gathered together basking the glory of the sudden sunshine. Despite this, the context shows an entirely different tone. It’s March of 2020 and the world is in an incredibly strange state right now, just two nights ago Boris Johnson had announced that the United Kingdom was officially going into lockdown for the next couple of months, which basically means that everyone needs to self-isolate and remain in quarantine apart from “essential” workers. Understandably, everyone is freaking the fuck out. With thousands of events getting cancelled like weddings, holidays, festivals and even educational institutions having to shut which means exams have been cancelled for the time being and teaching has been transferred online. Right now, we really are living in the midst of a historic moment which will affect millions of people across the world. A real dystopian Black Mirror episode, if you will.

Despite this, this is the happiest I have felt in months. I know, I’m not making the best impression so far. I’m sat in a large nature park right now where other people are when I’m meant to be isolating (Sorry, dad) and I just said that a massive pandemic is making me happy. Well, allow me to justify. I use the term “happy” very loosely here. I know 2020 has been shit show from the get go; from shock deaths (RIP Kobe and Brianna Bryant), floods, wildfires, potential world wars, nation-wide drought, Brexit (which commenced on my birthday for fuck sake), climate change acceleration and now an international pandemic. And it’s ONLY March. I can understand why you’d read my naïve indifference as arrogant.

It feels like everywhere you turn, there’s bad news after bad news. Like, not to be dramatic, but life is feeling a lot like that time Edward broke up with Bella in Twilight and Stephenie Meyer made all the chapters during the break up empty pages with just “September.” “October.” “November.” written at the top. All of the days are blurring into one and are filled with uncertainty. Every social media platform that you log into, including Instagram which is usually a form of escapism, are only constant reminders of the virus as well as productive things we’re meant to be doing throughout this period of isolation, even though I’m fully aware that I’m meant to be chasing a degree (I know, what the fuck) while constant stats remind us about how deadly and scary this virus is. It truly is overwhelming and I do not blame anybody for feeling especially scared and anxious in this time.

I rarely get personal on this blog, despite the fact that it IS my personal blog. I’m usually quite general, but I’m going to share how I’ve personally felt the calm in all of this. I mean, I speak from a place of general privilege. I’m not exactly calm about the death, collective grief, global poverty, deadly exploitation of working-class people of colour, financial ruin and ever-callous leadership that sets the scene for this time. Furthermore, circumstances for a lot of people are desperate and financially there’s bound to be some kind of crash, I understand that this is a scary time for us all. Yet, for some reason, I find the collective feeling of worry, the resentment of this current year, holding billionaires and the 1% to account for their greedy money hoarding as well as everybody’s combined efforts in improving our circumstances to be extremely reassuring of humanity. Even the NHS has had over 400,000 people offer to volunteer to help those directly infected by the virus when the government were merely expecting half of that. That’s something to celebrate within itself.

Overall, my person issues pale in comparison to refugees and more vulnerable groups who are far a lot affected by this this virus than me personally. This isn’t ideal for anybody. However, if I’m too think in a way that makes the glass appear half full- I’d talk about the environmental impacts, for example; did you know that air quality has improved significantly in major cities since tourists have stopped occupying them? And think of all the free concerts all of your favourite artists have intimately live-streaming!! From Chris Martin of Coldplay, John Legend, James Blake. Miley Cyrus has started a cute livestream platform where she interviews celebrities and medical professionals on remaining positive while being aware of your surroundings. The sheer quality of MEMES that have come out of this are…incredible. And lastly, the newfound respect the general public now have for service workers and our community.

Apologies if this blog post seems lazy compared to my usual work, I’m still adjusting. I know this is hard, I’m scared too. I’ll probably add more positive outcomes and more informed updates of this in due time. But for now, I know it’s easier said than done- but do try to make the most of this time of peace and quiet. Get creative, contact people you’ve grown distant from due to busy schedules. Whatever you want. There’s bound to be some form of humanity to come out of this and it’ll be beautiful. We can’t see it now but we will. There’s no telling what’s ahead but I do truly believe that in spite of everything, we’ve got this. Look after yourself reader.

Hardy Caprio: an interview

I spoke to grime sensation Hardy Caprio ahead of his album release where we discuss exceeding expectations, giving back and taking over the world.

A few years ago, a video was released of a fresh-faced, admittedly “broke” and “dead trim” Hardy Caprio in a car park with friends rapping his first Hollywood H freestyle. A young Hardy spits, “I do grime, do rap, do ends, do uni and when I’m back in Croydon I’m making a movie”. Little did he know that this eventually would lead on to become the catalyst into revealing his full potential. Between studying full-time and grinding towards his dreams, Hardy knew that his route was unconventional compared to his contemporaries, yet the South London didn’t let the naysayers define his future and is continuously looking to push that for himself.

Now, ready more than ever to drop his debut mixtape in the new year, Hardy is coming in with teeth. Having already dropped infectious summer Afrobeat swing of tracks like “Something New” and “Drop Top” with T Mulla, these pre-release collaborations show Hardy as one of the breakout stars of a hyper-fertile period for homegrown, authentic UK grime. Proclaiming the close of 2019 and 2020, as “The years of Hardy”- his vision as to what he wants is as clear as ever. To show our excitement, we spoke to the grime star ahead of his album release about taking over the world, being straightforward, giving back and exceeding expectations.

If there’s one thing you would like people to understand about you, what would that be?
That I’m always going to be myself, unapologetically.

Songs that best describe your life and journey.
Kelis and Andre 300 ‘Millionaire’ and my song ‘Wifey Riddum’.

Most significant lesson you have learnt since entering the music industry?
It’s best to make your own mistakes because no one is going to earn the ramifications for you.

Unsigned was basically your breakthrough record- did you know that as you were creating it?
Yeah! It was either going to be my breakthrough or not, we thought that if this one wouldn’t work then we have no idea what will. We tried our best to make it the perfect three-minute song; from the beat to the lyrics and how they’re being said. We put all our bets on it.

hardy

What’s your usual thought process when creating new music?
It depends what we’re trying to get out of it. For now, it’s more about how it feels, but in general moments where there are moments as an artist where you have to prove yourself and take it further. I’ve consciously said to myself, “Yeah, you need to take it to the brim with this song”.

You recently stated that there is no such thing as the perfect rapper. Do you set the same standard for yourself or are you your own worst critic?
I am my own worst critic but at the same time I am also my own biggest fan. I say stuff that I want to hear from rappers. As a rap fan, I’ve heard a lot of things being said and overtime it all sounds the same. So when it was time for me to rap, I wanted to say and hear something different. I want new stuff, new imagery, new slang, everything! I mean, I like my stuff [laughs] you just need to be the best version of yourself, I know it sounds cliché but that’s all it is.

Have you ever had a moment of major doubt within yourself? You’ve spoken a lot about people not believing in you- how do you usually work to get over it?
It’s more THEM, it’s a ‘them’ problem and not a ‘me’ problem. If I had a problem, then I would crumble much earlier, I believe in myself. I believe I can do it, so there’s nothing that anyone can tell me, to be honest. If I can’t do something, I’m going to learn how to do it, and do you know what? I’ve done that time and time again, so I feel like I just need to make music for me at this point. Every criticism I’ve heard is so silent right now, but I just want to say to them, “Thank you very much”.

Going to university and graduating with a degree in accountancy is quite contrasting to being a rapper, and having such an unconventional route to success compared to other rappers must be quite isolating. Do you ever find it to be a challenge?
Within myself, I know that it is not a hindrance. The people that see it as a problem don’t even matter, I don’t care about them. If you have an issue with it, then you’re not even in the real world. I think people attribute rap music to struggle, violence and other negative stuff, and so to think that I haven’t seen any of that because I’ve been to university then you’re one of the dumbest people in the world. It can be seen as a challenge but I don’t see it as that- it’s just my story. If you want to hear the same story over and over, then I’m probably not the guy for you.

What was it like generally balancing both university and your side rap hustle?
When I look back on it, I didn’t think it was the hardest thing in the world. I’m a workaholic though, so now I look at it and I realise that it wasn’t very healthy. I would be staying up in the studio then I would go to uni without any sleep at all. At that moment, I knew that it was all what I wanted so I didn’t actively see it as an obstacle, at that time I didn’t see it as challenging.

You’re only in your early 20’s- what do you hope to achieve by the time you hit your 30’s? Is there any defining moment that will have you think, “Yeah, I’ve made it”?
I just want to take over the world [laughs]. There is not a lot to ask for, I’ve done a lot of things that I didn’t ever expect to do like doing things for my family. And now, I want to change the lives of those around me and help other people, too. Not even when I “get there”, but now I just want to be helping people because the more of us there are too lift up, the better. I want everybody to feel like they can chase what they want because some people might think that because they don’t come from a certain background that they can’t take part and it alienates them. If you know your characteristics, you can find your way.

 

 

Freya Ridings: an interview

”The things that you think of as weaknesses now, will one day be your biggest strengths.”
Originally posted on The National Student.

With vocals that are both portentous and glacial, Freya Ridings is here to grab you by the hand and whisk you off to somewhere you’ve never been before.

Freya Ridings has never struggled to keep an audience transfixed and present. The singer’s ambient and, at times ethereal, sound places her somewhere in between London Grammar’s Hannah Reid and Florence Welch in terms of range and vocal power. To someone that has never heard her music before, she sits somewhere in between pop and piano ballads with a punchy hook, and her talent hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Similarly to the likes of George Harrison, The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, John Lennon and Katy Perry, Freya has just been signed to Capitol Records ahead of her much anticipated debut album. “It’s so thrilling getting to play and to work alongside some of my songwriting heroes on the other side of the planet…they’re all absolutely lovely people”.

Freya-Ridings
Image courtesy of Freya Ridings

When searching for inspiration for her songs, Freya Ridings looks at her own personal encounters, “I always write based off personal experience because that’s what feels most authentic to me but I love listening to different genres for melodic inspiration. It’s weird but I always shut my right eye when I’m playing piano and only recently found out that’s the creative part of your brain.” But like many of us, Freya struggles to shut out the noise to focus on what’s important: “The hardest part for me is getting out of the way and letting my subconscious speak what it needs to say”.

Freya’s favourite songs to perform live are most certainly her own, in particular, her poignant new single that has found success in the Charts, comfortably sitting in the Top 10. “The connection that ‘Lost Without You’ has given me with so many new people around the world has been a life-changing. As a song I wrote on my own in my little front room in North London, I still get whole body chills when I hear thousands of people sing it with me. To go from singing it in such isolation to singing it all around the world might be the most humbling experience of my entire life”.

Freya has just completed her debut nationwide tour which had completely sold out across the U.K. “After years of playing open mic nights in London where nobody knew me, to go from that to walking out to a sold or crowd every night on tour felt like something out of a movie. Honestly, I have no words for the feeling of being welcomed so warmly with open arms in cities I’ve sometimes never even been too”.

Speaking on tour life, there’s no doubt that the events can get tiring and overwhelming, however Freya has a playlist that kept her upbeat and motivated. “We had a tour bus for the first time ever with the whole band and crew, it was so much fun and it honestly felt like being magically teleported around the country in a tardis. We watched a lot of old films and also tried to come up with a pre-show chant with my band but we always ended up laughing because we got it wrong! In terms of listening, I loved listening to the new Rex Orange Country And Tom Odell Albums.” And what would she do just before shows? “Pre-show rituals I always eat an apple (the pectin helps breaks down vocal clicks) and have a massive group hug with my band and crew, very rock and roll- I know!”.

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Image courtesy of Freya Ridings

Freya has been frequently forthright about her struggle with dyslexia throughout higher education and has used music as a method for learning. “After really stuffing at school with dyslexia, finding that I could play music by ear felt life-changing and after all my teachers gave up on trying to teach me how to read music I started to write my own songs as a way to anchor me through the storm of school.”

Reflecting on her growth, she has some helpful words of advice for other young people challenged by dyslexia and reminds us that it’s important to accept and love everybody’s differences. “School really does not define who you are as a human being…The things that you think of as weaknesses now will one day by your biggest strengths. Also…being dyslexic gives you the ability to see things from another perspective and that’s one of your best qualities. The biggest lesson I learned is that everyone is battling with something growing up and just to be as kind and understanding as possible”.

However, with a career that is expanding before her very eyes, Freya Ridings is first and foremost, all about grace and gratitude: “It’s a universal bond that I’m so humbled to be a part of in any small way and I can’t wait to repay that kindness”.

An album guide for when you’re going through it

This is more of a laid back July post. So right now we’re sitting in my least favourite season, summer. Yes, you read me correctly- summer is my least favourite season as I’ve mentioned previously in other blogposts. Anyway, the last couple of months have been rather tumultuous for me to say the least. There have been significant changes going on in my life and everything is spread messily like when you’re rearranging clothes in your closet resulting in a huge mess across your bedroom but then you know it will be tidy again, eventually? You understand what I mean?

Even as we speak, I’m writing this at a hostel in central New York after a totally bizarre yet fun night with a few strangers that I met along the way, but whatever it is that’s going on in your life that is making you feel anxious or stressed, one of the best methods for recovery (at least I have found) has always been through music. Corny and unoriginal? Sure, but it’s totally true. Whether it’s a tough break up or rejection from an opportunity that you really wanted, music is a brilliant way of helping you go through the motions of false confidence, happiness, sadness and everything more.

That being said, I have curated a playlist of just some of my favourite albums that I play for when I’m “going through it”. In other words, the phrase is a vague yet also a very specific way of referring to the aftermath of a temporary yet crappy event that’s taken place. As a mUsiC jOuRnALiSt, I decided to include various album genres from different eras that are important to me and my overall personal healing. Listen away folks and I hope this helps you too in some shape or form !!

 

Tyler, the Creator- IGOR

In his review, famous music YouTuber The Needle Drop described Tyler, the Creator as polarising and uncompromising. However, within this latest album IGOR– Tyler single-handedly debunked all of that. With heart wrenching lyrics and nostalgic riffs, Tyler not only compromised, but unashamedly gave himself way entirely. Facing the aftermath of an emotionally tumultuous relationship, he’s exhausted- which is a universal feeling. I get that this album is recent. Like really, really recent. So it’s a little soon to place it in such high esteem as one that makes you feel better above others, but it really does. This album got me through my personal troubles in more ways than I can describe as well as being one of the only albums I can listen to in full- front to back. And trust me, that’s a big deal for someone with ADD.

Tyler, the Creator- IGOR

 

Best Coast- Crazy for You

This is an album that instantly takes me back to my over-journaling-teen-angst “no one understands me” filled days. That was a lot of words in one sentence, but you get the drift (I’m functioning on little to no hours sleep here so please bare with me lol). What I would like to say about this album is that despite some of its themes, the instrumentals are playful and overall rather euphoric. I know the title says that the albums listed are for when you’re going through a tough time, but in my eyes it’s important to not entirely indulge or fetishise negative emotional anguish and rather just revel in the more positive ones. Crazy For You absorbs all the simple pleasures that Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino’s fills her life- from her cat, to snacks and the overall feeling of being in love, but through a dreamy 60’s lens. I think we should all take note and do the same.

Best Coast- Crazy For You

 

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

As well as the being the debut album of the indie-folk band Bon Iver; this was the first Justin Vernon record that I listened to in full. The project in it’s entirety oozes with feelings of isolation, loneliness and longing through acoustic strums and nature, while mirroring these are common emotions that are- especially throughout the summer. Especially during a break up. For context, taken from Pitchfork, which is what mostly inspired it. In 2005, Vernon’s former band DeYarmond Edison moved from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to North Carolina. As the band developed and matured in its new home, the members’ artistic interests diverged and eventually the group disbanded. While his band mates formed Megafaun, Vernon– who had worked with the Rosebuds and Ticonderoga– returned to Wisconsin, where he sequestered himself in a remote cabin for four snowy months. During that time, he wrote and recorded most of the songs that would eventually become For Emma, Forever Ago. Anyway, in summary, the album relishes in feelings of melancholy that replicates hope and joy, and feels just as vivid.

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

 

Lorde– Melodrama

From the moment I came across Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine, I listened to it in it’s entirety throughout the challenging years which were my adolescence. After that, I spent the next four years thinking “When is Lorde gonna drop another album and save me from this hell…..its been 84 years……don’t get me wrong i would listen to 400 Lux till the end of my days but damn gurl where u been”. Then finally, something amazing happened- around this time two years ago, Melodrama dropped and so I haven’t been the same since. At least, emotionally. There is a consistent tenderness in Lorde’s vocals that transcends you into a calmer place of healing that you never want to return from, a state that is between tender daydreams and brutal awakenings. It’s an album that sends me to and from therapy, it’s night and day, an album that hits you then hugs really hard. I know I’m being dramatic but it is so, so true.

Lorde- Melodrama

 

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours

Last but certainly not least, I’m going to add the ‘going thru it’ super group themselves… Fleetwood Mac. Prior to the albums release, there was a shed ton of drama from cocaine, to heartbreak and totally lunacy. The context to this body of work is as tumultuous as it’s content, but a beautiful one at that. The musicians’ personal lives permanently fused within the grooves, and all who listened to Rumours become a voyeur to the painful, glamorous mess. Drama aside, Rumours is among the finest work the band ever produced. “We refused to let our feelings derail our commitment to the music, no matter how complicated or intertwined they became,” Fleetwood later wrote in his 2014 memoir, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, quote- “It was hard to do, but no matter what, we played through the hurt”. I’d conclude with a positive quote about learning to dance in the rain or something but we’ve gotten the general consensus now of this post. You’ll be fine.

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours

Sarah Close: an interview

From struggling undergrad to YouTube mogul and up-and-coming pop sensation, Sarah Close has passed every checkpoint in record time and is flying towards the finish line.

From struggling undergrad to YouTube mogul and up-and-coming pop sensation, Sarah Close has passed every checkpoint in record time and is flying towards the finish line.

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Thanks to the internet, making your dreams a reality can all begin with just a single upload, and for Sarah, it all started way back in 2010 with a cover video of Katy Perry’s pop nostalgia hit ‘Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)’. Since then, Sarah’s channel subscribers skyrocketed, and in March 2017, she was able to release her debut single ‘Call Me Out’, and a debut album Caught Up, the following month.

Growing up on the small island of the Isle Of Wight, Sarah has admitted that the size of her hometown limited her options creatively; “I think feeling so isolated was one of the reasons I got into music, I didn’t have other kids in my village to hang with so I had to find things to keep me busy! I don’t think my home area has an obvious influence on my songs and writing, but I do have a couple songs that explore growing up and feeling like a bit of an outsider because of a different childhood to other people”.

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Fantasising about a what life could be past the small island, Sarah got light of the idea of putting herself out there through by pure coincidence from her covers rival Taylor Swift. “I was hugely inspired when I found out that Taylor Swift wrote and performed her own songs, that made me believe that I could do the same! That and ‘Naive’ by the Kooks is what made me pick up a guitar and start teaching myself.”

Sarah was inspired to follow in Swift’s tracks but found herself held back by a feeling we all know a little too well. “I’d known I wanted to do it for a while, I’d been watching other singers on YouTube and saw that they were doing what I wanted to do. What worried me most was people at school finding out and teasing me for it, I told a friend what I wanted to do and she encouraged me so much that I just did it. People at school found out about my channel earlier than I expected them to, but luckily everyone was super nice and supportive which only spurred me on more!”

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The confidence to put yourself out there, exposing your innermost thoughts online, is by no means easy.  Since the whirlwind success of her debut album, she’s encountered both sides of the social media beast – good and bad – but remains positive in tackling comments head-on. “I like to think that there are two different Sarah Close’s. There’s me, that wakes up in the morning and phones her parents and does whatever I do, and then there’s the Sarah Close that is making music and putting out her songs. When I see negative things, they’re commenting on who they perceive Sarah Close to be, they don’t know me so they can’t hurt me. Creating that distance is important and really helps, and criticism is sometimes healthy. I would say, do what you wanna do and deal with anything negative as it comes!”

As an individual that has explored the industry in all its glory, Sarah does not shy away from being vocal about her frustrations within the belly of the beast. “I think the industry is lacking in diversity, especially in the behind the scenes roles. I’d love to meet more women and PoC working as A&R’s and managers.” However, that’s not to discredit her experiences to date – having worked alongside Parlophone Records and now coming back to a point where she’s in full control of her own music. Releasing independently through The Kodiak Club and self-directing her own music videos can be intimidating, but Sarah takes it all in her stride. “At the end of the day no one really knows what song is going to bang or not, so trust your gut and put out songs that feel right to you!”

And that’s exactly what she’s been doing, and with huge success. The singer-songwriter has hit number one on many global viral Spotify playlists, accumulated over three million streams in a year and has completely sold out her debut UK tour, but is staying true to herself and her big ambitions: “I want to perform all over the world, I’m really so excited to be doing some more live shows soon and I’d love to do them in places I’ve never been to before and I hope that becomes a reality for me! In 5 years time, it would be great to have a second album out, and I’d like to have ticked off some of my dream people to work with!”

Why you should definitely go to a gig alone 

At least once.

Whether it’s a song, perfume, book, album, movie, television show, or underground cultural phenomenon, there are certain seemingly small things that have actually changed the course of our lives. Even if it’s minor and quite superficial through the eyes of others, if it makes you feel alive in some way then hang onto that.

This is going to sound kind of dark; but around two years ago when I was heavily suicidal, I read a post that suggested that if you feel as though you serve no purpose being alive, then stick around for the minor things. Like never being able to taste your favourite ice cream ever again, or  not being able to stroke your neighbours cute Labrador anymore, or trying the first bite of a delicious pizza, or even turning up at that event coming up that actually looked kind of cool (?).

For me, this ‘seemingly small superficial thing’ was Frank Ocean’s Blonde & Endless. If you’re under the age of 40, you’ll probably know who he is. Ocean’s lyrics deal with themes of love, longing, spiritually, misgiving, and nostalgia, all that resonated with to new extents. I won’t go into his entire discography but since his first mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra revealing his idiosyncratic approach to pop, I was hooked. Years clicked and in this super weird way, I found the wait to be part of the thrill. It was easy to worry as there are precedents for this sort of thing, for disappearances of the self-implosion of Black genius.

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But eventually, he came back. And it was amazing. This’ll seem corny but it restored my belief in the phrase “When one door closes, another one opens”. Despite going through a rough time and dealing with a lot of losses, with the thought of waiting for the new album to finally come out then having it do so gave me something to look forward to. It made me want to wait for the other little thing, then the other minor thing, then another, until I was past the rough time and wasn’t feeling so sad anymore. Through sharing the things that helped us become who we are today, hopefully it’ll  inspire you to try them out for yourselves. Anyway, aside from me basically admitting that Frank Ocean saved my life there was a point to this. What I’m saying is that the experience made me a little more introspective, thereby leading me to do a more things alone; like attending concerts.

I’m a music journalist (kind of, let me gas myself), so whenever a concert is in my town and I’m interested in the performer, I ask a publication to contact the PR team then I get in for free. Back in November, I went to see Mac Demarco in Rock City, Nottingham. I reviewed the show and even made friends with a girl that was friendly with the supporting band leading in me meeting Mac after the show- you can read the interview/review here. Plus, as sad as it sounds, I actually like being alone. I’m virtually always by myself, I go shopping alone, I go to my lectures alone, hell, I’ve even travelled around some areas around Europe alone when I finished high school. And I’ve become quite an evangelist about it.

But no matter what, I believe that everyone who can safely go to a show alone absolutely should, especially if it’s for a band you really love. Why? Music is evocative and emotional, and I’ve previously explained, it is extremely significant for ones well-being. Sometimes, by going to a gig or concert by yourself it’s easier to not have to explain everything to someone else. You have the right to dance, sing along or even cry at when you want to without worrying about the people with you, and you should get to experience that at a show without worrying about what anyone else’s experience looks or feels like. And this isn’t to say you shouldn’t share these experiences with your loved ones, but it is to say that YOUR experience should not be dependent on theirs.

On the night I went to see Mac Demarco, I learnt a lot in the space of a couple of hours. If you’re nervous about going alone or you feel sort of weird about it, that’s fine. It’s totally normal, actually. The main thing to remember is that doing anything outside of your comfort zone is bound to feel uncomfortable at first. But that’s how you grow. Obviously, if you feel truly scared to go to a show by yourself, or your gut senses something weird, then don’t. Or maybe find another show that you’d feel comfortable going to. The whole ordeal is going to look different for everyone. So, if you have ever been really keen to see someone live but none of your friends are down for it; here are some tips I’ve learnt about going to a gig or concert alone.

  • Turn up early, it’s kind of boring and maybe a little cold at first, but eventually people will turn up and maybe you’ll even get an opportunity to meet the artist! Weirdly for me, not only did Mac go out for a cigarette but he also got locked out the venue- so I  had a small opportunity to speak with him prior. Plus, you’ll be right at the front. Which is always great.
  • Speaking of people, even when you’re bored you can still find something to occupy with other than just staring down at your phone and refreshing snapchat. Interact with the crowd so that you feel more apart of it, additionally, you may get lucky- it’s how I met Mac.
  • Check out the location beforehand and let someone know you’re going to the function. If you’re going to a sketchy area, consider having an Uber drop you off so you don’t have to walk alone.
  • Speaking of which, I know this is a dark example but think about what happened at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester- Let family/friends/significant other  know around what time you expect to leave the show. Text them updates about when you’re leaving.
  • Don’t drink too much, you are alone after all.
  • Charge your phone fully because you’ll almost definitely run dry and please, please invest in a portable charger. You’ll thank me later.
  • If you want to avoid the massive rush at the end, leave early, being surrounded by sweaty strangers is pretty gross. Also, know where the fire exits are because you never know.

Most importantly, trust your gut, prepare in advance, and have an amazing time, kid! It’s never as scary as you think it will be, you’ll leave feeling super empowered and it should remind you of why you love music in first place. And maybe you’ll be so inspired after the experience that you’ll feel the need to blog and tell other people about it. Or maybe, it’ll restore your tiny faith in humanity just a little bit, I know it helped with mine.

 

 

 

Calvin the II on working with Donald Glover and making music video history

Calvin the II gives an insight on being apart of this years most talked about music video and updates us on what’s next in store.

This year, Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino dropped the mesmerising “This is America”, an emotive, powerful conversation piece that gives us a haunting take on the United States’ toxic cycle of violence. The video is an expression of America’s chaotic past and its disastrous effects on the present, using the ambivalent reception of black art to represent the tightrope of being black, Donald Glover has become a real force to be reckoned with. Once again, proving that he is the only Donald that is making America great again.

Since its May 7 release, “This Is America” has reeled in more than 147 million track streams and 216 million video streams, along with over 1.3 million track equivalents sold in the U.S. and 2.6 million track equivalents sold worldwide.

Before his rapping, striding and brutal murder scenes- Gambino dances towards a man who is initially seen playing the guitar while sitting on a chair but is later found with white linen covering his head before eventually getting shot.

People on Twitter theorised that the man during that open sequence was Trayvon Martin’s father, Trayvon was an African-American teenage boy who was savagely murdered in Florida in 2012 by a neighbourhood watch community member. That is not the case here, however, the man was not Trayvon Martin but a music artist who goes by the name Calvin the Second. And a rather talented one at that, so we caught up with him and asked him everything you wanted to know about the video.

First off, can you explain to the readers who you are and what you do?

My name is Calvin C Winbush II, my stage name is “Calvin The II” (Calvin the Second) I’m a recording artist and actor from Detroit, MI, and I was on Childish Gambino’s most recent music video ‘This is America’. As an actor, I’ve appeared in a bunch of commercials, voice-overs, television shows such as “Nashville” and Movies such as “Whiplash”. For my music, I usually sing, rap and play guitar with or without a band. My music style is a combination of R&B, Folk, Hip Hop with Pop sensibilities. Think Gym Class Heroes with more soul, haha!

 

How did you get involved with the project?

One of my agents, Jennifer Walton, books me on projects where I’m playing instruments a lot. I play piano, guitar, saxophone (my first instrument), drums and bass guitar, and from time to time, different productions need real musicians for that. I was up at Coachella for the second weekend and she called me out of the blue. She let me know that the content matter was pretty graphic, and wanted to know if I was familiar with Childish Gambino. I was, of course and told her to submit me. One of the producers contacted me to let me know I was in the running and then I got it!

Had you ever done anything like that before?

I’ve been in a bunch of music videos before (Diary by Wale, Free by Hailey Reinhart, Nathan Sykes – Kiss me quick, and many others) but I’ve never been in a music video that went viral to this degree before or that had any type of violent storyline.

Did you get a script prior to the ‘This Is America’? And if so, what was your reaction the script?

I didn’t get a script, but I did get a call from one of the producers who worked on the project to let me know about the graphic nature of the video. I was a little shocked at first until they told me who the artist was! I’m familiar with Donald’s work and knew that he wouldn’t be shooting me on camera for no reason, there had to be more too it. I was definitely right about that!

When you agreed to do the project, did you know that it was going to be as controversial and as talked about as it is?

Given the graphic nature, I was able to guess that it was going to ruffle some feathers. My prayer was that not only did it get people’s attention, but it made people think and converse with one another about race and violence in America. My prayer came true.


 What was the set like?

The set was very warm and friendly, but also very professional. Everyone knew exactly what they needed to do and got to work! It was like everyone was solving a puzzle together and doing their best to contribute to something bigger than themselves, for sure.

How many hours of rehearsal did you have to go through?

For my part, I didn’t need much rehearsal. I heard the track over the phone and figured out how match it on guitar earlier that morning. We did practice the first shot which is done in one take several times though so that it seems a seamless as it did. I was amazed at how many takes of dancing everyone was doing. But as you can tell, it really paid off.

What to you is the most significant part about the video personally and what do you hope for people to get out of it?

For me, the most significant part of the video is all of the conversation and thought that it’s creating. It’s making people wake up and think, even if they don’t agree with the imagery. I took it as someone holding up a mirror and having the viewer judge for themselves how they look instead of berating them to behave the way we want them to. I hope that it continues to make people think, question, then resolve and move in a positive direction.

What did it feel like to work with a director like Hiro Murai? Knowing that he’d also worked with the likes of Sia, David Guetta, Earl Sweatshirt, and a Tribe Called Quest.

Oh my God, Mr. Murai is incredible and extremely humble! He has a vision and knows how to make it happen. He was also very jovial and down to earth.

There was loads of speculation on Twitter claiming that you look like Trayvon Martin’s dad – was that a deliberate choice they were making because you’re an actor or a coincidence? Was it weird?

To this day, I swear I have NO IDEA how that rumor started. I in NO way believe I was cast because of any resemblance to Tracey Martin and hope that this video hasn’t caused him any more distress than he’s already experienced. That man’s life has been severely altered by gun violence, and now he gets to see more? It was weird hearing the rumor, but so many people have come out to let everyone else know that it wasn’t me, which is cool.

And lastly, do you have any upcoming projects that you’re working on?

As a musician, I’m writing original music for myself and other artist just about every day. I place music on TV shows and Film. I’m also currently meeting with record labels and music publishers. Several reps have heard my music on my website at and have reached out. We’re currently fielding offers and preparing to make the choice that helps establish my brand. My first single and video for the song “Keepa” will be coming out in June. We’ll be shooting the video in a week and I’m extremely excited! After being in all of those other music videos, I’m finally getting the opportunity to be in my own J.

Keep up with Calvin The II and find his social media on-

https://calvintheii.com/

http://www.instagram.com/calvintheii

http://www.twitter.com/calvintheii

http://www.soundcloud.com/calvintheii