After unveiling two remarkable tracks this year, London-based singer Aaron is finally preparing for the release of her upcoming debut EP ‘Letters to Johnny’. Her polished, moody early 80s Madonna vibe paired with some brilliantly effective vocals makes her one to watch this year, so we thought now was the perfect time to get to know the up and coming British singer a little more intimately…
When did you begin making music?
So my Grandfather is an incredible Jazz saxophonist and the coolest man I know. He’s played on world tours with Diana Ross and The Commitments. From as young as I can remember, we would play together, I’d sing and he’d accompany me. I think I wrote my first song aged 15 and it was awful! I called it ‘Checkpoint Charlie’, I was learning about the Berlin Wall at the time and it related to that somehow. It wasn’t until I started working with my manager, a couple years ago, that songwriting became a serious thing for me. She saw potential and put me in sessions without any element of pressure. I cut my teeth with some pretty badass writers and producers. I was allowed time to develop, learn my craft and figure out who I was as an artist.
Can you tell me why you named your upcoming EP ‘Letters to Jonny’?
It all started with Johnny Jewel, the songwriter and producer. I really got into his ‘Italians Do It Better’ label a few years back. All his stuff with Desire, Chromatics and Glass Candy is insane. So I revisited it when writing the EP, it was purely sonic inspiration at first and then I wrote ‘Jonny’ with TIEKS, which is essentially a fan girl song. It tied it all together as a conceptual EP. The premise being the songs are letters addressed to a fictional man, a character and consequence of the writer’s imagination and her relationship with him unravels as the record progresses.
Who would you name as your main inspirations? I definitely feel as though I can hear some early Madonna in there somewhere…
Yeah, you’re so right. Early 80’s Madonna is a massive influence, especially around her ‘True Blue’ and ‘Like a Prayer’ period. My writing and taste in music is heavily influenced by what I grew up listening to. When I was little my mum was mad into Kate Bush, Madonna and Annie Lennox, real artists who changed things for women in music. Also around that time my older brother would be in his room-playing guitar along to Talking Heads, Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers, whom I adopted as my favorite band as soon I hit adolescence. Once I was a little older I discovered TV on the Radio, Todd Rundgen, Little Dragon and more experimental acts like the Flaming Lips.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully having released a couple good albums, writing credible music for myself and other artists and having fun with it all, nothing too fancy. Somewhere down the line I want to open a big cat sanctuary, I love them so much I can’t get over it.
You describe your genre of music as “Dream Pop” – can you describe that for me?
Ok so Dream Pop to me is like an ethereal wall of sound; full of breathy vocals, sharp bass, warm pads and hazy synths. It’s all layered, textural and lovely. It relies on that as much as it does melody.
I hear a lot of people make comments like “I love this song, but I know it’s not good” when it comes to pop music. Why do you think so many people find it difficult to embrace the genre?
I think the British music scene in general is quite elitist and snobby. It makes sense, what with our history and as an alternative artist, you have to tread a very fine line between what’s deemed “commercial” and what’s “cool”. It’s silly really, and getting caught up in those just stunts your creative output. Any songwriter will tell you that writing a good pop song is not an easy task. Whatever if it’s not your bag but it deserves a lot of credit.
The British indie pop scene has been flourishing lately with the likes of Churches, Salt Ashes and La Roux releasing some fantastic music over the latter half of this year. How does it feel to be a part of what feels like somewhat of a resurgence in quality pop?
I’m so pleased! Well-written and well-produced pop has always been there, it’s just not been as fashionable. Those artists are really great, and I’m glad they’re getting the recognition they deserve. La Roux’s ‘Cruel Sexuality’ just killed me! The most gratifying thing is for your music to be well received. If someone loves it as much as you do, that’s a serious situation.
That being said, how do you intend to make yourself distinctive enough to stand out among the wealth of other talented singer/songwriters in the UK right now?
I try not to worry about that and just focus on creating music that I love that works for me. If other people dig it, that’s even better. What enables me to connect with music, literature and art is honesty. It has to be personal, even if its complete fiction it has to be honest in emotion. Maybe that sets me apart.
What do you like most about being based in London?
I was born and raised in London so I love everything about it and hate it in equal parts. When you leave you’re reminded of how wonderful it is. Our live music scene excites me the most! It’s the best in the world, if you forget New York. When you realise the multitude of creative talent is in this city right now and what’s being produced, it’s next level. Really though it is!
When can we expect a full album of material from you?
Once the EP has come out and done its thing, I’ll have a better idea. I’m always writing but it’s not with any clear intention in mind. I think an album is a big deal, that body of work defines you. I guess we’ll have to wait and see…
Is there anyone you’re dying to work with? I think you’d make magic with someone like Dev Hynes.
That’s so funny you said that! If I’m ever asked to name check songwriters/producers my first answer is Dev Hynes and David Andrew Sitek. ‘Coastal Grooves’ was an emotional education for me and then came ‘Cupid Deluxe’ which is a completely seminal record, just like that. I feel like he wrote those songs for only me to listen to. I was lucky enough to see him live at 100 clubs in this year, one of the best gigs of my life.
What would constitute a perfect night out for you?
Oh I’m easily pleased, if I’m with close friends and there’s a cool riddim I’m fine. I’m actually really bad at parties, if I’m not feeling the music I have to take over the tunes. It’s probably really annoying, but I don’t care.
Words: Josh Haigh