Perfect afternoon chilling music, we caught up with Kwabs and talked aspirations and famous comparisons
Kwabs is South London’s latest soul star, blending powerful vocals with electronic beats seamlessly. With MOBO picking up on him as a rising star, we think it’s about time everyone sits down and listens to Kwabs. You know you’re in a good place when Guardian writers are calling you the new Seal. His EP Wrong or Right, produced by Vienna’s legendary Sohn, has instant weekend afternoon chilling appeal, and the many remixes blending straight into Saturday night. His Twitter account will have you in stitches, too. Follow now, for essential tunes and beard-envy updates. What’s not to love? We caught up with Kwabs, and talked just about everything, from celebrity fans to TV appearances.
What was your first encounter with music?
I genuinely can’t remember! But it was almost certainly my first form of self-expression as a kid. I’d sooner have started singing than throw a tantrum.
What did you grow up listening to?
In my early childhood it was all about pop and R’n’B – what was in the charts really. Then I fell in love with guitar bands while I was in secondary school and eventually Jazz and soul in my late teens. I think I saw something exciting in most music at some point.
The Guardian referred to you as ‘the new Seal’, how do you feel about that?
I’m less ready to entertain that comparison now than when I first started out because ultimately I’m only really looking to be myself. I think it’s really important as a new artist to forge my own path. Some comparisons (like the Seal one) are really flattering, others are a little less inspired! So I try not to worry too much about either type.
If not like Seal, how would you personally describe your sound?
I think it’s a sound that simultaneously looks backwards and forwards. Knowing where it comes from whilst keeping things moving and trying to carve a space in the future.
What’s your favourite track from your EP Wrong Or Right? And why?
They’re really all too special to me to judge but I think Wrong or Right marked a real step forward for me into knowing where production and my voice and song-writing really felt like they had come together in an exciting way. It was also my most dynamic release to date I think Sohn and I knew we were on to something.
How did you end up working with Sohn?
It was something our teams co-ordinated. I was just happy to get in the studio with someone whose music I’d so respected. I didn’t know it would be the start of something so significant for me.
What influence did being in the BBC2 series ‘Goldie’s Band: By Royal Appointment’ have on your career?
I knew the show wasn’t gonna propel me to stardom by any stretch, but by the time it aired I definitely had an instinct that I wanted to put my voice out there in a bigger way than I’d done before. It wasn’t long before I started putting performances up on YouTube to see if I could make that a reality. My manager found me through those first few videos.
You’ve been praised by Jessie Ware, India Arie, Laura Mvula, Emeli Sandé and Joss Stone, who’s your favourite fan and why?
I’m pretty stoked that any one of those artists would be giving me any praise. India Arie has certainly given me the most words of wisdom. She’s checked in on me occasionally to see that things are still alright and she’s basically a pretty wonderful soul.
A few journalists have mentioned the sorrowful elements of your music – which is interesting because you’re really funny on Twitter – is this intentional?
The music certainly comes from a deep place. Maybe there’s some sorrow in there depending on how you see it. I’m a pretty happy person within myself though! I think that’s probably what people get to see of me on Twitter and such – how happy some of that music makes me. The light and dark sort of balance each other out, I guess.
You mentioned your love of beards on Twitter, when are you going to grow one yourself?
This question is quite hilarious, I should’ve known you’d snoop! Errr… When I the ability to grow a full one I definitely will. It’s no mean feat and I should take it seriously. Brush, condition and all that, y’know…
How did it feel to be included in the FIFA15 playlist? Do you play it at all?
I don’t play. Gah! It’s a shame really, as being on the playlist feels like a bit of an accolade, I’m very proud.
If not an Xbox superstar, what would you be if you weren’t a musician?
I’d just find another way to reach people through art. Music therapy, maybe? I’m not sure that I could have ever really kept away from music’s path.
And finally, how will we find you in ten years time?
Still in South London, drinking Herbal Tea, singin’ licks…
Kwabs is currently recording his debut album, due for release early 2015’
Words: Elliot Rose