The Sonder Son on his stunning new album.

“R&B was always cool. I always liked to listen to R&B but I never thought that I would make it,” Brent Faiyaz tells me over a crackly conference call. When we speak, it’s been exactly a week since his latest solo venture, the beautiful new R&B record Sonder Son, was released and it has subsequently been blowing up online ever since. “People love it, man!” Faiyaz exclaims. “That’s what’s so wild about it. I don’t think I was really expecting that. Yeah. I don’t think I was really expecting that. It’s crazy.”

One listen and it’s clear to see just why fans have been reacting this way. A deeply personal and poignant record, Sonder Son is a gorgeously rich and soulful album in which Faiyaz has used his songwriting skills to bring people directly into his innermost thoughts. “With a lot of my previous work, I wasn’t really telling much about me in my music and I figured that it would be the perfect opportunity for people to understand the person behind the songs that a lot of people like to listen to,” Faiyaz explains. “I figured because there’s so much that I do wanna speak on, this is the perfect time for me to come out with a project and say: ‘Yo, this is who I am and this is how I feel about certain things. Fuck with me or not.’”

With topics ranging from relationships to his take on what’s going on in society at the moment, Faiyaz describes the album as like “looking at the world from my eyes”. I ask him how it feels releasing a body of work that is so personal and autobiographical, and he pauses. “I feel like to create the best work you can’t separate [music and personal],” he continues, “I feel like if you’re an artist, you should make sure that what you’re doing comes from an artist’s place. I feel like it’d be propaganda for me to put something out just because I know people are gonna fuck with it versus me just loving it for what it is and people taking it and loving it for what it is. I think there’s negatives that come with that as well. You know, granted, I’d take it a little more personal if somebody doesn’t like my music because it’s so honest versus if I made it because I just thought it’d sound cool and you didn’t like it, I’d be like ‘alright cool.’ I wouldn’t mind as much. But because it’s so personal it can definitely be a little much. But I think it makes the best product at the end of the day.”

“Yo, this is who I am and this is how I feel about certain things. Fuck with me or not.”

Detailing his take on the world today, it’s unsurprising that Faiyaz takes on politics on the record – something he does regularly on Twitter too – spitting “Trump don’t give a fuck” during the spoken word beginning of “Nobody Carez”. “I feel like every artist should back a cause, even if it’s something that’s irrelevant to you or your people, or something that you fuck with. Do something,” Faiyaz tells me. “I wasn’t really trying to make a statement on the album and shit like that, it was just how I felt. I think that as long as it comes from a real place, like, people can respect that.”

Sonder Son is undeniably real, and after listening you feel like you’ve been, well and truly, inside Faiyaz’s thoughts for 42 minutes. It’s such an accomplished and striking album that it’s hard to believe that this kind of music wasn’t originally what Faiyaz set out to do, initially drawn instead towards rap. “I started off rapping, so when I was rapping I would sing, and it was just easier for me to sing as oppose to rap. Stuff would just come out sounding better so it was like, you know, let me just take the time out to become a singer and stop being so mad,” he says. “I don’t know, I guess just being young, like being a singer wasn’t fly to me, you know what I mean? With everybody that I knew, it wasn’t anything that any of us aspired to be and shit like that. But I don’t know, it’s kind of funny how our cards aligned.”

With a voice that’ll transport you into another dimension, you may already recognise those vocals from his work with Sonder. The frontman of the three-piece collective, Faiyaz’s album title is an obvious call back to his work with the group. “It’s kind of funny because there are a lot of people that are familiar with the Sonder music that don’t even know I have solo work and vice versa,” Faiyaz muses. “Calling the album Sonder Son, I feel like this is the perfect thing that I could’ve used to bring those two worlds together. I like it because with the Sonder music and with my personal music, you don’t have to pick a favourite or compare the two, you can live in both worlds at the same time ’cause it’s all happening at the same time.”

Currently gearing up for a huge tour, I ask Faiyaz if he’s found any time to celebrate the album’s success. “Actually, I’ve been done a lot of that lately!” he laughs. “I feel like I’m always out. It’s cool though, I’ve spent so much time not celebrating, like this is probably the time to get all this out of my system and get ready to do some more work. But it never feels like work, really. Not when you love it.”

Elly Watson

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