A quick chat with the bewitching south London songwriter.
If you don’t know Puma Blue, it’s time to change that. Immediately. Hailing from south London, the rising talent – whose real name is Jacob Allen – has been making waves for some time. Dropping his debut EP “Swum Baby” last year, the record was a stunning and striking introduction to his captivating lo-fi jazz-tinged sound and he’s following this up today with his latest cut “Moon Undah Water”.
Yet more proof of how great he is, the track centres around a looped riff which builds behind Allen’s crooning vocals and it’s breathtakingly beautiful. Ending with a saxophone solo (like, what more could you really want?) the track is undeniably hypnotising and will make you fall even more in love with Puma Blue.
Eager to find out more about the track and life in general, we caught up with our new favourite songwriter to chat shit first songs, Jeff Buckley and what’s to come.
When did you first start getting interested in music?
I think I was always interested in music. My parents always played music in the house and in the car, and I always had this love for it. I started playing drums when I was seven, and when I really started following it was about the age of 12, getting into guitar and writing my first songs. And I guess realising I couldn’t do anything else anyway.
What’s the first song you ever wrote?
I think it was this song about a hole in the wall and about whether it could see… It was shit. Then I wrote this song for my friend Beckie at school and that at least had some chords I liked. But that was still shit too.
Where does the name “Puma Blue” come from?
Originally I wanted a mythical name like the blues guys: Muddy Waters, Lead Belly, Howlin’ Wolf, Memphis Minnie… From a young age I always thought the word blue was how my music felt to me, so I was always going to use that. It was also a name someone had for me for a while.
But the Puma thing came from imagining this character at a bar who was half washed-up drunk, half big-cat. Just slumped in a barstool, reeking of whisky. He was so intriguing to me I wanted to pay him tribute. But these days it feels less like a character to me and more just like a moniker.
Where do you draw most inspiration from for your songwriting?
I love films and listen to a lot of music, so there are always colours and ideas floating around in my subconscious I guess. But I just try and be honest. I just write the music I want to hear and express the feelings I need to express and that’s it. I usually find it easier to write poems than music at first, so I base a lot of my songs off my poems.
“I just try and be honest. I just write the music I want to hear and express the feelings I need to express and that’s it.”
Musically – who are you most influenced by?
If I had to choose one artist, Jeff Buckley. I just can’t think of anyone else who’s had as much of a profound impact on my music. His voice was so pure and he channeled such a raw energy. He used negative space incredibly, and no one else’s sense of harmony has been closer to what I’m naturally drawn to. He inspired me not to shy away from bringing out the darkness in my music early on and he so gifted with words too, his lyrics inspired me to become better
You released your debut EP last year. What’s life been like since then?
Pretty surreal. Last year I think I lived through my lowest and my highest, but I’m just really content where I’m at right now. So much has changed, in some ways it feels like my surroundings are barely recognisable. Not in the sense that the release changed my life or anything like that, there were just things that were really different last year in a lot of other ways. But right now I’m just working on new music again and feeling really blessed.
You’re releasing your new song “Moon Undah Water” today. Can you tell us a bit about it?
It’s been through so many incarnations, I think I wrote it back in 2014. It’s something I’ve played live for a long time and after coming off a support tour last year I felt like I wanted to put out something that felt closer to the live shows, rather than something from my bedroom or a voicemail.
Is this leading up to an EP or album?
This track and the last one I released are just a twinned double-A side. But I’m putting the finishing touches on EP2 to bed slowly so there might be another release later this year.
What else have you got planned for this year?
I’m about to go to Europe for my first headline tour over there, so I’m really excited for the next few weeks to roll around into April. I’m playing some festivals over the summer and I’m going to continue writing and collaborating with some friends on some other projects. Then October is the next UK tour, playing some places I’ve never been before