A singer-songwriter who started out with no rhythm finds himself swapping genres and and being an award winner!
Let’s begin with you telling us how it all started for you?
JA: When I was 17, I started writing my thoughts, about day to day life, down on paper. I feel like I was in that transitional period of going from a boy to a man. My Father had passed away many years earlier and I found writing was cathartic for me. It wasn’t long before I turned the words I was writing into poems and later – into songs.
How would you describe your current style?
JA: I recently transitioned from Rap music into Country-Pop music. Even though I spent so many years as a Rapper, I always wanted to sing. Unfortunately, singing doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m certainly working on it and am enjoying the process.
How would you describe the evolution of your sound & do you feel happy/settled where it is right now?
JA: I guess the evolution of my sound has always been determined by what Is inspiring me. When I first started making music, I was young, I was angry & frustrated. I was heavily into Rap music at that time, so I guess Hip-Hop was destined to be the route I was going to take. However, I was always a sucker for R&B and enjoyed writing chorus’s and incorporating singers into my songs. I guess now I feel like I’ve grown out of Hip-Hop perhaps. What I am doing now is challenging, it’s exciting and I am truly inspired by Pop-Country music. I love the instrumentation and the style of the songs.
We know the pandemic has been brutal for many, how have you coped mentally?
JA: Well, I’m very fortunate to have a very happy home life. My Fiancée and I are very much in love. We get on so well and enjoy each other’s company so much that perhaps we haven’t missed the lack of a social life quite as much as many others have. We’ve really enjoyed being in our own little bubble.
What have you been doing to entertain yourself while on lockdown?
JA: I’ve been working on new music and promoting current releases online. I had a new website built recently as well and it’s been a great time to have worked on that and I’m now happy to have it just the way I wanted it.
Anyone in your family musical?
JA: Not really. My uncle sings, but I think that’s it. It’s actually a real shame. It’s funny because I am possibly the least musical music artist out there. None of it came naturally to me. It’s certainly not in my blood. When I first started rapping, I couldn’t even nod my head in time with the drumbeat. I had zero rhythm and have had to really work at it over the years.
Who are have been your musical & non-musical influences?
JA: Tupac Shakur was always my biggest musical influence. I loved his lyrics, his work ethic and his complex character. It’s nuts how people still listen to his music today and still consider him the greatest Rapper/lyricist of all time. Non musically, It will always be my Dad. He was a truly special person. It sounds silly, but my relationship with him was something like that of Simba’s and Mufasa’s, from the Lion King. To me, he was just like that. A King.
Which song do you most like to perform, and why?
JA: It would have to be a song called ‘Just Believe’ which was a Rap song that I wrote during a particularly difficult point in my life. The song has so much fire to it and when I perform it, I can’t help but bring that energy. When I listen to the song, it takes me back to where I was at during that point in my life. It reminds me of how far I’ve come. Not only in music, but as a person as well.
What types of music do you enjoy listening to when you are hanging out?
JA: I love Pop-Country music more than anything else right now. I actually have two Spotify playlists that I curate. One is called ‘Country Cashews’ which is made up of upbeat Pop-Country songs, the kind you would listen to whilst getting ready for a night out. The other playlist I curate is called ‘Cupid Country’, which is one for those nights in, curled up your loved one.
What’s your song writing process?
JA: Well, this has changed a little recently. I used to send reference songs over to the producer I was working with. They would then compose a full-blown track production for me to write my lyrics to. These days however, I am writing the song to a scratch track (a basic guitar track). I then record my vocals and send the whole thing to the producer as a demo, for him to then build the full production around.
When you are not making music, what hobbies do you enjoy?
JA: I love watching my favourite team (Chelsea) and have recently been enjoying the games with my Fiancee, who now knows all of the players names, which I think is quite impressive!
When did you last remember a dream?
JA: I was recently waiting to get my next single back from the Producer, I was so anxious to hear what he would come up with that I remember dreaming about all of these weird versions of my song, which I totally hated! That was more of a nightmare actually!
What artist/group would you like to support?
JA: I really love tracks by Dan + Shay. They are a Pop-Country duo who write the catchiest songs. It would be great to support them!
If you could choose any singer/musician to join you for one song, who would it be?
JA: I guess that would have to be Tupac if he was alive…..
What’s your most treasured possession?
JA: I have a DVD with video footage of my Dad on it. I remember watching it many years after he’d passed and it was like I’d forgotten what his voice sounded like, but as soon as I heard it on the tape, I recognised it instantly. It was a very powerful and emotional moment.
What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
JA: In 2017 I won the Audience Choice award at the NMG Awards, which took place at the Cambridge Corn Exchanged. I received more votes than over 100 other artists. That really felt like a big deal for me. More recently, it still blows my minds that I am actually singing on my own songs (instead of rapping). Like, I’m really doing it!
What are some of the high and low points of your career so far?
JA: Obviously, a high was winning the NMG Award. The following year, I won Male Act of the Year at the International Achievers Awards. That too felt like a big deal and I had my family and friends there at the awards ceremony, which was really cool. In terms of low points, there have been many – Like I said, I couldn’t even nod my head in time with the beat when I first started. At the time, I didn’t think any of this would have been possible for me. I also remember waiting outside of a producers house in the pouring rain, waiting for him to wake up. I was on less than minimum wage at the time and used to pay him a small fortune to learn about music production.
What’s different in the music industry today compared to when you first started?
JA: Lots! When I first started, I think it was quite feasible to send off a demo CD In the post and have it picked up by a label. If they heard potential, they could have signed you and nurtured you into potentially becoming a successful artist. These days however, it all feels a bit like a popularity contest with artists having very little longevity. A lot of artists are making more money independently these days.
What’s the biggest problem you’ve had to overcome so far?
JA: Trying to find some rhythm! As I said, nothing about music came naturally to me. A friend of mine, who was helping me make songs back then, got hold of an instrumental for my favourite rap track at the time. He asked me to perform the lyrics, which I knew off by heart, in time with the instrumental. Despite knowing every word, I was absolutely all over the place. It took a very long time for me to get with it.
What do you enjoy most about being a singer? What do you hate most?
JA: My favourite part has always been hearing that new song – the next song – and being truly happy with it. I love holding on to it, before any one has heard it. When it’s still super fresh and I perhaps play it to close friends and family only. I’ve always loved that part. I guess what I hate the most is seeing people get hated on for trying to be different with their music.
Name your favourite uplifting songs that always cheers you up.
JA: I would have to go for ‘Brantley Gilbert, The One’s That Like Me’. That’s a real anthem for me. I also like hearing ‘M People – Search For The Hero’. it was a favourite of my Dad’s, who I think In fact fancied the singer more so than he enjoyed their songs!
How do you find the recording process?
JA: Painful! But I love it! As I mentioned, singing doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’ve always loved being in the studio, experimenting and working hard to get good takes. I am getting more and more picky in my old age!
Current/future projects: What’s going on?
JA: I have just finished a new single which is titled ‘Down’. It’s a song showcasing my love and support for the underdogs. I always felt like I was one of them. The song was produced by Simon Reid, and I am working on the music video at the moment. I do not have a set release date in mind just yet, but it is certainly coming soon and I am super excited about it! Despite the bad dreams I mentioned earlier, Simon actually did the most amazing job with it and I was really blown away when I first heard it.
A shortened version of this interview appears on GrapevineLIVE.