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Hi CalledOut Music! You recently dropped the EP, ‘Come Home’. The recent singles have been full of energy and feel very celebratory. Can fans expect a continuation of this on the new project?
(Laughing) I would love to say so…but no! It’s the complete opposite. This EP is more acoustic driven, so it's lyrics, melodies, and it’s me really tapping into what drives me innately. Sometimes I do like to create music that’s very vibey, fun and energetic like you said. But other times I like to strip it down to keys and guitars. I think we did a good job with this, and I’m excited, man. I can’t wait for everyone to hear what we’ve created.
Even though the new songs are more stripped back, they’re full of optimism and positivity, and this is something we often see in your music. Does this come naturally, or is it sometimes more of a struggle to get in this headspace when writing a song?
I feel like, especially with ‘Joy’, when I was creating the acoustic version it had this feel to it where I was singing about positivity, but it was coming from a very emotional place. Towards the end of the acoustic version, there’s something that wasn’t in the original where I say, “I choosethat joy". So it’s about making an intentional effort with everything that’s going on. The acoustic version really hit and a lot of people have been messaging me saying what it did for their hearts and their minds. You’re right, a lot of people are going through it, and to hear something so soothing but also so encouraging at the same time, helping people just to live another day, we’ve had so many testimonies, it’s been great. I felt like I had been in that space as well myself, having to choose joy with so many plans not being able to happen through the pandemic. It’s like, ‘Look, life is still beautiful, regardless’ - I know it’s hard to say when you’re actually going through it, but there’s still so much more in life for us. That’s the kind of mood that I’ve taken into the EP, giving people a fresh start kind of thing.
You are a Gospel artist, but the themes you cover in your music - overcoming anxieties, finding hope, seeing the light in the darkness - can be inspiring to any listener, whether Christian or not. What would be the main thing you’d want a listener that isn’t necessarily a Christian to take away from your music?
Exactly what you just said. I feel like an absolutely huge factor when I’m writing is passion and a message of hope. Whether it’s a sombre style or sound, or whether it’s celebratory, I still want to pass on a message of hope. I genuinely want people to listen to my music and feel encouraged. I still get messages from people saying, ‘I don’t know what it is, but I love listening to your songs because they just make me feel happier’. For me, if I can create something that can take someone from a low place and make them feel 100 times better, I think we’re doing something right. The whole message of the Gospel is that transformative process, making people see light where there’s darkness. So if my music is doing that, then I think we’re making strides, man.
As an artist, you’re forced to lead a very busy life. How do you go about making sure you’re able to find those moments of quiet?
I think something that’s been high on my list is self-discipline. Making sure that if I set some time aside, nothing else gets into that. I’ve got this amazing devotional I’m reading right now called ‘Morning and Evening’. That’s been something that has revolutionised everything, because from the moment I wake up, it’s the first thing I’m thinking about - it’s like ‘Okay, I’ve got to pray, and then read that’. So that has really helped. In this lockdown I have gone for lots more walks, especially where I live which is outside of London, there are a lot of beautiful places to walk and quiet spaces. Those moments keep my mind at peace, and they help me think and process things, and even just meditate on what I’m about to do and the plans I have. So many brilliant ideas have come from those times. So I feel like, as humans, it’s up to us to set that time aside. Because if we don’t do it, life happens. If you don’t grab it by the throat and say, ‘I’m going to set some time for myself and my mind', things will keep happening and there will not be a time that you find is free anymore. I always encourage people to do this, especially creatives, because our minds are pretty much our workspaces, and if our minds are cluttered then we’re not going to get anything done.
You’ve talked before about how God has called you to create music, and how God expects nothing short of excellence. Does this ever feel like more pressure to make sure that everything you’re creating is as good as it can be, and does it make it more frustrating in a way when it doesn’t come together?
To answer the first question, I don’t think it’s more pressure than any other genre. I just feel like it’s down to the individual, people have different perspectives and ways of seeing these things. I just feel like maybe because I have seen it in a particular way from day one, everything I’ve done has geared me up for excellence. So when you now put certain structures in place, and you have the right people working with you, you find that you’re always consistently operating on a particular level or standard of excellence, which is great. So now it almost doesn’t feel like pressure anymore. But when I first started, I was like, ‘Yeah, I need the very best equipment, and I need the very best people around me to make sure this music sounds amazing’. At the end of the day, whether it’s Christian or not, people just want to hear a good song, you know? People just want to make sure it sounds great. So that’s something that I push myself to do, even learning how to create music, like learning digital audio software, and putting myself through online free tutorials on YouTube. I still do that, just in a bid to make sure that my stuff is so good that anyone who listens to it, the first thing they say is, ‘What was that? I’ve never heard that before!' - and then the message starts to come into their hearts. But from a musical standpoint, I want it to be excellent. I do feel like there is a bit of an issue at the moment with some - not all, but some - faith-based creatives, who almost feel that because they’re doing something for God and because it’s message-driven, everything else doesn’t need to be up to as high a standard. I get people talking to me about how it’s all about the spirit and that makes people feel, and I’m like yeah…but our music isn’t just for ourselves, it’s for the whole world. If you’re going to make earth music, you need to make sure it’s of an amazing standard, so that everyone can just love it and just want to listen to it, man.
Finally, one thing we ask all our interviewees is to name their favourite three songs with a theme of mental health. What would be yours?
1) Don’t You Worry Child - Swedish House Mafia
2) Don’t Stop Believin’ - Journey
3) My Life Is in Your Hands - Kirk Franklin
CalledOut Music's new EP, 'Come Home', is now available to stream on all platforms
Buy print editions of Mindful Melody Issue 11 below!