Kwabena Sarkodee Adjepong, also known as Kwabs, is set to release his debut album ‘Love + War’ in early September. With huge international success after the release of single “Walk”, which climbed its way to number one in Germany, the artists has toured across Europe and also more recently with renowned singer/songwriter Sam Smith. The vast array of musical influences Kwabs absorbs to create his unique sound have helped accredit to his success. While at No Tomorrow Festival in Nottingham, we had the chance to speak with the artist shortly before his set. Enjoy our exclusive interview below as we discuss concert nerves, his first festival experience, and fearing heights.
AMBY: Are you looking forward to your set today?
Kwabs: I am. It’s nice to be out here where the sun is you know, and it’s been a while since I felt like that in the UK , I’m definitely looking forward to it.
AMBY: Do you still find that you get nervous before these festival sets?
Kwabs: I think you always get nervous, but I think I’m one of those people who have always said I don’t care about my nerves. I feel like they’re there and you just sort of do it don’t you, the adrenaline helps out in the end.
AMBY: You’ve recently been touring with Sam Smith, back in March, what has that been like?
Kwabs: Really cool, most of all he was really cool, his band are really nice, we all gelled together and had a really great time. His fans are really warm and welcoming and I feel like his crowds were always on board and welcoming to my music, so that was a really nice thing.
AMBY: You’re playing a few festivals this summer as well as No Tomorrow, are there any in particular that have that slight edge or that you’re looking forward to playing the most?
Kwabs: We’re doing loads of festivals in mainland Europe, but I always like coming home and I always like being back in the UK. So I’m looking forward to Latitude and also Reading and Leeds because Reading was the first festival I ever went to and I have a bit of an affinity with that festival.
AMBY: Could you tell us a bit about that first festival experience?
Kwabs: Well I just did what everyone else does, they get their GCSE results and they go to Reading [laughs]. That’s basically what all my friends did, so it was kind of like my first experience of slumming it on a camping site, and that sort of awful dragging your stuff onto the site, and the manic Sunday where everyone starts setting their stuff and things on fire. It was all an experience, it was very cool but I love festivals and I’m very much looking forward to this summer.
AMBY: So do you remember any of the bands and artists you saw at your first Reading festival?
Kwabs: Erm, I know that Bloc Party were on that year and I think the Klaxons and their might have been Rage Against the Machine…they might…have been headlining…
AMBY: Can’t quite remember?
Kwabs: Yeaaa [laughs]. I feel like it’s all a distant memory, I wasn’t drinking or anything because I don’t drink so it wasn’t that, I think it was just that I was 16 and I’m now 25, so it feels like it was a bit of a while ago.
AMBY: So you mentioned you’re going to be playing at festivals across Europe over the summer, and over there your music has really kicked off…
Kwabs: Yea, we had this track called “Walk” which went to number 1 in Germany….Which is madness! I mean, I guess they just loved it and we’ve been following our noses with regards to following the success of that and it’s just taken us all over Europe. We’ve been doing loads of gigs in Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and wherever and its been fun. The language barrier can be odd sometimes. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m 100% understood, or I’m 100% understanding people, but it’s cool, I love learning about new cultures and getting involved with that.
AMBY: So whilst you’ve been out there have you managed to pick up any languages, any German maybe?
Kwabs: I do, I do. I’ve learned left and right [laughs] because that’s important; you never know when you might need that and a couple of other things. I love language so I might have to pick up a bit more so I can really engage.
AMBY: Just picking up on when you spoke about “Walk” reaching number 1 in Germany, you looked a little surprised or shocked almost, did you ever expect anything like that?
Kwabs: No, well you don’t expect anything like that unless you’re really really certain, which I think it’s healthy not to be. It’s good to have humility about these things, you don’t expect it you just sort of make the music and see what happens so it was a bit of a surprise, actually a big surprise.
AMBY: Do you remember the moment when you found out about how well “Walk” was doing?
Kwabs: I can’t remember how I found out, which makes it seem like I didn’t see it as a significant thing. I did see it as a significant thing, but it all sort of blurred into one, it just happened and I just thought oh, well I don’t know what to do with myself now [laughs]. I just wasn’t expecting it, I think I was probably more stunned to silence than I was to move to celebrate.
AMBY: So the album that you’ve finished, ‘Love and War’ is coming out in September, could you talk us through that?
Kwabs: Yes. So the albums called ‘Love and War’, which I guess in itself is all the asking and questions of people saying, what does that mean? I wanted to write an album that explored different sides of being human, which covered darkness and lightness, love and war, and what kind of depicts that. It’s a selection of songs that explore for me what it’s like to be a person and all the different sides of that. It’s definitely got a lot of different aspects going on in there; it’s an eclectic album there’s no denying that, but it still has all the heart and soul, hopefully, of everything that I’ve put out already, and definitely has an emotive thread running all the way through it.
AMBY: You’ve just recently released a single from that album as well. What’s it been like playing material live from the album? Is there any that you’ve found have been really well received or any tracks that you’re looking forward to getting out on that copy?
Kwabs: Yea there always are, I don’t know what it is but people just sort of react really well to certain things more than others. I always say there isn’t really a science to music but then there are always some really consistent results from playing stuff to people. So there are a couple of songs in there that I look forward to having people hear and I’m particularly exited for people to listen to.
AMBY: Could you tell us about one of them?
Kwabs: There’s a song called “Cheating on Me” which comes usually in the latter part of the set and people just seem to usually like it and I guess it’s like a classic ballad, or trying to be a classic ballad.
AMBY: Throughout your life you’ve been exposed to a variety of musical influences, how have you interpreted them to create your own sound?
Kwabs: I think most of the influences that I kind of reference aren’t necessarily in there in any sort of explicit way. I feel like as musicians we soak stuff up, we learn stuff which then has a snowball effect on our other decisions. I feel like just knowing what I know about music and having tried out all the different things that I have, its affected me in a way that I guess hasn’t to other people. It’s what creates my version of individuality for want of a better term, and I guess my particular blue print is maybe a bit more complicated than some people’s. I studied Jazz, I play Classical Piano, I sing soul and I feel like that’s what it is, that level of variety is what you hear in the music and what I hope people find quite difficult to put a label on.
AMBY: Are there any particular musicians, artists or bands you think have influenced you?
Kwabs: Only singers, there’s no artists project or album that I feel I was particularly looking at to influence this music. I just love singers, I love the likes of Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, people who really know how to convey a song and that for me is my influences because my voice is at the heart of what I do. My ability to, or lack of ability to do sometimes, to put across a song is what kind of makes this important for me.
AMBY: Thanks for speaking to us Kwabs; just before you go is there anything you can tell our readers that nobody knows about you yet?
Kwabs: Erm…..It’s really hard to think of something that is actually generally interesting….I don’t like heights, I once went to the top of one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland and immediately crouched down because I was so scared [laughs].
AMBY: Thanks again for speaking with us, hope you enjoy your time at No Tomorrow Festival!
Kwabs: Cheers, thank you.
Thank you Kwabs, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Jacob Flannery |