With the release of Liam Bailey’s debut album Definitely NOW scheduled for 10 July via Flying Buddha/ Columbia Records, Bailey sets on tour with Paloma Faith to promote his new material. Before heading to the Eden Project on Wednesday, Tristan Gatward, Online Music Editor, catches up with soul’s rising star.
Liam Bailey is a musician that’s been around – somewhat quietly – for the best part of a decade. Starting off in low key Nottingham hip-hop outfit 1st Blood, Bailey has dipped his toes in waters from folk (The Accidental, Thrill Jockey Records) to rap to blues and soul, releasing two solo EPs on Amy Winehouse’s Lioness Records.
“Bare with me mate!” he says, navigating his way through the capital, juggling interviews and taxi rides, “I’ll get out here, cheers.” He doesn’t get out there, the taxi driver carries on, confused, and Bailey laughs “alright just do it your own way mate that’s fine”. We briefly go through the EPs, both released in 2010, starting late September with 2am Rough followed immediately by So Cold, Down on 29 November. The former of the two was primarily a covers record, featuring songs such as ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ by iconic American funk and soul writer/ producer Fugi (alias. Ellington Jordan), alongside Morrissey’s whining classic, ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’. “These soul artists were always around,” explains Bailey. “Artists like Marvin Gaye, Tom Waits, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson – watching them on TV made it hard not to be influenced by them.”
“And then as I got older I got into Oasis,” sketching out the gritty working-class heroes of his childhood, he found growing up in a “bleak” Nottingham council estate. “They were just around so I was pulled towards it naturally. Like every artist should I guess I just aspire to being brilliant.”
Bailey is probably best known for his work with London’s drum and bass powerhouse Chase & Status, where he provided the vocals for 2011’s UK Dance Charts number one single ‘Blind Faith’. “I wrote the song with them as well,” he adds, recalling his last two years touring with the duo. “They’d listened to some music of mine, they’d got my single ‘You Better Leave Me’ and really liked what they’d heard, so asked me to come along.” Where he was coming along to remained cryptic. A successful stint with that song, showcasing his cinematic vocals in the midst of the illegal warehouse rave culture of the 1990s, supported some time to write on the road (no, Kerouac).
This time to himself gave Bailey a real chance to indulge in himself, managing to get the material together for his debut album, Definitely NOW. “It’s been amazing, mate, touring nearly the whole world with them. It’s been really amazing. And so, I’ve just been writing about personal experiences and things that I’ve been through on the way. And I’m really lucky because I’ve had time to develop that naturally.”
The production on the record comes from rose-tinted reggae legend Salaam Remi, CEO of Flying Buddha, famed for his broken bottle production with artists like Amy Winehouse, Alicia Keys and Ne-Yo. “I’ve always respected his music, I’ve always been a fan and always looked up to him.” These influences come through on his lead single for Definitely NOW, ‘Villain’, featuring the Harlem rapper A$AP Ferg. The music video sticks with the ‘Blind Faith’ essence of “keeping it real”, why hire actors to fill out a rave in a warehouse when “you can’t teach this acting in Rada”? In sounds he’s harking back to his afropunk soul origins tied in with a 25 year-mature Nottingham realism. A man of few words until he starts singing, he repeats again: “it’s been amazing, mate.”
Liam Bailey supports Paloma Faith at the Eden Project this Wednesday 24 June, tickets can be found here.
Tristan Gatward, Online Music Editor