Originally published at Phaser Magazine
*Disclaimer* This interview was conducted before the Covid-19 crisis.
The Shires, comprising Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes, are the UK’s biggest selling Country act of all time, combining heart-warming harmonies with soulful storytelling. I sat down to chat with them about their brand new album, their tour, and bringing the Nashville sunshine back to the UK’s grey skies.
Ben and Crissie, thank you for taking the time out to talk today! You recently dropped the single 'Independence Day', which is an empowering break-up anthem, and the previous single 'Lightning Strikes' is also about an ex, but it’s full of energy and excitement at the possibility of rekindling a lost spark. It would’ve been easy to make both of these sad songs. What made you want to turn them on their head, and make them sound more celebratory?
Ben: That’s a really good question! It wasn’t a conscious thing, it’s kind of from seeing someone who’s going though a break-up and saying, ‘I know you’ll come through the other side, and I can already see you’re happier than you were before’. I think we’re quite happy people generally, and at live shows you can only get away with a handful of really sad songs. My opinion about music, as well as the media, is that I want to be uplifted. It’s also harder to write a song that picks you up.
In what ways did you want it to carry on the bright, buoyant nature of Accidentally On Purpose, and in what ways did you want your new album, Good Years, to be different?
Crissie: For the first three albums, we were so relentlessly in a constant ‘go-go-go!’ kind of mode. We were always here, there and everywhere, and it was hard to grab a moment and appreciate everything we’d done. We actually left our record label that we’d been with for the first three albums, and sat in limbo for a little moment without a label, before signing with CMG. We had a bit of time away from the craziness, and we got to spend time with family and friends, and get some normality in our lives. The songs are generally quite reflective, showing how we’ve been feeling appreciative of where we are in our working lives and home lives.
Accidentally On Purpose contained a lot of crossovers into new genres and sounds. Is this experimentation something we can expect more of on Good Years?
C: It wasn’t a conscious effort at the time. We were partying quite a lot in Nashville, and that was reflected in the songs we were writing for Accidentally On Purpose. We were influenced by the music scene there, and we were still trying to break America, so we thought going on the poppier side would cross us over. And it helped with the live performances, because the songs have so much energy and fun.
B: I think we go back to our roots on Good Years. The irony with this is that in not trying to target the US as much, we now have more support there than ever! It’s funny how that wasn’t even really part of the plan, the aim was just to record the songs the way we wanted them.
There’s generally been a lot of genre-blurring involving Country over the past few years. How do you tread the line between pleasing the die-hard Country fans, and also infusing this with Pop and Dance impulses? Do you ever feel restricted in a sense by the ‘Country’ label?
B: Trying to please everyone is the hardest thing. You just don’t need to, there are always going to be people that say ‘It’s not Country enough’, or ’It’s not Pop enough’, and so on.
C: As long as you can release something you’re proud of and 100% happy with, that’s the main thing. It’s always going to be open to opinions - I remember having a chat with a fan when we’d just released Accidentally On Purpose, and he mentioned about us going Pop, and he wasn’t pleased. But sometimes you have to broaden the genre to give other people a taste as to what Country is all about.
B: Crissie’s right that at that time, we loved that record, but Good Years is definitely us now.
You’re about to embark on another huge UK tour. Do you prefer the writing and recording process of the album, or is it more fun finally getting to showcase the new material live?
B: I think the live show is kind of the pay-off, the celebration at the end of the whole journey. When you’re sat in a room in Nashville or in the UK, you just have an idea for a song, and then you go into a room with your notes and it becomes something tangible. I personally love that, and if I could do just one thing for the rest of my life, I would do that. You get that moment of ‘Wow, I love that song'. At the same time, you’re trying to make something that’s perfect, so it is quite intense. You’ll do a thousand vocal takes, and you go a bit neurotic - it’s exciting and nerve-wracking. So when we finally get to our tour in April-May-June, we’ve gone through the process, and you can tell which songs really connect with people. For me, that’s the most enjoyable part, but it’s not the part I’d do for the rest of my life. Having said that, it is great to connect with people in a moment, live, and that’s why live music is so popular still.
I was lucky enough to see you both perform in Oxford for your Accidentally On Purpose tour. Are you excited to be back this year?
C: Yeah, we’re very excited! We’re putting it all together at the moment, sorting out the staging, etc. It’s hard to pick the setlist - we’re trying to make it work as best as we can, because we don’t really want to drop any songs!
B: Yeah, last time in Oxford we went to a quirky, underground bar, and we had a good party there after the show. The New Theatre is brilliant as well - I love how old-school it is.
You’ve introduced a whole new generation in the UK to Country music. Do you think the genre will continue to grow in the UK over the next decade?
B: Culturally, I’d like to think we’re post-cool. It used to be that you have your record collection and people would come and judge it - ‘Oh…you listen to the spice girls?!’ Now it’s more personal, because it’s just on your computer or phone. Country music really reminds me of the Noughties, the sounds and the things they’re singing about. Like if I wanted to talk about getting high with my friends, that would be too risqué and they’d be like ‘You can’t say that!’. Compared to the Hip-Hop world, it’s very innocent. Also with streaming, even more of an audience can come on-board. I think it will get bigger and bigger.
C: Absolutely! I think it’s still in its early days, but more and more people are enjoying the genre. More people are proud to say they love Country music. It’s funny we’re still trying to promote it, because we’ve been surrounded by it for seven solid years, and it’s crazy to think people don’t know about it yet.
For you both personally, what’s your favourite song on the new record?
B: Mine is between ‘On the Day I Die’ and ‘Crazy Days’. As a writer, I was always chasing ‘I Just Wanna Love You’ [from debut album, Brave], I remember writing that song really quickly by myself. It was just so honest and pretty much just a conversation. As much as I love writing in Nashville, sometimes there’s a lot of pressure to do something clever. That’s the Nashville way, and they’re geniuses at it, finding an idea or lyric and turning it on its head. Some of the biggest songs, though, are just straight up. ‘Crazy Days’ was me at home in my shed, with a piano, and I wanted to sing to my wife about how it’s hard because we’re away a lot, but it’ll be worth it. It’s a very honest and real song.
C: I remember hearing that for the first time, and it was everything Ben had always sung about. That's him at his finest, and I was a big fan of that from the get-go. He would just talk about that situation, and he means every word. I can draw from that, that it is crazy, but it’s a great reference song to bring you back down to reality. Also, I love the sentiment behind ‘On the Day I Die’, where you’ve lived the best life you can, and it’s all about appreciating every day. It was a real pleasure to sing.
Artists will often be going through something, and they pen lyrics that can really help the listeners who are going through that same struggle. ‘Naked’ is a perfect example of this, as it’s all about seeing someone for who they really are and accepting their flaws, and trusting them to accept yours. If you could pick just one, which song of yours would you want listeners to pay especially close attention to, that you feel can help people the most?
B: ‘Brave' is that song for me. I think I wrote it seven years ago, and it was a dark time for me to be honest. Similarly to ‘Naked’, I wrote it for myself, just to say you don’t have to be so brave all the time, and it’s okay to to tell people you’re not feeling 100%. That’s an important message. I have two young sisters, and they have their battles stemming from social media. I think it’s easy to put on this front of ‘I’m doing great’, ‘I’m on holiday’, etc. whereas a lot of people are struggling behind that. So I think it’s important that they have someone they can let their guard down to.
You recently performed with 5,000-8,000 children as part of the Young Voices choir project. You’re undoubtedly role models and inspirations for numerous young singers, songwriters, and bands out there. What would be your main piece of advice for anyone trying to break into the music industry?
B: It’s so hard not to fall back on clichés. From personal experience, I tried for so long to write a song to sound like someone.
C: Yeah, I tried to fit moulds, to be someone I didn’t believe 100% to be me.
B: Exactly, but when I found Country, I just made music that I loved. It’s the same with anything you do, as long as you actually love it, then no-one can take that away from you really.
Switching that question around a little, who in Country music is inspiring you right now?
B: Lady Antebellum have been an incredible inspiration for me. Also Nina Nesbitt, and I know she’s not Country, but she co-wrote ‘Naked’. When we first met her, she was without a record deal, and it’s great now seeing her do what she loves, and just be who she is. Suddenly in the last two years she's found great success, just because she’s being herself. We went out with her in Nashville, and I think her songs are so her.
I read somewhere that you both met on Facebook through a mutual friend. Songwriting can be an incredibly personal process, and can involve putting yourself in quite a vulnerable space. How long after you two met were you able to feel comfortable enough to really open up lyrically in this way to one another?
B: We’ve always been honest, and there’s no ego with us. If I throw out a bad idea, Crissie’s open enough to tell me that it’s bad, and vice versa. But it’s a myth that in every songwriting session people sit down and pour their hearts out.
C: When we met it was all work based, we’d sit together and write songs that we thought we should write. We didn’t really pour our hearts out as such, the more sessions we had, the more we realised it’s quite an open space in a writing room, and some things get blurted out, and everyone’s quite open and understanding. In the studio, usually you sit down and chat with the writer, and catch up a little. For the song ‘Accidentally On Purpose’, I was just talking about leaving Nashville the next day, and I was genuinely just telling the guy that I wanted to stay a bit longer, and I was just chatting and telling him what was going on at that point. I did not expect to be writing that song on that day! It’s just kind of amazing that it happened like that.
You’re the UK’s biggest selling Country act of all time. Do you feel more pressure each time you release a new album to live up to this reputation, or does it give you an added boost?
B: I definitely feel more pressure every time. I turned my shed into a writing room, and I asked the decorators to put my gold discs as far away as possible from me! It’s funny, I’d say to our manager, ‘Once we’ve sold this many records, I’ll feel comfortable and relaxed’, and he just said, ‘You’ll never feel relaxed!’ The goalposts change. We both want to be the very best we can be, and the other stuff that comes with it, that’s not as important. You can’t forget it’s the music that drives everything.
C: When we write the songs and record, I’m a pretty go-with-the-flow person, I never focus on the business stuff. I’m just enjoying the process. When the album’s ready, and it comes to realising there’s so many people involved, and so many things to do, that’s the only time when I feel pressure about it. We’ve done our bit recording the songs we love, and everything we put into it is everything we could do at that time. It’s the business stuff that always adds the pressure - you don’t think about that when writing and recording. There’s also always pressure in putting the tour together, but when you’re on stage you don’t have to think about anything else, it’s just about getting up there and just being in that moment.
The Shires’ new album, Good Years, is out now on all platforms.
US Country superstar Chase Rice follows through on his promise to drop the second instalment of his The Album series as soon as possible. For all the negative aspects of lockdown and quarantine, it has been great to see artists flooding this period with a flurry of new releases to help keep fans’ spirits up.
The Album Pt. II gives listeners another glimpse into the eclectic mix of genres that Chase welds together. ‘You’ kicks off the EP with an EDM/Pop-Rock tinged anthem, with a seismic hook reminiscent of Bastille or Imagine Dragons. A twinkling, teasing piano sets up the song, before Chase launches into the verses with his trademark charismatic drawl. The female backing vocals add another level of intensity to the song, and one can’t help but think a duet would certainly be an interesting avenue for Chase to go down in future.
On the face of it, ‘Break. Up. Drunk.’ should be a sad song, with Chase lamenting the pain of a break-up, and suggesting they turn to alcohol to soften the blow. But somehow he transforms it into an uptempo drinking song, and provides an 11th hour afterglow of warmth before the couple splits up for good.
Then comes ‘Down Home Runs Deep’, a more reflective ode to how you can take the ‘good ole’ boy’ out of the country, but you can never take the country out of the ‘good ole’ boy’. Chase knocks the hook for another home run and keeps the momentum going, altering his cadence to step up the energy just when you thought it had already hit its peak.
So far, it’s been rip-roaring and ferocious from the moment the opening bass hits on ‘You’. But while the EP has been jam-packed with huge hooks and electrifying production, we’re yet to see Chase the songwriter in full effect. With only one song remaining on the EP, is there room for him to strip it back and deliver another ‘Lonely If You Are’ or ‘Messy’ style ballad?
The answer comes resoundingly in the form of The Album Pt. II’s closer - ‘Belong’. For me, this is the real jewel in the crown, and is perfect for a world that has been put on pause. There’s no question that Chase can bring the party-starters and the anthems, but ‘Belong’ shows an incredible emotional depth, and showcases a side to the Country hitmaker that we have so far only seen in doses.
He questions modern-day issues such as cancel culture, and the charge that is often thrown at younger generations of being glued to their phones. He responds with the tongue-in-cheek observation that our phones take voice notes, and that’s how he writes his songs.
Chase repeats the chorus almost as a mantra - “We’re right where we belong” - and while the song seems to have been written pre-COVID-19, it is undoubtedly poignant for these times of anxiety and uncertainty about what the future holds. The destiny-fuelled theme of ‘Belong’ sends out a message of reassurance and hope (“Where we’re going, we don’t know/But we’re going there together”).
For anyone disappointed by the fact that there are only four songs on The Album Pt. II, compared to the seven that made the cut for the first instalment, Chase explained in my interview with him a few months ago why he wanted to keep his projects short:
“I feel like giving less music more often gives the songs more of an opportunity to have the life they deserve. If you drop fifteen at one time, you just choose three or four to listen to and never hear the rest…I’m not just releasing a single or two with five fillers, either - I wanted every song to be worthy of a single. That’s a big focus for me for The Album Pt. II”
In an era of streaming where we have everything at our fingertips, it’s good to be reminded that what really matters is quality, not quantity. Chase Rice’s The Album Pt. II might be short, but don’t let that fool you - it sure packs a punch.
The Album Pt. II is out on all platforms tomorrow, Friday 15th May.
UK singer-songwriter Kelsey Bovey shows why she’s one to watch on her new single, ‘Magnetic’, which officially drops on Friday 22nd May.
While modern music might be moving away from typical song structures, there’s one thing that will surely never become ‘old-fashioned’ - and that's having a killer hook. Boy, does ‘Magnetic’ have one.
It wriggles itself into your head, and part of its appeal is the meaning Bovey puts into each lyric (“The way you’re talking to my soul it’s magnetic”). She delivers it with an intensity that seems both euphoric and pleading at the same time, and that’s part of what makes this song great. It’s a jubilant love song, but there’s an undertone of hesitancy (“I’ve been broken in pieces/There’s a hole can you heal it”).
Bovey manages to bring in a level of intimate vulnerability, without sacrificing any of the song’s overwhelming joyfulness, a balance that isn’t easy to strike.
Listening to Bovey’s 2019 It’s My Time EP makes it clear that she wants to draw her listeners’ attention to the silver linings rather than the black clouds, something that is especially evident on ‘Positivity’. ‘Define Me’ wraps a striking melody around another set of empowering lyrics, and what better time to be driving home this message of optimism?
It can sometimes feel lazy to liken an up-and-coming, female Country-Pop artist to Kelsea Ballerini (especially given the similarity here in first names). But over the years Ballerini has cultivated a cross-genre style without losing any of her originality, something that’s especially evident on her recent album, the dance-heavy ‘Kelsea’.
Bovey shows signs that her sound is set to be just as open-minded and diverse, favouring powerful, energetic soundscapes over slower, guitar-driven tracks. ‘Magnetic’ features slick, lustrous production from Andrea Succi and Danny McMahon, the latter of whom was crowned Country Artist of the Year at 2019’s UK Country Music Awards.
Speaking about the new song, Bovey says:
“Magnetic is a spontaneous love song that I feel everyone has experienced once in their life, when you share the reasons behind your feelings for that someone special. This came from a place of uncertainty, when you start a relationship and you find the person that is right for you, but you're scared of falling in too deep because you’ve been hurt before”
‘Magnetic’ is heartfelt, captivating and, most importantly of all, uplifting. Watch this space, Nashville - there’s a new 'Kelsey' on the block…
'Magnetic' is released on Friday 22nd May.
Guest post by David Dawson
Music always seems to have been an evolving art from, from changing genres, instruments, styles and finally technologies. In 1948 vinyl records were first being used and they stuck around for a long time, but looking at the last 20 years we have moved from tape through to CDs and onto streaming via various fads and fashions in between. Streaming has possibly been the biggest advancement out of all of the previous and has changed the way we consume music entirely. From holding a physical item containing a finite number of songs to having within our devices an unlimited access to just about any music we could think of has proved invaluable to most music lovers. Naturally in a flippant world these technologies all went from hero to zero, state of the art to charity shop, so it is hard to firmly believe that streaming is going to be here forever. The question is though what could come next? I find it hard to see an advancement as big or as different as the CD or tape was for the day considering we already have just about everything, but to be honest I doubt someone from a vinyl era was picturing an iPod touch complete with doodle jump and Justin Biebers debut album. One thing is for sure though, with Sony announcing a 21% rise in streaming revenue figures last year, we are now more engaged with digital music than ever before.
With this rise, there has naturally been a decline in our more physical engagement with music, even as recent as the CD, which arguably is still fairly prominent. The market for CDs these days now seems to be nothing more than a steep cliff edge with a strict one-way system, and it is fairly plain to see why. I used to purchase CDs regularly for various reasons, all the way from knowing and enjoying the album, to simply liking the cover art. This eventually moved on to an ideal of only purchasing CDs from my favourite artists or any particular album that strikes a chord. Honestly, throwing my mind back now I can't remember the last time I even found myself in the CD section of a supermarket, let alone in a music shop or, god forbid, actually buying music. The issues in this modern world with CDs are the time, money and effort for the consumer. Firstly, there is a certain risk involved with buying a CD. This may sound strange but I guarantee most of us have been stung before, when an artist you love releases a new album or there is a particular song you enjoy on the radio, as consumers we more often than not take a 10-15 pound bet with ourselves that the rest of the album is going to live up to all of our expectations. Buying a CD on the promise of one or two songs has always been a dangerous game but was often the only choice beside dodgy covers on a stone age version of YouTube. Whilst there were occasions that albums did live up to their name, there were often occasions where they did not and we were lumbered with a constant reminder of the money we had wasted sat on our shelves. There is simply no need to take this risk in the streaming market, we have a choice, we either add the one or two songs we do enjoy to a playlist or we binge the album, and if it fails, no harm done, just an hour or so wasted. When the option of access to any music you want at any time is available, why would anyone take the time to go and purchase CDs, that have a finite number of songs, a finite amount of access and take more than a few taps to get hold of, or at least a day for delivery. Everyone wants to have everything all the time now and to be honest streaming does offer that, can you imagine carrying around the number of CDs to cover every album on Spotify or iTunes?
The move to a digital world of music strays further than streaming as it seems to have consumed all stages of the music process. When we think to how songs used to come into existence, we romanticise about times gone by of John Lennon and Paul McCartney strumming acoustic guitars and dreaming up riffs, followed by the whole gang coming together to recording them before they were pressed and sent to the world. Overall, a pretty lengthy process from start to finish involving many hours and many people. This seems miles away now when we think about producers who digitally write in catchy riffs or instrumentation on their own laptop before recording a vocal on top, all of which can be done in their own homes. Then the simple process of uploading the song to any and every platform before sharing it around on social media. To be honest, for me this is a benefit, anyone who has a passion for music can access the technology to write, record and distribute their own projects without being dictated by record labels or begging for some financial backing to get a song recorded and pressed. How many more people get to live their dreams writing and sharing their music, even as just a hobby, as a result of these developments?
The flip side of this is that instrumentalist musicians like myself are finding ourselves more and more obsolete. School funding for music is constantly undergoing cuts and I would not be surprised to see it demoted to simply an extra-curricular activity within the next ten years, if not sooner. Therefore the number of kids picking up instruments and developing musical talents is no doubt going to decrease, but in a world where a number one hit can be dreamed up on a laptop and music can be accessed anywhere, anytime, is instrumental performance really the way going forward or a simple nod back to the past?
Even live music is too paving way for the digital era; gone are the days of a drummer, bass, guitar and lead singer and in are the days of pyrotechnics, staging and a laptop. To be honest, this is often due to the music itself being much more production and technology based from the very start and including sounds not always possible to replicate on instruments. However, it does seem underwhelming that full bands and big live set ups have now been replaced with an extension lead and a computer. Live shows now seem to be much more reliant on tightly choreographed routines, quick changes and lighting to make the experience more of a show or spectacle, but does this take away from the music? Again, this is something that is easy to romanticise about, dreaming of times gone by of live instruments plugged into monstrous amplifiers, but to be honest for me a live concert has always been more about the experience, the feeling you get for an artist when you've seen them live, the atmosphere of a crowd all singing the same lyrics, and whether the music is performed digitally or not, nothing can take away the physicality of that. This for me is the key, and what reassures me that digital age or not, music is safe. Whether produced by a DJ on a MacBook or a pianist on a Steinway, that unfathomable feeling we all get singing along to our favourite tune with our favourite artist, sharing the magical moment with thousands of like-minded fans. Having this experience as a performer I can safely say the high is second to none, engaging with an audience and the fulfilled feeling of entertaining is truly breath-taking. Who cares that we can access infinite music in our pockets? We all know it's not the same. That's why artists still tour, that's why millions of us flock to festivals and that's why hundreds of shows sell out every year.
It is always easier to look back with rose coloured spectacles and thoughts of 'what if' than to look forwards, and I am as guilty of this as anyone else, but I must admit I couldn't live without streaming, it makes music so easy and I now have the opportunity to access more artists, more genres and more songs than ever, and to be honest, that for me is a huge positive. Furthermore, whilst it is easy for me to be cynical about live music being more about laptops and backing tracks and reminisce about days gone by, this is more due to music in general being more reliant on technology then is used to be, and I don't have a problem with this either. For me good music is good music whether produced on a laptop or recorded part by part with a full orchestra, or sometimes a combination of the two. So, to the original question, is the physical world of music dead, and, are we now completely digital? I think the answer is no, with a fashion of retro and vintage there will always be some nostalgia in us that looks at vinyl as some superior art form from the good old days, and one day CDs may be viewed like this too. Furthermore, the unexplainable feeling we get when taking in live music that continues to encourage people to spend all their savings on expensive tickets really underlines that human element that still exists, what is there more personal than a lyricist singing to thousands about their latest love and suffering, pains and pleasures? Nothing, is the answer. The fact that despite being stuck inside with access to as much music as we please, streaming figures are actually down and we are all staring at our now redundant tickets with sad puppy dog eyes just shows how much we still crave the human aspect of music. In a world of change the future is always scary and it's our nature to cling to fond memories of the past, and music always makes up a big part of this. As long as that remains the same, I don't think the physical age of music will ever die. The digital age is in the driving seat for now though, and to be honest, I'm excited to see where it takes us.
Guest Post by David Dawson
Joyner Lucas shows again why he is considered one of the best in the game with his jaw dropping second album.
ADHD is the highly anticipated and long awaited second album from skilled lyricist Joyner Lucas, and in a time of quarantines and isolation was frankly something I welcomed with open arms. I have been looking forward to this for a long time and reveals of big collaborations such as Chris Brown only pushed my expectations higher. The album is titled after the condition that Joyner himself has dealt with all through his life and follows a string of teasing single releases, including a surprise feature with logic on Isis, and the hard-hitting Revenge.
Firstly, let’s address the skits. There are four in total which is fairly standard for a rap album, however these can be split thematically into two and two. The curtain rises on the album with Screening Evaluation, where in a young Joyner character is being asked a series of questions by a doctor, this is later continued towards the end of the album with Comprehensive Evaluation. Both skits feature a back drop of eerie piano music and offer equally powerful scripting, with the doctor not only shouting at the Young Joyner but also advising him to turn to drugs to help with his ADHD. It is unclear whether this is entirely based on something that happened in Joyner’s past or more a symbolic interpretation of his experiences with doctors, either way it gets the album off to a very intense start.
The other two skits come as more of a light relief, featuring both comedians Chris Tucker and Kevin Hart through answering machine messages. Chris Tucker’s skit involves him trivialising Joyner’s ADHD in a much more humorous way, claiming Joyner is using it to gain sympathy, boost sales, and as an excuse for the long wait for his album. The truth behind this is uncertain but with Chris Tucker’s expert comedic delivery it’s hard to take it seriously. The skit with Hart involves him suggesting that he is owed money by Joyner who borrowed it to keep up the pretence of a lavish lifestyle while he was broke, before Hart threatens that despite not being allowed on the rides at Disneyworld, he could still kick Joyner’s ass. The honesty in this one seems maybe less likely, particularly in the way that Hart delivers it whilst obviously stifling laughter towards the end, but with good reason as it is frankly hilarious. I think it works well having these skits dotted throughout the album, and especially having the two different styles. The disturbing and arguably more meaningful skits offer a backdrop to Joyner’s suffering and the inspiration for the album, but four skits of this kind, or even just these two skits and no others would have maybe come across a little too dark.
Moving on to the music, the album kicks straight off at full speed with Isis and I Lied. Isis was actually released as a single a few months back and has been a favourite of mine since, but those who have not heard it before the album would be surprised to hear Logic coming in with a verse. I have to say, I love both artists and to see them address their past beef so openly in the tune, as well as simply two of the best lyricists around right now coming together on a track is so exciting. Despite all the anticipation, the song doesn’t disappoint, it has a catchy hook, clever punchlines and lyrics and an amazing drive behind it. I Lied follows in the same vein, hitting hard at the very start of the album and exciting us even more for what is to come.
These are followed by possibly my favourite song on the album The War, with a big feature from Young Thug. I have to say, Young Thug has never really been much to my taste with his heavily autotuned mumbles often muddying his delivery and for me making it difficult to engage with his verses. I do however concede that his performance on this song was exceptional with smooth melodies and the lethargic tone of his verse marrying perfectly with the rest of the song. Lucas more than matched Young Thug however, showing off his own melodic abilities for the first time in the album, his smooth rap as well as expertly delivered catchy hooks make for a vibe that’s equally laid back as it is intense. After such an explosive start with the first skit and two fast tempo hype songs, this laid back and easy listening tune is a really great break and shows off Joyner’s skill set perfectly.
Bringing us back to a peak in the middle is Devil’s Work. This is a great song and is hard to ignore purely based on its content. Firstly, the production is extremely clever, a minimalist beat manages to keep the tempo, intensity and drive but is not so overbearing that it distracts us from the real highlight of this almost poetic anthem, the lyrics. This is clearly intentional for this particular song and just shows the thought and work that it has taken to create this album. The lyrics in this track are what make it so heavy though, Joyner takes it upon himself to question God by underlining all the pain, suffering and struggle in the world before arguing “we supposed to be your children, I thought we family”. As if that wasn’t impactful enough, Joyner goes on to ask God why some of us die young and some don’t, and names examples like Donald Trump and R Kelly still being around whilst Nipsey Hussle, Tupac and Biggie Smalls all had to die. This is an extremely powerful message which is only strengthened by the anger and passion in its delivery, and despite first featuring on YouTube back in May 2019, recent events make this song more relatable than it ever was, and possibly was ever intended to be. I do however take issue with some parts in this track, as some of the people named by Joyner as those good guys such as xxxtentacion, Tupac and Michael Jackson, while all undoubtedly responsible for some great music, and all died younger than they should have, were not exactly angels during their lives. Despite this the song still delivers an impactful and thought-provoking message overall and the real drive behind it makes it an exciting listen.
The highly anticipated Chris Brown feature is a complete contrast to that of Devil’s Work, offering a much more easy-going vibe. The melody in the chorus is catchy and by the second time it comes around you’ll struggle to find yourself not attempting to join in. This is followed by a Timbaland feature which brings a catchy hype track feel. I have to say this was one of the more exciting prospects on the album but ultimately did not deliver as well as I thought it could have. I am a great fan of Timbaland’s rhythmic and percussion heavy production and I thought he would really take a track with Joyner to the next level but whilst being a good song it was unfortunately for me not as special as it could have been.
The title track ADHD also features in the latter stages of the album and was a very refreshing listen. Besides the skits Joyner had not really addressed ADHD much at all aside from a few mentions and a line in the chorus of ISIS. Considering it was the title I assumed it may be more of a feature on this album, so I was relieved when this track addressed my concern. Joyner takes the opportunity to document some of his struggles with the condition and does so with such affect that I ended up hanging from his every word by the end. Where as rappers often get accused of being too trivial or talking too much about drugs and money, it is always great to hear a song that pushes into some real experiences and issues. The production also makes this a very good song, the melody is catchy and is perfectly complimented by the beat. The verse is also well delivered, it actually reminds me a lot of xxxtentacion’s Sad!. One thing that has impressed me throughout the album is Joyner’s tone, he is able to really convey certain emotions or feels on a song using his style of voice, whether this is anger, pain or a more relaxed feel, and the much more reflective tone in this song really accentuates the lyrics he is delivering.
The album then closes off with two songs, Will and Broke and Stupid. These are both songs of a similar vein, catchy and entertaining, not to be taken too seriously. Will is particularly clever and despite being more of a fun track does actually have a powerful underlying message about idols, and how we should try and show our appreciation for them while they are still around, as Joyner is for Will Smith here. The track also shows off Joyner’s lyrical ability more than most other songs in the album; his aptitude to steer a rap of a completely different subject to include references to Will Smith and his career throughout is really impressive, and whilst the listener probably doesn’t take it too seriously, there is a lot of skill on display. Broke and Stupid is probably for me the perfect way to end the album, it works as almost a wind down to end on a song that is just simple and catchy rally gives a nice vibe for the final track.
I have to say I absolutely loved the album, song after song it kept me interested. Joyner showcases his versatility and ability perfectly with a good mix of upbeat hype like tracks, chilled out R&B type tunes as well as some more serious and intense lyrics. The only slight disappointment for me was the Timbaland feature maybe not having been as amazing as I thought. However, on any other album this would be a great song, maybe even a highlight, the only reason it is even slightly disappointing on this album is that when every song is 100%, the song that is 95% appears the runt of an exceptional litter.
I have to also give credit to the production and architecture on ADHD, each song is presented with a new catchy hook and the beats are perfect. The faster tracks are really driven by a powerful drums and bone shaking bass lines, it’s hard not to get lost in the sheer force that pushes the music on, but then when it comes to a slower track the much more laid back and relaxed beats makes for an atmospheric vibe wherein you just want to kick your feet up and enjoy. The beats also compliment the lyrics of each individual song perfectly, being aggressive when they need to be, but equally being much more relaxed and simplistic when it suits. As mentioned before, the beat in Devil’s Work encapsulates this the best, it manages to maintain an angry, up tempo feel that pushes an urgency throughout the track, but it does so in such a subtle and minimalistic manner that you barely notice it, you are purely lost in the preaching of Joyner, and it works so well. In terms of the architecture too, the album is ordered beautifully. The opening skit creates a dark and unnerving atmosphere, before two hard hitting hype songs smash through it, this is followed by an interlude of slower songs for us to catch our breath, and just as we are beginning to get comfortable we get introduced to Devil’s Work, strapping us in for the second half. A similar pattern is followed in the latter stages of the album, with stages of fast and slow, ups and downs broken up by more skits. The whole things feels like an amazing journey to listen to, and then to end it with two fun and catchy tunes leaves you with a smile on your face. I take no hesitation in saying that this album is by far the best new released rap album in the last five years, possibly even ten, and a real tribute to the skillset of Joyner Lucas.
Read another of David's articles here
Originally published in The Cherwell
In these days of self-isolation and social distancing, we find ourselves with a lot of time to look inwards. But no matter how much introspection you get done, one thing’s for sure - Ruthie Collins is way ahead of you. On her sophomore album, Cold Comfort, she shows incredible self-awareness, guiding the listener through a tumultuous tunnel of guilt, grief and heartbreak, before courageously emerging out the other side.
The album opens with ‘Joshua Tree’, a movingly poetic tale of setting your demons free under the light “where a million stars catch fire to the sky”. It plays like a bottle of Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey, with Collins’ soothing, sugary vocals washing warmly over you, before the kick of emotional rawness reminds you that this isn’t a child’s drink. The line, “Will you say my name like hallelujah, love me like you're free”, hints at the underlying tension, and we soon realise this is a song about a lost loved one. The accompanying video fills in the gaps, with Collins being haunted by flashbacks of her partner’s battle with substance abuse, before it reaches its tragic denouement. The song is inspired by Country legend Gram Parson’s death at the Joshua Tree Inn.
‘Untold’ carries the same gravitas, as Collins pulls you hypnotically along the winding road of “a love story untold”, the track building with every twang of the electric guitar to a bittersweet crescendo. She lets loose on the titular ‘Cold Comfort’, with a punchy, high-energy beat and a compelling hook. She tries to rationalise her pain, reassuring herself that it will only get better with time, before conceding that this is only a ‘cold comfort’.
The battle between head and heart is a persistent theme, particularly on ‘Bad Woman’, Collins’ recently released single. She grapples with her temptation to pursue a taken man, and playfully wonders whether life would be easier is she could just leave her conscience behind and do what she wants. Collins finds herself stuck in another moral quandary on ‘Cheater’. She begins to have feelings for a new man, and while her ex is no longer a part of the picture, she still finds herself feeling as if she’s cheating on him. Collins repeats the word ‘Cheater’ over and over again, as if we are hearing the voice in her head incessantly taunting her.
Cold Comfort is a tangled, thorny bouquet of roses, the sweet scents and elegance being constantly countered by the anguish lying beneath. Every song has a sombre tinge, and this makes for a captivating listen. Given the testing times we are in, my initial reaction was to wish Collins had included a few shafts of light to break up the clouds of darkness that hang ominously over her new album.
I would still say some moments of uplifting levity wouldn’t go amiss, just to show Collins’ versatility as an artist. However, the more you listen, the more you realise that the tone of this album isn’t one of torment or pain, despite its subject matter. It’s overwhelmingly peaceful and easy to listen to, and this takes me back to the point about Collins’ self-awareness. She may be documenting tragedy, but we hear her voice coming from a place of acceptance, and despite the flashes of agony that pervade Cold Comfort, the feeling the album imparts on the listener is one of serenity.
Collins’ warm, laid-back voice coupled with her vintage-chic aesthetic gives her an appealing uniqueness, and it feels as though she is heading for the country charts in her own lane. She draws inspiration from the likes of Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris, and the poignance she gives to every line, ever image, and every melody underlines her dedication to the history and craft of Country music. If you’re going to be a Country star, you have to be able to tell a good story. On Cold Comfort, Collins pieces together a richly detailed and deeply moving tapestry of tragedy, vulnerability, and, despite it all, strength - leaving listeners with a renewed sense of determination to tackle the unprecedented challenges facing us today.
Ruthie Collins’ album Cold Comfort, featuring the brand new single ‘Bad Woman’, is out now on all platforms.
Originally published in The Cherwell
US Country singer-songwriter Chase Rice has gone Platinum multiple times, co-written a Diamond-certified hit, and last year reached No. 1 with his single ‘Eyes On You’. Off the back of his latest project, The Album Pt. 1, he tells Maxim Mower why he feels like he’s just getting started…
Hi Chase! Thanks so much for taking the time out to chat today. So, I think it’s fair to say you haven’t gone down the traditional route to becoming a chart-topping Country artist. You’ve been a football linebacker, a NASCAR pit crew member, and a reality TV star. Did you always know in your heart you wanted to be a Country singer-songwriter, or was it a passion you discovered over time?
No, not at all - it was definitely discovered. I was 21 when I learnt to play the guitar. I remember my college roommate saying I should be a Country singer, and it felt like he’d just told me to be an astronaut! That’s how far from reality it felt. I wrote my first song in 2008 after my dad died, and I really enjoyed the process of it. It still wasn’t a focus, I just enjoyed doing it. Then in 2012, I’m one of the writers on Florida Georgia Line’s ‘Cruise', and it was then that I realised it's something I’m pretty good at, and something I could make money doing. It’s evolved a lot, and I’ve become a much better writer, producer and singer. It feels like The Album Pt. 1 is the beginning of my career, which sounds crazy because I’ve been doing this for ten years!
You mentioned your co-write on the smash hit ‘Cruise’ - a historic 24-week No. 1, and one of the best selling Country songs of the 2010s - and this came very early on in your career. Did this instant success spur you on in your songwriting, or did it add a whole lot of pressure to try and recreate the success of ‘Cruise’?
It was definitely before my time of really earning it. I was coming off ‘Cruise’ into ‘Ready Set Roll’ [Chase’s 2014 hit single], and I was thrown into a fire that I didn’t know how to handle. I didn’t enjoy it, and I didn’t appreciate it for what it was. I remember talking to Garth Brooks, and I said out loud, 'Music is the easiest thing I’ve ever done', and it was, it was so easy. But then everyone at my label got fired, I left the label, got re-signed, and that brought me back down to reality. It’s made me work my ass off so much harder, but the product is so much better because of it.
Talking of Country legend Garth Brooks, you recently opened up for him in front of over 70,000 fans in Detroit, and I read that the first concert you ever went to as a child was a Garth Brooks concert. What do you think baby Chase Rice would have said at that concert, if you’d told him he’d one day be up on that stage opening for Garth?
Nah, he wouldn’t have believed it! And that’s why I think this time around the success that’s happened, this success compared to the ‘Ready Set Roll’ days, it’s so much more fun because I can sit back and enjoy it. But now this time it’s deserved, we’ve earned it. We’re at a place now where we belong. Whether it’s our crowd or not, we’re going to make sure to bust our ass to make sure it is our crowd next time around. I never expected it as a kid, but it’s cool to be in a place where Garth is not just a mentor, and obviously a huge inspiration for me, because now this is a guy that I actually work with and make music with. To work with a guy like him, that’s earned, and I’m appreciative of this opportunity.
In your latest music video for ‘Lonely If You Are’, you and your band get replaced by childhood ‘mini-me’ versions. You’re at the top of the Country game right now, and there’s going to be a lot of people looking up to you. As a role model, what’s the main message you want to get across through your music to young Country fans across the world?
For every song I put out, that it's me, and I’m not trying to be anyone else or another artist. That’s the best place to be at, when you finally realise ‘this is what I do best’, and you just try and own it. Another artist does what they do way better than I ever would, but nobody else can be me, and I’m just owning what I’m putting out and enjoying where I am with the music. That’s what I’d say to anyone getting into this - figure out the music you want to make, and be the best you can be.
What made you want to release The Album in parts, and how many parts can we expect?
That’s a good question. To me it’s the way people consume music these days - some people buy it, some stream it, some only listen to singles and not albums. I feel like giving less music more often gives the songs more of an opportunity to have the life they deserve. If you drop fifteen at one time, you just choose three or four to listen to and never hear the rest. But with only seven at once, you have the opportunity to listen to all of them. I’m not just releasing a single or two with five fillers, either - I wanted every song to be worthy of a single. That’s a big focus for me for The Album Pt. 2, and we’ve all just been talking about it right now. It’ll probably drop around April or May, and it’ll probably be less than seven songs. But it’ll be the same in that I want every one to be good enough to be a single. And to answer your second question, I don’t know when it’ll stop. There could be three, four, maybe even seven parts!
You’ve said that you feel The Album Pt. 1 is your best body of work to date. What makes this album particularly special for you?
I just think the singing, the production, and the writing is much better. Music is my life right now, and it wasn’t always a priority. At first, I enjoyed the partying aspect of it to be honest, and now that’s not my focus at all - my focus is on the music. I’m focussing hard on making the best music I’ve ever made, and I think that really shows on The Album Pt. 1. I think ‘Eyes On You’ kicked it off, and that could’ve easily been on Pt. 1. Also songs like ‘Forever To Go’ and ‘Messy’, they really encapsulate who I am as an artist.
There are a lot of different genres and styles infused into the mix on this project. ‘Everywhere’, for example, wouldn’t sound out of place on an Imagine Dragons record. When making an album, is it always a goal of yours to try and surprise people and explore different sounds?
I definitely want to explore different sounds, but I don’t really try to make it a point to surprise people, as that would make it different for me. Every song needs to have its own identity. For example, ‘Saved Me’ and ‘Lions’ [from 2017 album Lambs & Lions] are two completely different songs, but they’re still me. ‘Messy’ and ‘Everywhere’ are completely different, but again they’re still me. I love exploring these different sounds, and they don’t need to all sound the same.
I read somewhere that the entire album is about one person. Do you ever get nervous when you’re about to release quite personal songs about an ex, about how they’re going to take it?
Yeah, that’s the tough part. I do this for a living, but she doesn’t have a way to defend herself, and I’m mindful of that. I’m not going to say too much that she wouldn’t want people to know. She’s heard it, and I’ve talked to her since, and she’s good with everything. You want to be real, but not throw her under the bus.
You recently toured around the UK, and you take a keen interest in UK culture, more-so than most other US Country artists. You’re a big Manchester City fan, for example, and your song 25 Wexford Street is all about Dublin. What is it that draws you to the UK?
I think it’s just how you guys have taken me in with open arms. The first time I played there, we pretty much sold out every show, and it was just me and a guitar. We decided to go there before Country2Country [Europe’s biggest Country music festival] had started up, to build our own foundations, before I brought the band over. We built from the ground up, and you guys have treated me so well from the beginning. It’s like I’m coming home every time I go over there, I could even see myself coming over there and writing. I just love the people, and that’s why I put out 25 Wexford Street, and did a UK version of ‘On Tonight’ [from Lambs & Lions], because that’s how the crowd in London sang it. You guys have been amazing to me.
You’re known for your anthems, and these translate especially well to live performances. How big a part do the live shows play in your mind when you’re creating an album?
Yeah it’s huge, because our live shows have been the day one thing for us, before we ever had anything mainstream. Whether it was media, articles, radio play - before we had anything, we had a live show. I want the songs to help us keep the energy of the live show. But that doesn’t always mean high energy, for example ‘Forever To Go’ is just me and a guitar. I always want to pay respect to our live shows, and right now I do feel like we’re missing something from the setlist, so I’m going to make sure there’s a real high energy song on Pt. 2.
Which other artists are inspiring you right now?
That’s a great question! It’s funny you mentioned Imagine Dragons earlier, because I listened to them this morning. I respect the hell out of Eric Church for being who he is, I’ve always respected and loved his music. I listen to a lot of Garth Brooks, and hearing some live recordings of his stuff is definitely inspiring. I just did an acoustic thing with Kyle Cook from Matchbox Twenty, he’s created a sound that hasn’t been done before, and they’ve paved their own path. I’m all over the map, I love so many different artists.
I saw on Instagram you hit up Ed Sheeran asking for a potential collab. Has he come through yet, and could this be something to look forward to on The Album Pt. 2…?
I think it would be too soon for Pt. 2 to be honest, but I hope it’ll happen soon! I got to hang with him at the O2 - he’s obviously on top of the world, and I’d love to write a song with him and sing it together. I would definitely say it’s a possibility for the future.
Music is such a special medium through which artists can really help listeners when they’re going through something. If you could pick just one song that you’d want listeners to pay especially close attention to, the lyrics of which you feel can help people the most, which song would it be?
There’s a lot. ‘Eyes On You’ is probably my favourite to play loud because of the crowds. But if I could only sing one more song, it would be ‘Jack Daniel’s and Jesus’ [from 2014 album Ignite the Night]. That for me is a real song, it has a great story and lesson behind it. It’s probably one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written.
Are you planning on returning to play in the UK anytime soon?
100% - that’s a given. We’ll be coming back bigger and better with our live show, and I want to work our way into arenas. And we’ll hopefully be bringing Pt. 2 and maybe even Pt. 3 over with us!
Chase Rice’s latest project, The Album Pt. 1, is out now on all streaming services. Check out his music video for ‘Lonely If You Are’ here.
Originally published at phasermagazine.com
HARDY started out as a songwriter for some of the biggest names in Country music, before stepping into his own spotlight with his recent Hixtape Vol. 1 project. Having scored four number one hits as a writer, and with his debut single ‘REDNECKER’ tallying over 113 million streams to date, he is one of Country’s hottest prospects. Maxim Mower sat down to talk to him about the songwriting process, small town life, and his upcoming tour.
Thank you for taking the time out to talk today! Firstly, I wanted to ask you a little bit about the concept behind your star-studded Hixtape Vol. 1. You have 17 features on the 10-track record, and having lots of guest spots is generally something more associated with Hip Hop/Rap music, as is the Mixtape form as a whole. What was the thinking behind this?
You kinda nailed it. I’m a fan of Hip Hop and I like the way they do that, it’s seems more carefree. I don’t know, man, it’s just a combo of that and me wanting to do something that no-one has done in a long time in Country music. I have a lot of friends that I’ve wanted to do a project with, and it’s generally just me and my buddies on there. I was sitting on a pile of songs, and I didn’t know who was gonna sing them. For the most part people on it are people I’ve written with and worked with in the past, and it just came together like a dream. I really wanted to do something different, so we just kinda went for it!
There’s been an increase in genre-blurring over the past decade, particularly involving Country music, with FGL doing the pop crossover ‘Meant To Be’ with Bebe Rexha, Zac Brown Band doing ‘Broken Arrows’ with Avicii, and of course, ‘Old Town Road’. There are tinges of Rock, Hip Hop, and R&B in your music. Do you think this genre-blurring is something that we will see more of in the 2020s, and will we even have genres by 2030?
Yeah I definitely do think we’ll see more of that, and that’s interesting to say we won’t really have genres, because I think Country is such a huge, wide format. It is very interesting that a Country song today could have been a Pop hit five years ago. The idea of a ‘genre’ in general is so subjective, which I think is totally fun and totally cool. I can’t predict the future but I definitely think more collaborations will come, and I look forward to it! As a songwriter, I see a lot of LA writers coming over to write with Nashville writers, because we have a gift with lyrics that you don’t really hear in different genres.
You can tell a project is special when the first time you listen to it, you think ‘This song is definitely my favourite’, and then the next time you hear it you think ‘No, actually this song is my favourite’, and each time you hear it you fall in love with another one of the tracks. Do you have a personal favourite off the Hixtape?
I like ‘Boy from the South’, ‘My Kinda Livin’’, ‘Turn You Down’, I like 'He Went to Jared’…I don’t know, its hard man! It’s hard to pick. Right now my favourite to perform is ‘Boy from the South’, we open the show on tour with that one.
‘One Beer’ is interesting because it goes from this scary, daunting thing happening in an unplanned pregnancy, but ends up on a note of gratitude and happiness that life turned out the way it did. Is the story based on a real life event?
No, it wasn’t based on a real life event. I just had this idea and I’ve had the title ‘One Beer’ for a really long time, and I just thought it would be cool to write a song about how one beer can literally end up changing someone’s life. I woke up one day with that melody in my head and the whole first line of the chorus. I sat down with my collaborators and I said, 'I have to get this out right now’. I feel like ‘One Beer’ sounds like such a generic Country title, but it was nice to give it a deeper meaning.
On songs like ‘Nothin’ Out Here’, you sing about how outsiders will see a small town and think it’s so quiet and there’s so few people, that it must be boring to live there - and being from the countryside myself I’m quite familiar with that assumption! With the tone of ‘Nothin’ Out Here’, and I think this is shared across many Country songs, do you ever feel like you often find yourself having to defend the country lifestyle and the beauty of small town life?
Yeah, I think so. In this fast paced world, that’s something that’s overlooked and shamed for maybe being behind the times and ignorant. For some reason I just feel like country people and that way of life doesn’t really fit the format of the rest of the world, and it’s definitely not praised in today’s society, and I think that it should be. If you live that life you should be very proud of it, and I say that in the song you mentioned - we’re making something out of nothing out here. These people don’t really have anything, but they develop an entire life out of very little.
Your discography has a great mix of laid-back anthems and deeper cuts, such as ‘One Beer’ and ‘Signed, Sober You’. Do you prefer writing the more light-hearted songs, such as ‘Redneck Tendencies’, or are the deeper ones more satisfying to create?
It’s tough man, I like them both. I love writing a big old light-hearted song that just feels good, but the songwriter in me loves to write a sad-ass song that makes you really feel something. I think there’s a skill level required, because it’s kinda hard to write both. With a light-hearted song, it’s hard to say nothing but still make somebody feel something, and on the other hand, it’s hard to write a song that’ll make someone cry.
I’d be really interested to learn more about the creative process behind writing for other artists, having written for Country heavyweights such as Florida Georgia Line, Blake Shelton and Morgan Wallen. Do you sit down and start writing a song with a particular artist in mind, or do you just write something you like and then see who takes it?
I’ve never liked to try to write for a specific artist, unless I’m in the room with that artist, just because it puts me in a creative box. You could have a great line and think, ‘well, that person would never sing that’. I just wanna write the best song. Me and Morgan [Wallen], we just write and we both wanna make the best song. If I’m in the room with Blake Shelton or Luke Bryan, I’m gonna try to stick to their language.
Of course, songwriting usually entails a collaborative effort from a handful of artists. What aspect is your speciality, is it the lyrics, the melody, the composition, or does everyone involved tend to work on each aspect of the song?
Usually in Nashville these days you have a producer-writer in the room handling the composition, and they come in either with some stuff already prepared, or they quickly catch on to someone playing around on a guitar, and then work on that. In Nashville, the lyrics and melody come at the same time. I’d say ‘what if the line went like this’, and I’d sing it. Very few people these days do just one or the other. But producer-writers do streamline the process of songs getting recorded, and by the end of the studio session, you end up having a song that sounds like it will on the radio. I’m all for it!
You’ve penned a number of smash hit songs, such as FGL’s ‘Simple’, Wallen’s ‘Up Down', and more recently Blake’s ‘God’s Country’, to name just a few. What’s your favourite song that you’ve written for someone else?
I think probably ‘Up Down' would be my favourite. I love ‘God’s Country’, and to be honest man and it’s probably gonna make me more money than any other song in my career, and I’m grateful for that. But ‘Up Down’ was a big Country hit, it was my first number one, my first real single, and Morgan is one of my best friends in the whole world. So I think because of the story behind it, and the sentimental value, that one’s always gonna be one of my favourites.
You’re about to embark on another massive tour with Thomas Rhett, who’s featured on Hixtape. Are you planning on coming out to the UK to perform anytime soon? We’d sure love to see you out here!
I don’t know if I’m gonna be there with Thomas Rhett, but I’m hearing rumours that I’ll be coming out there. I haven’t confirmed anything yet, but there are rumblings that it might be happening soon!
Finally, often artists will be going through something, and they pen lyrics that can really help the listeners who are going through that same struggle, but perhaps shed new light on it or shift the perspective in a really helpful way. I actually featured on my blog one of the songs you wrote for FGL, ‘People Are Different’, which I love because it’s all about unity and not judging people. Which of the lyrics in either this song, or any of the songs that you’ve written, would you say you would want listeners to pay especially close attention to, that you feel can help people the most?
Man, 'People Are Different’ is a good one dude. That’s a song that I wish the world had gotten to hear, and I wish it had been introduced to the world as a single. ‘Signed, Sober You’, man, I’ve had a lot of people send me messages on social media and say that that song has helped them get through a break-up. That song gives hope to people, and I would want everybody to hear it because I know for a fact that it helps people. That’s the main reason I do this, to give people hope. Even 'One Beer' too, it’s something that you think is a big mistake, but it turns out to be a wonderful blessing.
Stream HARDY’s Hixtape Vol. 1, featuring the likes of Thomas Rhett, Keith Urban, Morgan Wallen and Dustin Lynch, on all platforms.
Say what you want about Drake - that he’s too commercial, that he sings too much, that he’s a terrible dancer (Hotline Bling, anyone?). These might well be true. But one thing that can’t be taken away from Drake is his unmatchable ability to coin a soundbite. He’s the figurehead for the Instagram generation, with his lyrics providing influencers with a reel of perfect and pithy captions for their next post.
Some of the Toronto hitmaker’s slogans stop you in your tracks and make you think, while others fire you up and have you puffing out your chest. But we’re not focussing on either of these. We’re looking at the hilarious, and sometimes downright bonkers, quotes that Drake manages to slip into an otherwise hard-hitting rap song.
Most rappers would be ridiculed for not taking their verses seriously enough, but with Drake the comedy and self-deprecation are all part of his persona. There’s a reason he’s one of the most meme-able and quotable artists out there. But does he care? If anything, he loves it, and he clearly plays on this. He even got Shiggy, the dancer that made his ‘In My Feelings’ track go viral, to star in the official music video.
Whatever the motives behind Drake’s willingness to send himself up, we’re the ones that get to benefit from the abundance of hilarious quotes he provides us with. Having scoured every nook and cranny of Drake’s discography, here’s a curated selection of the best ten lyrics that are bound to make you smile, chuckle or maybe even laugh out loud...
“I touched down in ’86, knew I was the man by the age of six” - All Me
The way Drake keeps breaking record after record, maybe it always has been written in the stars for him to hit these kind of heights. But since he was six? Heck, at that age I was still figuring out how to run without falling flat on my face, let alone mapping out my life plan.
What’s great about Drake, is that he flexes with a twinkle in his eye. It never feels overly serious, and there’s always a sense that he’s rapping tongue-in-cheek (although practically, as a technique, that’s bound to cause problems…).
This track was on Drake’s 2013 album, ‘Nothing Was the Same’, and features 2 Chainz and Big Sean. Fun fact: Big Sean is actually of average height.
“My Mount Rushmore is me with four different expressions” - Survival
What make this so funny in my opinion, is that you can literally imagine Drake posing for the Rushmore architectural photoshoot, and doing a different face for each shot. Serious, pensive, smiling, shocked. It’s just so Drake.
Once again, self-confidence, braggadocio, and a heavy dose of ego - but delivered with a charming smile.
‘Survival’ opens Drake’s 2018 ‘Scorpion’ album, and is full of ominous warnings to all his competitors, such as “I ain’t even have to cut the tie, it severed itself”. This gravity makes the light-hearted Mount Rushmore comment stand out even more, and epitomises the two sides of Drake’s persona.
"Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake? You know I love to go there” - Child’s Play
It’s nice to see Drake is a man with his priorities in order. Yes, his relationship is crumbling. Yes, he’s fighting with his girl. But what’s he most worried about? Ruining his chances of being able to go back to his favourite restaurant.
He delivers this line with the indignant petulance of a baby who’s just had his beloved sweet ripped from his hand. But lesson learnt - don’t come between a hungry Drake and his Cheesecake. Hey, that rhymes, maybe I should be the rapper here…
‘Child’s Play’ has one of Drake’s most famous music videos, and that’s no mean feat considering how viral the visuals for ‘Hotline Bling’ and ‘In My Feelings’ went. ‘Child’s Play’ begins with Drake having an argument with Tyra Banks, who plays his girlfriend, in the Cheesecake Factory that the song famously references.
Why did the video become so well-known? Because it involves Tyra throwing a whole cake into Drake’s face. As they were beefing at the time, you can almost hear fellow rapper Meek Mill laughing with glee in the background…
“Only begging that I do is begging your pardon” - Is There More?
It’s cheeky wordplay enshrouding an equally cheeky flex, but I love it. This is definitely one for any of you looking for your next Instagram caption.
Again, I don’t know if it’s just because he used to be an actor, or if it’s because of how expressive he is in his music videos, but I can picture Drake’s face when he says this. Offended, but also kind of loving the chance to use one of his snappiest witticisms.
‘Is There More?’ is another track from ‘Scorpion’, and like ‘Survival’ is full of dark musings and intense introspection. You could be forgiven, on the basis of this song, for thinking that Drake has started to take himself too seriously. But fear not, the most memed song of 2018, ‘In My Feelings’, follows swiftly on the ‘Scorpion’ tracklist to reassure you that all is still fun and light-hearted in the Drake camp.
“Hey y’all get some more drinks goin’ on, I’ll sound a whole lot better” - Passionfruit
In my view, Drake is at his best when he is self-deprecating. It is the antithesis of everything that rap stands for, and that’s why it works so well. He perfects this in Chris Brown’s recent video for ‘No Guidance’, where the two recreate their infamous club fight in the form of a dance battle.
Chris Brown dazzles with his dancing, before Drake comes out with an embarrassing array of moves, and his entourage ditches him. But it’s great that he’s willing to send himself up, and not take himself too seriously - the music industry could do with a bit more of that.
‘Passionfruit’ was one of the best performing singles from Drake’s 2017 ‘More Life’ project, and covers familiar territory for the rapper in that it’s about struggling to find trust in a relationship, especially a long-distance one. Despite this, the tropical beat gives the song an uplifting atmosphere, underlining Drake’s ability to turn a sad song into a smash hit.
“Got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum” - Pop Style
Pop Culture reference? Check. Play on words? Check. Humour aplenty? Triple check.
I’d love to know if anyone actually calls Drake ‘Chaining Tatum’. And if they didn’t before, I really hope they do after this lyric. On another note, anyone wondering if a collaboration with the real Channing Tatum’s partner, Jessie J, would ever be on the cards for Drake?
Mmm, probably not. I’d imagine Drake’s too concerned with his designer Price Tags for her liking…
‘Pop Style’ stirred up a lot of controversy, because it initially featured Hip Hop royalty, The Throne, aka Kanye West and JAY-Z. However, when the album ‘Views’ dropped in 2016, ‘Pop Style’ was on it, but Kanye and Jay’s verses had been axed. Drake played it off as a simple artistic choice by him, with no bad blood involved. But considering him and Kanye have now gone from friendly Calabasas neighbours to mortal enemies, one can’t help but think there was more to it than meets the eye…
“Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour?” - Back to Back
‘Back to Back’ was the famous Meek Mill diss that Drake dropped amidst the fiery feud they sparked in 2015. Meek claimed that Drake didn’t write his own lyrics, and Drake responded with ‘Charged Up’, followed swiftly by ‘Back to Back’, in a rapid one-two sucker punch. To be honest, no-one really remembers the disses Meek released.
This lyric is a reference to Meek going on tour with his then-fiancée Nicki Minaj, but only as her support act. She was obviously a lot more famous than him at the time, which is why Drake is taking shots at him for hanging on her coattails. Regardless, Meek and Drake are back on good terms, and they dropped their hit collaboration ‘Going Bad’ last year.
“You be like “who’s this?” I be like “me, girl”, you be like “oh, word, true s**t?”/Then ask if we could listen to Ludacris” - How Bout Now
This is probably my favourite of the list. It’s classic, self-effacing Drake, lamenting his girl troubles. She says she’d rather listen to Ludacris than Drake, the guy she’s dating. Ouch! Poor Drizzy.
His comedic timing is on point once again, with the pause after “oh, word, true s**t” emphasising the hilarity of the situation. It’s one of those lyrics that always makes me laugh, but then I feel bad for laughing after. Although, as Drake breaks yet another Beatles record, something tells me he doesn’t really need a whole lot of sympathy the way he’s bossing the rap game right now.
‘How Bout Now’ was originally part of Drake’s 2015 ‘If you’re reading this its too late’ mixtape, but was recently added to his 2019 ‘Care Package’ album, which serves as a compilation of his best unreleased and bonus tracks.
“Please excuse my table manners, I was making room for the table dancers” - All Me
We all know Drake loves to be up in his feelings, but he also loves a good party. Whether he’s at the strip club, on a yacht, or at a house party, he’ll turn up. But he also seems like the politest strip club customer going, and that just makes us love him even more.
‘All Me’ is one of those songs that didn’t do tremendously well in the charts, but has become a Drake fan favourite, due to its combination of uber-braggadocious lyrics, and the humorous wordplay found in each verse. As mentioned before, it was the final track on his 2013 ‘Nothing Was the Same’ album.
“She says, “You don’t know how good it is to be you ‘cause you’re him”/And I say “Well, goddamn”” - Heat of the Moment
This is actually super deep. Every now and then, Drake drops a particularly perceptive lyric that really hits you, and this underlines his dexterity as a rapper. I feel like it’s true, though. We’re so busy comparing our lives to other people’s, that we often forget to stop and be thankful for what we have in our own lives.
The Toronto megastar manages to inject a dose of humour, though, to add some levity in his response to the girl. I think it’s what most of us say in our heads when we hear this bit of heavy philosophising from him…
‘Heat of the Moment’ is another track off of Drake’s 2019 ‘Care Package compilation album, but was originally released as part of a trio that were meant to be on ‘Views’, but that hackers got to first.
Yours sincerely, but not too seriously,
Read a review of Drake's 'Scorpion' here
I got the chance to ask Erik and Elina, the EDM duo who form UNDRESSD, about the success of their recent single, 'Forever Young', as well as how they met, and what is next in store for the pair. 'Forever Young' is a buoyant, summer anthem, with Elina's hypnotic vocals flowing magically over the twinkling synth bed created by Erik.
Be sure to check it out after reading the interview below...!
You both must be buzzing right now, coming off the back of ‘Forever Young’ surpassing 5 million streams. Did you always feel it was a special song, or did this come as a bit of a shock?
When we finished the track we felt that it was something extra, but we never expected this amount of support. Just a couple of weeks after the release the phone started ringing from record labels all over the world… that was surreal.
Alphaville first recorded ‘Forever Young’ in 1984. What made you decide to cover it?
We both really love the original. It holds such beautiful melodies and lyrics. We were on a road trip when the radio played the original, and the idea popped up and we spent the night in the studio jamming and trying some ideas.
How did you guys meet, and when did you decide to start making music together?
Well… we met on Tinder, haha. Erik is more of a pop-producer and Elina more of an indie-singer-songwriter. But we were actually dating for about half a year before we realized we both should do something together. After going to the cinema and watching a movie about a famous Swedish artist, we decided to do a cover from that soundtrack. That was the start of our project.
What’s the meaning behind the name ‘UNDRESSD’?
Wish we had a good answer to this one, but we don’t! We just really needed a name for our first release, and this name just popped up.
Does the success of ‘Forever Young’ add pressure to your next release, as people will be waiting on it more expectantly than ever, or does ‘Forever Young’s success just add fuel to your fire?
It’s always hard to do a follow up to a successful song. We really want the next song to be as good as this one, if not better. But overall we just feel super excited to create more songs after this response. At the moment we’re just trying to enjoy the success of this release.
What can we expect next from UNDRESSD? Is there an album in the works?
We really like this cover game, and you can expect more songs soon. At this moment we don’t plan an album, but who knows what the future holds...!
I really love your other two singles, which are entirely in Swedish. Will there be more songs in Swedish in future, or will most from now on be in English?
Oh, thank you! We will definitely release more Swedish covers. It feels so inspiring to hear comments like ”don’t know what your singing but I’m loving it”.
Which software do you use to produce your tracks, and how long did it take to create ‘Forever Young’?
We work in Logic X. We really like how fast the workflow is there. This was a song that we turned from an idea to a solid demo in just a day, but we polished the track for a couple of weeks. We co-produced the final touch with a friend of ours, Adel Dahdal.
EDM is for many people the sound of the future, with the way it combines an electric sound with soothing melodies. What draws you to EDM as a genre in particular?
We love how EDM nowadays lets you blend organic and electronic elements. I don’t know if you can hear it in the final production, but it’s basically made of electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, a piano and even a live bass. Adding some electronic elements to that gives you that pumpy feeling.
I have a section on my blog called ‘Self-Help Songs’, where I analyse a particular song’s lyrics and see what lessons we can gain from it. What lyric would you pick out from ‘Forever Young’, or one of your other singles, that you really feel can help the listener the most?
We really love the opening of Forever Young:
Let’s dance in style
Interview by Maxim Mower
Stream UNDRESSD's hit single, 'Forever Young', on all platforms
Hello! I'm currently studying Philosophy & Theology at Oxford University, UK. Having always loved writing and music in equal measure, and having always hated decision-making, I figured hey, why do I need to choose between the two?