After first encountering Ady Suleiman perform a BBC Introducing set at KOKO a couple of months back, Josie Durney was left keen to find out more about this exciting singer songwriter. She interviewed Ady in a tiny side room before his sell out show at XOYO. They chatted about the joy of songwriting and being allowed to cry.
What do you find most challenging about being a singer-songwriter?
I think what I find challenging is that this is my hobby and my joy and it’s so natural and something I will always do in my life. When you’re in something that you love and there’s no stress, and you didn’t really think about it making you money, then you can just do whatever you want to do. As soon as you’ve got people investing loads of money into you and that in mind that’s what’s putting a roof over your head…that’s difficult to do that.
One, because you get a certain amount of pressure but also sometimes you do shit that you don’t want to do, but then it’s annoying because it’s your love. So sometimes it can take the enjoyment out of it. It’s a very small price to pay for all the other bits…It’s your morals and values, but they change when that’s what you live off because sometimes you have to swallow your pride, so that’s probably the hardest thing, balancing that.
How has your improvised stuff influenced the way you write your normal songs?
I improvise everything before I write it, so I usually just jam on my guitar and sing random stuff. Every time I pick up the guitar to play I always record it and if anything sounds good I always listen back to it and then from that I’ll start writing a song. Improv’s so important to me and probably the time I feel most free within music, because it’s just completely natural, everything you do is on the spot.
I usually sing when I’m talking to the crowd and come up with melodies as I’m talking. I did a really sick one this tour but I can’t remember it, but it’s fun each time trying to do something different.
In your music there’s always a kind of distance from society, not untrusting, but like inner…
I guess it’s kind of sceptical. I think in my songs I just try to go through the motions of what it’s like to be a human being growing up, because a lot of us all experience really similar things. I think in my music it’s just like social commentary, what era I’m born in and what’s going on around me. Even in ‘Ain’t the Beep’ [from his latest EP] on the surface of it the lyrics are semi-lazy saying like slut, slag. The concept you can be like it’s not that great, but if you look it at I think it says a lot about our generation: that we’re in a time now when there’s probably still an imbalance in gender equality. And it’s alright for a man to go out and sleep around and with a woman it’s not.
In ‘Don’t Need You’ you talk about boys can’t cry as well…
That’s another one again about society and the pressures of perception, and whether people live up to what they’re supposed to be. And if they’re not that they’re so scared that they are then lying to themselves. It takes a while to come into your own skin and realise who you are. Men can’t talk about their feelings and they keep it in and they start fucking shit up. I’ve experienced that and I shouldn’t be feeling like this because I’m a lad, but then at the same time well fuck that. That’s bullshit. So it’s important to say that stuff because there’s loads of dudes that feel the same shit. I guess I’d like to do more of that in my music.
Can you quickly, 30 seconds, summarise what this album might be?
My debut album is going to be a load of songs discussing my life up and to this point, coming from a small town, and coming into a man from the age of like 16-20, every song that I’ve written is in contention for this album. It’s going to blend reggae, blues, soul, jazz, hip-hop, and the lyrics are going to have a message behind it, and my voice is you know deffo going to spread some kind of emotion…how long have I got left?
There you go, wicked.