We caught up with Ady Suleiman after his gig for the Coffee House Sessions Tour!
The Coffee House Sessions are a series of live acoustic and semi-acoustic performances from some of the UK’s hottest singer song-writers and acoustic musicians.
Join us every Wednesday in the Terrace bar to see newly signed artists perform live for free!
Last year we were joined by the likes of Seafret and Hudson Taylor to name a few…
How has the tour been so far?
Yeah so far the tour has been great. We’ve done a lot of shows so it’s been pretty hectic – two or three shows a day. We’ve done a lot of places in the south so we’re doing the north now and so far so good. I think the thing I’ve enjoyed the most about it is probably the interaction with people after the shows because usually when you do a gig in a venue you disappear off backstage. You don’t always get that direct feedback and interaction with the fans so it’s been great on this tour as you come off stage and they’re all there. It’s been good.
Do you prefer the more intimate shows where you’re more in it with the fans or prefer the bigger stages?
They both have their advantages and disadvantages. I love them both, I can’t choose between them because they’re so different. The reason I like the small shows is because I actually find those a lot harder because when you’re on a big stage you can kind of hide behind the audience and address the audience as a whole. Whereas on smaller ones you can see literally everyone and there’s more specific people so I definitely find the smaller ones harder. At the same time, when they go well they’re amazing. On small shows you tend to get silence so you can really hear the music and I really work on my vocals. On the larger shows, it’s a lot more trying to get everyone involved and I think there’s always going to be talking. They’re different but equally as fun.
Going right back to the start, what made you decide to do music?
There were a few factors that made me take this route. One was, I was a footballer before for Nottingham Forest grassroots, and I wanted to quit that because I couldn’t deal with the pressure. It was too serious. My parents said I needed an excuse, I couldn’t just quit, so I said “I’m going to do music”. At the time it was the second thing I enjoyed doing. So I quit football to start doing music and I guess because I’d done that I started making myself have an interest in music. I discovered Jimi Hendrix and as soon as I discovered him, this whole new world opened up to me outside Top of the Pops. I was about twelve at the time. Discovering everything in the Sixties, Led Zeppelin, Queen, all that kind of stuff was a wicked journey and then later on again when I was eighteen, Amy Winehouse. She made me really go for it because she was doing music that was a cross-genre between jazz, hip-hop and a lot of Sixties r&b soul and she was massive. On the radio 24/7. Before her, I can’t remember anyone in my lifetime that was making that kind of music and being that successful. So when I was making similar kind of music, something that wasn’t pop, I never thought that I’d be able to make a career out of it and play on radio and become a success, until I saw Amy Winehouse. I saw it is achievable. That made me go for it.
Your music is quite different to that of, say, Queen or Led Zeppelin, how would you say they influenced you musically?
You know what it was, I’m honestly thinking… you’re completely right. Jimi doesn’t have a direct effect on my music now. But I think what it was, was it was new. When I was twelve, the only music I would hear would be on the radio to school and on Top of the Pops. That’s all I would hear about it. Anything outside of that, I didn’t really know it existed. Especially current music. My friend showed me a track – I think it was a Marilyn Manson track – I was like, why have I not heard this on Top of the Pops? It’s current. I didn’t know other music existed, I was just naive. For a couple of weeks I was into Marilyn Manson and heavy metal, because that was the only thing that I found that was current outside of Top of the Pops. By doing that I really got into the electric guitar. As soon as I got into the guitar I asked my dad about Jimi Hendrix. He bought me the CD, at first I hated it – it was too psychedelic. It wasn’t until I went on holiday and I put a Jimi Hendrix CD in the wrong case and put it in a Will Smith case. I opened it up and Jimi’s inside and I’m annoyed I’ve got to listen to this all holiday and I hate it. I put it on but on that holiday, I don’t know what it was but the penny dropped. On my fourth listen I understood the music and understood the emotion. Because of that, I became obsessed. It was like, imagine you’ve been doing a puzzle for ages and you finally get it and you almost feel clever. It was really weird and because none of my mates liked Jimi, they were the same as me, they didn’t really get it. So I liked that I knew the secret. At a young age I thought I’d got a one-up on all of them and all of the older kids would be like “that’s the kid that listens to Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin!” Because of that, I started doing music and became obsessed with it. It became my thing. It wasn’t football, maths or anything else. Just because of that, it stuck with me and everything else dropped out, academically disappeared. Football, sport disappeared. Acting disappeared, art. Music was the only one that was left. So this must be what I should do.
What inspired your sound specifically then and how did that develop? Has that always been the sound you imagined yourself creating or has it just grown with you?
I think it’s definitely grown with me. It changes, as you get older your taste changes. It’s the same with food, when you’re younger you love horrible stuff. Say you’ve hated tomatoes all your life then suddenly you like them. You’re like… this actually tastes great. It’s very similar with music. When I was very young, I was making very Jimi, rocky kind of stuff, and as I got older I started listening to jazz, blues, reggae, hip-hip, soul, r&b. All of that has led me to where I am now. Now is the only time I’ve started putting out music. Even though I was writing songs before, I’ve only been putting out what is about me now. I think in my music you hear, especially in my voice, a bit of everything. I don’t think it’s explicitly reggae but there’s a slight tang of a soul tone in there that’s not too soulful, it’s got a bit of r&b. It’s a mix of stuff that’s come through everything that I listen to. I think the song really dictates what genre it is. So, if I play a chord sequence like a skank that’s got a reggae feel to it I’m going to go more in that direction. It’s really the song and the voice that puts it in a category. Biggest influence? Amy Winehouse’s vocals are a massive influence. Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Bob Marley, loads of hip-hop heads so a lot of stuff. It’s been a long journey to get to sounding like this.
You’ve got the new EP out, can you tell me a bit about the process behind that? I saw a special collaboration with Joey Bada$$, that’s massive! How did that come about?
The EP came about simply because I’d been writing songs and just wanted to put something out. I released something earlier on in the year and was like, I’m ready to put something else out and keep building momentum. The Joey Basa$$ collaboration, that came about… who knows! Essentially I just asked him. I got some people in my team to reach out and say I wanted Joey on the track, send him the track and see if he wants to do it. He said yes, which is wicked, but there’s a bit of a back story before that happened. I was over in LA working in the same studio as Joey and even though I never met him, he always had his studio session after mine. When I finished he would go in, and I think when he went in the engineer was still tidying up my songs and putting things in and they were still playing. Apparently he went in and said “who is this guy, this is wicked, love to work with him” and all this stuff and the next day I went to the studio session, the engineer told me. I didn’t believe him. It’s America, people exaggerate and tell these stories. So I didn’t believe him and I was flicking through my Twitter and saw him tweet one of my lyrics. Then I said to the engineer to put us in contact with him. Sadly we never met paths in LA, obviously he’s a really busy guy so I never managed to make it happen while I was over there. But as soon as I got back to England and was putting this EP together, the first thing was to see if I could get Joey on it. I got people to chase him down, and eventually we got through to him and he said yeah.
So what’s next for you? Obviously you’ve got a tour coming up… anything release-wise after that?
I’ve got a tour in November, my first headline tour which I’m really excited about. A UK tour. We’re going to Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Nottingham and London.
The London date is sold out as well isn’t it?
Yeah London’s sold out which is an amazing feeling. I’m really happy about that! After that I’m going to be finishing my record, ready for release next year. I want to do a collaborative EP and I’ve got a few people in mind. That’s not solidified yet so I can’t speak too much about it. Otherwise it’ll be like, “Ady’s working with Beyoncé!” I want to put a few more bits out before my album. I don’t necessarily want them to be like singles by myself, I’m really interested in working with other people and to learn a bit more about how other people work and see what’s going on with people in the studio as I’m still very new to it all.