Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1074

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Liam Bailey: Soul pride

Liam Bailey
Liam Bailey Liam Bailey Liam Bailey Liam Bailey

Having spent his early years on a council estate in Beeston, Nottingham before moving with his parents to the more rural environment of the nearby village of Selston, 25-year-old soul singer/songwriter Liam Bailey now interestingly releases his second EP - âSo Down, Coldâ - via world-conquering London songstress Amy Winehouseâs own Lioness Records.

Indeed, having started out performing with his own indie band on the eclectic (where he soaked up the influences of soul, rock and folk), it was nevertheless after moving down to London with his then-girlfriend that Liamâs musical talents eventually came to the attention of , who will be releasing his eagerly-anticipated, self-penned debut LP in 2011.

Prestigiously produced by Miami-based, Grammy-winning Salaam Remi (of Amy Winehouse, Nas and Fugees fame), the album itself - as already mentioned - has nevertheless been preceded by Liamâs first two EPs. Both of which (Septemberâs â2am Rough Tracksâ and this monthâs aforementioned âSo Down, Coldâ) have surfaced courtesy of the high-profile, multi-award-winning Ms. Winehouse. Who, after hearing Baileyâs music through a mutual friend, felt so connected with its stripped-back emotion that she immediately made it her business to contact him with a view to putting it out on her own record-label.

Indeed, having been recorded at night with the emphasis firmly on getting up-close-and-personal with Liam and his guitar, âSo Down, Coldâ further showcases the raw tenderness of the up-and-coming soul manâs unique, searing vocal. With its three tracks - âFool Boyâ; âBreaking Outâ; and âSo Down, Coldâ - blending acoustic lament with heartfelt, emotional storytelling rooted in Baileyâs recent painful split with his girlfriend, which for a while found him alone in London and seeking solace in the bottle. All of which in turn has already led to favourable comparisons with such iconic classic-soul singer/songwriters as Sam Cooke, Terry Callier and Bill Withers.

The product of a white English mother and black British/Jamaican father and sporting a black polo-neck alongside his fine Afro, a highly-talkative and down-to-earth Mr. Bailey (who additionally guests on UK urban hit-makers Chase & Statusâ forthcoming, dub-step-flavoured single âBlind Faithâ) speaks in still-strong Nottingham tones to âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis about his new EP; his relationship with Amy Winehouse; plus his early council estate roots.

Having his first two EPs - â2am Rough Tracksâ and âSo Down, Coldâ - released through Amy Winehouseâs Lioness Records

âWell, she heard about me, she heard my music - and, because she liked it, she asked to meet me⦠And everything kind of went from there! Though I was already signed to Polydor, she wanted to release my first couple of EPâs through Lioness - and so it made sense for us to DO it!â

Liamâs ideas on being dubbed by some critics âthe male version of Amy Winehouseâ

âI donât think itâs accurate at all, but then I guess Iâm EXPECTED to say that! I just think itâs a shame that people canât sing soul any more without being compared to Amy! I mean, sheâs amazing and I do have a lot of respect for her. But our music - though there are a few similarities - is overall quite different, as is our APPROACH to it. You know, we do perform and sing in very different ways! Like Amyâs music has more of Motown beat to it, while mine has a more sombre drive⦠So yeah, I just feel some people need to broaden their minds and imagination sometimes so that they can enjoy and understand the things they see and hear more⦠I mean, to be the male version of Amy Winehouse Iâd need to be white, Jewish, have tattoos and sing jazz/soul melodies! End of!â

His forthcoming debut album, due for release in 2011 through Polydor Records

âItâs definitely soul music with some blues and a lot of very true-to-life lyrics. You know, thereâs no trivia. Like the song âYou Better Leave Meâ is dealing directly with what I was going through with my girlfriend at the time. Where I got paranoid that I couldnât love her because I couldnât love MYSELF any more. And so I found myself playing games to mess around with her emotions. Like going out and not telling her where I was, or turning my phone off to avoid contact with the immediate reality... So yeah, for me this whole album does represent a landmark achievement - in the sense of coming from a council estate in Nottingham to working with the guy who produced The Fugees! Because you know, there were a lot of years spent in Nottingham wondering when my time was EVER gonna come. And so for me to be now working with a guy whose records I grew up listening to is a big deal! Plus Iâm also very happy itâs come at the age Iâm at now, as opposed to when I was 16. Because it means the material is a lot stronger, and thereâs a lot more SOUL in there.â

Working with Amy Winehouse/Fugees/Nas producer Salaam Remi

âI guess Salaam heard about me after I got signed, watched the YouTube clip of me singing âItâs Not The Sameâ, and decided he wanted go get involved. And Iâd definitely say our relationship has been interesting! Because you have to remember, a lotta my songs start out on the acoustic guitar. And when youâre playing acoustically you have your own sort of time signature - you kind of go in and out, and itâs not always in-time. So one thing I feel Salaam did definitely bring out in the music was the BEAT. And I think the fact he managed to retain those really emotional, deep elements the songs had in their original, acoustic form while still giving them that contemporary drive was amazing! You know, that passion is still very much in there. Plus - with me being someone whoâd previously only ever been to Ibiza and Coast Brava with my mum and dad - to fly to Miami and then be singing in the very same booth Lauryn Hill had recorded in was ALSO really special!... Then on a personal level too, I think the mix of Salaam being a very peaceful guy and me being very hyper-active and talkative also worked very well!â

Liamâs early days growing up on a council estate in Beeston, Nottingham

âI suppose it was a typical council estate. And I was one of those kids that could only play out until about seven, and then I had to go home for dinner - or my mum would come and get me! Whereas other kids would be out till frigginâ 10 oâclock or later, getting up to ALL kinds of trouble! And I do genuinely believe that, if I hadnât moved out of that council estate when I was 10, life would have been very different for me. Because most of the people I knew there have since either been to prison or been killed. And while I did do a lot of playing outside in the street, when I WAS at home I couldnât escape the MUSIC! You know, my mum always had this station on called Gold FM. And so, even at that young age, I was constantly getting this mixture of Sixties, Seventies and Eighties pop and just all the amazing music that came from that time-period.â

How moving, at age 10, with his parents further into the countryside to the nearby village of Selston impacted on Liam as a musician

âWell, it wasnât until we moved to the sticks that I realised we had an album collection! And the reason I discovered it then was because, when we moved, for some reason it went into my BEDROOM! And so, because Iâd just moved to the area and I didnât have many friends, I just started sitting there listening to MUSIC all day! You know, my mum had everything from The Beatlesâ âBlue Albumâ through to Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley... And then, when I got to around 14 and Oasis came out, I just thought they were the best thing EVER! Whereas if weâd stayed in Beeston and Iâd been going to what was very much an inner-city school, I doubt I would have been listening to Oasis!... So yeah, from age 14 to around 17, with me it was all about ROCK! Because getting into Oasis opened my ears up to distortion guitar, listening to Led Zeppelin... You know, I just went really mad on music!... And I guess Iâve been a fuckinâ mad-head on music ever SINCE! To where today I listen to anything from bloody Joy Division to B.B. King, Marvin Gaye⦠You know, with the possible exception of heavy metal, thereâs not much I DONâT like!â

How his eventual move to London led to his current record deal with Polydor

âI moved down to London because my ex-girlfriend was moving down. Sheâd just finished at Loughborough University, my band back in Nottingham had split up... And so I kinda just wanted to experience new things. Plus I was also thinking it might help me in terms of my music. So I moved down. And the fact that all I had was my acoustic guitar - and for the first time I wasnât part of band â did actually help me with my PLAYING! âCause I now had to do gigs where it was just me and my guitar! So yeah, I just carried on performing while working shit jobs, where Iâd be going home and wondering âWhen am I gonna get a fuckinâ RECORD deal?!â.. But then, when I DID eventually get a deal, I ended up splitting up with the girlfriend! Which is when I started playing a lotta soul. And so I guess me doing the soul thing actually came out of that experience⦠Though I tell you, to have to go through something like that just to write some decent songs is a bastard, mate! Sometimes you wonder it itâs fuckinâ WORTH it!â

The EP âSo Down, Coldâ is released through Lioness Records on November 29. Liam also features on the Chase & Status single âBlind Faithâ, which will be released on January 24 through Vertigo/RAM Records

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