Ady Suleiman – Interview 2016

I first came across Ady Suleiman music a few years ago on Giles Peterson’s esteemed radio show. After signing a deal with musical giants Sony Records, Ady’s popularity blossomed and he found himself winning ‘Breakthrough Act Of The Year’ at the 2014 Giles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards. At The Great Escape 2015, I made sure I got to see Ady’s unparalleled talent first hand. His amazing soulful voice matched with his incredible song writing skill was stunning, and it had the room in a state of glee and excitement for one of Britain’s best young emerging artists. With Ady Suleiman coming back to Brighton to play the Green Door Store on 29th February, we felt we had to get in contact to find out more about him and his music.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a village called Long Bennington which is in Lincolnshire. I went to a secondary school in Grantham aka Gtown so spent most, if not all, of my teenage years knocking about there. 

Is there much of a music scene there?
In Grantham no, not really. I mean when I was like 13/14 years old there used be a couple of bands gigging at the pubs, mainly the Play House. Kind of Ska/Indie bands; people that went there were a bit older than me but I used to love it, sneaking in underage and trying my best to impress girls. I look back on that time and it was so much fun, but by the time I got to age 16 those bands broke up, left town and no one really my age was playing music. Not enough to get a scene going. I threw a couple gigs here and there, and jammed with my mates but that wasn't really a scene. The pubs stopped putting on gigs and got a lot more sporty, chavy and then the Grime and Kidulthood culture kind of dominated which was fun but in a different way. 

Do you think where you live has influenced your music?
I'm not sure. I mean my music changes as I grow, it’s never set. Back when I was growing up I was listening and writing different kind of stuff to what I do now, and I've never really been part of a scene but you are always going to take in some kind of influence from your surroundings. If I lived in Africa my music would probably sound different to what it is now – definitely lyrically, so my environment will have influenced my music in some way because it's part of who I am. It's a similar argument to the nature vs nurture one. We are products of our environment and experiences so I will take some influence, but how much I never really know as I wasn't surrounded by a particular scene or movement. 

What kind of music were you brought up on?
Loads! I used to watch Top Of The Pops religiously when I was at primary school. Later on I got into Hendrix – blues, jazz, hip-hop. My Dad is also a DJ so he always had a wicked library of music to flick through before Spotify existed.

Can you remember the first album you owned?
Backstreet Boy's cassette – not sure If I got that off my parents or if I bought it. I do remember buying my first CD; Will Smith – Big Willie Style.

What was the first instrument you played and do you have a favourite instrument?
My first instrument was the recorder at primary school, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ was what we tried to play. Shortly after it was classical guitar. My primary school teacher Mrs Flatters told my mum she thought I had a talent or was good at music, so she came round to teach me guitar but it lasted for about like two weeks. I hated it and used to run away when I saw her coming through front gate, hiding in neighbour’s garden, so she gave up which is weird because when I got to secondary school I loved the guitar – I was obsessed (mainly electric) and regretted running away when I was younger. I would have been sick by now. So the guitar is definitely up there as my favourite instrument but I think really most of my joy comes from singing. You cannot beat that shit! That's what I love and that's what I do. It is part of me so it's natural – people sing all the time to show their emotions, they just don't realise it. Shouting, crying, all expressions are from the tone of your voice and it's easier to say how you feel when you sing. So my voice is very special to me and feel very lucky to have one. I love it and could talk loads about singing.

When did you first start performing as Ady Suleiman?
It was late really, like 19 years old. Before that it was just at school in a soul band. I might have done one or two gigs under my own name before but it all started at University. I was too shy and scared to perform my own stuff before then and too disorganised to finish songs.

Has your style of music stayed the same?
Not really. My voice and vocal style has kept the continuity, and the chords I used haven't changed huge amounts. I've always known what I've liked and what kind of vibe my music is going to be and give off or the feeling I want people to get from my music, so that hasn't changed. But songs have definitely taken on different forms; reggae to indie, blues, soul, jazz. I've listened to a lot of music at different stages of my life so it depends on what genres I was into at the time. My music would be more in that style but whatever it's been, it's always been Ady.

How would you briefly describe your music?
Raw emotive singing coming from an honest place, rooted in rhythm and blues.

What are your main influences?
RnB, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Soul, Reggae.

What drives you to write music?
Anything that sparks strong emotion within me. Girls are an obvious one but at the same time I enjoy writing about mental struggles, world struggles… People and stories inspire me.

How do you approach the writing process?
Hide away forever and ever…. I like to get in a thinking space, deep thought, and I do that best by myself.

Do you prefer writing music or performing live?
Creating definitely. It feels more important to me when I think of losing one or the other – not being able to create and do my own thing would be fucking grim. I love performing, of course, but I could go without if I had to – though I wouldn't want to! I probably had my best experiences in life on-stage.

Is there an album coming soon?
Yes an album is coming this year, look out for it. There is no name yet and it’s not finished. I will be nervous to put it out for sure, but it's another stepping stone in the right direction. It will have my earliest and most recent songs on there so it will be a great introduction to who I am as a person. I've done a lot of it myself and also have had the pleasure of working with the people behind the Plan B Strictly Banks record – I dream it would be received in a similar fashion. That record did great things. 

What has been a musical eye-opener?
The industry is a bitch.

Who would be your perfect supergroup and what would be their name?
Jimi Hendrix on electric guitar, Questlove (The Roots) on drums, ThunderCat on bass, Stevie Wonder on keys and vocals. Band name would be Jimi Wonder's Quest for Thunder.

What would be your perfect line-up of any three acts for a concert you are putting on and where would it be?
Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder in my back garden in summer – BBQ, family friends and drink.

If you could work with any artist, who would it be and what would they bring?
Bob Marley for a lot of wisdom and ganja.

If you could have made any album ever, which one would it be and why?
Pink Floyds – Dark Side Of The Moon hands down. Concept wise and vibe wise it's one hell of a record.

What music are you listening to at the moment?
Anderson Paak, I have been listening to a lot. Jamie Woon, and my album also because I’ve been working on it 24/7.

Do you get to go to many gigs?
I go to loads, but recently nothing has blown me away. Not because of the artist but mainly because the audience makes a massive difference – if the audience is up for it, it just adds to atmosphere. I’ve seen some amazing artists recently but the audience has been dead. Alabama Shakes at Brixton Academy was pretty dope but I had to leave early because of the Mrs.

What has been your happiest memory with music?
Probably playing Gilles Peterson's Worldwide Festival in the South of France on my 21st birthday. The crowd sung happy birthday to me – it was a special moment for sure.

What makes you happiest when you are not playing music?
Football, Fifa, my friends and family, food and of course my beautiful girlfriend. (I had to put that cause she is sat right next to me) 

What are your future plans?
To make some breakfast – but music wise it is to finish the album and head out on tour in March. I'm coming to Brighton so come thru, it’s going to be dope!