| Liam Bailey, 2011
He’s knocked about with Damian Marley and Aswad’s Brinsley Forde. His new album is produced by Salaam Remi, of Fugees and Nas fame. He’s been at No.5 with Chase and Status, he’s signed to Polydor, and Amy Winehouse has got his tea on. Yep, things have moved on a bit for Liam Bailey since he played LeftLion gigs back in the day, but he’s still Proper Notts...
What you been up to today? Anything rock star-ish?
I’ve been looking at flats in London and it’s taking a long time. I’m getting kicked out of this one because of the noise I make playing music. This has happened twice now, so I’m wondering what to do... I’m in Bethnal Green at the moment. But I’m looking at options. I’m renting at the minute, ‘cause I don’t have the money to buy. But if I was buying, I’d buy a yard in Nottingham, then I’d have a base there and could rent the other rooms out to my bredren. I’d get a little twelve-bedroomed place in Papplewick and work between Notts and London. It would have to be detached though, so I could jam until two in the morning.
So what’s Salaam Remi like?
Working with Salaam is like working with your uncle. At first he was a bit intimidating, because I’d go in the vocal booth and be very aware that Lauren Hill, Nas, Amy and some of the Marleys had all been in there and dropped serious stuff. But when your back’s against the wall, you either cower or you step up. I come in with a song, and we’ll be on the same page about what we’re hearing. Then he’ll drop another few pages that I don’t even hear at first. Nowadays Salaam talks a lot about blues, and how he wants to make more of it. He’s more than a producer to me – he’s someone I actually know and can ring up and talk to.
You’re in Cuba next week to shoot the music video for It’s Not The Same…
Even though the lyrics and sentiment of the song are quite sombre and deep, the sound of the recording isn’t dark or anything. I wanted to film it in Jamaica at first, but that’s not feasible. So I thought, “Where’s the next place that isn’t a third world country, but is still raw in its cultural beauty?” Cuba has that. I’ve never been to any country like it, so I don’t know what to expect. I’m going to meet the video director tomorrow and we’re going to thrash it out.
And you’re playing some summer festivals, including Glastonbury with Chase and Status. Excited?
Yes mate, I can’t wait! I was drunk the other day and telling them both how I was gonna walk on stage in a Nottingham Forest football kit - but I’m probably not doing that, because I’ll look a twat. I can’t wait though; playing a good slot at Glastonbury is what you dream about when you’re little. Then after I’m doing Wireless, Bestival and Big Chill with my band; they’re my ones where I get to play all my own stuff.
What inspired the songs on your album Out Of The Shadows?
Pretty much all of them were written about my ex-girlfriend, who I’d been with since I was twenty. I’ve had a text message from her while we’ve been doing this interview actually - she’s baiting me. This finished two years ago now and I still get loads from her - I don’t want to get into it anyway, it’s too deep. But ever since I started playing the guitar, if a song would arise it would always be derived from what was affecting me soulfully at that point. So at the time I got signed and was making the record, things were quite heavy between me and her.
We assume you’ve been doing a lot of press at the moment. What’s that been like?
You do an interview and it’s for some run of the mill thing, whether it’s that magazine you find in JD Sports or whatever. They start asking what your album’s about, what your single’s about and stuff like that. But if you get next on ‘em and tell them the truth on how things are, they don’t print it! They don’t wanna see that from me. It’s been proven when I’ve talked about things; they don’t put proper truth in there. Most of the times they mix it up with daft lad stuff.
They seem to keep asking you about X-Factor.
Yeah. Why? One guy asked me about it, and I told him I met one of them, Katie Waissel, at my mate’s gig. I told him what I said to her, which was basically that she needs to sort her life out. Every time I turn on the TV he’s either crying or singing out of time. Why can’t they just play their instrument and deliver a song properly like everybody else? Y’know what I mean? Since then everyone wants to ask me now why I’ve got beef with X-Factor, when I haven’t really.
When did you first pick up a guitar?
In Selston when I was fourteen. My mum had a massive LP collection and all the tapes she played were either reggae or old soul, like Sam Cooke. There was a radio station called GEM AM back in the day that played old-school. There was also a lot of Heatwave - the old-school Notts pirate radio station - played in my house.
Your family must be proud of what you’re achieving…
Yeah, they’re right behind me. I was always the kid who was going round saying “There’s a wolf, I’ve seen it and it has massive teeth,” but no one believed me! My mum and dad told me not to play there anymore, but that was where I wanted to go. Now the wolf has just walked into the village and everyone knows it exists! I always knew I could get somewhere and my talent was strong enough. But I think it’s just the motivation and determination that has got me here. The talent helps, but I know so many talented people who should be getting more spotlight. Ed Bannard - the lead singer in Hhymn - is one of those people, but there are loads more. He was grafting before I even knew what grafting was, and he’s a brilliant songwriter. But some of these guys are blessed where they are, whereas I look at it differently. I’m not going to stay in my own little spotlight - I’m gonna move the spotlight.
How did you get to know Amy Winehouse?
She came across me; she’d seen my stuff on YouTube, or whatever. A friend sent my demo EP to her and then she wanted to meet me and sign me to her label, so I went round to see her. I didn’t judge her in any way, but obviously I had ideas about her because of what I’d read. But she was the complete opposite. Don’t get me wrong, she’s no saint, but I watched her cook up a three-course meal for us and it was delicious. She’s on the ball and she knows what’s going on.
What did she cook?
Avocado salad, meatballs and cheesecake. Aside from me mum’s cooking and the jerk feast I made at Christmas, it’s the best food I’ve ever had. Since then we’ve been out together and she’s good fun. Like the time we went to see The Libertines in Kentish Town. She knew turning up to that gig was going to cause controversy, and when we got there it was like Michael Jackson had arrived. It reminded me of that scene in Moonwalker when the two fat men were chasing after him on the scooters. Amy just plays the game, and has a laugh when she wants to. That’s it.
So, what have been your highlights of the last year?
I played a gig at Abbey Road. The studio’s amazing, it gets you all fired up again about being a musician. But the highlights of my musical endeavours so far are my old band Bosco, my 1st Blood homies, working with Salaam, playing with Chase and Status at Glastonbury, Abbey Road and discovering that brandy is alright to drink before you go on stage because it doesn’t dry your throat out.
Thanks for bigging us up on 1Xtra. We appreciated that.
Nice one, I’m glad. Because, you know what, I remember when this first dropped, LeftLion. I remember Roots Manuva being in it and thinking; I wanna be in that. There was a little piece time ago, when you first put me in it, and when I came back to Nottingham I was just dead proud, walking round like, I’m in LeftLion.
Anything you want to say to LeftLion readers?
Keep your ear to the ground. I know a lot of people say that they think they’re keeping tabs on the Nottingham scene, but there’s a lot of lazy activity going on. Be kind to the person who thinks he’s Jesus - because you never know, he might well be. Even though he’s a nutcase! Listen out for the next instalment of the 1st Blood agenda and be kind to me, Nottingham. I hope you like the album. It’s blessed and it comes from the right place.
Liam Bailey’s EP It’s Not The Same is out on 19 June, and album Out Of The Shadows is scheduled to be released in September.