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Motorpoint Arena

Ady Suleiman

21 August 15 words: Sam Nahirny
"Instead of closing the door, people help you open it here. There's a lot of inspiration... something works"
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How’s the festival been for you so far?
We did Bristol Dot to Dot yesterday, and the Manchester one the day before that. Both great. The Manchester one – it had more of a basement vibe; a bit more of a dirty, sweaty kinda place, later on in the night. For the Bristol one we got a really good time, it was like 8.30pm, and it was in a smaller room in the O2 Academy. The crowd were amazing – I think it’s probably the first time outside of Nottingham where I’ve had people singing my lyrics back at me. It’s a wicked festival.

You supported JP Cooper back in May...
His voice is insane. My missus loves him, as does my mum. I always thought he was an amazing talent, but when I saw him live in soundcheck, he was next level. He really is an incredible artist and a humble, genuine guy. It was really lucky for me to get the gig. I saw him at The Great Escape festival in Brighton, and I knew of him. I thought, “Gotta go and get a cringey photo.” So, I went in for a selfie, and he knew who I was. He said, “My main support has just dropped out, do you wanna play the gig?” It was real nice that it came from him, and didn’t have to be set up through agents. It’s funny how some stuff comes about. You just have to put yourself out there.

Who’s the best artist you’ve seen live?
JP is one of the best vocalists I’ve seen that isn’t Stevie Wonder or another massive name. I’d totally recommend him. Rosie Lowe played a tiny little show in a church, which was amazing, I knew her music from online and her set was great. I moved to London at the beginning of this year. It’s nuts. If you’re bored there’s always something to go and watch. Get Songkick – you’ll find a gig and it reminds you how much talent there is in the UK at the minute.

What about Notts? Who are you loving from round here?
Harleighblu has been a friend of mine for ages and a massive inspiration, her story being so positive and direct, knowing what she wanted to do from such an early age. For me, it wasn’t until I was about fourteen. She was a lot more confident about it. She left school, moved to Notts, and started doing music. She is incredible. She’s getting out in Europe, I’m real happy for her and will always support her.

I love Natalie Duncan too, her voice is absolutely incredible. I remember watching her ages ago on that Goldie thing where he went around the UK, got the best singers and one of ‘em was a London lad, Kwabs, the other was Nat. I’ve loved her since then. When she dropped her album, I bumped into her a few times. Like Liam Bailey – his voice is incredible. The album is quality. He’ll always be a big inspiration.

A lot of artists from Notts feel really real to me. Not manufactured, fake stuff. I think that’s a credit to the city. Letting people flourish in their own names and not being too judgemental. There’s a real big mix in the scene with bands like D.I.D and Jake Bugg, then there’s soul and hip hop stuff, and the crowd spreads across different types of gigs. Cheshire and The Cat too, they’re top lads and their music is really fun. They played my first gig at JamCafé.

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You’re not originally from Nottingham are you?
Nah, I lived out in a village near Newark, so I’d always come to Nottingham, but I’d only see established bands. I knew a few of the grime artists and Harleigh. Then I went down to study in Liverpool. Stuff wasn’t really kicking off for me. People were complimentary, but no one really got behind it.

What was the first Notts gig that stood out for you?
Harleigh invited me to this gig, cos I was like, “I need to start gigging, it’s not really working in Liverpool.” I had no idea what was going off in Notts. She told me to come down to where she was playing. The line-up had Natalie Duncan, Liam Bailey, Harleighblu, and Nina Smith. I only knew Harleigh, but when I came into Contemporary, I thought I’d taken ecstasy. I was like, “This is my hometown”, and I could see myself on the stage playing those kind of bills. Liverpool was always math-rock kinda bands, me doing hip hop reggae didn’t work.

I was excited about coming back home. I met a few people, eventually did a gig, and the reaction was amazing. From there, things started to pick up a lot faster. Got to hand it to those working in media like Nusic, they do a great job for young artists, they gave me my first interview. At the same time, you’ve got Dean Jackson who supports every Notts musician. Instead of closing the door, people help you open it here. There’s a lot of inspiration and people are like, “You know what, I wanna get involved.” Something works.

You mentioned the ‘realness’ of the Notts music scene. How important is it to be true to yourself musically?
Do the music that’s real to you despite labels, management, and publishing. You’ll connect to certain people, and then people want to interview you and work with you. It’s important not to chase what everyone else is doing. You don’t need anyone. You can put music out there on the internet for free, you can find out ways to record it free. You don’t need a studio anymore, you can do it at home. If you can play instruments and write songs, you can do everything. You only need that platform to get to a big level.

Instead of going to them [record labels], without a fanbase, you might as well let them come to you. It’s like if you’re all over a girl and she gives in straight away, you’re like “Whatever.” But if one isn’t into you, you’re like “Oi, what’s going on?” You get the thrill of the chase. It makes it more worthwhile when you get it. A lot of people have that facade that you need a team, and they do help, but only if you’ve got something going on already. If you start getting played on the radio and you have a manager, they can pull certain strings, but you’re essentially starting from nothing, so they’re only gonna do the things that you would do anyway.

Any venues that you’d love to play?
I’d love to play the Albert Hall. Sell it out. It’s historical, and you obviously need to be a pretty well known name to sell it out. That’s when I’ve made it – I’ll be a very happy man.

Ady Suleiman’s This is My EP is out now.

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