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An Interview with

Liam Bailey


An artist who reveres his art, above all, has to respect himself and has to be himself. To have talent is not enough to achieve great things, it takes constant effort and inner honesty. In the case of Nottingham-grown, London-based, British singer-songwriter Liam Bailey, we have exactly all of the above together, with his personal truth to the superlative degree.

Liam can sing anything and his run so far has proven that. With a vocal blend that touches the hoarseness of Lenny Kravitz and can verge on voices such as those of Terry Callier and Bill Withers, he has sung songs from soul, reggae, blues, to rock and drum n' bass. Last year's incredibly powerful album "Love Reversed" by Sting's daughter Eliot Sumner, who writes music under the moniker of ‘Vaal’, contained a track where Liam makes the perfect match, even when it comes to electronic music. Collaborations and seeking for new musical landscapes flow in his blood and this is something that makes me admire him even more. He is gifted with the ability to easily transform himself into something musically different every time.

We got to know him in 2011, from the amazing single “You Better Leave Me”, which although being a highly radio-friendly track, due to sοme circumstances, ended up not being included in any of his excellent subsequent albums. His first discographic venture, came in 2010 with the EP "2am Rough Tracks" on Amy Winehouse's 'Lioness Records', when Amy heard his voice through a mutual friend they had and Liam was right away invited for a collaboration. In 2014, his first album "Definitely Now" followed and there his raw talent and unrestrained soulful voice really unfolded.

On the occasion of his latest release this February, this time in collaboration with the Irishman St. Francis Hotel, we had a QnA with him - a review of his career so far, which eventually became a literal soul confession. In order to reach such a creative 'today' in his life, Liam had to recover from the dark times of alcoholism, depression and a desperate search for his very own existence. The 2021 collaboration with El Michels Affair was followed this year by “Enfant Terrible”. A complete album from all aspects, delving into love, self-doubt, isolation and finding one's true nature, in the midst of the madness of this world. The highly attractive and energetic production, focuses on soulful dark pop, on the base of Liam's rich melodic voice, as always.

Liam Bailey is a unique musician, aware of what the essence of what he does should be and he only sticks to that. Below, read what he confessed to us about his past, his present and what he thinks of the world around him.

 

Enfant Terrible, out 17/2/2023 

 


The Basement: Hello Liam! First of all, we really appreciate your voice, so it's a great honour to have you for this Q&A. Please, introduce yourself to us.

Well… I'm a musician. I sing, I play, I write and everyday I feel lucky. Once I've decided not to be sad. I have a very eclectic taste and love of music which takes me down all sorts of creative places. I have always fought against being boxed into one thing. As people, we are many different things at different times and that should reflect not only in your expression and lyrics but also in the music genres you decide to create in. Why not! Being free is healthy and is a must for a proper musician who cares about art, not fame.

 

The Basement: Let's flashback to your career. You recorded the excellent "You Better Leave Me" in 2011. A song that made you known but never made it into an album of yours. Tell us more about that period of your life.

In my twenties, I was dealing with what I now know was manic depression. Because of certain family dynamics, I didn't know who I was and I was trying to find myself but in all the most difficult ways. I became a big drinker and became lost. One of the saddest days of my life was signing a 5 album deal with Polydor Records. I knew I was signing to the wrong people deep down and after all those years of hard work and making so many sacrifices to get myself a deal, there was nobody who I'd made those dreams with there with me. No family. No friends. Just a load of cash and no direction. That was when I realised I was fucked. I spent 3 years there doing nothing mostly until Amy Winehouse released my first EP "2am Rough Session's". Then Polydor released "It's Not The Same" EP, then "You Better Leave Me" and then they wouldn't release my album, they insisted on ANOTHER EP so my manager got me out of the contract and then Amy died and I lost hope in humans and all this hunger for fame was so toxic in the industry and it turned me off. I didn't know Amy as a best friend. She loved my voice and her friend was my A&R man so they made the EP happen and we became friends. 

After 2 years, Salaam Remi (who produced my music) moved to Sony and called me saying "Let's get this album out!" By that time, I had other songs and I'd lost my momentum really. Couldn't see the wood for the trees when it came to creative decisions and became even more deeply depressed which ended in being hospitalised for a couple of days. I wish I'd put those songs on the "Definitely Now" album to be honest.

 

The Basement: What brought you to singing and songwriting? What's your childhood history in relation to music?

My earliest memories are listening to music. It was my escape from problems at home. All the shouting and violence were too much.

 

The Basement: Over the years, we saw you changing from one music style to another. For example "Definitely Now" was a pure soul album but a turn to reggae came with "Ekundayo". How do you manage this? 

Well, actually that's incorrect. "Definitely Now" has soul blues and rock and acoustic vibes with strings, so not a pure soul album though there is some pure soul on there. I've always been making reggae & soul but the people around me encouraged me to focus on the soul side of things. When I'd had it with Polydor, I got Leon Michels (El Michels Affair) to release "When Will They Learn" & "I'm Gonna Miss You" as a middle finger to the Label. Truth & Soul released it as "The Dynamic Set ft Liam Bailey". This was all happening as I was trying to leave Polydor in 2011. 

 

The Basement: What about your many collaborations with artists from different kinds of music? We even heard your voice in Vaal's 2022 electronic album "Love Reversed" or the drum n bass Dogger's EP in 2019. Of course I'm sure they love your voice.

Elliot Sumner is a friend of mine and I think she's mega-talented. I loved making that track with her. I'm lucky that my fans allow me to be versatile as I love electronic and drum and bass music. In the UK there are strong connections between d&b and reggae. 

 

 

The Basement: Do you think transformations should be made on purpose during an artist's life? What's your experience so far?

Yes. I agree with David Bowie's famous take on this. Always challenge and push your boundaries. Stay out of your comfort zone sometimes. My versatility is a strength and I'm now embracing it. 

 

The Basement: Whose idea was "Enfant Terrible" and how you came up to 'St. Francis Hotel'? 

Me and St. Francis met in 2017 and we made lots of music over 6 to 9 months. I then went over to NY to make "Ekundayo" and the St. Francis Hotel music went on the back burner. Then during the end of the pandemic, we picked up from where we left off and made some dubby tunes and I was super happy with how epic the album sounded. I think it's the freshest UK reggae soul album in years! 

 

The Basement: What is your new album about? It's already so well accepted on digital platforms, Spotify for example. Will it come out in physical form too?

Yes, we have vinyl coming next month (may) I believe. It's been a long wait since Britain had a big BREXSHIT.

The album is mostly about how I'm seeing the world right now. I wanted to sing about my personal life also which I did in the acoustic soulful songs. I wanted to let people know my take on the world right now. The times are very dark and troubling and It's affecting me a lot, to be honest. World War is coming and we are losing love for ourselves and the planet. Humanity is lost.

 

The Basement: What kind of music are you listening to nowadays?

I'm in the studio so much all the time that all I listen to is my music LoL. I listen to lots of Mad Professors' early albums. An incredible artist called Summer Pearl. Oh, and Brighter Days Family out of London are sick young G's.

 

The Basement: Are any gigs or tours planned? Give us a glimpse of your future plans.

I don't have a booking agent so no tours are planned. I have 2 albums I'll have finished by the end of summer. One of which will be released on Big Crown Records produced by Leon Michels. Lots more collaborations are also coming. I've been making party music with Paloma Faith which is super fun and I'm excited about that. It's so much fun being free and doing different things. Be an energy god. We need more energy gods to spread positivity!! 

 

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