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“I want that to be my achievement – to make the most eclectic music which is still unified by one song, one voice”, says Shepherd’s Bush troubadour Sid Stone.
It’s an entirely achievable goal for the breathtakingly talented emerging multi-instrumentalist, whose cross-genre artistry sees him nail everything from jazz to hip-hop and pop, backed by his wondrous, soulful voice.
This eclectic approach to his output was expertly showcased in his debut Inside/Outside mixtape, which dropped earlier this year.
Backed by the poignant debut single Better Alone, the record was the product of sessions at the North Acton recording studio owned by the legendary Mick Jones, lead guitarist of The Clash.
It saw Sid team up with mates and collaborators Joy Anonymous and Fred Again, who’s worked with the likes of Stormzy and Ed Sheehan, as he expanded his sonic palette.
“It offers a snapshot of who I was a year ago and what I was going through”, Sid told Daily Star Online when discussing the mixtape. “There is a lot of lyrical content in there which is quite personal. I hope there’s more angles to come.”
Huge recent single Hold On is another effort that perfectly highlights why Sid is one of the UK’s brightest talents. Written and recorded at Primal Scream producer Jagz Kooner’s studio in Ladbrook Grove, it was born following just a few minutes of inspiration.
He explained: “Jagz is a bit of a legend in my eyes. He produced Primal Scream and a lot of my heroes. When we were messing around he would always try and make something that sounded new. He’s an old legend and I would joke ‘hey Jagz, do what you do best, make a 90s beat!’. In no time he made this beat and I loved it.”
Sid has laid the foundations for an even bigger 2021. He’s working on a new Kurupt FM album and plans to head to a friend’s recording studio in Norway to lay down some new tracks in the new year.
Daily Star Online’s Rory McKeown caught up with him to talk about his output so far, his influences, the Shepherd’s Bush scene, Mick Jones’ studio, and what we can expect from him next.
Hi Sid, how have the past few months treated you? Artists have navigated lockdown in different ways, but what about yourself?
“Like everyone, artists or not, it’s been sometimes good, sometimes bad. There have been moments where I’ve felt blessed to have the space and time to really channel myself into music, whether it’s producing records or writing.
"I put out a mixtape in May and I’ve just put out another single. I haven’t been as unlucky as some people, who have been paralysed by it a little bit.
“I love to play live and to engage with people. For me I’m a live act kind of person, I love live music culture, raves as well as gigs. Not being able to feel that connection with people has been hard.”
Have you encountered any challenges or brought on anything you weren’t envisioning?
“It’s pointed out to me the nature of this job we do. I’ve been doing it a while. I’m working with Kurupt FM at the moment on their album and the release of that is around this film they’ve made. But the film can’t come out until the lockdown ends, so the album gets put back. The music industry feels sometimes this all powerful entity, but really if you can’t hang out with people it all grinds to a halt quite quickly.
“It’s remarkable now what you can do. I was lucky enough to have a team behind me who was smart on algorithms and Facebook stuff, they said 'you can't play a gig but if you make us some video content we can get that going'. Everyone’s at home on their socials, there are still goals to be scored.”
You’ve just released your new single Hold On that was written and recorded at Jagz Kooner’s studio in Ladbrook Grove with Jagz and Tristan Landymore. What was the experience like and when did you start forming the ideas for the track? I understand it was completed in a few hours.
“Jagz is a bit of a legend in my eyes. He produced Primal Scream and a lot of my heroes. When we were messing around he would always try and make something that sounded new. He’s an old legend and I would joke ‘hey Jagz, do what you do best, make a 90s beat!’. In no time he made this beat and I loved it.
"I started throwing around silly ideas and I think him and I bonded over soul music. People are a bit frightened in modern day pop to go for a really soulful hook because they think it’s cringe. But it’s the hardest stuff to do and it can make people happy. We proper went for it in no time.”
Is that the norm for you? Is it usually that quick?
“It’s different each time. I love to write at the piano and that’s probably where my best songs come out. Sometimes I’ll write something in one version and six months later I’ll change it. Total time spent on it could be close to two years.
"Other times you’ll be walking along and suddenly ‘bang’. For me, I try to write something in my mind, which sounds weird. I always hear melodies in my head. If something comes to me, I try to keep it in there for as long as I can before I go to the piano. I’ll keep it on the piano as long as I can before I go to the computer. That way it manages to keep its imaginative power and freedom.”
Lyrically, what do you delve into for inspiration?
“They say the pain uncovers the truth and the best artists have to suffer. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. You don’t need to constantly talk about the most painful experiences of your life. I’ll tend to write a song based on feeling. The music will come first and it will tell me what it’s about.
“If I’m writing something and suddenly I feel something and I can remember something that happened to me, if I can put that into it, and the more vulnerable I can make myself, the better the song is.
“I’ve got a song called Know Well, which I put out in May. That comes from a real place of serious emotion, some dark stuff. Processing all of that emotion through that song and trying to make it uplifting has been amazing for me. I’ve been lucky enough to have people say to me that they listened to that song and it made my cry. The deeper you’re willing to go, the more you can do for someone else to listen to it.
“Sometimes I like to write a p*** take. I’m writing with Kurupt FM!”
Do you enjoy delving into different aspects of music, sonically and genre-wise?
“In fact I reckon that’s what I consider most important. I think I will be able to make eclectic music, a real range, with my production and other producers.
"I want that to be my achievement, to make the most eclectic music which is still unified by one song, one voice. Everyone is on Spotify and I’ll listen to hip-hip, jazz, classical, drum & bass. That’s what everyone’s like. But for some reason we haven’t had a true artist that openly puts out a record with all these different influences and sounds and experience in there. I think that’s important.”
It brings me onto the mixtape. For me listening to it there’s a broad range of styles you go for. It has jazzy Now I’m Alone (At Mick’s), and Better Alone, the organ-driven Through the Air before ending with the rousing, euphoric Know Well. Would you say it’s a snapshot of who you are?
“Wow, that’s so well put man. The first name for it was demo tape. I was going to put it out and the idea was this quick, DIY patchwork of some of the different things that I can do.
“It offers a snapshot of who I was a year ago and what I was going through. There is a lot of lyrical content in there which is quite personal. I hope there’s more angles to come. It offers a good snapshot of who I am for sure.”
Did it culminate in Better Alone? When did you pen that?
“That actually got written when I was recording. We’re lucky to know Mick Jones from The Clash and he let us use his studio in Acton. I got my dream team of musicians down there. Fred Again, Joy Anonymous, Husky Loops, all these amazing, beautiful musicians.
“We were recording Through the Air and Know Well. After we finished Know Well, we started jamming. I was working at Bush Hall before and I was walking down the high street and this melody came. It had been stuck in my head. Fred started the chord progression, I started singing it. It was really like a film. There were eight of us in there. It all came to life. We looked at each other and thought we need to record that s***.
“Seeing how far it went with the Facebook stuff too. It all started with us p***ing around. It’s crazy.”
It’s music video features news reports about the coronavirus lockdown in the UK, which I thought was a poignant inclusion. What was the idea behind that?
“That’s another interesting story. We were planning it all the way through Christmas. In January, we shot the first half in this pub. My local called The White Horse, my favourite place in the world. It was getting refurbished. My family’s Irish and it has all this Irish memorabilia in there. I wanted to capture it on film.
“The plan initially was we were going to shoot it in Somerset, which I had moved to with my girlfriend. The story was going to be me being in London with my friends, doing the things I love, but feeling like I need to go and by myself to tap into some musical stuff.
“Mid-way through the process, the lockdown happened. I actually was sent out to Somerset and it came true. It actually came true. We thought it was this mad coincidence that we had this song about being alone in a time when everyone is isolated.
"My friend Fergus, who helped me make the video, said 'why don’t we have the news on in the background while you’re walking?' It seemed like it made sense to do that.”
You mentioned Somerset there. Where are you from? Where did you grow up?
“I grew up in Shepherd’s Bush. My mum’s based in Somerset. A lot of time I spent down there, quite near Glastonbury, a place called Castle Cary. Last year with my girlfriend, I was living down there on and off. I’d like to say I’m from the west – either west London or the west country!”
How have the two moulded you into the artist you are?
“Shepherd’s Bush is responsible for so much of who I am. It’s the most multi-cultural area in London. We’ve got more languages, cultures, races, creeds, in this tiny square mile. Everyone perfectly coexists, and always has. That’s just the way I was brought up. It’s got a good Irish heritage. I really feel my own Irish heritage, although I have the London accent, I feel Irish somewhere in me. I love being able to go to The White Horse.
“The people I know from the area, the older generation are disenchanted with music at the moment, with Radio 1 or pop. They feel like there isn’t an artist making songs for them. When they hear an artist in the top 10, with the exception of a Lewis Capaldi or your Adeles, they feel a bit alienated from it. I always felt that was a shame.
“Pop music and the stuff I love, whether it’s The Beatles or soul, that’s accessible to everyone. Shepherd's Bush, in terms of my musical identity, definitely plays a factor in my mind."
Historically Shepherd’s Bush has got a great musical heritage to it. It’s got the venues and The Clash were based there. It was it like going to Mick Jones’ studio as a Shepherd’s Bush boy?
“It’s a cool place! It’s in this trading estate in Acton and you’d never guess there was a studio there. There are all these industrial-type shops. You go down one of these corridors and Mick’s there. You get in and there is red velvet and felt over everything, Christmas lights everywhere. It’s this twinkly womb of a place in the middle of Acton.
"It’s an amazing space to be able to go. It felt really cool to be able to have the privilege of, at least in part, stepping into the lineage of west London musicians, and for them to be kind enough to have a go and see what you make. I’m grateful for that.”
Your artistry does flow through a number of genres, as we’ve mentioned. But who are or were you inspired by?
“Lots of people. I’m the sum of all the amazing music I’ve been able to listen to. I’d like to be able to do my own thing but I know I’m only just, at best, the next one in line. All the music I listen to informs everything I do.
"Looking around, the records I’ve got on the wall, I’ve got David Bowie. He’s a big influence in terms of being an artist and thinking creatively, being free to do what you want. He’s a great example of being a shapeshifter, from being able to do this but do something else. I heard this drum & bass album he made in 1996 and was just like ‘wow’. That inspires me.
“On a songwriting level, it’s all about The Beatles. I don’t think anyone else has written songs like that. I study what they did constantly. A few other notable mentions for Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, and the rapper MF Doom. Just what he did in terms of taking the idea of artistry and breaking it open and creating a whole narrative where he’s a super villain but then someone else. The wizardry with words. If Shakespeare heard an MF Doom verse, he’d be like ‘f***ing hell!’.”
What is next for you? Where do you want to take this? Have you got your eyes on an album?
“We’ve just done Hold On and we’ve got another song which I’m hoping is going to open up more of the soul side I want to move towards. We’re going to put two more tracks on that, have a four or five track EP coming out next year.
"Then I’m going to my friend’s studio in Norway with some of my favourite musicians, like what we did with The Clash stuff. It’s not going to be an album but a seven track EP, a longer piece of work. I’ve got so many songs and I want to continue to put them out, and grow the outreach and hopefully get enthused with the music. I’m so hungry with what I want to do. I don’t see a ceiling of where it could go. I’m really excited to keep it moving in the same direction.”
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Sid Stone's Inside/Outside mixtape is out now via Hotspring Music
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