If you’re wondering where you recognise the name from, the chances are that you’ve probably heard Josh Kumra from him and Wretch 32’s summer number one hit, Don’t Go. I’m not going to say much more about him right now as all is revealed in the interview but what I will say is that he oozes talent, both as a recording artist and live performer, and I’ve got a feeling that since signing to Sony RCA in the early stages of this year, everything has slotted into place for him to take his music, brand and artistry to a whole new level, which I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more of as 2012 progresses.
For those who don’t already know you, give us a brief introduction to yourself and your music.
I’m originally from Swindon, I started playing guitar when I was about 12 years old, just kept playing the guitar until I got to the stage where I started singing. In a nutshell, I moved up to London eight months ago and within the first month, I met Wretch and we did the Don’t Go collaboration. Right now, I’m just focused on making my album really.
How would you describe your music, in terms of genre and influences?
The biggest influence for me is Tracy Chapman because when I was growing up, that record was always playing (her self titled album) and I’d say my music does take on that direction: it’s kind of ‘singer-songwrity’. I’m going to give the album a contemporary feel; it’s not just going to be acoustic guitar, it’ll have beats on it as well, so a mixture of old and new basically.
You’ve previously cited Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendix as being hugely inspirational people to you, have you got any guilty pleasures in your music collection?
Guilty pleasures? I’ve probably got many of them actually! You know what, I’ve got to admit that I’m loving the Maroon 5 track right now. It’s not a guilty pleasure, I know, but it’s not usually the kind of thing I tend to listen to.
Most people reading this will probably have heard you from your Wretch 32 collaboration (Don’t Go), do you have any other collaborations in the pipeline or is there anyone in different genres who you’d like to work with? I could imagine you and Chase & Status creating something very special.
I think you’re absolutely right actually. Chase And Status: I’m a massive fan and I’d love to just put a vocal on one of their tracks. I think their music is amazing but right now, I’m just focusing on finishing up writing my album and starting the recording process in the next few weeks, with the view of releasing it around May/June time.
Once I’ve finished the album though, I’ll be able to do collaborations and one person I really want get on a collab is Birdy. I just think she’s really talented and I think we could just do something really great together.
What is your process for creating a hit?
I’m not a master at it, you have to put hard work in but I also think you also need a bit of luck and it’s got to be the right time. The main thing is when you’re starting out writing a song is to always have in mind where you want it to go; do you want it to work at a festival in front of 20,000 people or do you want it to work on radio to millions?
I wrote Don’t Go with a girl called Maiday and then Wretch come in and he took it from being a nice song to listen to, to a song for the festivals that people could actually dance to, even though it’s not that upbeat. Be positive and be inspired! Inspiration is the main thing when making a hit.
Since Don’t Go, you’ve played at some of the nation’s biggest festivals and on some of the biggest TV shows. What have been your personal highlights from the experience and has it taught you anything as an artist?
V Festival for me was one of the biggest highlights. Me and Wretch performed Don’t Go on the same day that it went to number one. It was an incredible feeling; they had to take away the barriers in the tent we were playing in because it was just getting rammed as there were a couple thousand more people than there should’ve been in there. The whole crowd was singing back and that’s what I’ve learned the most: how good that feeling is! That inspired me to want to do that this year, on my own, so it’s a good point to come from.
It must be an amazing feeling to hear people singing song lyrics you’ve written?
Exactly, especially when it’s so unexpected.
Talking of Wretch 32, have you got any particularly crazy off camera stories involving him and is he really as laidback as he seems?
He’s a cool guy man, he never really does anything out of the normal. I remember we all went to Glastonbury, about 5 of us, we were just rolling up thinking we’re kinda cool and when we got there, we found out we were staying in a little cottage with a family, which is the furthest away from being a rockstar you can get! But that’s about it, there’s nothing really.
Here’s a slightly more random question now! If you label were to tell you they’d booked the session to record your first single, with RedOne and Pitbull, how would you feel?
First of all, I’d be glad that Pibull and RedOne would be up for doing that but to be honest, it probably isn’t my direction and probably wouldn’t be best for me. I’d be grateful for that opportunity though.
We were hoping you’d say that kind of thing! In all seriousness though, what’s the deepest song you’ve ever written?
I have a song called Oak Tree that I wrote when I was around 15 or 16 (which was about 4 or 5 years ago) and to me, that’s my deepest song. I wrote it from the point of view of how I was feeling at the time: I was really new to the music industry and I was just singing how I felt. I didn’t have any direction, any inspiration as a songwriter but I guess that’s the most genuine song I’ve wrote because it just comes from me. It’s about being pushed back; It goes back to the times where I was 16 years old and trying to get little gigs in little bars in my local town and getting told no, no, no no no all the time, so I wrote that song. It’s about being pushed back but just keeping going, believing good things will happen.
Who would you say is the most underrated artist in the industry right now?
Right now I would say Ben Howard. I don’t know if you know of Ben Howard but he bought out an album last year called Every Kingdom and it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time, a very long time. I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s underrated because he’s getting recognition and has done a lot of albums but I think this year is where he’s really going to come through so in my eyes, he’s one to watch.
You’ve mentioned the album coming up, do you have any other plans for the future?
Right now I’m focusing on finishing the album but I’m going to do a 16 date tour in March and also a summer tour with most of the festivals. It’s just about finishing the album though and performing it live and pushing it out to as many people as possible.
What advice would you give to upcoming artists?
Yeah, as I said earlier, I think the main thing is to just be inspired and feed off that inspiration and enjoy it! The main thing is to enjoy everything you do.
There’s a big influx of much more soulful UK artists such as yourself, Daley, Liam Bailey and Maverick Sabre breaking through right now. Do you think this is the direction that mainstream music will be taking in the coming months or even years?
Yeah, I could definitely see that you know. I could definitely see that! Maverick Sabre is just killing it at the moment, I think he’s really going to blow up and he’s very talented. I wouldn’t say there’s anything wrong with what’s mainstream at the moment but it definitely needs to broaden in terms of genres, as there’s a lot of good music that doesn’t even get played. There’s people now who are putting so much work in and are so talented that it’s hard to ignore how good their music is – whether it’s pop music, soul music, blues music – I think it’s all coming into place and it’s all got a place now.
Apart from yourself, what other artists should we be looking out for in 2012?
Definitely Ben Howard. Another amazing young talent is this girl called Mahalia who is a 13 year old girl from Leiecester and she writes like she’s 30 years old! Her vocabulary and writing style is just unbelievable, so definitely look out for Mahalia.
Any final words?
Just watch this space!