INTERVIEW: JOE FLOWERS
It’s becoming increasingly rare to find artists that find success through the sheer musicality of their singing voice. Gone are the days of the Whitney Houston days of diva-in-vogue, perhaps as a result of the increased value placed on production techniques and sampling in modern pop music. It simply isn’t the most important thing anymore, which is not necessarily a bad thing – we’ve seen some truly extraordinary music coming from the hijacked laptops of bedroom producers. However, nothing really beats a well written song sung by someone with heaps of technical ability. Enter Joe Flowers, the London based Rnb/Soul singer-songwriter, and his latest single ‘Misused‘. With a gorgeous baritone voice reminiscent of Rick Astley in his heyday, an unforgettable chorus, and brilliant production elements from Bedlam, this track hits the spot in so many different ways. I spoke to Joe about the release:
KM: So, how did you first get into music?
J: Probably when I was given my first proper keyboard. It’s a Yamaha; I was around 15 years old. I started to teach myself chords and eventually I began to write songs. I still use that keyboard to write most of my songs!
KM: Can you tell us what ‘Misused’ is about?
J: I think it’s about the frailty of the mind, and it’s tendency to be tempestuous. Lyrically it comes across as somewhat confessional, so I think if there is a narrative it would centre around that idea – someone telling someone else about their own fragility.
KM: That sense of frailty really comes across in the production of this track. Your use of vocal samples in particular is really interesting – do you pitch shift your own vocal?
J: Credit goes to the producer – Bedlam. Yes, I believe he took snippets from my vocal and pitch shifted them. Adds a cool dynamic I think.
KM: This track has a very immersive sound world – are the production elements important to you in terms of building a narrative around a song?
J: Yes, especially in a chorus. I’m a very chorus-centric songwriter, so I demand a certain amount from the production around those parts of the song in order for me to emphasise main parts of the narrative.
KM: Whilst the production often features unusual sounds and textures, this is essentially a pop song at its heart. How do you negotiate the line between more abstract sounds and traditional pop hooks and melody?
J: Partly by listening to how others have done it. The progression of technology in music has opened doors for people who perhaps otherwise would have been straight up pop writers. I think another part of the balancing act involves being loyal to the fundamental structure of a pop song i.e. Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus/Midd
KM: The build up of layers throughout gives this track a very cinematic feel. Was that intentional?
J: I think I naturally write in a very cinematic way, I like movies and visuals. In fact, the songs I write are so innately cinematic that I think it has become unintentional. It’s just become a default thing.
KM: Your low voice is particularly memorable and a good baritone is definitely hard to come by! Were you ever snapped up by choirs or bands when you were at school?
J: Thank you! I was in a cathedral choir when I was a boy soprano. Then my voice broke so I got the sack. I was in the odd rock band here and there, yes. Usually just an excuse to dick about.
KM: There are some clear RnB influences in your work. Which artists do you listen to and gain inspiration from?
J: RnB is such an exciting genre at the moment. That being said, if I ever feel I need reminding of solid singing and songwriting I’m not afraid to give Usher’s “Confessions” a spin. Beyoncé’s career is a good representation of how RnB has changed over time, she’s always been a favourite of mine. I used to have a life-size cardboard cut out of her in my room – but mainly I draw influence from contemporary alt RnB artists like Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Miguel, Gallant etc.
KM: Maybe one day Beyoncé will have a cardboard cut out of you in her room! Will we be able to catch you live anytime soon?
J: Not soon. But one day.
KM: Keep us posted! What are your hopes for 2017?
J: To write better songs and grow the fan base. I would also like to write for other people -that would be cool.
CONNECT WITH JOE FLOWERS