Deputy Editor Kirstie Sutherland chats to the Nottingham-born singer-songwriter about his long-awaited debut album.
Ady Suleiman is a cool guy, make no mistake. When he picks up the phone to me on a snowy Wednesday afternoon, he’s in the middle of making a soul playlist and agonising over what to include in the 20-track shortlist. ‘It’s for a magazine… they asked me to curate it. It’s good sticking to a genre, you forget so many tunes.’ Joking that he may have to ‘cheat and make it 21’, this exemplifies Ady as a musician himself. Not afraid to mix things up, his debut album is a mixture of soul, funk and even the occasional reggae inflection, bursting at the seams with frank emotion.
Memories was released last Friday after keeping us waiting for a good couple of years. ‘I’ve had this album for quite a long time. I’m so happy to finally put it out. I don’t feel any pressure or nerves, I’m just happy with the record… hopefully some people will like it.’ This is modest of Suleiman, especially given how impatient his fans have been of late waiting to hear his first cohesive collection. Within days of release, it topped the iTunes R&B/Soul chart and has received rave reviews. And rightly so. ‘I’m proud of it all, proud that I’ve done it by myself,’ he says in reference to leaving a major label in favour of working at his own pace. ‘There’s only one co-writer on there, all the other lyrics are my own, they’ve not come from a forced place. It’s not a label’s album, or trying to serve a certain genre. It’s just me and my stories and my life.’
Talk eventually turns to his creative process. ‘I should probably give myself more guidelines, for the next record I might be stricter. For [my debut] I wanted it to be natural, produce a certain kinda sound… led by my creativity. The songs dictate the direction.’ This prompts me to ask how he came up with the name for the album, especially with the usual path taken for a debut to be eponymous. ‘There’s a track on the album called ‘Memories’… it was going to be self-titled, but each of the songs is a memory or part of my life when I’m like ‘oh shit, I remember when that happened’ when I listen to them. My album was made over a couple of years now, and it takes me back to certain places in my life. It’s little snippets of it.’
To celebrate finally releasing these snippets to the world, he’s off on tour later in the month. ‘I wanna sell all the tickets out, Koko is going to be amazing – it’s my biggest venue as a headline act. I don’t feel too nervous about them because I’ve played those kind of venues before, I’m just excited that they’re going to be my audience.’ Playing to an intimate crowd at Birmingham’s O2 Institute at the end of March, I asked him if he was nervous to be playing these new tracks to his adoring fans. ‘I’ll probably get nervous when I get into rehearsal, like ‘oh shit’, but I’m stoked that people are buying tickets. I just need to figure out the arrangements, I don’t like playing to track. To recreate [certain tracks] you’re limited, there are some songs where those instrumentations are key. I’m gonna have to figure out how to rework it.’
I’m sure this won’t be a problem for Suleiman, and after giving his 2015 EP Live in Manchester yet another listen, I’m certain he’ll pull it off with ease. But how is he feeling coming back to Brum? ‘I haven’t been to Birmingham for a while, but I love it. Even though I’m from the East Midlands, it feels like home,’ he laughs. ‘It feels like a rivalry between them… I don’t know what it is, but it feels like Notts and Birmingham are on the same vibe, it feels like you’re at home’. And we can’t wait to welcome him back to his second home with open arms.
Ady Suleiman will be playing the O2 Institute on Thursday 29th March, tickets are available now.