In the corner of a north London bar sits Collard, refined and sleekly styled, relaxing with a glass of whiskey. He exudes that old-fashioned, respectful and gentlemanly charm, reminiscent of the silver screen, whilst remaining refreshingly current. A fitting description for both the man and the mind behind the music.
Sitting back and reflecting on his upcoming debut album, he muses, “I’ve been sitting on it for a while, getting all the trimmings. It’s been nearly three years. I’m protective over the album in a way, I want it to go out so right. Sometimes you’ve just got to let the music live and let it out and not get frantic over controlling everything. I’m excited and I feel like it’s ready.”
“I am working towards being a timeless artist regardless of whether that comes with fame or not. It’s about people in 30 or 40 years hearing my music and being connected to it, not feeling the age of it, just feeling it and how it sounds, or how I’ve sung a note or how it looked and how it inspires them.”
Collard is somewhat of a renaissance man, someone who is attuned to his craft, a perfectionist of sorts and a deliberate worker. On first glance, you may see a 24-year-old man, but dig deeper and there is a displaced soul, many years his senior, somewhat ensnared in the past while simultaneously existing ahead of his time.
“I can’t talk to people my age and be like ‘Do you remember that B.B. King show where he rewired his guitar strings on stage?’ because they’re like ‘I don’t care about stuff like that, bro I’m trying to see Travis Scott right now’ – no one really cares about that stuff but I always did.”
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Collard speaks of his favourite music growing up as if he were there, living it and fondly reminiscing, “I want to return to that era of heritage bands and crazy, insane music like Rolling Stones, like real music. My ideal is the Woodstock era of music. That’s what I would say is the most epic era of music ever. There were no rules.”
It’s difficult not to pick up on the slight frustration brewing inside him as he debates the current musical landscape, and discusses his appreciation for the likes of Shame and Solange. For Collard, his qualms lie in the content and writing of the music itself, where he highlights the propensity for current music to lack in any real substance, “I think there’s definitely still some great artists out there. It’s just the writing for me, it is my pet peeve but it can also really excite me with music, I really care about that and nowadays there’s a lot less of people obsessing over what they write and how they write.”
“Every song you hear you have to feel like that’s really them. I have tried to do the unauthentic thing of making trendy music and I notice the difference in how I write and what I write. It’s just cleaner this way, it feels more natural, it feels like I’m actually contributing to my art instead of just cheating it. I think the problem with current artists is that they’re too preoccupied with appealing and appeasing and making everything sell. It’s Instagram music, it’s all on the surface. They just care about algorithms and internet shit.”
His writing is strongly rooted in feelings, experiences, an appreciation for art and a genuine respect for oneself and his fellow human beings. He is undoubtedly a man of integrity, placing a great deal of importance on the honesty in his art. Although he admits to previous ill behaviour and to having made mistakes along the way, his distinct level of self-awareness and ability to maturely reflect on a situation is refreshing and something he firmly incorporates into his music.
“I feel like music is the strongest message so there are certain things that I want to say now, that I wouldn’t have been able to say when I was 16. It’s not that difficult to curb your language and your way of thinking and thinking that maybe I should evolve away from a level of ignorance that isn’t acceptable. In terms of my music, I think how my language is used, is the best way to do that. Being some kind of martyr or being some self-righteous bastard, I can’t stand that because I don’t know what you’re like at home bro.”
“As men, in simpler terms, and in music we can definitely steer away from being derogatory towards women. There are so many ways you can talk about sex romantically or in depth or with a level of intellect, where we don’t have to keep dragging ourselves down to saying dumb shit.”
“We have a responsibility to be honest as artists and even if the message isn’t agreed with, it can at least open up a discussion and there can at least be room for growth and development, but there is a line. We are artists, we are meant to create art and we are here to entertain and tell our truths. We can’t always be social justice warriors because some of us just aren’t. You can definitely help push things towards a more peaceful planet but you don’t want to do it in vain, you don’t want to do it just for the sake of doing it.”
“If you see an injustice then speak on it or if you see an injustice and it is close to you then sing about it, write about it. If its trending on twitter and that is the only reason you want to speak about it? Then leave it, don’t touch it because you are just digging yourself into a cul-de-sac because you don’t really feel it or know it.”
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Having been part of the art rap collective, Last Night In Paris, Collard is a well-seasoned performer, gracing the stage of Glastonbury and the like. Upon making the decision to jump ship and go it alone, Collard embarked on a journey to find his own voice with the help of his best friend and producer, Zach Nahome.
Following a brief three week-long sojourn in L.A soaking up the sun, consuming copious amounts of Korean BBQ and sipping on whiskey, the duo finally struck gold.
“We made about 28 songs and it got to the last two days. We listened to all the songs and felt like it was garbage. Like we’re trying to make other people’s music but it’s just not as good. Then Zach picked up a guitar and suggested “Why don’t you try singing in falsetto?” and in that conversation, Zach was trying to get it out of me asking “What do you still listen to? Who have you always stuck to, who has always inspired you?” and I was like D’Angelo, Jannis, Prince, Led Zeppelin – that stuff, that’s what I listen to.”
“So it was like if you’re going to gather inspiration from anyone then it should be them, not people who are currently in the game, that doesn’t make sense because we’ve already got them – You’ve got to go deeper, get into your roots and find what inspires you. Find what makes you want to be out of your shell.”
For his latest track ‘Ground Control’, Zach connected Collard and Kojey Radical to create this ectopic interlude on the record. “I didn’t know he would be on it until I heard the song. He had a session with Zach and a couple days later I had a session with Zach and he was like, “Don’t say anything, just listen to this” – I had already laid down the chorus and I’m guessing Kojey got the theme of what I was talking about from this. I listened to it and it was brilliant, it was perfect. That’s how mine and Kojey’s relationship developed.”
“This is about a time in my life where I was just reckless, I didn’t understand the value of my own life or the consequences of my actions. I was just a wild youth. I came up with the hook of ‘Ground Control’ and it felt dangerous and then I remembered a time when I went crazy, and then my mind was drawn to that.”
“Kojey is like this character called Mephistopheles from Faustus the Shakespeare play, who is the devil, so he is like my Mephistopheles, like how I felt back then when I was always negotiating with the devil and always negotiating with danger – that is what he depicts on this track.”
Sipping solemnly on his whisky, he ponders, “It’s the oddball, it’s the wildcard for sure. I feel like I needed a wildcard on the record and it happened by mistake, but those are always the best ones.”
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Words: Yasmin Cowan
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