Artists blending genres together within their music is not an uncommon practice. But for artists such as Son Little, it comes as second nature. “I don’t exert any force and I do that always without effort,” he says confidently over the phone from a hotel in Shoreditch. Son Little (real name Aaron Earl Livingston) blends old school soul, R&B and even indie sensibilities with added charisma.
Born in Los Angeles and then moving across the country halfway through his childhood, he puts his varied musical style down to his even more varied upbringing. “It either really influences you in a positive way or you struggle against it. The varied nature, the different environments that I came up in definitely informed my music and had something to do with why my influences and styles are so varied”.
There are also many themes that circulate around Little’s discography, which he explains: “There’s a lot of heartbreak. There’s a lot of introspecting. There’s some spiritualities”.
However, others have seen it differently. “Early on, there was a writer in Philly that described, I think it was a particular song but I can’t remember which one, but he described it as detecting existential dread, which is probably fairly unusual for a R&B meaning artist, but I’d say it’s pretty accurate”.
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Little’s individuality does not just come through on the records. He also aims to deliver a unique live show. After four plus years of having his music personified by a four-piece band, he has decided for his next tour to go solo. “Playing solo kinda offers me the option and ability to really do anything I want because I just know that no-one needs to follow. So, if I want to switch it up and do a Tom Waits cover and I know it, I can do it without worrying about if the guys can follow me or not”.
The process of writing new album aloha, out early next year, was a complete change of perspective for Little. Everything seemed pretty fine sailing to begin with. “It was the first time I worked with another producer so the plan we came up with essentially was to work how I normally do and really go ahead and do production and start writing and introducing the tracks like I always do”.
However, a bump in these fairly formatted proceedings is what bought a new light onto the process. “The problem is that for the first time in a really long time, as hard as it is to admit, I failed to back up all of these demos and I actually lost all of them”.
He continues: “It was kind of a painful process. I learnt a lot of things and this was probably another theme for me. It’s just an obstacle to overcome. I always try to keep in mind, no matter what happens, I can always make more music”.
As a result, the album was penned within eight days in a small house in remote Petaluma, which allowed the silence to do the talking. “I’m a firm believer in wherever you go, there you are. Had I not lost those demos I know for a fact that it’d be a very different record”.
He continues: “The record I had being trying to make and lost really wasn’t the right one for right now”.
There’s a beautiful meaning behind the album. It both signifies letting go of old feelings and learning to embrace new ones. Little starts to reflect on how those two feelings have been dealt with previously. “I think those two feelings have been for me kind of in conflict previously and this time I feel like they’re more so in harmony. I don’t feel like one is detracting from the other”.
The sense of liberation within this album is also captivating. Album opener ‘hey rose’ has a definite swagger to it and fully showcases Little’s impeccable way with words. There’s also plenty of intense self-examination. Many raw feelings and emotions are told so vividly and without caution that it is almost alluring. ‘suffer’ mourns the loss of a beloved uncle to suicide whilst ‘o clever one’ blatantly tells of the world his two sons are due to inherit. The entire ethos of the album is centred around embracing your emotions for the better – in order to grow, you must let go.
But what does Little want to achieve with this album? The entire process of this album has already taught him a lot. “I’ve had growth as a writer and growth as a producer from this project so far. That has all happened without releasing it”.
But when the album is released, Little has even more goals to achieve. “I like the idea of having a large catalogue. There’s a lot of (my) songs out in the world that have resonated with people enough to force some really difficult choices when I play live what to play. I want to make that decision even more difficult”.
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Son Little's new album 'aloha' will be released on January 31st. Catch the singer live:
27 Brighton Patterns
28 London Oslo
Words: Hayley Millross
Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez
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