By STEPHANIE STEVENS-WADE
A COLLABORATION seems to be the right way to go about things as a new artist in today’s musical world. Kimbra, Labryinth, Rita Ora, Delilah and Lucy Rose all started collaborating with up and coming artists with the Collab School hailing Josh Kumra as their latest export.
On a damp day in a Camden pub garden Josh Kumra pushed aside his freshly served lunch to talk to Pillow Magazine about his debut album, the UK music scene and that first break. “I’m going to answer these question in double speed so I can eat that burger,” he jokes.
The singer songwriter from Swindon joined Wretch 32 on his second chart topping track Don’t Go last year, beating Emilie Sande and Christina Aguilera to the top spot. “It felt really good. It’s a big surprise to me how well it did because it just felt like a really off-the-cuff kind of thing. I moved up to London a year ago and two weeks later I got a phone call from Wretch saying he really wanted me to be on the track so I got in the studio and we just did it as a little jam. What we did in that day is actually what became Don’t Go. It was mind blowing. It’s really nice to have this song that everybody believes in and when you’re playing it in live shows to 10-20,000 people and they all start singing it back, it’s great,” says Kumra still grinning about the moment.
After travelling back and forth from Swindon to London for three years it was time to take a huge step and move to the city to focus on recording. “It felt like the pace was lacking a bit. Luckily in two weeks I was busy working with Wretch and doing all these festivals with him.”
Moving to London and writing and recording with Wretch was a great leap for the 21-year-old. “It was the first time in my life when I thought my music could go somewhere. It gave me a vision and something to stand on and a foundation to build my career off. It just put everything into perspective and made me realise I had a lot of hard work to do and if I did it maybe it could actually happen y’know?”
As Kumra prepares himself for more chart stardom amid the release of his new material, he admires the UK musicians already garnering worldwide stardom. “It’s so diverse and that’s the great thing about it. You have people like Ben Howard in the charts, then Ed Sheeran doing the same thing but in America with a top 10 album. So it’s a brilliant time for British music and I want to be part of it.”
So does the the magic happen in the studio or on stage? “I’m definitley a stage guy. I love being on stage. Basically what I do in the studio is my way to get on stage.” And that time spent in the studio has delivered Helicopters and Planes, his magnificent debut single showcasing those simmering, sumptious vocals we all remembered from Don’t Go blended with his own slice of UK hip hop driven soul.
“I actually didn’t write Helicopters and Planes, it was written by Emilie Sande. I went down to the studio to feature on a single for Naughty Boy and Helicopters and Planes was playing in the background and I fell in love with it! I gave it a go and it just felt right. It’s a bit weird having my first release that isn’t written by me but I just think if it’s a great song and you have faith in it and believe in it, then why not?”
K Koke also accompanied him giving a raw edge to Kumra’s soft vocals. “Around the time I was looking for somebody to be on it, I had all of these people telling me I should listen to K Koke but not in connection with my single. So I looked him up and he came in and did his part and I think he just hit the nail on the head. He bought that extra 10% the song needed that made it what it is.”
Helicopters and Planes channels a few different genres so it’s tough to pin Kumra to a specific style. “That’s why it’s taken me so long to get my first album out because I have all of these different influences and inspirations. Musically, Ray LaMontagne, Ryan Adams, the acoustic singer song writers, and then I’m also a massive Jay Z fan so I’m trying to bridge the gap and make my own sound and get that connection right.
As his first collaboration went down so well with Wretch 32, it’s inevitable Kumra will pilot new artists on his album. “I have got some on my album but not high profile ones. Over the three years I’ve been working on the album I’ve met some cool people. Mai Dai, who actually co-wrote the album, has a really nice voice and features on it. Everybody needs that little break like I had with Wretch.”
His album, Good Things Come To Those Who Don’t Wait has been pushed back from a its original September release date to January now to gauge the success of his debut single and recover from festival season.”We’ve got a couple more singles in between that which is good. Now we’ve got a bit more time to build up that fan base and we’ve got loads of festivals coming up. I don’t to rush anything.” So after a long wait, what can we expect? Ballads and beats? “I’m 21 and I’ve experienced quite a lot of things. This is my first album, my journey to where I am now.”
With a summer jam packed full of festivals, Kumra is preparing for a string of shows, this time with the spotlight on him. “I’m really excited. I played them last year with Wretch and I really like the taste of it, so I’m happy that I get to eat them.”
It’s unclear whether he’s speaking about his giant burger that’s losing its deliciousness by the minute or the exciting months ahead, but one thing that is crystal is Josh Kumra’s hunger for success.
Helicopters and Planes, out 16th June.
Good Things Come To Those Who Don’t Wait January 2013