Ahead of his Dublin show, Labrinth takes some time out to speak to Edward Kearns about globe-trotting and genre-hopping
Labrinth is the new breed of pop artist, a one-man production line; writing, producing, performing and helping to release hit songs, both for his own and those by other artists. Working with the likes of Tinie Tempah, Professor Green, Wretch 32 and Emeli Sandé, his curriculum vitae is as broad and varied as his musical style. Despite this, he has no plans to stop anytime soon. “The thing is, I’ve got so much stuff in me, so I don’t think I’m going to stop for a while, so people can expect to hear loads of different sounds from me. Hopefully, eventually we’ll get to a place where people are like ‘That’s just Lab, he does what the fuck he wants, man’. That’s where I want to be at.”With his own album Electronic Earth, released last March, proving to be an instant success, his widespread appeal he determines is down to his courage and through following his instincts: “It definitely helps to be brave.” The album features songs that explore a wide range of genres from sweet, melodic pop ballads to dubstep-influenced club bangers like ‘Earthquake’. Labrinth’s love of electronic dance music shows through in his material, but he maintains that he is “more of a dance-music-with-song type of guy.”He wants to give his audience something to sing along to, and he takes a traditional approach to the craft of song writing, down to the instruments he uses. “I’d rather guitar first. Guitar, piano…you know some days I’m a bit of a schizophrenic creator, like you know, the way I make music. One day I’ll be like ‘I wanna make just loads of musical songs’ and I would get on my guitar or piano and just write something like that. And then another day I’ll be like ‘I wanna make some futuristic crazy kind of beats.’ So it just varies every once in a while, man.”
Labrinth is a man with got old-school credentials. Some listeners assume that his take on ‘Express Yourself’ is an N.W.A. reference, but he reveals that it was much more influenced by the song’s 1970s progenitor, Charles Wright. “I like a lot of old-school funk, and like, Commodores, some of their funk was sick. Earth, Wind and Fire, that kind of stuff. And I think, of course, Charles Wright is loads more old-school than them, he’s more in the James Brown days, but I definitely have a love for funk.”After a whirlwind visit to Australia and New Zealand for the Parklife festival tour, he’s straight back in the UK and Ireland with his own headlining tour, and if his summary of the opening night in Bristol is anything to go by, it appears to be going quite well. “It was sick. I lost a few pieces of my clothing, I crowd-surfed, had some crazy little guitar solos in the middle, so it was all mad fun, man.”He’s sold out quite a few of the shows already, which has been quite exciting for him. “We’re sold out in Bournemouth, we sold out in Bristol last night as well. Basically, me and my team, after every sold-out gig we like to have a cocktail, so I’m going to be an alcoholic by the end of this tour.”
The music industry has changed a lot since the heyday of these artists. People don’t rush to buy CDs, or records for that matter, as they used to, so artists need to diversify and find new business models to be successful. Labrinth has harnessed his success to branch out into the label side of the industry, starting with his own imprint, Odd Child.
“I’ve got two artists called Raf Riley and Etta Bond, and they’ve got a group called Emergency Room together. And yeah, they’re doing amazing. They’re on the tour with us right now so I’m really happy about that. I’m able to take some of my own artists and push them forward, and then using my tour as well, I’m giving them the kind of recognition that they might not be able to get on their own.”Labrinth is also in tune with the importance of social media. “I think it’s really important for your fans to be able to connect with you. I think every artist finds it quite difficult to be able to do that all the time, you have to be like constantly on your phone, constantly texting and being on Twitter. But at the same time, for me it’s like a relationship, it’s like having a girlfriend. You want to make sure she knows you’re alright; you want to make sure if she’s not with you on tour, she’s able to see what’s going on. And that’s how I feel with my fans anyway; it’s a relationship. You’ve got to make sure that that connection is constant, so that’s what you’re allowed to do on Twitter and Facebook and stuff like that.”
So he keeps composing, touring, texting, singing. “I need to do it myself,” he says. “I’m just going to go wherever my heart takes me, man. Whether that’s going to make me a very successful artist I don’t know, but as long as I’m being as honest as I can be, hopefully my fans will respect me for that, man.”Labrinth rolls into Dublin at the end of this month, and he’s already anticipating it. “I love Dublin,” he says, “Love Dublin, love Belfast, I’ve got cousins in Belfast and Cork, so yeah it’s a family affair over in Ireland.”Labrinth plays The Academy on October 30th. His album Electronic Earth is out now.