Kwabs talks music: ‘I appreciate the fact that people believe in me’

Kwabs with reporter Dan Cain at Brighton's Komedia
Kwabs with reporter Dan Cain at Brighton's Komedia

FRESH from a stint supporting multiple Grammy winner Sam Smith, hotly-tipped south London soul man Kwabs is preparing for the launch of his debut album with four intimate sold-out shows.

Just hours before he took to the stage at Brighton’s Komedia last night, Kwabs could be found sipping green tea in the venue’s sun-soaked café. His breezy, chilled demeanour perfectly complemented a glorious spring afternoon in the city.

There was no rock star pretension, only an artist blessed with a hypnotic baritone, grateful for the opportunity to share that talent with an ever-growing fan base.

Casually dressed in a long-sleeved black cotton shirt and a backwards cap, he said: “In terms of the accolades and the attention, I guess I just appreciate being noticed and acknowledged, and I appreciate the fact that people believe in me.

“I’ve been Kwabs forever to all my friends but now I understand there is a difference between the person I am when I’m on stage and the person I am when I’m at home drinking herbal tea and listening to soul records. That’s kind of cool and different. It’s something I’m getting to grips with.”

Listening to Kwabs’ music can be an emotional experience – current single Perfect Ruin reduced my better half to tears upon first listen. While there might not be tears on stage, Kwabs’ facial expressions and body language are clear signs that the songs evoke strong emotions from within.

He said: “The recorded music is like the scripture and the live gig is the sermon. That’s the perfect opportunity to convey what the songs meant when you wrote them, so you have to be entirely genuine and it has to be entirely heartfelt, otherwise you may as well just listen to the record.

“What people don’t know about me is I have a really strong physical connection with music, whether that is to laugh, cry or dance – I can’t help that.”

While his stock continues to rise in the UK, he has already scored a number one platinum hit in Germany with Walk.

“It’s really amazing and really weird at the same time,” he said. “I wrote the tune without thinking where it will go. All I know is I liked it. Now it’s platinum in Germany and I still can’t understand how that happened, but I ain’t mad (laughs).

“I’m still surprised and really happy. It’s a relief that it’s done what I thought it deserved to do. Now I’ve got a bit of a second home in Germany in terms of my fan base. I gig out there a lot now.”

A recent performance in Radio One’s Live Lounge saw Kwabs perform a cover of Ed Sheeran’s Bloodstream, alongside highly-rated British grime artist Stormzy.

The collaboration happened after Stormzy shared Kwabs’ Perfect Ruin video online around a week before the performance.

“I liked him and really respected what he did and thought he might be interested in doing something,” said Kwabs. “It was really short notice but amazing vibes. When you like what someone does you just make it work and it sounded awesome, so I’m really pleased.”

While there are no future collaborations in the pipeline just yet, Kwabs said he’d love to perform with Frank Ocean, Sia or Swedish pop singer Erik Hassle.

“I’m just enjoying writers. All of those guys are people who have written for loads of artists for years and have finally got their own projects. I love hearing their individual voices it really inspires me.”

Hardworking and humble, Kwabs already has his sights set on album number two and, possibly inspired by his old tour partner Sam Smith, admitted he wouldn’t mind winning some Grammys of his own. Given the quality of his work, it would come as no surprise if that were to happen.