07 Nov 2013
"It helps when you’re a kind person, you’re not rude - you know what I mean?" We turn our spotlight on PMR-signed singer, Javeon.
It’s fair to say that Javeon is a man who doesn’t like to be rushed. Seeing many an artist try to strike when the iron is hot and duly slip through the net, he wisely chose to take a step back just when the limelight seemed to be calling out his name.
He first appeared in 2011 on Julio Bashmore’s ‘Father Father’, as Javeon McCarthy, before having the favour returned on his own ‘Love Without A Heart’, and then sung over L-Vis 1990’s unashamed slice of disco-pop ‘Lost in Love’. The following year we only heard from him twice more, teaming up with Two Inch Punch on the criminally overslept ‘Precious’ and then on ‘Lost In Time’, which was duly remixed by T.Williams. Nevertheless, Javeon’s latest partnership served to underline something of a continuing trend; a sense of adventure and willingness to work with young and exciting artists as opposed to hiring bog-standard producers that all too often frequent the mixing desk for more run-of the-mill singers. That’s not to say that Javeon’s gaze isn’t directed firmly at the mainstream. Having most recently teamed up with young south London prodigy MNEK (Duke Dumont, Rudimental) on catchy new single ‘Lovesong’, the native Bristolian’s rise to national recognition looks set to continue. And after spending over a year shaping up his debut album, we’ve learnt that with Javeon, good things come to those who wait.
Where did your relationship with music start, Javeon?
It started when I was about seven, I had an older cousin that was really into loud sound systems and speed garage, jungle, hip-hop and R&B and that’s where it really began.
And what was it that inspired you to start singing?
It was more the R&B that inspired me to start singing but more when I got a bit older and I was in amongst the scene and what people in Bristol were making, it wasn’t until then that I really knew what lane I wanted to go down.
When you say the scene are you referring to Bristol’s dubstep scene?
The dubstep scene and just talking more about the electronic music that I was playing, because it wasn’t just dubstep that was there - there’s a load of really talented musicians. You know, a lot of soul and jazz going on, not on a commercial level but just by gigs that I was doing, rock groups that I was featured in as well, just everything really. Everything that I could get my hands on I was a part of, but dubstep did become quite a big feature towards the end of me running the circuit in Bristol.
I read that you hosted parties for sixth formers at the age of 14 – what made you want to do that?
I hosted a sixth form party and the DJ box was up on the balcony and the dance floor was down below. I was told to hide away because I was under age. It was in the central area of town, just at the bottom of this hill where there’s loads of bars called Park Street. That was my first experience, before that I was literally just doing sets with my mates in youth centres or in bedrooms. Then I was like ‘wow, I’m hosting to real people’. I didn’t really understand what hosting was then, but I just knew that I had a job to do, I was responsible for the music and which direction it was going in and I knew I couldn’t be too aggressive with it.
By hosting do you mean MC’ing?
Less spitting bars because it was soul music that they were playing, I mean they played a little bit of garage so I did get a chance to spit a few bars, but it was mainly soul and R&B
Were you singing over the top?
I wasn’t. There was one part where I did a little bit of singing but it was mainly just hosting them. I picked up MC’ing when I was 13, and that’s when I started getting into garage and grime. At that point, that’s all anybody my age wanted to do. Singing was something I could do, it was handy, but I was more interested in hosting at that age.
How did that first time as a host feel?
There were loads of people on the dance floor. It was weird because it wasn’t a thing where people were looking at me like you get in garage and grime nights, where the guy on the mic is the main guy and everybody’s watching you and you do one thing, you’re in charge of the entertainment. But with this, it was more chilled and laid back, and I was okay with people not looking at me and giving me my props. It was just really cool, I felt a part of something.
And did it give you a taste to carry on actually performing?
Yeah, it was my first sort of solo thing. I’d been in groups doing things up to that point, so that was my first solo venture, going out on my own away from my crew and the people I knew.
From there did you carry on hosting or did you move on to MC’ing?
After that period when I was 14, I left the hosting and focused more on grime stuff. The crew that I was in, we just did sets all over the place. We played in a few clubs while we were under age, but it wasn’t until later that I went back to the hosting and started to infuse it with my singing.
So, your singing took over quite quickly?
Yeah, so for a while, up to 14, I was just singing and the singing was there, and then I became a host and the MC’ing was there and I left singing. But then the singing came back in and at one point they were both on par at around 18. I was doing as much singing as I was MC’ing. A lot of my tracks I was singing and MC’ing. I became known as that guy who can do both, and it enabled me to work with a lot of people because there weren’t a lot of male singers in my scene so I guess I became quite popular quite quickly. Also it helps when you’re a kind person, you’re not rude you know what I mean (laughs), which MCs can get a big reputation for being…
Can you see yourself returning to those roots at some point?
Probably not doing a grime track because I’ve moved on from that, but just the craft of rapping, I’ll infuse it when I can. I won’t just do it because I can. There’s a place for it and I used that style on one of my tracks ‘Love Without A Heart’ and I think I will continue to do that as and when it’s needed. My main thing is singing, and that’s the first thing I was able to do, and my strong point.
In what sense do you think you’ve moved on from grime? What have you made of the resurgence?
Yeah, I’ve been keeping some tabs on it, and I’m still into it but I’m doing more R&B, house and garage-infused music right now, it requires more melodies and I guess that’s what I can provide with my singing. Like I said before, if I feel like an eight bar or a 16 is needed for myself, then I will. If not me then somebody else!
What drew you to sing over more club-orientated productions? Was there a tipping point where you decided that was what you wanted to do?
I think it kind of just happened… My main thing was when I got to about 18 or 19, I was hosting to meet DJ’s so I could I expand the amount of producers that I knew, so I could sing more and I knew that would’ve been my pull, telling these guys that I’m not just another MC, I sing as well. So, I guess the more producers I met like L-Vis 1990, I ended up doing a single that he put out, I went on to work with Julio Bashmore. It was just more vocal-led stuff that I was doing and just kind of happened.
What do you think it is about your voice that lends itself to these dance friendly beats?
I think that R&B and soulful vocals have always worked well over dance music, like if you think of some of the older Chicago house records like Joe Smooth and a load of vocal stuff, they were like gospel and R&B singers and there’s just a long history of R&B and soulful vocals working well over dance music.
Do you see yourself as working primarily working with house producers or do you want to dabble in R&B as well?
It’s not even that, it’s just with what I’ve grown up with, it’s electronic music that I’m really drawn to. Garage and house are really close in vibe, there’s a lot of piano-led stuff in them, and I’m drawn to it. If there’s another style of electronic music out there that works with what I’m doing and it goes down well, then I’m not opposed to it.
Did you experiment with any dubstep tracks?
Yeah, one of the leading dubstep labels in Bristol, Hench, which I was a part of, they did nights and I became one of their hosts and I had a track that went out with one of their artists, Eddie K, I was working with their other artist, Wedge, and I’ve got quite a long musical relationship working with him. Especially some of the first nights before dubstep became a thing everybody hated and started to turn up their nose to, the more rootsy sounding dubstep around 2006, I was really about it then. I started hosting the first nights like Sub Loaded in Bristol and Dub Loaded with Pinch who started it all up. I’d argue that he brought dubstep to Bristol. It felt good to be a part of that scene. I’m proud that it’s a part of my journey.
It’s an interesting journey you’ve taken… Are you looking to hit the mainstream in a similar way to Katy B and Jessie Ware?
Yeah of course, I want my album to go as far as it can. I feel like if I present my album in a pop way, not in a cheesy sense, but in a pop way and do it in a credible way that people can connect with it more broadly.
With that in mind, has a lot of thought gone into who you work with in the studio and also, how closely do you work with your producers?
Over the last year I’ve been working on my album and I’ve done a hell of a lot of sessions. It started with a conversation like ‘what do you want?’ and I guess at the start I didn’t really know what I wanted but I knew what I was into. I was into soul, R&B and garage. I did a lot of experimenting but it wasn’t until the start of this year when I met MNEK that things started clicking together. We work the same way, we talked about what I wanted, he laid down the beats and then we just started writing together and it came together pretty naturally.
What did you say when asked what you wanted?
I want R&B and dance music but presented in a pop way. I think MNEK is into the same things that I am so there wasn’t a lot of talking involved. When you click with someone you don’t really need to talk about everything that there is to know about whatever it is that you’re into… I think as people we click together as well, so it just really naturally came out. It just kept on flowing and flowing, a really natural process, and I’m just really happy that it’s come together and I’ve ended up with a product that I’m really proud of, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted.
And finally, as someone involved in music from such a young age, it’d be interesting to hear what you put the resurgence of R&B artists in both the UK and US down to?
I think maybe it’s down to the internet and the surge of electronic music being accepted a lot more within the charts. As all of these artists come through it becomes easier for people to be open to newer stuff that’s a bit more experimental or not from their world – and that’s a good thing. For me, I just think good music is good music...