Spindle Introducing: Ady Suleiman

Both a skilled songwriter and a singer with a compelling, soulful brilliance, Ady Suleiman is emerging as one of the UK’s most unique artists. Hailing from the outskirts of Nottingham with a rich era-spanning appreciation of music, combined with an innate need to turn life experiences into narrative, Ady has developed a fresh yet timeless sound with the kind of distinctive lyrics that have garnered a huge crowd of influential fans from both sides of the Atlantic.

We caught up with Ady to talk about new EP What’s The Score, before he sets off on his first headline tour in November…

 

You seem to have a wide-ranging set of musical influences that span across different genres and eras. Growing up, was there anything in particular that had a real impact on your sound?

Jimi Hendrix was definitely the reason I became obsessed with music. I was about 12, and at first I hated it, didn’t get it and thought it sounded horrible… but a couple of weeks later, I accidentally took the CD on holiday with me in the wrong case, so I was forced to listen to it. After a couple of listens, it finally clicked and I understood why he was so amazing. I became obsessed with music. I loved the idea that no one else my age got it and I felt so clever. I went on to listen to everything from the 50s or 60s. That is how it all started, but Hendrix doesn’t really have much influence on my music today. My next major inspiration was Amy Winehouse. I was 17/18, I wanted to have a career in music, but never thought it was possible to be successful making the music I wanted to sing until I heard Amy. She was so popular, massive and constantly on the radio – yet she was a jazz singer. That made me believe in myself. They are the two most influential artists in my life, for sure.

 

This year you were featured on The Social Experiment’s Surf, alongside the likes of Chance the Rapper, Erykah Badu and Janelle Monáe. How did you get involved with that record?

Pure fluke! I was over in LA working on some of my songs with Nate Fox, who is a producer in The Social Experiment and for Chance the Rapper. Late one night, he called me and said, ‘I am in the studio now with Chance – do you want to come in?’ I thought, ‘Fuckin’ hell, yeah go on then.’ I remember being nervous because I was pretty pissed – I had planned to go out that night in Hollywood. I got there and stood at the back of the room, and just started riffing some ideas over this track that was playing. Nico (aka Donnie the Trumpet) heard me and was like, ‘Yo, go do that in the booth’. So, I went in, did a take, freestyled some ideas and that was it! I did the same on a few other tunes. I didn’t know they planned to release them until the night before – that night I found out one of them now had Erykah Badu singing on it also. It was a pretty surreal feeling.

 

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Joey Bada$$ was featured on your latest release What’s The Score. How did that collab come about?

On that same trip to LA, the studio Nate Fox and I were using to work on some of my tunes was the same studio Joey would use. He had a session straight after me, and though I never met him, I think my music was still playing when he went into his session. Next day, the engineer told me that Joey loved it, and had started asking for a bounce of it for his iPod. I didn’t really believe him until I saw Joey tweet some of my lyrics. When I got back to the UK and was recording What’s the Score, I really wanted a rapper on it, and I instantly thought of Joey. Fortunately, he said yes and laid down a dope verse.

 

The What’s The Score video has a very relaxed vibe. What’s the story behind the video (and the track itself)?

The story is about a girl I liked, and I had no idea if she liked me back or where I stood with her. We linked up a couple of times, and it was all good, but she seemed cautious to kind of get into anything… so, the song is me just kind of saying, ‘What’s up? Where we at? I’m good to go’. The video was simple because of the kind of Latin vibe in the chords and rhythm of the song. I knew I wanted to shoot the video abroad – Rio was my first choice, but I just didn’t have the money for the flights. Barcelona came to mind, and it was amazing – couldn’t have chosen a better city! I wanted the video to feel and look real natural. I had done a couple of video shoots before, and wasn’t sure if I came across completely myself, so I knew I wanted to work with a much smaller team that I felt comfortable around. I flew five or six talented friends across to Barcelona, and said, ‘These are my ideas. Let’s just have a laugh and keep the camera rolling’.

 

 

You got your start in the Nottingham music scene – is this a music community you feel you’re a part of?

I actually lived in a village just outside of Notts, and only started gigging in Nottingham when I was like 19 – but when I did, it was crazy. I never knew the city had so much talent. I had done a couple of gigs before in other cities, but Nottingham claimed me as its own and my music just worked there; it made sense. My music is a mix of genres, and Nottingham is such a multicultural city, yet everyone is on the same wave. That’s what I loved about the city, and probably why my music is not strictly in any genres – just like the people of Nottingham. At the time there was some major, major talent in the city, especially when it came to soul. You could find Liam Bailey, Natalie Duncan and Harleighblu, all on the same line-up, for no more than a fiver. People accepted me and loved what I was doing. Other artists in the city got behind me. Everyone in the media supported me, and I had never received that kind of love from anyone, anywhere. Nottingham is, and always will be, my home to music. I have so much love for the city. I also like the fact that there is so much in the city for me to still explore and do, and places to play. It’s all still very new, even though I’ve lived in the area all my life. I am very proud to be apart of the community, there.

 

What’s been your best performance to date?

I think my favourite, so far, has been the Giles Peterson World Wide Festival 2013. It was on the day of my 21st birthday and at the time, it was the largest crowd I had played. I performed with just an acoustic guitar – the setting was unbelievable. It was in an old broken-down outdoor theatre in Sete, South of France. The stage’s backdrop was looking out across the ocean, so it was a pretty incredible show. I had a great performance that night, and the other acts playing the festival were ridiculous. It was some of best music I’ve ever heard live. To be amongst that calibre of artists and musicians was very special to me… it was a week all about the music.