27-year-old Elliot Gleave, better known as Example, is emerging as one the biggest up-and-coming talents in the UK music scene. With his smart couplets and ambitious beats it’s clear he’s destined for great things. The SPG decided it was time we found out a wee bit more about the West London lad.
For those people out there who may not have had the pleasure of coming across Example yet, can you please describe yourself and your music? I’ve heard people describe it as dysfunctional electro pop, with a dash of rapping, which I quite like. I started off rapping and making hip-hop so that is always gonna be part of the show but it’s got a lot more up-beat, up-tempo, and a lot more catchy now.
Was your experience of student life all about partying or were you the more conscientious type of student? Nah I wasn’t really very studious. I was one of those really annoying people who would always be going out and getting pissed all the time and then turn up for exams and get really good marks. I wasn’t the model student but I knuckled down in my third year and spent all my time editing and making film so it was alright in the end.
What bands or artists do you think had the most influence on you as a kid and through university? I would say without a doubt it was Michael Jackson. I loved Motown music when I was a kid because my mum used to play it to me all the time. I would say rapping wise it would have to be A Tribe Called Quest, Slick Rick, Wu Tang Clan and Snoop Dogg. With these guys I learned every word of every song. The really early stuff.
Your lyrics are quite cheeky, and you don’t seem to take yourself too seriously. Do you think there’s too much attitude in hip hop? I don’t really care is the honest answer. I think it depends on the person. Some people base their music on that type of persona but I still tell it like it is. A bit more every day geezer type stuff.
You talk about a diverse range of topics in your songs, how do you convert these ideas into lyrics? You just do it. If you are an artist that paints pictures it’s hard to describe how you actually do it, it just happens. If I choose a particular word or rhyme and put it into a song I can’t decide why I’ve done it, it’s just what comes into my head. I’ve got more into song structure though, which has come about by listening to the Motown artists and The Beatles, The Kinks etc. A typical hip hop song normally has a long rap and then a chorus but my new album has quite short verses and is more like traditional pop song writing. In terms of the lyrics they just come to me and what rhymes dictates the direction the song is going.
You have a great live reputation, what do you think you offer as a performer that maybe others don’t? I think the main things are energy and confidence, but movement, use of the stage and clarity of the vocals are very important as well. I always wanna make sure everyone in the room is having an amazing time. We go through a few genres in the set and drop in a few well known samples to try and keep people on our side. If you see Robbie Williams perform he always interacts with the crowd and makes everyone feel part of the show. I try to do something similar.
You’re going on tour very soon. Which cities do you particularly enjoy performing in most? Scotland is always a good laugh because it’s pretty mental up there and Nottingham sticks out. Norwich is another place that we do really well. The crowd are always up for it there.
Obviously being involved in the music industry has its glamorous side. What’s the hardest part of being a musician? I’m not sure there is a hard side. When you decide you wanna be a musician you know what you’re signing up for. Sometimes it’s really tiring with all the travelling and the lack of sleep. When you’ve just got off a ten hour flight and you have to perform and look your best it can be a bit knackering. The only thing I would say really is that you don’t ever get a day off. On the days off you gotta do back to back interviews. As soon as you finish promoting one album the record company have got you writing the next one. Don’t get me wrong though I wouldn’t wanna change it. Overall definitely no complaints.
What are your long term goals? I’d love to have a number one album in the UK, even if I only had it once or was number one for a week. I’d like to play the main stage at Glastonbury, whether I was headlining or playing at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I don’t really care. I’d like to have a hit record in Australia, Japan and Scandinavia, places like that cause I think we could do really well there. I’m just taking every day as it comes at the moment. Every day is new and exciting.
Who would you most want to collaborate with and why? I’m a massive Blur fan, so Damon Alban would be top of my list. Although he seems to collaborate with everyone so I dunno if that is that exciting an answer?! There are also loads of producers I admire but I think most of the people I would really wanna collaborate with are probably dead now……
What are your main hobbies away from music? I run every day and go to the gym every day. That’s probably one of the main ones. I love the cinema and I regularly go on my own if I have to. To be honest the other main one is I love good food. If I get a night off I just like going out for a really nice meal, spend a few quid and just sit there drinking until the restaurant closes. I’m not really into going to bars and clubs and doing the celebrity thing. I sound like an old man!
Which bands/artists are you listening to most at the moment? I like the latest Jay-Z album, been listening to that for a while. Also been listening to the Q-Tip album, although that came out at the start of last year. That’s lived on my iPod for quite some time. I’m still listening to the Vampire Weekend album and I’m looking forward to their new stuff. A whole range of stuff really man, one minute I’ll be listening to some Dub step the next minute it’ll be some classic Rolling Stones. It’s a real mish-mash of stuff.
Finally, what piece of advice would you give to any aspiring artists/musicians reading this interview? I think whatever you can do by yourself, always do. Even if you’re signed to a big label and there are 40 people working for you, do as much as you can yourself. The amount you have to do to keep tabs on people is ridiculous. I spent four years releasing my own music, distributing it and promoting it. Although it was on a much smaller scale compared to now, it gives you a much better perspective into what actually needs to be done. It doesn’t matter how good a rapper or how good a singer you are sometimes, if you’ve got the best songs, you’re sorted. There are plenty of people you see in the charts and you think they’re awful, but it’s down to hard work, good marketing, drive and desire and if you have the best songs you will have the best careers.
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