The journey of me: Effs talks musical influences, motivation and what it takes to be a ‘Better Man’

What inspired you to begin a career in music?

The realisation that when I sang, it did something to people; it would change them in a way, I’d never seen. Sometimes people would come to me and say that they felt a certain way, but once I sang, it lifted them and helped them get through stuff so I almost felt obligated to continue and share the gift I had been given.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

I love singer-singers, you know those artists who can really SING. Musiq Soulchild, Beyonce, Trey McLaughlin, Lauren Hill, Marvin Sapp, Jazmine Sullivan, Travis greene, Le’Andria Johnson, Fred Hammond, Walls group, Usher, John Legend and more recently H.E.R.

You have sung backing vocals for the likes of Ellie Goulding, Davido and Jocelyn Brown. How have you found the transition from backing singer to centre stage?

I really love singing BV’s and performing with others, it’s a totally different feeling to being an artist, and it’s most definitely more comfortable; people aren’t here to see you so there isn’t that added pressure. I also like sharing the stage with others, I’m not 100% sure why that is though. But I’m enjoying the transition into being a solo artist and though less comfortable its 100% where I see myself, I have a lot to say.

You recently covered ‘Déjà vu’ by Beyoncé, adding your own gospel inspired twist. What made you choose that song to cover and how important is it to reflect your gospel roots in your music?

As such a great, classic Queen B song, once I heard what we could do with it and how we can flip it into a male-led gospel ballad it was a no brainer. I like to add something different so people get to hear a classic song in a totally new way.

Gospel is such a big part of my sound, you’ll hear it in the sonics of every track of mine from big church claps, gospel organ and gospel choir backing vocals. Gospel music, and The Gospel, are fundamental to everything I do, what I believe, and how I try to be, so it’s super important that comes across. It’s a massive part of my life, so if it didn’t come across in my music it wouldn’t be a true reflection of me.

Everyone experiences good days and bad days, as a musician, when you have a bad day, what motivates you to keep moving and look ahead to the future?

Hmmm, I would have to say the team, family, and my Fiancee. Everyone around me, and people that believe in, and help me, have all sacrificed a lot, and continue to. This isn’t about me, it’s about us; we are in it together, just because I am having a hard time, it doesn’t mean I get to quit. I feel blessed to be able to do this, so I can’t and don’t take it for granted. In reality bad days are few and far between, I realise how awesome this is, and how many people would love to do this, so I focus on the positive. And that tends to work for me.

Throughout your musical career, have you experienced any ‘wow’ moments? Those moments that you stop to reflect and can’t believe you are where you are?

All the time, literally anytime something new happens it stops me in my tracks. I look up, and say thank you for everything. First Deja Vu came out, was amazing and has had a good response, then the debut single is ready and seeing my video finished for the first time; another milestone, first radio performance and play was amazing for me, and now a Henry Hacking track I’m featured on (“Higher”) has charted top 20 in 4 countries ahead of amazing people like Jax Jones…. Someone pinch me, is this real?? It’s as if every moment is a wow moment to be honest!

What differs you and your sound from other upcoming artists in the music industry?

I think I have a very unique voice, and sound, and I don’t typically fit into any genre. You hear my gospel roots clearly in my music but it’s all very soulful and has more pop elements in the hooks but you still hear the R&B in it and it’s catchy. And it’s all real; I’m not afraid to give people the real, stripped back insight into my life, including past and present mistakes which is what ‘Better Man’ is about. This vulnerability and transparency has been lost over time in the music industry, people don’t really want to share and be frankly honest with it, I think that sets me apart.

You are set to release your debut single ‘Better Man’ on August 9th with an EP to follow, can you describe the creative process and the concept behind the single and EP?

With this song in particular, as it’s my debut we wanted to capture the “journey of me”. Kat Deal (producer/writer) and I were just talking about what I’d been through, the mistakes I’d made, the wrongs I’d done, and how I feel about it all and the song was birthed out of that. The sound is really important so we brought in our favourite Gospel players and singers, half of the drums are live (Jerome Johnson) and half programmed (which is quite rare nowadays in the commericial sphere), Marc Morrison laid down keys and organ and Yves Fernandez killed the bassline. The bvs are our friends (and my fiancee) who I’ve been singing with for years so that was a lot of fun and important for me to have my family on the track.

The concept or message behind, and within the song, is one of firstly, recognition of mistakes and wrongdoings, then it is a declaration of determination that I will be and do better, and finally a plee to those who I have hurt, or wronged, to let me show you I’ve changed. And ultimately to myself, that I’ve forgiven myself, and I’m giving myself the 2nd chance and we all deserve that.

In terms of the EP we are finishing it at the moment and it’s really creative. It follows my life-story up until now and we wanted it to sound interesting and real. It’s sonically got those Gospel and Soul elements but you’ll hear the R&B in it, you’ll hear the Pop influences. It sounds like how my journey has been and it’s a really good reflection of who I am both as a person and an artist.

In your own opinion, what is the most meaningful song you wrote? What makes you say that one?

I would have to say Better Man is definitely up there, as it is so accurate and timely, in relation to how I feel, and have been feeling. And Bulletproof (my next single) is a love song to my Fiancee. We faced a lot of opposition in our relationship from outside influences, and as we are moving into the next step of our relationship, the song just encapsulates the message of being there for someone, through it all.

What personal advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue this career?

Don’t give up. Be honest and roll with the punches. A wise man once said… ‘No one is your friend, No-one is your enemy, but everyone is your teacher’. That is something that I keep with me at all times. No matter what happens to you, learn from it. Be it mistakes, or greatness, always take the lessons with you. Find your team, and finally enjoy the ride; the journey is what makes it special, and will be where the memories are created, enjoy it! Ups and Downs alike.

What does the foreseeable future hold for you as an artist?

The foreseeable future is the release of the 1st single, probably another dope cover, the live performance at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s and more live shows, then the release of my 2nd single. After that we will drop the EP and have an EP launch party, then I guess see where we are and take it day by day. I’m not going to give too much away, people will have to keep a close eye on me [laughs].

Anything else you would like to add?

I just have to thank God for the gift He has given me, and the ability to reach people with my voice and message. To everyone who makes this dream a reality, thank you all. This would not be possible without all of you. A special mention to my big sis, mum Fiancee T, and last but no means least Kat Deal; these people are the 4 pillars. Without them I’m not where I am, or doing what I do. Love you all to bits, I could never repay you all for what you’ve done, and what you do, but I will do my best. Thank you Niji Magazine for taking the time to interview me!

‘Better Man’ is available now to purchase / stream via all major digital platforms.

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