Adapt to Thrive
Adapt to Thrive is available via:
Charlie J. Perry
THIS will be one of the last times I’ll be….
looking at brand-new artists and their first single. There is a slew of hopeful and bright musicians that are laying down their marker and taking that all-important first step into music. As far as I can tell, there are no real definite standouts – those that are so far ahead of the pack others have to catch up. There is an immense amount of competition and variation in music right now. Before I come to my featured artist, I will look at brand-new artists emerging in London right now; the blue-eyed, modern-day Soul artists around and the importance of visibility and connection – another gripe/theme that I shall air for the final time. I’ll start with that point, actually, as it is something that irks me about modern artists. Being a reviewer who often uses fourteen/fifteen photos in a review: it is galling and sweat-making fleshing out a review for artists who only have a couple of snaps on their social media pages. That point is applied to today’s featured artist as he has immense potential but needs to get himself out there more. It is not a big issue but one yearns to connect with an artist straight out the traps. As there are so many people playing, it is imperative those entering music do so hard and meaningful. It is all well and good having a song or two but photos and personal revelation are paramount in order for the prospective fan to gain an understanding of the artist. My featured act does have a firm and full biography but is a little anonymous when it comes to visuals and photography. I often speculate as to why certain acts call time and others struggle to get off the blocks. I am not suggesting a lack of photos will end a career but I like to discover a musician and actually see them – how they come across on camera and gain more knowledge of what they look like. For a journalist, I am always leaning on visuals in order to make reviews more illuminative, stylish and less wordy – at least punctuating sentences and blocks with photos. Anyone hoping to make early breaks in the industry needs to get that side of thing sorted. In addition to this, a full and respectable social media portfolio needs to be cemented.
It is not good enough ignoring outlets like Twitter and Facebook – they are there for a reason and will help gain support and followers. Maybe it is me moaning, but get those photos and images sorted and you are already overcoming hurdles and potential problems early on. Photoshoots cost a bit of money but there is always the space and need for a few candid, personal snaps – maybe the odd fan shot or gig photo. I wanted to raise this point; not just to gripe about something but highlight a vital thing. I do wonder whether music is affordable at the moment and what new artists have to endure. One of the reasons so many bands and acts have short lives in the industry is the financial imbalance and struggle. It is a challenge generating funds and enough money to continue to perform but the audacious costs of getting music together is, quite frankly, astonishing. I have mentioned photos but wonder: how expensive would it be getting a set of professional shots together? Even if you have a P.R. company behind you, you will still have to fork out some serious money for promotional shots and a website. From there, you have to think about the recording and production of songs. We have reached a stage in music where the cost is starting to outweigh the benefits and profits. With so many venues closing down, it is getting harder for new musicians to perform and find opportunities. Alas, I shall leave this for now but just wanted to talk about that issue – it is something that gets to me and needs to be addressed.
Before I come to my next point – and raise another one – I shall introduce my featured artist:
“EBSON is a new Alternative Soul artist drawing on deep rooted soul sensibilities that resonate through blues infused vocals and a fearless engagement to grand themes of power, struggle and the journey of realisation.
An ear for multi-layered arrangements and the insight of a storyteller, EBSON takes inspiration from the world around him, combining to create a distinctive sound that is as much a product of the environment we live in as it is the personal experiences and insights of one man. Over the last four years EBSON has patiently dedicated himself to his craft, defining and honing the vision for his sound leading to the release of his first single Adapt to Thrive. In that time EBSON has worked alongside and collaborated with award winning creatives not only from the music industry, but also the worlds of British film and visual art. Musically, EBSON cites a broad range of influences from both sides of the Atlantic; from D’Angelo, Anthony Hamilton and Gil Scott-Heron, to James Blake, The XX and Hans Zimmer”.
There is enough in that biography to suggest a young man that has the drive and passion to see if through. Aside from the word ‘journey’ being used – the most overused and nauseating word any musician can employ in their lexicon – I have a lot of faith in EBSON. He is a bit hard to find on Twitter – there may be an account but I can’t track him – and there is only a single shot of him on Facebook – a few other photos to go alongside it. When that side of things is rectified and expanded; one can only imagine how far he will go. I’ll come to talk about Soul music, but right now, it is interesting examining all the shades and colours coming from London. The capital is at its busiest and most productive right now. I am struggling to keep a track of all the artists coming through and making sure London is in the public forefront. Maybe there is a sense of quantity over absolute quality but some definite future talent showing their wares. What stands EBSON apart from the throng of musicians coming out is the subjects he is addressing and the way he is going about things. London is seeing a lot of like-minded artists – in terms of sounds and dynamic – yet EBSON is someone I wanted to look at because his subject matter and production sound ensures his debut single gets right into the memory. If you had to compile a list of the top -fifty London musicians of the minute – something I might try to do at some point – where would you start and what would your parameters be? For my money, you have to look at the originality and urgency of the music. From there, one considers the vocal sound and how soulful or stunning it is.
Take it a bit further and look at the words being sung – just how distinct are they and do they stray beyond the familiar? Again, you need to look at the overall package and truly unearth a unique talent – rather than someone who sounds like everyone else. I love the music coming out of London but feel there are too many sound-alikes and indistinguishable musicians. What I love about EBSON is his themes and lyrical ideas. He is a man that triumphs over adversity and compels others to do so. Among the zeitgeist of young, ambitious British Soul artists right now – eyes will surely turn to EBSON and one feels there is ample room for him to nestle into the mainstream. London is the best place for a new musician to grow up and get their voice heard. I fear for those that stay outside the capital and try to make strides. Perhaps bigger cities – Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool – have more chances and are less harsh on the new musician but the towns and villages seem rather limited and empty. I have mentioned the dwindling venues and club scene in London but there are still ample destinations the young artist can cut their teeth. Aside from bars and venues, there are enough spots about London you can get yourself out there. There is also a community spirit and a shared love among musicians – eschewing and subverting social ideals about the capital – and there is no place like it. In that sense, EBSON has started off in the best place and has worked hard to get where he is already.
Before I get to EBSON (and his debut single) it is worth taking a closer look at the Soul artists emerging. I mentioned them, in rather ironic terms, as ‘blue-eyed’ but there is some truth in it. That term – blue-eyed Soul – was employed during the 1960s to artists who has the flair of Stax and Motown to their music without being what one would expect. There was a time when a majority of Soul artists were black but there has been a shift the last couple of decades especially. It is not a racial stereotype to say black artists – when it comes to Soul – have richer and more astonishing voices. Maybe it is their upbringing and musical tastes; something hard to describe, but I always think you cannot beat voices like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Smokey Robinson. There have been some British, white versions of these acts – Paolo Nutini and Sam Smith – but they lack the authenticity, command and presence of those artists. Perhaps those that go for direct Stax-like Soul sounds are always going to struggle. It is not perhaps the voices we should highlight - the greats of the genre will always outrank the newcomers – but those established themes and dimensions. I am hearing so many great Soul voices that are adding other genres together to produce something sparkling and pioneering. Maybe it will be a fusion of Electronic or Pop cores; some Rock edges or something in the way of Indie. What EBSON does is take the groundwork of Soul and updates the sound. He is being compared to the likes of James Blake and The xx because of his vivid and luscious compositions and striking vocals. I proffered how few white soul voices there used to be – it is a genre that is reserved for the finest voices and most alluring artists. For that reason, it is quite challenging coming into Soul and simply throwing something average together. You will be found out and your day will be limited. EBSON is not a man who is in for the short haul and has, not only the determination and talent to see it through, but embers of great Soul artists and D.N.A. that will draw in multiple generations and music fans.
Before arriving at Adapt to Thrive, I usually would look at an artist’s back catalogue and how they have come along. That is hard for a young man who has just released his debut yet one can predict his future and what direction it will take; the artists that go into his music perhaps. I have mooted artists like James Blake and The xx: they are two names you will hear in Adapt to Thrive. Jamie Woon is someone else who one hears but, to be fair, EBSON is his own man and only uses these artists briefly and as a guide. It is positive finding a musician that has that quality and comparison early – you never feel like EBSON is a second-rate version of any of these acts; always committed, assured and incredible throughout. If you are a fan of the cinematic, atmospheric Soul of Woon and Blake then you will love EBSON and what he is producing. Similarly, anyone who favours their Soul genuine and emotive will find much to love about Adapt to Thrive. You get a touch of the ‘60s and ‘70s legends but something very modern and 2016 with it. I feel EBSON will be producing a few E.P.s and albums in the future and every new release will expand and develop from the other. In the early stages, one can hear a lot of confidence and bravery in the music. He has not gone in with limited sounds and a rather cliché song – what you get is plenty of scope and vision; a song that has positive messages and does not stray to the well-worn themes of relationships and love.
Adapt to Thrive is a song that starts with echoed and haunting vocals – wordless and trance-like in their delivery. In a sense, one gets little hints of artists from Faithless and Roots Manuva from those notes. They are quite dark and urban but have soulfulness and coolness to them. You get hooked into a very luscious and intriguing sound that soon mutates into a concentrated vocal and thought-provoking lyric. Addressing the need to survive and the struggle one faces: the hero has no room for his voice to be heard but has “so much to say”. That message and thought could apply to EBSON or society in general. Having been inspired by London and the rabble one faces: you feel it is hard, in a modern city, to get yourself heard and find room. Backed by sparse piano notes and a general aura of shadows and darkness: the hero is fighting through the mist and trying to reach the light. EBSON is not someone who will take ‘no’ for answer and simply watch someone surrender. There are a lot of challenges and struggles we face on a daily basis. It can be hard finding resolve and strength but that is the point of the song: finding that courage and dispensing with the weaknesses. In fact, that idea – shifting the weak side of us – is almost emphasised and becomes a mantra. We often get bogged down by our hang-ups and doubts; the feeling we cannot carry on against the pressure and hardships. You are compelled by EBSON’s voice and what he is laying down. That deep and striking voice gives the words gravitas and strength; you close your eyes and picture the Soul greats and how they could grip you with their voices. I have mentioned the legends of Soul and how engaging and entrancing their voices are – that same label can be applied to EBSON. He might take some time to ascend to their heights but you hear plenty of promise in Adapt to Thrive. While you get an unmistakable reflection and sound of the capital: one also can hear embers of the U.S. and the greats that emerged from the country.
Combining these contrasts with the relentlessly impressive production sound and (bare but haunting) composition and the song keeps on igniting sparks and getting into the soul. EBSON’s voice is multiplied and creates a humming, twilight choir that gives a smoky allure to the positive messages of fight and hope. Our hero wants fear abandoned and the causal listener to think carefully. Those timid or unsure sure reevaluate and extinguish that in them that causes trepidation and doubts. Not only does Adapt to Thrive have and inherent survival mechanism and rebellious streak: it is a universal message we can all abide by and take heart from. Many of us feel trapped and doubtful; never sure of our worth and potential. In that sense, the song has multiple facets and can be applied to so many different feelings and scenarios. As those vocals layer and climb: you feel the chills come but also something warming, romantic and graceful. It is easy to hear shades of Jamie Woon and James Blake: that same resonance and timbre; the coffee-rich sound and low-sounding tones. The song gets faster and more street-level as it progresses. Unlike artists like James Blake: EBSON seems to cast his stories directly to the London streets and the commuter population. That distinct accent and affection for the people is balanced with a scepticism and unnerving fear of the wider world. The hero actually asks what has happened to the world, and one feels, that is a reaction to recent atrocities and terrorist attacks; the fact humanity seems to be slipping. All the composition does is provide chimes and the odd note: effectively, the vocal is king and the most dominant instrumental in the emotional orchestra. By the half-way stage, you get a sense of EBSON and his abilities; what he is trying to say and the music he produces. It ensures the final two minutes find the hero pondering and striking against meekness and fear. Those that kneel should not do so through fear but gratitude: overthrow those negative thoughts and embrace something more positive. EBSON’s voice simultaneously could have been found in The Tabernacle (from the Hebrew Bible) but is very much at home at London’s The Tabernacle – in the sense you get something old-world and profound but modern and British.
As the song ticks, it grows in stature and sound. The vocals and more prescient and that general combination of beauty and fear becomes evident and inescapable. It is the beauty that resounds and will leave indelible impressions. EBSON is a man who wants the world to castigate the hatred and violence and discover something purer and more human – a preacher fighting against the smog and anxieties of the modern world. Adapt to Thrive is local and universal; personal and everyman; haunted but transcendent. As the hero points the finger at the world – not having learnt from mistakes and growing – the beats come in thick and fast and add new layers. You get caught into the bellicose slams and the pastor-at-the-pulpit declarations of the hero – a man that stands atop spirituality and is not passing judgement but trying to decipher humanity and mankind. You never get the sense EBSON thinks life is too short and time is waning – always the feeling there is so much to do and enough time to affect change. Few artists, especially on their debut, present something as deep and embracing as this. Usually, they address heartache and sorrow and it can feed into that pandemic of doe-eyes musicians who are too keen to jump on the psychiatrist’s sofa – a little selfish in a way. Those that reserve those complaints for future releases are to be applauded. Because of that, Adapt to Thrive is a more relatable song and has positivity in every note. You never feel suffocated, bored or awkward as you hear it: constantly uplifted and made to ponder life and the self. By the time the song ends, you are urged to repeat it and reinvestigate. Not only is this because of the clear nuances that can be found – not just in the lyrics but the subtle yet accomplished composition – but the instantaneous quality. Adapt to Thrive is a confident and solid song from a bright talent who impresses right from the very start.
I have put a great many words together to try and explain the talent and abilities of EBSON. It is rather evident, from listening to Adapt to Thrive that he will do fine without my words. The young London-based artist is already getting into the vision of some rather prominent stations and reviewer. It is always a huge challenge making yourself known from the debut single and that is putting a lot of talent off. They see the realities and hardships involved with promotion and it can be rather upsetting and sobering. EBSON has been lucky to get the attention of Brick (a P.R. company in London) and is being looked after and taken under their wing. It cannot be too long until he is being played prominently on the big stations and getting some rather hefty gigs under his belt. Before I wrap things up – and assess the future of EBSON – I wanted to come back to the original points of exposure and transparency; the Soul singers coming about and the importance of London. The capital is a thriving and boiling pot of cultures, sounds and wondrous musicians. I have never seen a time when the city is so alive and bright as it is now. I am not sure what has caused this explosion but maybe it is a reaction to the dwindling club scene. The musicians are, maybe, feeling a sense of disconnection and separation and are coming together strongly. There is a definite desire to prove the Government wrong and show how needed the small venues and clubs are. They (Government) are negligent and naïve with regards this point and do not understand how vital that side of music is. Aside from some drug-related deaths besmirching the good name of fabric: there have not been many other issues that could rationlise closing a club. Perhaps finances and a lack of support are condemning some venues but there is a bigger problem that must be addressed. I know it is a complex issue but it is courageous the musicians of London – and the U.K. as a whole – are banding together and showing common strength and unity.
EBSON has arrived, in many respects, at a rather peculiar time. Never has the scene been as busy and varied as it is now but never has it been as fraught and uncertain. One of the ways music will continue to overcome and inspire is the talent and commitment of the young generation emerging. Some genres are suffering strains – the purity and survival of Rock can be questioned; mainstream Pop is rather stagnant and commercial – but there are others that are blossoming and evolving. 'British' 'Soul' are two words that one could not have placed together at a certain time – almost like foreign counterparts with no shared history or relevance. Over the past few years, the promulgation of artists like James Blake has ensured British Soul is not to be sniffed at and overlooked. Not purely connected to the forefathers of the genres: the new presentation of the genre is modernised and of-the-moment. Not reliant of heavy strings and emotive palettes: there seems to be a preference for dark and cinematic swathes; something a little edgier and twenty-first-century, one could barter. Adapt to Thrive is a rallying cry from a young man that has put an anthem for unity and defiance on the page. The cinematic landscape and fight-against-the-odds strength is something that will connect and resonate with many. Those layered harmonies and Gothic elements; the cinema-screen width and raw emotions all go together wonderfully. Charlie J. Perry has joined with Grammy-nominated Alex Evans, and between them, helped produce and mix a track that announced a sensational new talent. The ascending melodies and themes were inspired by a trip (EBSON took) whilst negotiating the bustling streets of London. I have stated London is heaving and busy but that has a couple of different sides to it. In terms of productivity, you cannot fault it and there is a huge and ambitious music scene developing. On the other foot, there are so many people crammed into a city which can provoke the need for survival and keeping your breath. Perhaps suffocated and struggling against the sheer number of bodies in his path: a song has been born that is one man’s assessment of this – creating something inspiring that will get into the listeners’ hearts and bring some raw emotions to the surface.
It is a wonderful song that one hopes will form the part of an E.P. That might be at the back of his mind, but as we head into 2017, one feels that will be a concern. Arriving hot with a song like Adapt to Thrive and there has been a lot of attention put the way of EBSON. Maybe a four-track E.P. or similar is in his thoughts or maybe something full-length and album-like. After that, there will be the considerations of touring and taking the next steps. These are all things to ponder, but for now, the attention for the debut single is strong and continuing. Let’s just wrap things up by saying EBSON has navigated early hurdles and has come out strong and defiant. Here is an artist that is unlikely to struggle and find it tough getting focus from the media and radio. The music is already established, confident and authoritative and you get the sense he will be around for a very long time to come. What form that takes will be interesting to see but one assumes the Alternative-Soul route is one with a lot more juice left in it. I hope EBSON gets a few photos taken and puts them up as it would be good, not only for a reviewer or interviewer; but give the public a chance to put a face to the music. That is almost as important as making terrific music: creating a persona and putting a human element behind the songs. If you cannot get a sense of what the artist looks like it can be hard bonding and finding any real connection to them. For now, and before all those considerations are debated, enjoy a song from a London artist who is one to watch. His song might look for strength in the face of adversity but it seems…
THERE will be no struggle for EBSON.
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