IT is pretty rare for me to step out of my usual remit…
and speak with an artist like Richard Hadfield. That is not a sign of lacking talent: he is one of the strongest Jazz artists coming through right now. I mean I do not usually pursue artists who have appeared on talent shows – I avoid them and do not find them beneficial to modern music. Luckily; Hadfield has broken away from those days and establishing himself as a fine young artist – even though he has fond memories of the time he spent on Britain's Got Talent. He talks to me about his former band, Callabro; details about his current song, Shape of You/Fever (a mash-up of the two tracks); the gigs he has coming – and the music, past and present, he adores.
Hadfield talks about his upcoming plans and new material; where we can catch him perform; how his music career has developed and changed – his views on the current market and the mainstream.
Hi, Richard. How are you? How has your week been?
Great thanks. Lots of gigs - so, can’t complain!
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
Yes, of course…
Recently, I’ve returned to my true love of Jazz music. Back in 2014; I won Britain’s Got Talent as part of a vocal-harmony group called Collabro. As much as it provided me with incredible accolades - such as a number-one album, world tours and a great fan-base - it became too political and I stopped enjoying singing. It stripped away the reasons why I loved performing.
About a year-and-a-half ago, I decided that regardless of money, fame etc...it was more important to work towards something I truly enjoyed - rather than just cruising by, miserably. It was then I decided to leave the group and go back to a genre I have always been inspired by - and was pursuing before joining Collabro.
Since leaving the band, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to craft my own audience and sound; performing at historic Jazz clubs like Ronnie Scott’s; NYC’s Smalls and the Blue Note Tokyo. It’s been a steep learning-curve, as it’s a totally different music scene, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenge - and feel like me and my team have made great headway.
Shape of You/Fever is your new mash-up. What is it about those songs that meant you had to tackle them?
Yes. I’ve been performing Shape of You since the song originally came out...but it’s been fantastic to finally visualise the song with my band on YouTube. As we all know: videos are king, these days, for displaying content.
I really enjoyed the song when it initially came out but I immediately heard Fever in the chord-structure and thought the lyrics of the two songs fitted perfectly. With a little reworking, the band and I not only incorporated Fever but managed to squeeze in the bass-line from Hit the Road Jack - and some melody from Just the Two of Us. Nothing beats the old classics - but it’s always great to catch the audience off their guard with something that’s familiar (but in a different setting).
I always like to bring my own story to a track; whether it is through writing an original or simply changing the phrasing of a song. One song can provoke so many emotions - and I like to explore them deeper rather than listening to just the surface-lyrics.
What do you think of modern artists like Ed Sheeran? I am a little torn, myself! Do you think his style of music is the way forward?!
I think Ed Sheeran has his place.
There was clearly a gap and he took it. Now, every man and his guitar/loop-pedal is on YouTube - and I’m sure there are just as talented people out as Ed…but he was one who set off the acoustic loop-pedal trend. I don’t think we need more of it right now.
Music is like fashion: things come back around.
Do you think the modern mainstream is in a strong state? What kind of music do you listen to at the moment?
The music industry is forever changing.
I feel like it’s more a numbers-game - since most have access to statistics on almost every platform; be it socials or music players. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing. I think it makes a musician look and be more well-rounded as a businessman/woman, rather than being shrugged off by the corporate world as ‘a creative’. I think there’s plenty wrong with parts of the industry - but when has there not been?! We have to remember that major labels are in the same boat as the little guys at the moment: everyone is trying to grasp what the best scenario is for streaming.
It’s affected how much money is put into instrumentation and production costs. Live performance is currently where the margins are being made - and that’s meant people (equally) have to be able to sing and play live more than ten years ago - and have the social media reach to sell out a gig. I’m interested to see how the industry evolves sound-wise once streaming becomes a more viable source of income…
Is there going to be new material coming from you?
Indeed, there is...
I’m currently working on my first E.P. that will consist of a mixture of Jazz standards and originals. I’ve been out in N.Y.C. working with Jerry Wonda (the producer of Hips Don’t Lie and the Fugees’ Killing Me Softly) on a few tracks - and have been offered a couple of interesting concepts from Don Black (the writer of Diamonds are Forever and Michael Jackson’s Ben).
Do you remember what compelled the decision to come into music? Were you always interested in it?
I’ve always loved singing - but I guess it was being thrown into the spotlight so quickly that’s compelled me to carry on with my music career.
I have a great fan-base - and now I can grow upon that. I feel that’s something that can make musicians disheartened sometimes - as it’s very difficult to get that initial break. I feel very lucky and I’m incredibly grateful for opportunities I’ve been offered. However; I’ve learnt lots more in the last year then I did during my two years in Collabro.
There is no one there to hold your hand in the music industry; I’ve been really lucky to receive incredible support from my creative partner Roxy (of Roxlene Creative).
What sort of sounds did you grow up listening to? Who are the musicians you idolise? Which artists did you grow up listening to?
I enjoyed a lot of musical theatre when I was younger. I’m not a massive fan of new musicals and that modern M.T. vocal: more interested in the Rodgers and Hammerstein classics. Then; I started to explore the music of Cole Porter. This is when my love of Jazz began to blossom and I started learning Jazz-piano. I didn’t actually learn much of the piano, though, as my teacher and I used to just jam the American Songbook instead. My teacher was an incredible pianist and really enjoyed my voice. From there, I began exploring the vocal qualities of Nat King Cole and Johnny Hartman.
I’m forever finding new Jazz artists though to study and learn from.
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
Rebecca Lauren is a fantastic singer-songwriter who I have recently met; we’re going to get a date in the diary to write something together. Her lyrics relate to everyone who hears them - and her voice is awesome.
IVY MAE is another new artist I’ve been collaborating with. Her voice is ethereal and very versatile.
Philly K supported me on a recent gig in Brighton. When I played her track; I thought her voice was really emotional - and I think that is a quality often lacking (in other in artists). She moved the audience with her break-up songs.
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Stars - Collabro
I will always feel proud, blessed and humbled by my debut album.
Les Misérables – Original Broadway Cast Recording
It was my first role on stage as a child and the last before joining Collabro years later - where I got to play the iconic Jean Val Jean. Les Mis is also the soundtrack where Stars is from - and was a large inspiration for Collabro’s sound. So, the musical has been with me at several stages of my career so far.
Louis Prima and Keely Smith – Louis and Keely!
Their chemistry on stage, in early footage, is amazing. They have humour and fun in their characters - and Louis’ sound is influencing the way I’m writing a lot at the moment.
Can we see you perform anywhere soon?
3rd December: The Cavern Club, Liverpool
16th December: Holborn Pizza Express, London
26th January, 2018: Pizza Express Music Room, Maidstone
27th January: Pizza Express Live, Birmingham
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Whatever genre you’re working in: find your community...
Go to gigs, make friends and keep peoples memory of you fresh. As a Jazz artist who gigs almost week-in-week-out; I still go to jam sessions all across London. Equally, I go to networking events and parties. You never know who you’ll meet. From a photographer who’s keen to use you in his portfolio (think of the Instagram content) to a potential fan who’ll enjoy your music.
Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?
I’m currently working on a Christmas YouTube video.
Christmas is a hugely busy time of year for me. I’ll be going back to my hometown of Brighton once everyone’s off work. Being on the road gigging means I don’t often get to return home - but I’m incredibly excited to stick on a bit of Bublé and open some prezzies.
Do you have anything lined up for next year? What are your plans?
Apart from writing new music and concentrating on the E.P., I’ll be gigging. There’s talk of going out to China early-2018 and I’ll be heading back to New York to do a few performances and write a few songs.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here.
Death of a Bachelor by Panic! at the Disco
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