Jordan Mackampa is unquestioningly himself and this shines so brilliantly in his latest EP Tales of the Broken. Coming off the success of his critically acclaimed EP Physics, Mackampa doesn't disappoint with round two.
Packed full of hopeful lyricism, joyful beats and that smooth Mackampa-esque voice, Tales of the Broken takes you on a journey, one that you will undoubtedly want to go on, again and again.
As Mackampa goes back on tour this June, he lets us know what life is like for a black indie artist in the industry, the inspiration behind Tales of the Broken and why this EP is "for anyone who's been through something, going through something or about to go through something ."
So how did you get into soul & folk music?
I grew up in a very soul, gospel house like my mum used to take me to church and I would watch her sing with the choir, she would play gospel music all the time at home, particularly when she was feeling upset. So I remember every Sunday like religiously she would play this one album and I know it like back to front, so that's the soul side of my music.
But the folk side came when I was a teenager, at school I had a group of friends and we used to share the songs, the band and the artists that we listened to at the time. A lot of them were into the indie, rock n roll, folk scene and I wasn't really introduced to that until they started showing me artists like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Michael Kiwanuka & James Vincent Mcmorrow.
So I guess I try to combine an element of the honesty of folklore songwriting and the gospel soulful vibe that keeps the energy up, like a pulse through the song, and that's where you meet me, in the middle.
Did people make assumptions about you because of the music you listened too?
I definitely turn heads when I turn up at gigs, being a black guy playing the guitar, wearing a hat, people would definitely be like, "Oh, that wasn't what I was expecting." Or when they see a picture of me they assume that I am definitely some sort of urban, gospel Rnb singer.
But what's even better is that when people hear my voice, and then they hear me play the guitar and they are like ' Oh! He's actually quite indie, folk and soulful really,' so it's actually quite nice to show people what my sound actually is who I am, cause that was definitely something I had to deal with a lot growing up.
It was always "you're a black guy why are you playing the guitar, you should be like spitting some bars, and having clashes with MC's," and to me, that wasn't the path I wanted to take. I mean I have a great appreciation for hip hop, rap & grime, but that just wasn't the sound I was aiming for, I just wanted to make a sound that sounded like me, and I could see myself in comfortably.
So as a black indie musician have you faced any obstacles?
Personally, I would say no, and I am quite lucky in that.
When I make music I don't make music for people of a certain age, race, colour or sexuality, I just make music for me and if it appeals to you regardless of what you look like or sound like or even smell like. There is an essence that feels like it sounds kind of like it belongs to one kind of group, but not really it just belongs to anyone who's got the time to listen to it really.
I am also very proud that I am an artist whose a person of colour whose doing very well in this industry, and I understand that not everyone is fortunate enough to do as well as I am doing.That's why I try and be a beacon for people, because regardless of that door that's closed there is definitely going to be like 15 other doors that will be open for you, you just have to pick the one that's right for you.
Tell us about your new EP Tales from the Broken.
It's a lot more mature I think, compared to my first EP Physics. The substance of a lot of the songs is more adult, not to say that the first EP was immature, but this has a deeper meaning and intent behind it.
Because the title Tales From the Broken is just a reflection of us, not to say broken as in people, it is a collection of songs, of experiences from people and we learn from their mistakes through the songs. There is a song on the EP called 'Salt' and it's about our accountability as people, particularly when it comes down to our interactions with our friends, and our partners and even our family members, and just are we lying to keep them away from the pain or are we lying to protect ourselves.
So what kind of impact would you like this EP to have?
I remember seeing an interview with Nina Simone way back in the early 70's where she said: "That it is an artist's duty to reflect the times," and those words just really stuck with me. Particularly with this EP, I was just like what can I write about, sing about now, that is reflective of what people are going through today, either in the world or between the four walls of their own comfort and home.
Cause there is a lot of people that are just going through their own troubles and their own battles, and so how can I relate that to a song for them to understand that what they are going through is only temporarily, because there is somebody else out there who has been through it before so if you listen to this, I hope it helps somehow.
If there was one message you were trying to get across with this EP what would it be?
This EP I would say is for anyone who's been through something, going through something or who doesn't know that they are about to go through something. In each song there is a line that somebody will be able to relate to and if you find that song keep it close to you and if it makes you feel something, even better!
Going off what you just said, what is the story behind the name Tales For The Broken?
I had a conversation with my manager Charlie and we were just going back and forth with words and then one day I was reading a newspaper on the way back and it had a sentence, that said: 'Lost but still looking for something' and I was like there is something in that. So I started writing four-word titles for things, cause I remembered seeing a picture that was circulating on Twitter of this vending machine that said, "The light inside of me is broken but I still work" and I was like damn!
Cause when I saw that I was like the light inside of me is broken...broken, no not words, no not stories, tales of the broken, and the minute I thought that, I sent it to my manager Charlie and she was like, yes, that is the one, and I was like great, that's the title of the second EP.
Where there any fears you had to overcome in the process of making this album?
To be fair not really because I am quite stubborn when it comes to my own music because I know what I want it to sound like. And regardless of whether someone doesn't like it doesn't mean anything to me at all, the people that genuinely understand my music and like it a lot are the ones I care about the most.
Cause at the end of the day I just wanted to release more music because people were asking for it, and because I wanted to meet that demand in a sense, not just for them but for myself, just to prove that I could further continue on as a musician and step up a notch and keep progressing and growing.
What can fans expect from your live shows?
They can expect to hear some new material, as well as material that they know and love, played by a man in black shoes, a brown hat, a guitar, and I try to make it as honest as possible. Cause it is just me on stage, and I just try to do the best that I can, with the resources that I have, so I just try to keep it as organic as I can, just being Jordan Mackampa, and it works. There's no like flashy lights and tricks it's just pure honest music.
There is something powerful about being so stripped back as a musician.
There's an intimacy to having it all stripped back. I enjoy being able to take a few minutes to talk to an audience in-between songs and find out how they are, it's important to build a relationship between you and the people that are listening to your music.
How would you maintain that intimacy as you gain more and more popularity?
I guess by remaining humble as much as I possibly can, and never forgetting the fact that without the people that are constantly searching for my name and listening to my songs, buying my music and putting it in on their playlist, I wouldn't be in the position that I am very blessed to be in.
What do you bring that's special?
To someone who hasn't heard of me, I guess I bring a sense of something old but something new at the same time, my music sounds like something someone might have heard before, but the way it sounds, is very current and modern, I quite like that.
What ideas changed your life?
One of my favourite books in the world to read is a book by Paul Coelho called the 'Alchemist' and I remember reading that when I was 19 almost 20, just going to university, writing songs and trying to make it into music I guess, slowly but surely. I remember reading that book and it was just about a journey of self-discovery and why it is good to get lost sometimes because that path could be leading you to a better path.
What would you do to make the world a better place?
Get rid of Trump for one, make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister, and I would make sure that music was still a thing in a thousand, two thousand years to come, and just make sure that music is still vibrant and as happy as it is now, for anyone that listens to their own sort of genre.
If you could fill a swimming pool with anything what would it be?
There was a show on CBBC, back in the day I think it was called 50/50, and there would be these two schools and they would battle each other and I remember there being a pool of slime. I would definitely have a swimming pool full of slime, absolutely!
As you look to the future, what is the ultimate goal for you?
I guess the goal for me is just to continue to make music that makes people feel something for as long as possible, that will always be the goal. It's never been about numbers, it's about people and real people going through real things. At the end of the day those people are still human, as human, as you are, so yeah just being as real as possible and making music that people love.
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