Jesse Harrison Lowe interviews upcoming singer-songwriter Zak Abel
Last week, we caught up with rising singer-songwriter Zak Abel.
Talking about new projects as well as his love of table tennis, we got to find out about his experience of the music industry as well as what is was like to headline his own show.
Jesse Harrison Lowe: : So Zak, you’re coming off the back of headlining Scala in London, right?
Zak Abel: Yeah, it was amazing. I bought out two special guests. Tom Misch an Kwabs for the encore. It was an amazing experience really. Like, I did two nights so we had the night before last, and I gotta be honest. I thought the second night was definitely my favourite one.
JHL: Do you think that’s always the case, do you have to warm up to the place?
ZA: Yeah, yeah. I’ve never had a headline show that was that size before. So, I definitely needed some time to adjust to the bigger crowd. But yeah, I defiantly relaxed into it.
“I’ve never had a headline show that was that size before”
JHL: For those of us who maybe haven’t heard your stuff before, do you wanna give us an idea of your style? Your influences?
ZA: For sure, I’m a singer-songwriter from London. I feel like I’m on Blind Date right now (laughing). My main influence comes from soul music and um yeah…I normally prefer other people to describe me!
JHL: Okay, so lets say you had to pick your top three favourite artists of all time. A difficult question, I know.
ZA: I’ll name the first three which come to head. First, Bill Withers, because of the honestly in his lyrics and the simplicity of his songs. They’re powerful yet so simple. Michael Jackson just because of being the best entertainer of all time. And finally, Marvin Gaye.
JHL: Do you think you take a little bit of all three into your music?
ZA: Yeah I suppose so, I would like to think there is a bit of all of them in there.
JHL: So talking about your music, where did the love come from? Was it friends or family which inspired you to become a musician?
ZA: So, I remember my mum had a compilation cassette tape, and the tape had Michael Jackson’s “The way you make me feel” and every time I heard it, I had to rewind and listen to it again. Even though a cassette tape is really fiddly and difficult, I made a real effort to listen back to that song. I had an obsession with Michael Jackson as like a six or seven-year-old; I was always dancing around to his music videos. I’ve always been singing, but it was only when I was about fourteen that I started writing songs. I had like a sorta life decision to make. It was something like whether I was going to play table tennis at this school or pursue an education at this other school, where the education was a little bit better. The process led me to feel quite disorientated and quite down, and it led me to write this song called ‘Hazed’ because it explained how I was feeling at the time. Ever since I started writing songs then, it’s become something like a bug. Whenever I’m feeling down or happy, I have to write a song. It’s become a habit. Hopefully I’ll continue to write songs for the rest of my life.
JHL: Talking about how you got to where you are now. Without wishing to sound too X Factor about it, what’s your journey been like?
ZA: So, I did the ‘Joker presents’ EP, then another EP after that called ‘One Hand on the Future’, and that was with a couple of other producers. Then I had I period of time where I wasn’t really sure where to go with the album. I tried a couple of different routes and then suddenly it all kinda clicked. I wrote ‘Unstable’ and that, production wise, led where I wanted to go for the rest of the album. I put that out, and people seem to have a really positive response to it. The album will be out on March 10th, and we’ll see where to go from there.
“I had an obsession with Michael Jackson as like a six or seven year old; I was always dancing around to his music videos.”
JHL: So you recently bought out Rock Bottom with Wretch 32, can you tell us a little about that project and how it came around?
ZA: Yeah, so it was originally meant for Wretch 32’s album but for whatever reason, it didn’t make it on there. I was like, ‘you know what, this is a really cool song, why don’t we try and finish it off?’. I rewrote some of my bits, and asked what he thought to see if he would try and finish it off with me. Now it’s become something I’m really proud of and something I can really stand behind. Initially, we started making the song two years ago, for his project. I think our management teams got in contact with each other, to get me to sing the hook for the track, and I was like ‘of course’. Obviously everyone knows Don’t Go [by Wretch 32], it was one of the first songs I learnt on guitar. I did the vocal literally two years ago but didn’t make his album. I came back to it and rewrote some bits and yeah. For a long time nothing was going to happen with it, but I’m so glad we came back to it. It’s weird sometimes, you write something and leave it but once you come back to it and hear it in a different way.
JHL: Just a final one for you, I read somewhere that you’re something of a table tennis enthusiast?
ZA: Yeah! I used to play for England and I was ranked number one in the country for my age group. I had a difficult choice, deciding if I was going to continue playing table tennis, or if I wanted to peruse a career in music, and in the end I went for music. It’s quite a specific dilemma to have. I might be going to Belgium soon for something table tennis related.
Our thanks go to Zak for taking the time to talk to us. Zak’s new single ‘Unstable’ is out now, and we can look forward to his new album out soon.