While he may be a London boy, Kamal. is dropping the kind of music that speaks to many, regardless of background.
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When Kamal.’s parents bought a piano when he was six years old, little did they know that they helped start the spark for a fresh new talent for the world to enjoy. While the North-West London-based musician may just be 20 years old, he has already built a growing discography that has found fans all over the world. Small-time gigs in pubs around London laid the groundwork for this rising musician. But it was when he dropped his single, homebody, that really put him on the map. Released right around the time when pandemic lockdowns were beginning to take effect in most of the world, homebody spoke to millions about the feeling of isolation. It soon became a viral hit.
It’s been a steady rise since then thanks to the singer-songwriter’s uncanny talent for knowing just what exactly to say in his music. His lyrical content spans romantic relationships, the seclusion of your mind, the repetitive, the mundane, and even anxiety. Often relating to the more complicated yet familiar feelings, Kamal.’s lyrics can hold the listener’s hand through shared experience. It’s this level of piercing storytelling in mellow music that has earned him fans such as Billie Eilish.
And we’re about to get more of that with the impending release of his new EP, so here you are, drowning, on March 17. Ahead of its drop, NYLON Manila spoke to the artist where he opened up on his new body of work, getting in touch with his feelings, and more.
Was there like a specific moment in your life that made you decide to become a full time musician?
I felt like there was a time when my parents bought a new piano. When I was about six years old, I started playing it. And from then, I sort of knew that I wanted to have music in my life. But there was a moment where I felt like it was really a sort of tangible reality that I could obtain. And I felt like that was playing gigs with a small band. We did a few gigs in small pubs and stuff for London, sort of playing jazzy sort of soul music, and I was playing keys for them. First getting out there in the world and playing gigs and sharing your music is like, it’s a mad feeling. And as soon as I had that, I was like, yeah, this is something that I want to follow.
When you look back from you’re small time dong small gigs compared to now, do you miss ever those small shows?
I mean, 100%, but at the same time, I haven’t done that, and I haven’t done that many shows, for me to be like, bored of the experience of it, and still very much sort of exhilarating thing. And I’m very appreciative of the crowds I do have. There’s a certain nostalgia that comes with the memories of sort of playing alongside my school friends to our family and friends. But at the same time, I wouldn’t change anything. And I sort of loved the fact that I have the opportunity to share to share this with more people. It’s amazing.
Has the way you approached your music changed?
Most of the stuff that I make is just me sitting at the piano, and sort of coming up with melodies, coming up with a sort of a nice string of chords, and coming up with some melodies over the top of it, and then just working on a lyric. And that’s like the core of all the songs. Regardless of how I’m making a song, or who I’m making a song with, it’s sort of the same. It’s the same order of steps. And it’s the same place that the lyrics coming from within me.
How did you manage to settle on that style of music making?
Honestly, it was never a conscious thought. I think it was more of a thing of what music is, for me. Writing, as a process, is this sort of little bit of solace that I have where I can be in my own space. It’s almost like a sort of meditation. I think being vulnerable is where a lot of that that side of the music that you’re talking about comes from. Being completely open with my emotions, and a lot of the time the sort of sad ones would rise to the surface. But it’s kind of like a therapeutic experience to let them rise and to let them come out of you through lyrics and through sound.
Within those moments, do you ever get a worry that you might be like being too honest with your music? Do you ever fear that, oh, this might be too personal to get out to the world?
One hundred percent. And I think even on the mixtape, there are songs that I’m slightly scared about. For me, they’re so personal. They’re so directly connected with my life. Some of the lyrics are so literal. It does feel like almost an invasion of privacy sometimes, but at the same time, that is part of the beauty of being in a position to share your art.
Your 10-track mixtape is coming out now in March. So what can the fans expect from the new EP?
I think it’s really got the scope of all the sort of sounds I’ve touched on already in my career. The material is very much in the same vein, in terms of it being personal. But this is quite specifically written about a relationship or about sort of relationships in general, and sort of the fact that they often feel like they’re going through the motions, and it often feels cyclical. And then the big lift in the middle which ends with feelings of loneliness and introspection.
What was is like getting to work on the album? How did it feel to channel those emotions?
I mean, it can be a lot, but I feel like at this point, writing is such a part of my routine that without it, I’d be more lost. And it would be more of an issue in my life. So, in terms of writing it, it kind of felt like more of just doing the same thing of getting out of me. I just sort of tried to work as naturally as possible and keep in my same sort of routine of writing, just happened to build this sort of this this world that I could then develop and add a title to and enhanced the themes of.
And what happens when you experience writer’s block? How do you handle that?
Sometimes, I think I’m in a writer’s block when I’m not. I’ll be writing loads of music and I’d be like, ‘I don’t know if this is good or not.’ And I’ll come back to it like two weeks later and realize that I was just sort of in a panicked headspace. But what I try to do if I feel like I’m stumped for inspiration is honestly just live a little more and try and remember to view things as deeply as they are. I think it’s easy to forget that there are loads of beautiful things right in front of you like even in terms of just like your friends.
Once you’re in a headspace where you’re doing that more or just being more pensive and thoughtful about your surroundings and your experiences, then you realize that you actually do have a lot to say and you can get out.
How do you differentiate a good lyric from a bad one?
I think some of the best lyrics are just so honest that they can be appealing to everyone. But you don’t know all the time. You don’t know if it’s a good lyric, you don’t know if it’s a bad lyric. You have to go based on feeling and your gut. And I think for the most part, so far, I’ve been pretty successful in picking out the songs where I’m like, ‘This just feels good,’ and trusting that.
So aside from your mixtape, what else can we expect from you this 2023?
Honestly, that’s been the brunt of my planning this year so far. So, we’ll see where it takes us. I’m obviously looking to do a few shows around that. But we’re still sort of figuring out exactly how we want to do that. But yeah, we should be doing a couple shows around it, too. So, I’m hoping people are on the lookout.
In your opinion, what do you think is the best time and place for people to play your music?
Maybe early morning when you feel a sort of quite softened still.
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