James Nock calls up Berlin for a chat with the Stevenage Troubadour
Some people have it and some… well they sort of do. But song writers who have it, take the risk to gamble it all on a few well-placed chords and lyrical hooks. A stake that’s seen English–Zimbabwean Kelvin’s debut Stop the Moment take a mighty win at the 2015 British Urban Music Awards, gifting him Best Newcomer.
A poached guitar from his brother and a few years of serious practice has seen Kelvin Jones match his local Stevenage contemporaries… hold up! Stevenage contemporaries?
‘We’re killing it for famous people in Stevenage!’ laughed Kelvin.
He told me that James Bay and George Ezra are up and down the road respectively and then there’s the biggy – Formula 1 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton.
Kelvin is quickly establishing himself as a respected solo artist, internationally and at home. His producer Sacha Skarbek has worked with Adele, Duffy, Lana Del Ray and Miley ‘The Wrecking Ball’ Cyrus. Prior to recording, Kelvin didn’t want to know that much about his producer. He wanted the writing process to feel natural and in turn didn’t want to feel fazed by Sacha’s success.
‘I’m really digging co-writing at the moment. I’m a real stubborn motherfucker. I tried for a long time to refuse to write with anybody else. But I found myself repeating the same parts in other songs. Things were getting stupid.’
So to stop rough cuts of songs sounding the same and to kick out the temporary writer’s block, Kelvin opened up to collaborating and jamming with his peers, a pride-breaking move helped by Sacha.
‘I’ve a few co-writes on the album. I enjoy them. You learn a lot man. You learn to write in different ways. When you write on your own, you finish a song and go “Yes!”, but there isn’t anyone else there to celebrate with you. When you write with someone else you can high five and share the joy. The celebrations are multiplied.’
Persevering with the guitar has proven to be a shrewd career changing move for Kelvin, that sees him confidently making a stage of whatever surface his feet land upon.
‘I’ve played pubs in Portsmouth, busked and then left University to play music full time. I’ve come up with this crazy idea of doing a living room tour. Travelling round Europe on a train with my guitar playing in peoples’ front rooms’, he laughed.
Stages and venues have ballooned in size for Kelvin in the last year, sharing bills with Izzy Bizu, James Morrison and X Ambassadors. He’s due to headline his own European tours through June to October.
The video for 2015’s Call You Home is imaginatively minimalistic, an epic visual event. Rock ‘n’ Roll instincts usually drive artists into slinging TV’s out of hotel windows, Kelvin sent one up to the very edge of space! A visual concept that dropped him into a science fuelled jam on BBC TV’s Blue Peter.
‘Some people thought the Call you home video was just filmed with a green screen and said, “it’s just nice”. No! It’s Bad Ass! We did that for real! There were no green screens. We sent two TVs into space! One of them has pride of place in my room at home’.
BBC Radio 2 has been play listing Call you home and Sir Elton John has been giving the Stevenage song smith air time on his Rocket Hour radio show on Beats 1. New tune Closer is set for similar acclaim and slots into the song list on a debut that is unashamedly stacked with love songs.
‘I’ve no regret for writing love songs.’ Kelvin boasted. ‘I spoke to a friend as I thought I was just another singer songwriter singing about love. I said I wish I wrote about other subjects and he said “Dude! Love is all that counts. It’s a big subject man”.
Kelvin explained that there are so many themes that love covers: romantic love, remembrance, friendship and being able to love and support yourself through grief and the sad inevitability of the loss of loved ones. So Kelvin wrote a letter to himself in the song Even Now, a song to help him confront his fears of losing his parents.
‘It’s a message to myself in the future. It’s transpired as a love song. I had a constant fear of losing my parents. It’s a letter to the future to help me cope with losing them. So there are a bunch of love songs on Stop the Moment that make my heart tick. I’m not quite logged onto matters of the world yet. I’m no Bob Dylan at the moment’
The soulful six stringer is enjoying his rise and rightly so. A true fan favourite who loves playing to his crowd. He’s as happy busking to fresh ears down the local precinct as he is playing to thousands at the odd festival date. Happy days are ahead!
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