Fredwave is singing the inner-city blues

Fredwave's debut EP Failure is a nuanced, deeply personal portrayal of the realities of life in London. Mariana Carvalho finds out why it took him four years to make, how he struggled to find his sound and why life in the city can be a blessing a curse.

8 months agoText by


Fredwave wants to be real. His search for truth is a hallmark of his music, and he’s spent plenty of time exploring the shadows of his mind, getting comfortable with his own darkness.

Growing up, Fredwave would sit down on Sundays to watch the Simpsons while his father, a guitarist, would play the same melodies and riffs, practising every day. “I think that’s why I like bass so much in my music and good melodies, nice, soulful stuff,” he says, “I feel like in dancehall no one is really trained to sing, so they just do it because they feel the music and that translates in the songs.”

As a teenager coming of age in London, Fredwave struggled to find his identity. “I used to be like a class clown, I used to do things and not think about the consequences at all. I was always swayed to do shit that wasn’t in my character, but I didn’t know it wasn’t in my character until my later years” he reflects. “Looking back now, some of the shit I did was just stupid for no reason. Just to please people who didn’t even care about me at all and I knew that deep down, but at the same time I was just blinded by this place.”

London is the place where he started work on his debut EP, Failure, a project that investigates an uncomfortable truth: What does it mean to feel failure in a society that considers success a primary reason for existence?

After countless sessions, Fredwave is sitting on several unreleased songs, some of which he might, one day, release as “a zip file, on a Wiley thing”. But while he’s working hard to make the most of this moment, he’s happy to roll with the punches, and not aiming for any particular accolades. “At first I thought things would come to me, but at the end of the day you have to make your own luck, you have to put yourself in those situations. I got kind of lucky with my music actually getting noticed within the millions of people who are making music in London, so I’m not going to waste this opportunity,” he reflects. “I’ve got the chance to prove to the world and myself that I can actually do something.”

Fredwave – Simon Blitzer

When did you really start taking music seriously?
Fredwave: I’d say in 2013. I was really down. I was really reclusive and I felt like I had nothing to live for so I figured I just might as well do this. I had studio equipment from back in the day because I was always dabbling in production and rapping. I wasn’t good but I was just playing with it because I was bored since I didn’t have video games or anything. In 2010 I moved to Barbados for a year, that’s where I really learned how to use FL Studio. Then I came back and obviously got thrown into the real world, no parents, no anything really, I had to get a job, I had to go to college, I had all this shit to do. My mum threatened to kick me out if I didn’t get a job, so I got a job, but then I got fired from that so I started making music.

How was the time that you spent in Barbados?
I was 16 at the time, going on 17. It was one of the worst and best years of my life. I felt like I hated my parents because I thought they just dragged me away from my whole life and I went there without knowing if I’d ever come back. I had nothing to look forward to. My dad had built a house there but the people who built it robbed a lot of money from him, the house wasn’t even finished! So we were living on the top floor that was semi-done, the bottom floor was just bricks everywhere… it was just fucked. Going there and thinking, “You brought me out here and this is full of shit”. But it helped me because it taught me that a lot of people who I thought were my friends really weren’t my friends.

I went there when Blackberry was still popping so I felt like I was missing out on a ton of stuff. I had no internet for about seven months because it was a new house so they had to build power lines for us to get internet. I had just done my exams and I got my results and I failed my exams horrifically. I knew there was actually nothing I could do to change it. So that whole year I just spent doing nothing. I should’ve really practised instruments but I didn’t, I just learned FL Studio. I just kind of learned that this isn’t a joke, I have to take things seriously. I came back to England in summer 2011 and I didn’t speak to anyone except for my two bredrins and it was just us. Then my friends went to university and I was still in the ends doing nothing really so it hit me hard. I was like, “Rah, is this life just smoking and getting high doing fuck all?”

Is that what inspired Failure?
Yeah, that was my lifestyle at the time and I couldn’t write about anything else. It’s so common to go through that that I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling like that. I just wanted to let people know that they aren’t alone. So when I was making it I didn’t go out to with a specific concept in mind, I realized it was just part of me, part of something else. I still feel like people don’t fully get it though.

Why do you say that?
Because it’s very personal. That being said, I’m not the most social guy so I don’t really post pictures on my Instagram or any of that. I let the music talk but at the same time, I think that’s a bad thing because people still need to be engaged. I’m taking care of the merch right now to represent what I actually went through. I want to give that feeling of being an actual failure.

What were you working on from 2013 up until you dropped the project last year?
In 2013 I started off rapping but I was putting myself in certain situations, I left the house that I was in, so every little money I was getting I was putting into studio time and spending whole days there just trying to smash out tunes. I started putting them online and I made one tune called “Limbo” that people liked. I was working with a couple producers when Soundcloud was kind of popping. Everything just happened through trial and error, organically, so we put that out, no warning, just dropped it. Then I released “Home” and started getting e-mails after that asking for an album, but I didn’t know how the game worked. Some people release one tune and it looks like it just comes out of nowhere but they’ve been around for ages, they’ve done their 10,000 hours, whereas I literally did not know how to sing. So it just literally happened to me. I remember at my first show a couple of labels came and saw me but I definitely wasn’t ready and they kind of saw that. You could see there was obviously talent there but I still had a lot to learn.

I think that’s positive though because you’re learning as you go, learning by doing. You’re not just some industry plant who was just dropped in there, and I think that artists who have to learn the ropes on their own end up having more longevity. 
Exactly. Nothing good comes easy, I’ve learned that too. I was kind of upset about this whole release, to be honest. I’m happy it’s out, but I still feel like I rushed it, even though I didn’t. A lot of these tunes I made in 2014 and 2016, and I just felt like “What am I waiting for? Nothing’s gonna get given to me”. When I made “99”, lots of labels approached me, and I played them more of my music but they couldn’t see it, couldn’t understand my vision. I can’t get them to understand it though, so right now I’m just working on my next thing and making sure that I make it undeniable. So that they have to fuck with it.

I had a conversation with Kojey [Radical] one day back in 2016, and he was like “When I released Dear Daisy I thought it would do great things and it didn’t, but it set me up to do great things”. I’ve always remembered that and it helped a lot. I’m glad that the EP is out and that’s better than nothing. I believe in quality over quantity, so I just need to do even better next time. I want people to come out to my shows. I do it for myself, but I also want to prove it to the world and myself that I can do this. No point in just doing it half ass; I want this to be the rest of my life.

So you see yourself making music forever?
I want music to set me up to do different things. Right now a lot of people are focused on music, sports, or crime, nothing else. I genuinely can’t think of anything else I could do that would get me out of here. And that’s instilled in me. But I know I’m gonna do this to get me out of here. I wanna be something bigger. I wanna just wake up one day and think “Wow I really don’t have to work” even though I’d want to still. Right now, how I see it, my parents set up a foundation for me, they left where they were to come here and build a foundation for me and my family members for us to make something out of our lives. That’s why I rate my parents. My parents didn’t really want me to grow up in any specific way, if I wanted to do something they’d want to help me do that. It was good and bad in some ways, but I’ve always had it in me that I could be anything I wanted to be.

Do you think you’d ever move back to Barbados?
Yeah for a bit, now that I’m of age. I feel like if I go back now, knowing what I know now, I’d enjoy it a lot more and make the most of it. Back then I just wasn’t with it. But now I need to relax and be by the beach; it’d be a good detox. You get alone time init? I’d lock my phone away and just take time to observe and breathe and have time to reflect on my own. And just actually do shit because I wanna do shit. I think that would help me to learn more about myself. I think there’s two types of people in the world: if you were to lock someone in a room, one person would go completely insane and the other would actually sit down and try to think about things and enjoy their own company. I’m the former! My mind is always elsewhere even when I try to sleep or read. My mind is just always ticking, it never stops.

So are you nervous, or excited, or scared about the future?
I’m everything. Sometimes I find myself in sessions with sick people, and I just get bare worried, “Why can’t I do this?” but I have to understand that I also have something to offer, everyone is different. I have a lot of self-doubts but at the same time, I have to know that if I’m in the room, I’m in the room for a reason.

You can buy Failure on iTunes and stream it on Spotify now.

Featured image Crave Moore
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