Monday, 5 September 2016

THE BIG INTERVIEW in the ESPspotlight: Jodie Abacus, Singer, Songwriter

When I first found out about Jodie Abacus, I was filled with surprise. "That guy?" I thought; "but he's that joker from Facebook...he sings now?" Boy, did I underestimate him. His talent is formidable, his merriment is as large as his hubris is minimal; he's just not the type of guy that you have a dull moment around. I firmly believe that's what makes him such a good interview subject.

I interrupted him cleaning his flat, when he proved to me, through his knowledge of household cleaners, that he will make some woman a great husband (I even offered to introduce him to my Mum...hey, this single girl has limited options).

Read on to find out what we talked about...

So how are you doing, 'Man of the Moment'?

Jodie Abacus
I'm good thank you very much! I'm having an amazing time, it's just been wicked. You know when people go on interviews and they say "How's your year been, have you been busy?" And the very first thing they say is "It's been a rollercoaster"? It really has been a rollercoaster ride. But it's gone really quickly, and it's happening in the way that I'm wanting it to happen; and I'm hoping that as it's happening, all my dreams are coming true. It's been a long road to try to get to this place, but to actually be doing exactly what I want to be doing is amazing.

That is one sincerely cool and abstract name that you have there, can you explain what it means and how you came up with it?

I had this epiphany one time. I came to a point where I just needed to switch things up a little bit; so what I did, I was walking in Croydon one time, and I was coming out of the Whitgift Centre, and I looked at what was facing me - I think it was Sports Direct or one of those big, wholesale sports shops that was there at the time, and I thought to myself, "I need to change my name!" My manager called me, and we kind of locked in together at the same time, and he goes: "I think you should reinvent yourself." I said, "You know what, I'm thinking the same thing!" So after we put the phone down, later I sat down, trying to come up with some names, and I was thinking, thinking, thinking, and it synchronized because he called me at the same time. He was like, "Why do I keep hearing the name Jodie, all the time, in my head?" 

Basically, when I found out what the name Jodie meant - it's a derivative of a word which meant 'God's Grace', but when I put those two together...I needed something that meant something to me in my life, I didn't want to call myself just any kind of name, it needed to mean something, and it needed to be organicSo I had the name 'Jodie'; later on, I came up with the name 'Abacus', and the combination of the names meant 'counting your opportunities', or counting, in my terms, 'what's higher than me's, Grace'. Everything that's happened to me in my life; the adding, the taking away, the minuses, the pluses, all add up to where I am at this moment - the good, the bad, the ugly. So the 'Grace' bit of it, means the favour that I've got in life, and the chances, and the opportunities. So, basically, 'Jodie Abacus' essentially means 'counting my chances' and everything that happens for a reason, now.

I was adamant that it needed to mean something, because my life is very colourful, and full of adventures and stories, and allsorts. To be in this place, if I was to look from the outside...and I've never been one to blow my own trumpet; but if I'm led to inspire somebody,  they have to know the truth. And that's one thing, when I go into interviews, I want to be able to tell that, and not shy away from exactly what my life has been about. Because music is a powerful thing, you could make a song that could save someone's life that you may not even be in contact with, halfway around the world. It's really, really important. So my life story has been based on bravery, chance, courage, trying to be fearless, heartbreak - just everything, in its intense form. The sincerity in my songs has to be there, plus also the fun, the contrast of my personality...Some people say 'Why's your song so happy, when at the same time what you're talking about is so serious?' So it has a certain contrast to some of my songs to be honest.

I've been following you on social media for several years now, so know for a fact that you're quite the jokester - what's the worst trouble that you've ever gotten into for one of your jokes?

I don't actually know...let me's usually when people try to be clever, it's not really any trouble. If someone says something, and tries to be smart; like "you spelt something wrong", "or your grammar's wrong". That's the only thing that I can think of. When they try to have an argument with me, but I'm not the type of person to have a social type of argument? And then they deleted themselves! I mean, I didn't want it to happen, but they pushed my hand! That at the most - I've never been in trouble like that online with anyone. I ain't got no point to prove; they chucked it, and then they ended up completely deleting their account; because they were going on, and on, and on, and on, and they were like, I can't take this anymore, I made a fool of myself...

So you made them run away crying?

Yeah! It was a girl, and she was trying to prove a point, but it wasn't working; and what happens is, when you do that, everybody else started joining in, and bringing their popcorn, and me, I wasn't in it for the entertainment; I was just like, "Where are you going with this? You're losing!" She said something, and then deleted the comment, and I'm like, "Where's the comment gone? You can't do that! Where you going? NO - you're not going!" And then the next thing you know, she deleted her account! And then she started talking to me in my Inbox, and I went back outside, and I said, "Why are you talking to me in my Inbox? Let's just keep it here, in the arena!"

But that's not me, I don't egg any kind of beef on, she just picked on the wrong guy, mayne! That's about it, that's all that I can think of; there's nothing that I got in any kind of mad trouble for, or been blocked, or anything like that, no!

I'm not the only one in love with your music. How did it feel to have the legendary Elton John sign off as a fan of your first single?

It was amazing just to hear him comment on it, y'know? Throughout the years, I expected greatness, but when you hear it happen, it kind of blows you back, because you're like: "This is what I wanted, this is what I envisioned. I believe I can be this thing that I always dreamed that I can be". When someone of that stature kind of gives you the thumbs up, it's a nod in the right direction. All the pressures, and all the pain, and everything that you'd been trying to prove all this's actually happening.

And I'm still at a place where mentally, the hunger has increased...I live alone, but I still feel like I'm back at my Mum's house, making those songs. It's the same feeling like when I come off stage; I don't beat myself up, but I just feel where could I be better? I need to be better. Each and everytime. I say well done to the band, and then I go quiet, and everyone gives me that "are you alright, J?"face, and I go "yeah", and I just go into a place and think about where I could be better.

I want the same prestige as what Adele has, and more, and I want the same prestige as what Ed (Sheeran) has, and more. I want people to be instantly convinced that I'm making music. The same way that you would get it on a plate of food. You know when you're in a restaurant, and the food comes in and you have the starter, the main, and the dessert? I want that same feeling that whatever you're listening to, the same way that you could be nourished in your mouth, and your belly, is the same way that you could be nourished in your ears. I believe that there are ways to make people happy. I mean you can't please everybody because everyone's different, sometimes people have a different colour palette, and different tastes, but I think that, y'know, in general, just like the air that we breathe, just like the sun that you see when it rises in the sky, I just think that there is a way that you can make people feel good.  I totally respect music, and I totally respect the creation of having goosebumps, which is essentially what I go by, if you don't have that, what's the point

Speaking of 'She's in Love With the Weekend'; you really jumped in at the deep end when it came to success! Is there anything that the track didn't succeed in doing for you (making you a millionaire doesn't count...unless it did)?

It's done wonders to be honest, as it would do, if you make a good song, it will open up loads of doors, and Radio 2, minus Radio 1, it is the best radio station in the UK, because those are where the music guys are. Radio 1 is more for the Pop charts, Radio 2 is for the album, and the people that get booked for those single big shows. It jumped straight from the C list to the A list, in quick, quick, quick time...I don't know, it's still doing the rounds, and it's still early days. It just impacted the UK and a bit of Europe; I don't think it's been released in America yet, but it's just been crazy. And it's mad because I'm learning how the game works at the same time. People love it, y'know? I'm happy that it's doing what it's doing at the moment.

So there's nothing that it hasn't done for you?

There's nothing that I can think of that it hasn't done. And you've got to remember that this is my first year of exposure. By next year, things should perk up a bit more, I'll move up the festival lists...because I'm opening festivals now - and people are singing the songs

How does that feel?

It's amazing. When someone's singing the songs back to you. It's humbling, and it's a sign of accomplishment as well. When you're telling a story, and you're seeing someone sing it back to you, it's an amazing feeling. It means that it works.

'Hot Kitchen' is a bit cheeky, you saucy minx!

How do you know that?!
I know! I know what you're saying - I listened to the lyrics! (Jodie laughs evilly) See? It's there in the laugh, it's all there!
Oh wow, okay...
You can't hide from me, my friend, I expose all!
Okay, okay, okay, okay, you got me!
Yes I did! Where did the inspiration come from for that excellent unorthodox treatment come from?
From the recesses of my crazy, crazy, crazy mind! That's exactly where it came from.
Walk me through it...
Basically, the idea came from the fruit, and just because it was the whole vibe of the kitchen? We needed some food, and stuff...but like I said in the video, there's an actual twist in what I'm singing about, and I don't really give much away.
And yet, I got it all, so, yer do!
You understood it?
Yes I did understand it!
You did...okay...I'm not even gonna ask you...
That's why I said, it's cheeky! Cheeeeeky indeed!
Cheeky, cheeky, cheeky...did it make you blush?
A little bit; just a little bit, I thought Ooooh! You looked so innocent in the first video!
(Jodie laughs again) Listen, look, the main thing is, that I have to tell the truth. That's the main thing. In all of my songs, if I'm angry, if I'm sad, whatever story that I'm telling; and it's all within context, so everything's gonna be different, but the main thing is that I'm honest. That's why I called the EP 'For Real Life And Not Pretend'. Also it's the contrast of the feeling of innocence about it.

'Good Feeling' is a brilliant feel good track. What brings about a bad feeling for you, and how do you handle it?

I don't like fake people. I get along with people who are more honest. I'm wary of people who pretend. My intuition level is quite high. I'd rather someone call me a wanker, than pretend to like me. So I know when someone's being fake, or I know when someone's being pretentious? But it's not like I'd be like "You're a pretentious BASTARD, Get away from me!" It's not like that; I'm just very good at recognising and staying away from people who sap energy, you can't allow certain people into your life consistently, it's not good. They give me bad feelings, but I don't ever really have that because I don't ever have those people around me. So when I say in 'I'll Be That Friend', that "Sometimes I feel like I'm a jar of honey" which means to me, 'I'm so sweet, I'm hardly ever blue'! That's usually my emotion. When you act a certain way, and you put out something, you can only create with a positive mindset, and destroy with a negative mindset. So for me to be creative, I need to be in a positive mindset all the time.

'I'll Be That Friend' is another great track, but the message in the video treatment is a winner at ESP because of its support for diversity. Where did the idea come from, and what are your hopes for its influence on your audience, and in the industry?

You love it? Cool. What I want it to do, I don't want it to just be about me, I just want people to see it, and be like, 'Y'know what? We can make music again, we can make melodies, and harmonies, and we can make pretty music, man!'. Honest and instant music in sincerity. If I can be here and help change things...I don't wanna be no back up dancer; I've never wanted to be a backing singer. I believe that I can be up front, and do what they're doing. If I don't, then what, am I in it for second place? You can't inspire anyone from second place. Can I achieve this one goal in life, that maybe no-one understands, they will never understand? Some people will never understand the whole depth of having just one life to lead.

Reading your reviews, you've had a phenomenal impact on the music industry already. How does it feel to have had this kind of response before you've released your first album, and do you feel any pressure in preparation for it?

I don't feel any pressure. All I'm doing is just doing the same thing I've been doing for a long time. All I wanna do is just make good music - that's it. My thing is, if it doesn't give you goosebumps, then you might as well forget about it, everything else is a lie, y'know?

What message did a 5-year-old you take from your favourite artist (and who was it); and what message would you now give to a 5-year-old fan of you?

Being 5-years-old, I would have seen the magic that Michael Jackson brought. And use that as an example about feelings and how you should make people feel when you approach your artistry. It's like I keep saying to my band - everything has to be Star Wars. Go hard or go home - it's as simple as that. And to a 5-year-old fan of me...I'd say that he could be anything he wants to be. Be positive. He or she has nothing to lose by being positive. Absolutely nothing to lose. Having a positive mindset breeds creation; and whatever you think in your mind is gonna construct in your life. You've got to remember that it's easier to destroy than it is to create. What you could create in a matter of years could be destroyed in a matter of minutes.

So I would breathe that into a child's mind and give he or she the ability to believe that he or she could be astronauts; to believe that creatively, they can manifest whatever they're thinking about. We've only got ONE life - just one life! Once you get that in your nut, you're gonna be prepared to do certain things, positive things. And you don't have to do it by stepping on people, or being horrible, you don't need to do that. What you have to do is be harsh and honest with yourself, and be happy, with gratitude about where you are and what you're doing. That's the vibe.


The biggest of thanks to Jodie for coming on and launching us off the right way - with a bang! The same to Jonny and Kwame for making it happen. Also, a massive thank you to my mate, the beautiful Don Diva DJ herself, Nikki Beatnik for the suggestion - without her referral, this brilliant interview may not have happened!

Connect with Jodie via any of your favourite means:

Stay tuned for more features to come throughout launch day - it's a party over here, with LostInMusic, TalkOnCorners, SoundOfTheWeek, and this week's WaveRunner still to come - there's a wealth for you to enjoy here today. Don't forget to come back next week though, for another ESPspotlight on THE BIG INTERVIEW! Comments as always, are welcome on YOUR stage below - let me know your thoughts!

Until the next...