Interview: Ady Suleiman

We’re into our fourth week of the Coffeehouse Sessions tour now, with this week bringing Nottingham-born musician Ady Suleiman to the attention of our Students’ Union. I caught up with him after his set to chat about how the tour is going, how he would describe his music (if you’ve listened to his music before, you’ll know how hard it is to put a genre on it) and how he likes his tea/coffee.

  1. You’re two weeks into the Coffeehouse Session tour now, how are the shows going so far?

So far, so good. Every place we’ve gone to has been different and had a different reception but it’s been really nice to meet loads of people after the shows, as a lot of the time you don’t really get to do that when you perform because you disappear backstage, so it’s been nice to get immediate feedback from people that watched the performance. My voice has taken a toll because at the beginning I was going pretty nuts and hitting some high notes, so I’ve calmed it down a bit now but it’s been a really great experience. I’ve enjoyed it so far.

  1. So how did you find the show here today?

Today was cool, it was a decent audience. Everyone was facing us, even though they were eating lunch and doing whatever, it was easy for us to grab their attention. Today was great, I got a good response – a Buzz Lightyear dancing, which distracted some of the attention but I’m sure it was for a good cause. Yeah, it was a good show today and I enjoyed it.

  1. How are you finding stripping your music back for the tour?

It’s weird because it’s actually the other way around. I write all my songs on guitar so I go the other way round and add everything to that, so for me to strip it back, it’s quite easy. It’s just going back to the beginning. The only thing is, sometimes if you have a bassline in a song that’s really driving the song forwards and then you do the song acoustically and it’s missing that bassline, it feels weird. I think because my music is rooted to the guitar, a lot of it’s already there. I don’t find it too difficult to strip it back, I enjoy doing it because it allows me to work on my vocals – there’s nowhere to hide so it’s good training for me.

  1. You have quite a unique sound and a hugely varied number of influences, from Hendrix to Winehouse, how would you describe your music?

It’s tricky, really, really tricky. It’s difficult to put it in a box. I think it’s the same, not just for myself, but for a lot of artists these days because – my reasoning for it is because we consume music in so many different ways now and we’ve got at our fingertips everything we want to listen to. I think, back in the day, there used to be a scene that would be representative of a generation, so everyone would be into rock ‘n’ roll or whatever else, but nowadays because you can listen to rock ‘n’ roll, rock, hip-hop, R&B, reggae and they’re all on the same radio station, we’re influenced and listen to so much music that when you then go to make music, you’re picking out bits from everything. It’s not just one thing that you constantly listen to.

That’s definitely how I feel with how I’ve made my music. I started listening to rock and quite psychedelic stuff, moved onto blues, jazz, reggae, R&B, soul – so I’ve listened to all of that in my life and because I’ve listened to that whilst I’ve been growing and my voice has been developing and I’ve been becoming who I am as a person, I think that when I then start to make music, it’s got a little bit of everything. The same as just being a person when you’re like “I got that from my mum, this is from my dad, my mate influenced me to do this” – it’s your character and it’s the same with music, whatever you listen to is going to come out and if you listen to a broad range of music then it’s going to be difficult to put in a box.

  1. You’re actually signed to Sony Music, how did that come about?

Yeah that was awesome, I’ve been really, really lucky. I just started putting some stuff online, some demos and some videos, I played a few gigs in Nottingham, where I’m from, and I studied in Liverpool for university so I played some shows there and eventually I got some shows down in London. I worked on building a fan base and a vibe, and when I started getting played on radio eventually labels heard it and gave me some shows – they invested in me. It was really natural, I didn’t do a showcase or anything like that – I was proactive in my art and eventually, people picked up on it.

  1. You won ‘Breakthrough Act Of The Year’ at the Gilles Peterson Worldwide Awards – what was it like to receive such an award?

That’s the highlight of my career probably, so far. It was amazing, I didn’t expect to win it at all. I know everyone says that but I was invited along to play at the event in Camden and the guy who put on the show (Gilles Peterson) – I’ve always listened to his music because he picks up on all really good music and it’s not always music that’s massive, so really underground – stuff I’ve never heard of, that’s why I enjoy listening to him.

I got invited to play at his show and I was over the moon. We went to the gig and before my set, they did the awards ceremony – so I’m nervous because I just want to play and have a good night  – and ‘Breakthrough Act Of The Year’ came onscreen. I was wondering who would win, thinking “I’d love to check them out, I bet they’re sick” – I was really excited to see who it was, so he started talking about it and he was like, “oh, this guy blah-blah-blah, he’s done this and that” and as he was talking, I was like “this sounds just like me.” Before he said my name, it clicked – it was me.

It was an amazing feeling, it was just great to be appreciated by someone that you also appreciate. In my eyes, for someone of his calibre to pick me up, is an amazing feeling. It just gave me motivation at an early point in my career, this was 2013, it made me feel like I was doing the right thing.

  1. So what have you been doing since then?

Since 2013, it’s been a weird one because I’ve done a lot of writing and I’ve been working on an album, and at that point, I hadn’t released any music apart from my demos, so I’ve actually put out two EPs this year. I started touring – it’s been a lot of life change and getting used to being an artist and at the same time working on material underneath Sony and getting my label sorted out. There’s been a lot going on, I moved from Liverpool to Nottingham to London, but mainly just writing and working on the album and the EPs has been the main focus.

  1. As a whole, what has the experience been like so far?

It has been really good, I think you take a lot of stuff for granted when you’re in it – I moan a lot of the time, but when I take a step back and look at what I’m doing, I know I’m very lucky. It’s been awesome, I’ve enjoyed all of it. So far, so good – it’s been a great experience and hopefully I can do this for the rest of my life and continue to build.

  1. What’s coming up for you once you finish the Coffeehouse tour?

After this tour I’ve got rehearsals ready for another tour, which is going to be a headline tour – that’s going on in November, starting on the 11th in Liverpool. We’re doing Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham and London. That’s going to be my first headline show so I’ll be nervous for that. I’ll have my band with me there so we’ll have bass, keys – we’re trying to get trumpets sorted too. It’s going to be very exciting to go out under my name, I’ve never been out on tour under my name, it’s always been supporting someone. Once I’ve got that out the way, I’ll hopefully be doing another collaborative project, which I can’t talk too much about, and then I’m finishing off the album. Next year I hope to be releasing my music and doing it all again.

  1. And finally, because it is the Coffeehouse Sessions tour, we have to ask – how do you take your tea/coffee?

I usually drink herbal tea, I have it like just the bag in the water (laughs). It’s a pretty boring answer from me. I would definitely choose tea over coffee, one hundred percent. Tea calms me down, my family always drink it – classic, English tea drinkers.


This or That:

Facebook/Twitter – Recently, Twitter.

TV/Film  – Film

Tea/Coffee – Tea

Cats/Dogs  – Dogs

Acoustic/full band – Full band.

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