Can you walk me through what you've been up to since 2012's Lonely Are the Brave?
I released my first album in the U.K. in 2012. It was an album called Lonely are the Brave, and it went to No. 2 in the charts in the U.K. We toured really heavy for a couple of years and once we finished touring, I needed a bit of time off to give me a new energy to come back and not do a B-sides to the first album for my second record. So I took time out, I traveled, I went to India, I went to Africa for the first time, I went out and recorded an album with Idris Elba for the Mandela project in South Africa, and I went out to New York and recorded with Joey Bada$$… A lot of different things were going on for me at that point in my life, a lot of change that happened within my personal life and [my] music, and I stood away for a while and found out a lot about myself, got inspired and came back and wrote the album.
What was the process like traveling and writing the album?
There was always inspiration writing when I was traveling because a lot of the traveling was really key for me in figuring out what had gone on. A lot had gone on since I'd written my first album...I needed time to sit and figure [it] out. When I went traveling, it was a moment for me to reflect on it and understand it, so there was always bits and pieces written, but it wasn't until I came back to London and sat down and really put everything together that the record really started piecing together. The first song I recorded off the record was a song called "Breathe," and once I'd written that, I just stood there and chose a new lane from everything and the record was quite easy to write from that point on.
You've had the album the album done for a year or so, right?
Yeah, we've had the album completed for a year and there were one or two tunes on it where a lot had changed in the last year. The record was done, but a lot had changed, my feeling towards a lot of production on the record. I suppose being stuck with the record for that long, you're always going to end up fine-tuning something. There was two tunes on the record that really needed fine-tuning. It just took a while to do. At one point, I just had to stand away, and I had to say, this is the last thing I can do.
Can you talk to me about the album itself? What does it represent as a whole?
To me, it represents a changing point in my life. A growth, a maturity, an understanding of myself that I never had before, and I never really took time to have. I signed my first deal at 19, 20 years of age. There was a lot going on in my life, in my head at that time and I never really dealt with it. I needed time to step back and understand myself… and not just continue to succeed and achieve rather than achieve and succeed within myself and get to a point of comfort and peace within myself. I think that's what this whole album represent. It's me having a growth and really learning about myself and the world around me.
Can you talk to me about the Irish hip-hop scene? What is it like?
Yeah. Well, hip hop in Ireland is a big thing. I grew up in a 7-8,000 town in the Southeast of Ireland. I was born in London, In Hackney, and I was raised in Ireland, my family's Irish. So I was raised there from the age of 4 to 16. Hip-hop was a massive thing in my town… We grew up around a lot of hip hop, a lot of MCing, a lot of rapping, and a lot of Irish folk which is quite a mental mix. They told similar stories, so from an Irish hip-hop perspective, at the time I came into it, which was the 2004, 2005 time, it was really popular in Ireland and it still is now…I remember me at the time, I was a bit confused because I was half Irish, half English. So, my accent was all over the place. It still is a tiny bit now, but speaking about things that were local to us was a really conscious effort...There's still a lot of Irish putting out a lot of quality music out in Ireland, but here hip-hop is a very big influence on young people in Ireland and has been for a couple of years.
Do you feel like your accent and upbringing in both Ireland and England gives you the flexibility to work within so many different genres?
Yeah, because the thing is, I think with my upbringing and my musical journey so far, we've touched into a lot of different walls like being brought up in Ireland, I was [exposed to] blues and Irish folk music and then I got into the Irish hip-hop scene and being from London as well and being brought up between the two because my mom is from London, my dad is from Ireland, so we used to go back to London quite a lot. Coming over here when I was 17, I was immersed in the U.K. grime and hip hop scene and they took me in and took me out of their wing. It's definitely been a beneficial thing because I've been able to speak on many different walls with our party because I've been involved in many things. I've been brought up in the countryside in Ireland and then I've been around stuff that I would have never seen in my life, in Ireland, in London and I've had the best of both worlds and I've been able to experience character building from both sides, so I'm able to speak on both sides with a lot of conviction.