‘Mistakes are there to be made in life to learn from’: an interview with Example

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Elliot Gleave ,otherwise known as ‘Example’ is currently mid-28 date tour supporting his recent album Live Life Living. His fifth album was released in July earlier this year reaching number eight in the UK charts.  I was fortunate enough to catch up with him before his gig at Portsmouth Guildhall on 11th November to discuss his album and plans for the future.

As the tour is supporting your fifth studio album, would you say you still get nervous coming out on stage, or are you over that?

No, I’m over that. I was over being nervous on stage when I was about ten. My mum put me on stage when I was very young, acting, so I got over stage fright at a very young age. Sometimes if I am at a European festival and it looks a bit empty out there, I wouldn’t say I get nervous; I just get annoyed because I love playing to big rooms, or packed crowds or packed fields. I never get nervous because I know my job too well, I know my set too well and I know me and the band are well-rehearsed. It’s more a case of that I just want loads of people to be there. Sometimes you just get a bit anxious like, ‘oh, are there going to be people turning up?’

Do you have a favourite track to perform live?

It changes all the time really, but generally the more aggressive ones. Like the big, big songs, you know, like the big singles, like ‘Stay Awake’ and ‘Kickstarts’ and ‘Changed the Way You Kissed Me’. They are great but, you know, I get a bit bored. Not bored performing them, but I have done them so many times, I have heard them so many times on the radio, I’ve performed them. You get more excited about the darker, tougher songs like ‘All the Wrong Places’ and ‘Perfect Replacement’. But it changes all the time.

Would you say you prefer the new ones then?

There will be certain songs we haven’t done for like two years and we put them back in the set – like ‘Hooligans’ is back in the set now after a two year hiatus, so that becomes exciting again. It’s good to mix it up, it’s a nice thing for me as well; as I have five albums worth to choose from, I could really do a two and a half hour show, but I think people would be dead [after]two hours. An hour and twenty-five is long enough I reckon.

So you’re known for your brutal honesty with the press and via Twitter; is there anything you have said that you regret or that was a bit controversial?

I wouldn’t say regret, because I think, you know, mistakes are there to be made in life to learn from, and I have certainly learned from a lot of things in life. Whether it’s been stuff on Twitter or, you know, stuff in interviews or even stuff in my personal life. But I don’t think I have ever done stuff that’s made people want to kill themselves; I think when you put people in a position like that where they don’t want to go out in public that its something to feel really bad about. I think the stuff that I have just said has been a bit of fun.  Most of the people, I have seen them since and made up with them, whether it’s been The Saturdays or Olly Murs or Alexandra Burke. I think I was just going through a period in life where I was just a bit angry; I was upset in my personal life and was probably a bit hungover all the time, so I think I just started lashing out. I am so happy now in life, there is not really that part in me. I still like a bit of banter, but I am not the sort of person to tweet, ‘oh I fucking hate this person, or their music’s shit,’ because it’s not like I am absolutely flying at the moment so I am not in a position to do that. You know, I’m doing alright.

For anyone who hasn’t got the album already, how would you describe it?

 It’s kind of like a dance compilation in that I wanted to make an album that you could stick on at a party, or at a barbeque, or in a car from start to finish without skipping any tracks. You know, there’s not really any moments on the album where it gets a bit up its own arse. It’s kind of just like loads of bangers one after the other, you know, like one for the diehard fans. It hasn’t sold as well as my last records, but I’m not sure if that’s because electronic albums aren’t selling in general at the moment. People who have got it think it is one of my best and love it. But there is also a lot of people that haven’t bought it and tend to buy the singles now, so they just go and cherry-pick their favourite four, five songs off the album and put them into a playlist with other artists. A lot of my fans, they show me playlists and there is like me, Tinie [Tempah], Calvin [Harris], Rudimental, Disclosure, Gorgon City, and they would rather have a playlist of all their favourite songs rather than just my album of thirteen tracks.

If you were to give advice to someone who wanted to get into the industry, what would it be?

I think this is one of these things you could talk about for hours; I think the key thing now is just to master social media early on. You know, whether it’s SoundCloud or YouTube or Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – you’ve really got to be able to master these things. Or watch other people and look how they use it and do your own interpretation of how they use it. It’s all about branding and sound and image, even from when you’re starting out, you need a strong sense of identity. The more stuff you can do yourself, whether that’s your own videos or artwork or your own logo; even a sense of style. When you’re looking through someone’s Instagram, sort of having a vibe. These are all the things that people identify with: try giving yourself a brand and an image, because even though it should just be about the music, even the best singer-songwriters in the world, you can describe them and sum them up in two or three words. Either their sound or their image or what they stand for. So I just think that when people are starting out, yeah, you might change along the way, because as you work you discover new things about yourself, but it’s good to have an idea of what you want to be when you’re starting out. Even if two years down the road you completely switch genres or change what you wanna do. Don’t always think, ‘oh, I need a record label,’ or, ‘oh, I need a manager,’ – you don’t always need a record label or a manager to do well.

After the recent change to Epic Records, do you think it has affected the music you have produced? Have you ventured into different creative plans since the move from Ministry of Sound?

I don’t think so really, it was just there was a lot more cooks involved in a major label; sometimes maybe too many cooks. And we kind of changed that, so for the next record I will be doing a lot more by myself with a smaller group of people, because I work better when I am kind of leading it myself. I don’t really take direction that well from other people. I don’t think the record label is necessarily important to what I do. I mean, they are when I have a single that needs to be a hit, but a lot of people see me as a big live artist and I’ve always kind of run that side of things myself.

As you announced on Twitter this will be the last tour for a while, can we expect you to return anytime soon?

I’ll be doing gigs next year, but I won’t be touring. I’ll be travelling to get to a gig but I won’t be on a tour bus doing like twenty-five gigs. I will have new music out next summer, but I am also going to spend a lot of time out with my wife and kids and spend a lot more time shooting films and acting. I’ve just finished filming one role in something that should be out next summer, depending on whether the film gets distribution.

Congratulations also on your wife’s pregnancy, are you looking forward to becoming a dad; is there a certain parenting technique you’re going to take on?

I don’t know really, maybe just copy a lot of what my dad did. My dad was amazing, my parents were both amazing. I think we’re great around kids already, Erin and I, so we are just going to take it in our stride, I mean, make it up as we go along, I think.

Are you going to influence them into music from a young age?

Yeah of course, I think music is very important. My dad and mum played a lot of music around the house, even when I was a kid. I’m gonna let them do what they want in life really; it’s kind of what my parents let me do.

Tickets to the rest of Example’s tour are still available here, and his album Live Life Living is available now through Epic Records.

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Third year English and History student.

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