“I wouldn’t say I’m famous”: An interview with Zak Abel

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Zak Abel is a 21 year old musician, from North London who has previously collaborated with the likes of Gorgon City, Tom Misch and Wretch 32 and will be releasing his debut album ‘Only When We’re Naked’ on March 10th. Following his two sold out headline dates at Scala, we at The Edge caught up with Zak to talk fashion, fame, and all things Abel.

You recently attended London Fashion Week Men’s, how was your experience?

It was good, it was really good thanks. I am learning a lot about fashion because I’m very very ignorant so I’m just trying my best to learn more about it really!

So it appears your new album is finally on it’s way, what can you tell us about it? Can you describe it in 3 words?

Would I be able to describe it in 3 words? [laughs]I could try! I may fail miserably.. I would say that it is uh, soulful, pop and naked!

Are there any exciting collaborations we can look out for, or any tracks you’re especially proud of?

So in terms of collaborations, there’s only one collaboration on the album – and that’s with a guy called Wretch 32. We did a song together called ‘Rock Bottom’  so that’s an important song to me. I’m especially proud of a song called ‘Deserve to be Loved’  that’s on the album, and the reason why I’m proud of it is because it was a big statement that I’d written about. For a long time I didn’t feel as though I did deserve to be loved and I could see that my friends were kind of in the same boat in areas of their lives and I felt like when I wrote that it cleared up a lot of things, a lot of misconceptions I had about myself because I really do feel like everyone deserves to be loved. So yeah that’s kind of the one that stood out and I’m really happy that I wrote a song like that and I really stand by that.

How did the decision come about to put ‘Deserve to be Loved’ on the album, because it was sort of out online for a while wasn’t it?

Yeah it was! I’d written it a while back but it didn’t really fit in with anything that I’d done on the other EP’s, I always thought it would be something to do with an album and that’s why it was never on an EP because stylistically it didn’t really fit in. I did an acoustic version of it and I just thought ‘why not put it out?’ and then I realised ‘actually.. I don’t know if I want it out there! Why don’t we take it back?’  Confusing but, in the end we have a recorded version now and I reckon it should stick! We shall see..

Where did the name Only When We’re Naked come from?

The name came about after a song I wrote on the album called, well ‘Only When We’re Naked’. Pretty much as soon as I’d written it I realised that was the one that the album should be called.  The song is about wanting to be real with people and wanting to take away all of the pretences and fake-ness basically because I think it’s only when you take away all the bollocks and the fake-ness that you can actually be your true self. So my way of describing that was like only when you’re naked, not just in a literal sense but in an emotional sense as well. I really felt like this album was my way of putting across my true self and I really hope that comes across.

Having only released EP’s and singles up until this point, how does the feeling of releasing an album differ? 

I think releasing an album is a big milestone of any artist’s career so I feel very humble that I’m able to put one out and uh, I was really proud when I put out  The Joker Presents EP and also the One Hand on the Future EP but I definitely feel like releasing an album is a big deal so I really hope that people like it! When I was doing live shows it made me so happy when I saw people sing back lyrics to my songs and I really wanted to make music that I could share with people and that I thought they’d enjoy live as well. It’s a really cool thing to release an album.

Would you say that releasing an album comes with a sort of inevitable fame? What, in your opinion, are the best and worst things about your newfound fame?

The album could be terrible, no-one like it and I could even lose fans so I don’t think it’s necessarily inevitable. I don’t know, I wouldn’t say I’m famous now even! To be honest, I’m not really that concerned with fame I think it’s more about music, putting out good music and hoping that people like it!

What would you say is the best, or most surreal, experience you’ve had since becoming kind of famous?

I think probably the most surreal experience was when I did BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend with Gorgon City. It was my fourth ever gig and it was to 12,000 people so stepping out on stage into that environment was very very surreal. Up until that point I’d just been locked in the studio and writing and not really performing to that many people so to go from that to 12,000 people was definitely surreal but I’m very grateful I got to experience that. It pushed me into the deep end and it made me realise that this could potentially be the future, if all goes well it could be a regular part of my life. It was scary, definitely scary! Although amazing, I think the overarching theme was definitely scary.

Having mentioned the collaboration with Wretch 32, is there anyone else you really aspire to work with right now?

I’d love to work with Sigala, a guy called Madden, Drake, Kendrick Lamar. I’d love to work with Ella Eyre! I love the rasp of her voice, she’s really really soulful.

Finally, what’s on the cards for you this year? Any plans to tour in Southampton?

I don’t see why not! I don’t think I’ve been to Southampton so it’d be a good experience I’m sure! I’m doing two gigs on the 7th and 8th of February at Scala and apart from that I haven’t really planned a tour yet! But who knows, when the album comes out perhaps there’ll be an opportunity to tour the UK. If not Europe or the world that is, who knows… But yeah, I love live. I love performing live so I’m hoping to do it as much as possible!

Pre-order Zak Abel’s new album, ‘Only When We’re Naked’ here.

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Head of Relations for The Edge and Fashion Marketing student at Southampton University. P.S. I tweet - a lot (@naviwbu)

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