Mr Hudson Interview
We caught up with the perfect Gent that is Mr. Hudson last week, to talk about his single 'Supernova', which is at number 2 in the charts this week , and making his second album 'Straight, no Chaser' .
CM: Ben - thanks for your time, busy boy at the moment.
Ben: Absolute pleasure.
CM: I hear you're in the studio, in London?
Ben: I am, I'm a glutton for punishment! I'm just working on a track for Estelle at the moment. I'm trying to spread my wings as a writer/producer. So it's not all about me!
CM: That's good to hear. Estelle's a pretty amazing vocalist and also close to the family you've been working with yourself.
Ben: It was great to see Estelle 'do her thing' with American Boy. It almost cleared a path for me to do a similar kind of thing, It didn't seem so crazy to sign to Kanye when she's just had that kind of success with American Boy.
CM: We have got to ask you about this single 'Supernova'. It's a delightful record. Tell us about the track.
Ben: Well, the great thing about Supernova is, it kind of kicks in the door and lets people know what kind of album 'Straight, no Chaser' is going to be. A big unashamedly pop record, I don't see pop as a rude word - a lot of my heroes make pop music. Bowie, Marvin Gaye, Damon Albarn make pop music. Beck, Prince and Michael Jackson all make pop music. I think one of the main services Kanye did for me was to say 'look you can be a pop singer, not just some credible indie kid in London. You can do something around the world'. It sort of woke me up! I needed a good slap around the face!
CM: One thing that I like about 'Supernova' is how down the verse is, it leaves so much room for the chorus to soar.
Ben: That's structure isn't it? You leave as much out as possible in the verses so that everything can come crashing in. I'm quite proud of the verses. When I grew up and wanted to get into song writing people like Nick Drake, Paul Simon and Evan Dando from the Lemonheads were all amazing writers. I like wordy words, I'm really pleased to smuggle in lines like 'he wants his kids and the dog, he wants his breakfast in bed, he's got his trustfund saved, not a worry in his head.' To me that's a proper lyric and I don't want people to write me off. Just because it's pop it's not flimsy. I want that to conjure up imagery for people.
CM: The last time I saw you play live was on the Amy Winehouse tour. I remember interviewing Amy that day and it was really the start of all the craziness for her. What are your memories of that time and did you learn or gain anything from being around that?
Ben: I did, I haven't seen a lot of her since, but that tour was definitely the turning point for her.
CM: She definitely bigged you up a lot on those dates, she was most certainly behind what you were doing at the time.
Ben: She did, I owe her one for taking us on tour. Actions speak louder than words. A lot of people would have just been quoted as saying 'oh yeah, I support this artist' but to drag someone around the country and put us in front of those audiences was great. I do owe her one, I was going to say I owe her a pint. I only have really positive things to say about her, really lovely girl.
CM: From one Grammy machine to another, we know that Kanye West is Executive Producer of the new album 'Straight, no Chaser'. There seems to be much more to the relationship than just that. Can you tell me about your friendship/partnership?
Ben: I was flown out first of all as a singer. I'm an aspiring producer and a Jack of all trades, but when I got out there I realised 'I'm here as a singer, as a lyricist and as a pair of ears'. I think Kanye was happy to have me in the studio and a lot of the time he'd be like 'What do you think of this, what do you think of this?' almost to have my blessing. He was doing 808's and Heartbreak and he was going to sing for a whole album, it was good to have a singer in the studio because if I didn't 'red card' stuff it was ok, does that make sense? I was almost like a consultant.
The first track I did for my new album 'Straight, no chaser' was 'There will be tears' I think he heard that and thought 'this isn't a million miles away from what I want to do' and as we were going into 808's, I co-produced one track with him, but I was mainly there to endorse things from a vocalist's perspective. I almost felt like a Canary in a Coal Mine, they were waiting for Ben to fall over, but I didn't. I sang on Paranoid too which is a great track. It's good to have such an upbeat track on such a blue record. That was a really interesting album to be involved with. For me, it felt like a turning point in American music. You've got one of the kings of Hip-Hop and he's singing the blues.
Here's the REAL stroke of luck. The only sport I'm anywhere near decent at is basketball and the only sport they had any interest in playing was basketball. So, I got to Hawaii and luckily I could hold my own.
CM: You must be spending quite a lot of time over in The States, how are you finding that?
Ben: I love it, but it's also hard because you come back and you know, it's not like I've got an American accent or anything but friends think you've changed, but you haven't, it's just that you've been away and you've been doing stuff without them and they've been doing stuff without you. The real hardship is what it did to my relationship with my girlfriend. I've been going on tour for two years then going to America for a couple of months and then going on tour with Kanye was the nail in the coffin. With all the gifts and blessings of success you have to give something up, you end up jettisoning a lot of your real life. I couldn't hold my relationship together and that's how my album became a break-up album. I was writing songs about all kinds of stuff from knife crime to The Olympics but by the time Kanye had made his record, we toured and then in March we got onto making my album and by that point that was where my head was at. That's the biggest thing that America has done to me, it simply dragged me away from my normal life in North London.
CM: You might be only just appearing on some people's radars but you have been living a creative life and writing and recording for a long time now. Where would you like to see things go for you over the next year or two?
Ben: The first thing is just to know that most of the album was made in a room above a pub in Camden. People assume I was driving around in a Lamborghini when it wasn't very glamorous at all. It was me and a couple of mice, a pot of coffee and my laptop. I made most of the album in a make-shift bedroom because I'd moved out. Things have changed very quickly, with the i-tunes festival the other day I was playing to two and a half thousand people at the Roundhouse, directly across from the pub where I made the record in much lonelier circumstances.
Where do I wanna be? I kind of want to be in 3 places at once. I want to tour the world, I want to keep recording and writing as I go and just keep meeting people. It's so much fun just saying 'oooh, I'll be in New York tomorrow, I wonder who's around'. You kind of feel like the world is your oyster. I do feel guilty about my carbon footprint.
CM: We have lots of young musicians who use our website. From your personal experience what advice would you offer to people just starting out writing and performing?
Ben: My main thing would be 'do your maximum', most people do their minimum. Some people say 'I'm in a band', which means you might gig once a month or write a new song once a month. Don't be afraid of finding out what your limits are and don't be scared of getting rejected, if you're getting rejected that means you are achieving your maximum. I don't write a song a day or play every night, but I'm close! I try and create something every day, like a drum pattern or a new line for a verse, something like that.
If you write one song a week by the end of the year you will have written something that people want to hear. That would be my advice.