Popping Up: XO
Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Beyoncé and Miley were once unknown, too.
At just 19 years old, UK producer/songwriter XO is already making waves across the pond with his fresh take on Electro-Soul. The Staffordshire native (born Sunil Heera) crafts beats quite organically, as he’s been referenced as a “bedroom producer” and still sticks to that grassroots formula.
That doesn’t him from bring top-notch tunes. XO’s debut EP Through The Night has been compared to the music by the likes of Disclosure, armed with a solid title track and the intoxicating “Pulling Me Under” featuring fellow Brit Leo Kalyan. The BBC’s Radio 1 has provided XO the heaviest co-sign, with Annie Mac asking him to perform at Radio 1’s Big Weekend, and SOHN premiered the EP’s final track “Numb” during his R1 Residency.
But enough of the small talk; the music will speak for itself. We caught up with XO and had a few questions of our own for him. Check out what the teenage dream had to say below.
CATCHING THE MUSIC BUG: XO credits his uncle, a DJ, for inspiring him to make music. But it was his own inquisitiveness that got him started. “It was out of sheer curiosity I guess,” he admits. “Music was a big part of my high school life and once it’d come to my attention that beats could be made from your bedroom, I was just so intrigued. The rest is history, as they say!”
ON HIS HUMBLE HOME PRODUCTION SET-UP: “It’s a pretty modest set-up, to be honest, and hasn’t changed since I started out as a producer,” XO says of his bedroom studio. “All I use is a standard HP computer with FL Studio installed and a set of USB powered PC monitors. That’s it. No hardware, keyboards or anything like that.” Simple set-up, complex sounds.
CLASSIFIED AS UNCLASSIFIABLE: It’s always difficult to assign a sound to an artist with multiple styles (we tried with “Electro-Soul”), but XO has his own take. “I’d like to think that I’ve bridged the gap between electronic, eance and R&B music,” says XO of his sound. “I guess it’s almost like a huge melting pot of all the different influences I have, fused together to create a sound that remains true to me.” His biggest influence though is the late producer J Dilla, and if you’re into Dilla or Slum Village at all, you can feel those vibes.
ON HIS SONG “PULLING ME UNDER”: “Well originally, myself and Leo [Kalyan] had a mutual friend, MNEK, and we were just in touch via email, talking about the possibility of working together at some point. As I was writing the track, I just felt Leo’s tone and delivery would sit perfectly over the beat and so I hit him up! All three of us polished up the lyrical content, I refined the instrumental and after about a week, we had a finished tune.”
A CLUB KID. LITERALLY: In the States, the 19-year-old would be driving the struggle bus to get into clubs, but the scene is quite different overseas. “Here in the UK, the minimum age requirement is 18 [to get into clubs] so it’s great that I don’t have that problem anymore,” the producer/songwriter says of performing at nightlife venues. “Although, when I was younger, I’d have to either use someone else’s I.D. or sneak in, yeah…or try to grow facial hair and hope for the best!”
THE SURREALITY OF 2014 RECOGNITION AND BEYOND: “Even now, I don’t think I’d class my music as known really. I think there’s still a long way to go. However, saying that, there were some really wicked moments in 2014 which definitely made what I do worthwhile. Receiving support from people I’ve respected for a number of years such as Annie Mac and Chase & Status was pretty surreal at the time! For me, I’d just love for my music to be known globally and as a result of that, touring the world and playing my music to thousands would be pretty special. Other than that, I’m just taking every day as it comes really.”
PULLING INSPIRATION FROM EVERYWHERE: When asked what inspires XO to create, “absolutely everything” is his reply. “Most of the time, it’s not even music that gets the creative juices flowing,” he says. “Recently, things like the weather, dreams and past experiences have really struck a chord with me. You’ll hopefully be able to hear these influences in the next release.”
IF HE WASN’T HERE, WHERE WOULD HE BE? “I’d probably be at University doing a degree in something I didn’t want to do in the slightest.”
Have you already discovered XO? Let us know your thoughts on this British up and comer below.
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