Slow King (real name Jacob Powlett) might be a seemingly fresh-faced ‘new kid on the block’; but he’s been developing his skills for nearly 10 years (and has the talent to show for it)
His musical development has been a journey, one that encompasses heartbreak, sexuality, race and addiction, and yet he has come out the other side with an incredibly honest collection of 6 tracks in his new EP ‘Milk & Honey’. Lewis catches up with Jacob to discuss his inspiration, his heartbreak and most importantly, his future.
Talent - Slow King
Photography - Glendon Gunnings
Interview - Alice Harrison
So, you’re on the cusp of releasing your EP Milk & Honey. How are you feeling?
I’m honestly feeling so excited about it, but also a little bit relieved. I’ve loved creating this project and really believe that it is my strongest work by far. Emotionally it’s been a gauntlet. I'm definitely looking forward to sitting back and just watching people enjoy it and hopefully resonate with my lyrics. I find it quite hard to rest when changes ‘could’ still be made, even if they’re not needed. But all in all, I can’t help but feel positive about it.
Could you explain to us what your journey has been with the 6 tracks featured on it?
It’s been a journey of rediscovering myself and learning to love independence again. The majority of this EP has been inspired by a break up I went through quite recently, and the tracks take you through the different stages of my experience; of love and loss. It’s also extremely close to home as I expose other obstacles that I’ve faced over the last few months; like battling addiction, suffering from depression and anxiety, and navigating my sexuality. I would say that my journey has been truly cathartic. Every song on this project resonates with me in a different way, and it’s been able to act as a deterrent to stop me from doing the things I know don’t bring me joy. ‘Favourite’ reminds me not to engage in conversation with my ex because I know it’ll end in upset. ‘Escandalo’ reminds me that I need to stop taking myself so seriously all the time because someone, somewhere will always have a problem with everything. The lead single ‘Alone Again’ is a track about my partner moving out of our flat and how I barely recognise my home anymore now they’ve gone. Hearing it reminds me that it’s cool to be on my own as well and that I am able, and allowed to have a great time by myself.
This project has taught me more about who I am than anything else I’ve ever produced. It just goes to show that the more of yourself you put into a body of work, the more you and everyone else will fall in love with it.
Take us back to the days of your youth. What was a pivotal point that made you think that music was ‘for you’?
There have definitely been more than a few moments! My Dad and I have a very close relationship and ever since I was a kid, I remember him singing and playing music around the house. He played a lot of Timbaland and Nelly Furtado which I loved.
Contrary to belief I was quite academically inclined as a kid too. I slayed at maths and was pretty athletic too. I think all my teachers and others around me assumed that I’d follow those avenues because they were what I was good at; I was never really pushed to do anything else. Then the school play came along and I was the only kid that didn’t study drama to audition and I ended up getting the lead role. I remember the feeling of being on stage for the first time; acting and singing in front of a crowd and having this rushing feeling, the one that you get when your nerves just disappear and you’re operating on pure adrenaline. I think that was the first time I realised that I was good at performing, and I loved being in front of a crowd.
I then went on to study Textiles, maths and Business at Sixth Form because I wanted to run my own streetwear brand. But I eventually realised that, for me, those subjects were SUPER boring and, you know, studying is damn hard when you’re a stoner kid. I began dabbling in song writing & music production before inevitably dropping out of school to go to college to study Music Production instead. 4 years later and here we are!
What has been your journey since then, and how do you see your identity as an artist?
Since then I feel it’s only been an upwards progression. I still have all my early demos and releases on SoundCloud and I love/hate listening back to them to remind myself just how far I’ve come. At the start I was making music because I could, whereas now I’m making music because I feel the need to create something all the time. It’s like music woke something up inside of me that feeds on the production of art. Now I get antsy if I'm not making something. Even if it’s just a photo edit or a merchandise design; it doesn’t need to be a full album to be creative.
I think because of this I’ve grown into an extremely versatile Artist. I can sing my heart out, produce high quality chill, ethereal music or beats that slap so hard they make your face screw up. I’ve loved watching how my branding has developed, and seeing how all the skills I’ve picked up over the years have amalgamate into this project. I’ve loved watching Slow King grow alongside Jacob and I think they complement each other so well.
You’ve kept this endeavour entirely independent. What does this mean for you, with respect to your music and your identity as an artist.
For the most part I’ve loved being independent. It’s allowed me to grow and find my sound and brand identity at a pace that suits me. Of course there have been times where I’d have loved the financial backing of a label but the fact that I get to look at everything on my website and my discography and say ‘Yeah, I made ALL of that, BY MYSELF’. It’s a good feeling. It’s fantastic when it all comes together and people think that you have this massive team, yet really it’s just you.
Having said this, I’m definitely not opposed to signing at some point in my career, but it’s more important to me that I hone every skill as much as I possibly can before I commit to the next big step.
How do you go about writing your tracks? What have been some of your inspirations, particularly on this new EP?
Even though I don’t feature the guitar on every song on this EP, my process on nearly all my tracks starts with me jamming on the guitar and humming a melody over the top. Depending on which part I like more and the vibe I’m going for on the day, I’ll usually record one or the other (or sometimes both) and then build from there. I’ll then produce everything else around it in Ableton, my DAW of choice. It’s an incredible piece of kit that I can use to play drums, keyboards, arrange songs and mix on. I feature it on a couple of live jam videos on my Instagram and use it for every live show, she’s my baby.
Prior to writing this EP I’d been listening to a lot of Bedroom Pop and Electronica. I had the Still Woozy ‘Lately EP’ on repeat for a while as well as EDEN’s newest Album ‘No Future’. Both of these definitely inspired me to hone in on my song writing and arrangement process. I’ve also been banging a lot of Kaytranada’s new album ‘BUBBA’ lately. He is always going to be an inspiration in my music, his production is insane and I love how he blends styles and genres to create something new, interesting and straight up fuego.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t actually listen to much other music when I’m writing, especially because I mix and master my own material. I spend so much time listening to the same 10 bar loop for hours on end I just need a little break from music sometimes!
How have you found producing music during this global pandemic? Has it impacted your creative process at all?
It varied throughout I think. At the start it was really quite tough honestly. Remember earlier when I said I feel like I need to create? Well that’s very true but I think it comes as a reaction to having to balance the good with the bad. I loved creating things because it brought me joy when I’d had a crap day at work or uni or whatever. And when I was suddenly given all the time in the world to just sit and write, I kind of froze.
It’s like that scene from The Good Place where they discuss how eternal paradise is actually not paradise. If you could do all the amazing things you wanted to do forever, trust me you’d eventually get bored.
Like you’d think with all the time in the world I’d be excited to get to finish the EP but it just made me feel anxious. I was too preoccupied thinking about whether I was going to even be able to book feature vocalists or have my launch show or get an internship still. I just had too many questions that no one was able to answer.
However, as time has gone by, I’ve adapted and realigned my energies and now I feel like I’m flourishing. I’m writing music every day and being super productive with my brand awareness and networking. LockDown was just this humongous change that I was not mentally prepared for.
What have been some of your musical influences, both in the past and more recently?
When I first started producing I was really inspired by bands like The White Stripes, Foals and Bombay Bicycle Club. Although the music I was creating wasn’t much like there’s I really enjoyed the cool sounding guitar music with interesting melodies. It made me want to learn how to play better; and now this is probably my strongest instrument. Now honestly I’m inspired by a whole host of content that it’s really hard to pinpoint anything. I’ve always loved Timbaland’s production. I think he’s iconic. I love Gus Dapperton and his guitar playing style and approach to arranging music and his hot face. I think Frank Ocean’s melody writing and the way he rides the beat is insane. There’s a producer I went to uni with who goes by the alias ‘Sonn’ and he’s by far one of the most talented guys I’ve ever met. His production is flawless and his sense of identity as an artist for someone younger than me is dope. Great guy. Love him.
We LOVE how eclectic your sound is and we can really hear the development through your tracks. But how would YOU describe yourself?
Thank you so much! That’s so kind to say! Honestly that is the question that has haunted me for years. I tried to get a tagline that said ‘No Genre, No Category’ going for a while which I may give another go soon as that’s what I’d like this project to embody. If I had to categorise it I would describe as ‘Alternative R’n’B meets Bedroom Pop with a generous sprinkle of Electronica for good measure’. Then again, each song very much depends on the mood I’m in on the day. I have songs on my hard-drive that you could classify as Punk, some that are House music, a couple of Gay Pop Anthems and a healthy amount of Hip-Hop. It varies.
Sometime I have very little idea what I’m doing but I’m having fun with it. One day I’ll release an album where every song is in an entirely different style just to really mess with people.
You cover some pretty ‘real’ and ‘gritty’ topics in your tracks, how do you see the importance of music in encouraging systemic change?
I think that music has the potential to influence and inspire change in others. This is a gift that shouldn’t be taken for granted. But at the same time I think it’s important that not every word an Artist may say is taken as Gospel. As a mixed-race, bisexual artist I believe that I have a unique perspective and I feel that I have somewhat of a moral obligation to try and educate my peers and fans about my experiences. However, I would never assume that I understand the perspectives of every other mixed-race, bisexual person. Everyone has had their own experiences and stories, and I wouldn’t want to explain those away. Music is amazing as it provides dialogue in a way that can reach the whole world in an instant, which is a powerful, POWERFUL tool.
With respect to the recent Black Lives Matter movement, we are already seeing changes because of how the community is coming together through movements such as the #letthemusicplay campaign that resulted in a £1.57 billion investment being put back into the arts industries. Also the Grammys are going to stop labelling black music as ‘Urban’ due to pressure from the BLM movement. We are at a pivotal moment where It’s a good time to be revolutionary even though it’s heart-breaking; we still need to HAVE these revolutions.
You’re Ipswich born and bred, how have you found moving to the big smoke?
It’s very different that’s for sure. I love that in London I see people that look like me everywhere, I can get Caribbean food and cool new craft beers just around the corner. But I don't know... I don’t feel as much of the passion and heart from the people I’ve interacted with in London. Even from working in pubs in both cities, the clientele in London is definitely much more... aggressively coked up? It’s like everyone thinks they’re running out of time, I used the alias Slow King for a reason. I’m a country boy at heart and think I always will be, I love nature and good conversation. London is more like a concrete jungle but all the monkeys are wearing suits.
That being said I’ve only been here for a couple years as a student so probably haven’t done enough exploring. I'm sure there are beautiful areas of London that would feel like home even to a little country bumpkin like myself.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would you pick? Pfft. Erykah Badu. Duh. She can do no wrong. Or maybe André 3000.
In Favourite you reference your ‘Sick Fashion’, we’ll take YOUR word for it, but who are some of your style icons?
I’m your typical Gemini so my style changes like the weather. I’m inspired by gender-bending and androgynous fashion at the moment. I think Gus Dapperton and Harry Koisser (Peace) have incredible style. I also love how JPEGMAFIA dresses; he always looks wicked. I really want the robe he’s wearing on the ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’ cover.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Hopefully in 5 years I’ll have a studio space where I can make music, clothes and be able to produce all the photo and video content I want entirely in-house. And I’ll have a garden with loads of vegetables.
Slow King’s 6-track EP ‘Milk & Honey’ is set for release in August 2020
Lead Single ‘Alone Again’ will be released on July 24th, with accompanying YouTube video premiering on July 17th.