Interview: Five minutes with Sunny Gray
London-based artist Sunny Gray has just released his brand new single ‘Equilibrium’ on Friday 19th July via Exilence, a music collective already raising waves.
Sunny Gray is a melantronic soul artist based in London. After getting himself stranded onto the East Side, Sunny immediately rooted himself deep in the dull concrete, growing on graffiti walls and breathing the artificial glow of the rainy city nights. His music depicts the ubiquitous conflict hidden under the asphalt skinned metropolis. The City is a world on its own, silent yet resonating, where waves of electronic sound are tamed by Sunny’s warm and soulful voice.
We got a chance to sit down with Sunny and get a sneak peek into his mind.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
I didn’t choose arts, they choose me. I didn’t force anything and never really questioned why I got into music, to be honest. Everything grew naturally and smoothly as soon as we stuck together. I think music came to help me to give me a new way of speaking my mind, a sort of super-power allowing me to express something I couldn’t put down in simple words and thoughts even though I personally am a kind of introvert and silent young man most of the time. Music has soon become a comforting presence, it allowed me to undress my thoughts and feelings and share them to the world. I believe she really released the best part of me so far.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
Most of the times it’s the latter. I love to write everything that comes to my mind, so I do have a sort of archive of songs embryos. When I write a song I feel like I’m deep diving in a sea of emotions, concepts, words, notes. Some of them are new while others are old, ancient, like relics. In the abyss I scavenge the pieces I need for my songs. Then I take them back to the surface, first into simple chords, then I finalise the lyrics around them.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
I’m sticking to my own stuff for the moment ‘cause I feel I’m still searching for my own way of doing things. I’ve always been quite a lone wolf, a solitaire soul but I also loved the idea to work on some featuring, later on.I’ll think about that maybe for one of the next productions of mine. It’s so important for me now to experiment, test, make mistakes, learn and find my own individuality.
What’s on your current playlist?
Old funky grooves, lo-fi beats, nu-jazz tunes and of course my classic old punk rock tunes.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
It’s like magic happening when I get on the stage. It’s an invisible yet tangible power I feel when I perform which links me, my band and the people in front. An unbelievable sensation, beyond words. Playing live is one of the things I love the most about doing music, something’s really really important for me because it is a moment of truth: you will know if an artist is true or not on stage, you can’t hide anything.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
Being a self-taught musician I always go with the flow as much as I can, without trying to chase anything or be anyone. I achieve my sound basically holding myself to think about my music too much, I want to keep things simple. Over-thinking is an inspiration killer. It takes away the magic moment.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
I usually record my music in a very usual way, so first comes the takes for the music part than the vocals. What is important for me is to try not to overthink stuff. I do prepare myself but not the point where I am stuck in a dead-end with my creativity and I simply have to go there to repeat something already ready. I try to keep doors open at any time because studio time for me is very intimate, I always feel really influenced by the place I’m recording in, as well as the people that I have around at that moment.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
It was a long time ago: I saw the legendary Michael Jackson performing on TV. That show really left a mark in me. I immediately told myself: “I want to be like him”. I’ve always kind of dreamed to be able to conquer the world, like he did.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
I’m a very old fashioned man. I use a black notebook and a black-ink pen, a handy recorder, one guitar or a piano if it’s there, a few drinks and a pack of my favourite tobacco. That’s my primitive gear for my creative process.
Any side projects you’re working on?
Not at the moment, I’m really focusing on my solo act Sunny Gray right now, it’s a delicate moment of my life. I’m a father of a beautiful daughter, though, so I can say that try being a good dad is my full-time side project.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
Playing along great musicians taught me more than anything else. I think to experience it is a key element, without any doubt. It gives you consciousness and wisdom about how to approach what’s next and how to reinvent yourself, anytime.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
Lots of gigs around the UK and hopefully Europe, I’ve already been playing and recording around, like Italy and the Netherlands, also there will be more songs on the pipeline and – who knows – maybe a featuring with some big names around.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Whiskey and Coke.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
I really love BIIG PIIG. Also like Yungblud and King Princess, mostly for their attitude. I’ll put in the bunch Paris Monster as well.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Silence and fewer people around. Rain, late nights and the ashtray full of cigarette butts still smoking in the room.
Follow Sunny Gray: