The Rescue Rooms archives: 2019

ADY SULEIMAN *rescheduled*, Live At Rescue Rooms

  • Sunday 10th March 2019
  • Supported by: TBC

2018 ady suleiman poster


Ady Suleiman doesn’t disguise his emotions. He doesn’thide behind abstract lyrics or leave it to strings to suggest how he’s feeling. His frank, unfiltered, soul-baringsongs offer more than an insight in to his life –they’re a front row seat toreal situations relayedin real time, to conversations typically held behind closed doors,to self-confessions related out loud.

Memories, Ady’s extraordinarydebut album, is at onceintimate and universal. Whether backed by a band with brass and strings or stripped back solo, its dozen,story-tellingsongs draw you in with details that feel both familiar and intrusive. Whether singing about sex or self-doubt, describingrelationships going wrong or right, examining his own anxiety issuesor pondering his place in the world, the 25 year old can’t lie, to himself or to hislisteners.

“For me, the most important aspect of writing a song is that people believe it,” says Ady. “If they believe it, they can relate to it. There’s no point pretending. I know I’ve done a good job when fans come up to me after my shows tosay that mysongs spoke to them.”

Musically, Memories is as restless as its writer. Vintage soul rubs shoulders with contemporaryR&B. Songs dip in to reggae, jazz, funk and folk. Members of Ady’ssix-piece live band breeze in and out. The setting is led bythe story, delivered in Ady’s warm,conversational vocal style.

“I don’tdecide in advance how a song willsound,” says Ady. “I go with my gut.I have eclectic taste –I grew up on everything from reggae to Hendrix to jazz. I love Frank Ocean and James Blake. The song is what matters. How I present it depends on the subject matter.”

Memories opens with I Remember, on which Ady directly addresses an ex, blaming himself for their break-up. “How stupid I’ve been/Fucking drama queen/Always overthinking,” he sings, assparse acoustic guitargives way tosweet soulthat reflectsthe love songs he’s now writing for her.

On the bewitching Longing For Your Love, Adylists the reasons why a lovershouldn’t leaveover strikingstrings and percussion, while the funky Serious sees the boot on the other foot as Ady puts off a partner keen to settle down.

“There are severalrelationship songs, but not all about the same person,” says Ady. “In fact, nearly every songis about someone different.Some are written from a friend perspective, but there are quite afew former girlfriendson there. To be fair, the album covers a long period of time.”

The oldest tracks on Memoriesdate back to Ady’slate teens. The most recent is the spectacularsoul balladLoving Arms, which closes the album. New single Need Somebody To Love, a jazz and funk-steeped fantasy inwhich Ady imagines his perfect partner, arrivedsomewhere in between and is already a staple of his live shows.So Lost is a wonky R&B beauty thatdeals withmental health and medication. If I Die, inspired by the death of a close friend in a car crash, sets observationson leaving a legacy to a sleepy beatand sensual strings.

What ties them together is Ady’s ability to mix the rich with the raw. However sumptuous the sound of his songs, however old-school or up-to-datethe production, theyremain purposely unpolished to retain adirectnessrare in modern pop.

“I don’t want my songs to soundperfect because real life’s not like that,” says Ady. “Everyone has good times and bad. I’ve had plenty of bothmaking this album. I’m not the same person who wrote some of these songs, but I don’t feel like a fraud when I singthem. Everything I’ve been through has mademe whoI am now.”

Growing up in a village near Nottingham, Ady was a classic distracted child who first found a focus in football. When girls and alcoholcame along, he turned his attention to music, encouraged by a teacher who spotted his talent for singing and a DJ dad who ran African club nights in Nottinghamand turned his sonon to everyone from Pink Floyd and The Beatles to Chet Baker and Bob Marley.

“I was gettingguitar lessons and one day I forgot my guitar,” recalls Ady. “I thought I’d waste some time by going to tell the teacher, but instead of sending me back to class, he askedme to sing a Hendrix song. From then on, I was the singer in school. I frontedthe jazz band and performed shows from the age of 13.”

Ady also joined a soul band in school and spent weekends buskingwith a friend on trumpet, playing ska and reggae covers in nearby towns. It wasn’t until he auditioned for LIPA, Liverpool’s prestigious performing arts college, that he started to writehis own songs.

“I knew I could write, I just never had,” he shrugs. “But they asked for an original song at the audition, so I wrote oneand discovered a real passion for it.”

By the time he left, Ady’s songs had been played on BBC Introducing and he was invited to tour with Laura Mvula andMichael Kiwanuka. His early EPs foundhim fans in Gilles Peterson and Mistajam, while his innate ability to express his emotions so openly impressed Chance The Rapper, who flew him to the Statesto collaborate, and Joey Bada$$, who guested on one of his songs.

Memories was largelyrecorded while Ady was signed to Syco, Simon Cowell’s label, but disagreements over its release led to Ady leaving to set up his own label.

“Financially, it was a great to be on a big label,” he says. “I got to work with amazingmusicians and producers and some of the songs remain the same. Others I’ve had time to adjust, some I’ve rejected and replaced. Most of the albumhas been remixed. It’s been a longer process than I would have liked, but I’m happy that it’scoming out exactly as I want it to sound.”

All of the strings on Memories were arranged and played by Rosie Danvers, famed for her work with Adele, Coldplay and Kanye West. Among the producers brought in by Ady is Grades(Dua Lipa, Nao), whose R&B beats drive thedreamy title trackand the woozy Say So.

Like all great debut albums, Memories doesn’t documenta particular place or time. It’s about growing up –mistakes made, lessons learnt, love found and bonds broken. It’s about moving on as much as looking back. For Ady, it’s both an end and a new beginning.