Hello, and welcome to Quickfire Questions!
Our new Quickfire Questions feature is based on a pretty simple premise: we sit down with an artist, and we try and find out as much about them as we possibly can in no more than five minutes.
Our first interviewee is the brilliant Zak Abel. Zak‘s only twenty-two, but he’s already doing pretty well for himself: he’s worked with Avicii and Gorgon City, announced a headline show at London’s KOKO, and released a new single that we think might be one of our tracks of the year so far:
The guy knows how to write a pop song
In case you hadn’t gathered, we think that Zak is pretty bloody good. That’s why we were so chuffed when we got the chance to chat to him at this year’s Barn On The Farm Festival for the first instalment of our Quickfire Questions feature. We only had five minutes, and we tried to squeeze the most out of every second of it:
Are you glad to be back at Barn On The Farm?
‘Yes, definitely! I did it last year, and it was certainly one of my highlights of the festival circuit. The crowd were really good, and everyone just seemed to want to have a good time and to listen to lots of different kinds of music.
How would you describe your music for people who don’t know you?
‘I would say that I’m primarily a soul singer, but there’s also a bit of soul in there, and a bit of funk. There’s also a bit of African and Caribbean-inspired production on the new album, which is pretty exciting. So, yeah, I think that pretty much sums it up.
What can we expect from your debut album?
‘Well, the African and Caribbean stuff is certainly a curveball. I’ve never done anything like that before, so I think that’ll come as a surprise to some. I’m really influenced by Highlife music, so I wanted to try out some of that stuff on the album and flip retro soul sounds into a more African feel, just to see if I could. When we got to the studio, we found that it worked, so we decided to keep going from there.
You had a hit single in 2014 with Gorgon City – why has it taken so long for you to get an album out?
‘That’s a fair question! I think that, for a long time, I didn’t really know the direction of the album I wanted to make in terms of production. Also, song-wise… Well, I wasn’t happy with the songs I was writing, and the style of the songs, and I just wanted to make sure that I was sure about the songs for the first album. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I wanted to make it as good as it could possibly be.
You’re also playing a bunch of other festivals this summer – are there any that you’re particularly looking forward to?
‘I’m really looking forward to Secret Garden Party. I’d say that it was definitely the highlight of my festival season last year, and this year’s festival is the last ever, so I’m really excited for this one. The last time I did it was just magical, so this year’s should be pretty special.
If you could be in any band, which would it be and which instrument would you want to play?
‘I’d probably have a lot of fun in Anderson .Paak’s band. I’d want to play percussion, because I feel like his music is unbelievably groovy, so I’d like to be a part of that in some way. I’d just grab some bongos and go wild. I’d love to be in Adele’s band, doing some backing vocals, just so that I could watch a master at work.
Out of every song ever recorded, which do you wish you’d written?
‘Ain’t No Sunshine. It just captures so much emotion, and it’s so, so simple. It’s in true Bill Withers fashion – I feel like he’s the king of profound simplicity when it comes to lyrics.
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you?
‘Something quite funny happened to me the other day… I was doing an outdoor gig, and there was a girl in the crowd who was bopping along for the whole gig, and looking like she was having the time of her life. Halfway through, I realised that she was wearing earphones! I actually called her out on it, and she said ‘there’s nothing playing!’. She took them out after that, though. That was pretty strange.
Describe yourself in three words?
‘Male. Twenty-two. Singer/songwriter.