We caught up with Louis VI for a chat about life; questions on his new project ‘Sugar Like Salt’, his year so far, and perhaps most importantly, his thoughts on what music’s done for him as a person all came out to play. Learn his favourite colour, the background behind some of his hottest tracks & more below.
How’s 2018 been so far and how WAS 2017?
It’s been the most pivotal couple of years of my life, easily. 2017.. I took myself out of London and out of a very dark space where I felt there were a lot of pressures coming at me from every angle so I had to get away. I lifted myself out of that depression by taking myself to America, after a friend invited me out. I ended up using the full 3-month Visa and did LA as well and it completely changed my life – this is when the whole ‘Sugar Like Salt’ thing came about. The concept was in my head, I started recording – I had some beats and hooked up with Isaiah Rashad’s producer. I felt like the universe just started to tell me to ‘go out there, go get it, take a risk’.
Okay, let’s get straight into it. Your latest track Floatin’ features Jelani Blackman. How did that happen? What’s your relationship with him like?
He has been like my close brother for a minute, for maybe the last 5 years, we’ve known each other for a long time. Even before he was Jelani Blackman. His DJ has also been my guy for 8-10 years. We first linked up via Dozer Carter who is the other member of my group – Other Soul. We help each other a lot being in similar position ‘in the game’.
Are you guys from the same area at all?
Ah, no. I mean, he’s from Grove, Ladbroke Grove (West London) and I’m from North-West so it’s not crazy far. We’re both from a similar perspective being mixed race Caribbean boys.
Thanks by the way, you dropped the track on my birthday. Much appreciated bro.
Hahah, swear? That’s mad because I’m dropping my album on one of my mate’s birthday too. I meant to do that. You’re welcome.
(From a fan’s perspective) I feel like you’ve done well. You’re first album dropped in 2016 and now it’s 2018, we’re expecting your next one. Timing wise – that’s not bad. It doesn’t look like anything has really corrupted your rise?
Ah, well I’m glad you feel that way. It’s definitely interest because you forget yourself, sometimes, as an artist that there’s another perspective. Me, I’ve been frustrated with the fact that the tape hasn’t come out sooner – I finished the tape bit ago – but also, once you have a solid team more goes into it.. This is the first time I’ve done something really officially; distribution deal, PR, management, booking agent, everything.. Still doing it independently, but officially, with a team behind me. It can be frustrating but you just have to do things right. Also, all the people I met during my time in the states and just in the past couple of years, generally, ended up being very much a part of the process and project – resulting in crazy collaborations like Mick (Jenkins) on Jazz Got Me.
Speaking of Mick Jenkins. I feel like your sounds are similar, especially your track called ‘More Water’, very similar vibe to some of his old work. Do you/have you drawn inspiration from him as an artist?
Yeah, definitely. It was mad because he’s been an inspiration for me for a long time. I just think that conceptually he’s one of the best and he understands the world in an interesting way not to mention he’s a genius musician – you know everything from the beat to the way he makes songs. He’s incredibly awake to the world without coming across too preachy and that’s sick.
How did you hook up with him for ‘Jazz Got Me’?
It’s mad actually, the whole came about pretty organically it was weird. I remember saying to people around me, when I had the track, that the dream feature would be Mick Jenkins. Thought to myself ‘that’s not going to happen?’, mentioned it to a couple of people, I went to a Xavier Oman show – he’s a friend of Mick’s – he said he’d put me in touch, his manager knows Mick’s manager that kind of thing. I ended up contacting him myself. Sent him the track – he liked it and sent me his verse less than a week later. My life changed a little bit after that. I really want to meet and talk to him in person though. Things were all done virtually and I don’t feel like you can get a real sense of a person through screens, emails and all that shit.
In regards to features, you seem to experiment a lot.. Is that something you particularly like doing? Do you favour collaborating with other artists with different styles to your own?
Yeah, I LOVE collaborating. And yeah, I like to collaborate with people that do different things to myself – I feel like they inject something of our their own into something I’m doing and then, I don’t know, it’s can be weird.. It either works or it doesn’t. There are some artists that are just on your level (mentally) that you know it will work with even if their music is totally different to yours. It’s interesting, when you come from two different places you meet somewhere new in the middle and that’s what I like.
How did ‘Floatin’ come about? I’ve heard it. Sounds like a love song deep down – very metaphorical.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s quite funny actually, It was written for my break-up before my last one and actually ended up being more relevant to my most recent one. Daniel’s (Jelani Blackman) feature was sick too. He was in quite a good place at the time, relationships-wise, and approached the track from more of understanding that dark place having been there – so he provided a cool, different perspective. It made the track not just about a break-up but also about the responsibility of not abusing the love you have. Interestingly, I made the beat when I was 16 or 17….
….oh really? That’s mad. Something I genuinely think when listening to your old stuff (especially) is ‘this guy’s music is ahead of its time.’ in a good way – a lot of your old music would slip into the current stream of alternative rap seamlessly. Do you feel that may have stuck you in an awkward position back then? Do you agree with that evaluation in general?
Hmm, facts. It’s interesting because that I listened to the beat and it was perfect for now and you know, there was a reason I didn’t release it back then – it wasn’t right for that time.
How much do you care for social media?
Not very much. I’ve seen it do some terrible things to people. Not to go into too much detail but I’ve seen it ruin relationships. It also gives a false sense of what is genuine in life. Purely, from a stats point of view – so many people first ask me ‘how many plays do you have?’, ‘how many follows have you got?’ and all that shit. I’m an artist not some social media whiz and I’m not about this popularity contest. People that I trust have said that the social media will grow naturally the more people understand your music. I’ve had friends that have had hundreds of thousands of followers and I’ve also seen how it changes them. I mean, it’s got to mess with a person’s head.. Thousands of people giving you their opinion on how you look. Suddenly, everything stops and becomes about this ‘black mirror’ (phone screen).
‘Chasing me, chasing me, 24, I’m still chasing me.’ those were you lyrics three years ago. You seemed to have found yourself somewhat? How did that happen?
You know what, I wouldn’t say I’ve found myself, I’d say that I’ve found out more about myself. I’m honestly sure if people ever really do find themselves but I don’t know because there are moments where you have found yourself – but they’re moments and one of my favourite sayings is that ‘the wisest people know that know nothing at all.’ I feel like it’s always important to be aware of the fact that you have some things to improve on and more things to learn.
Being a deep thinker in this life can be hard. Sometimes there’s so much attached to every decision you have to make for yourself. How do you cope with being a deep/over-thinker at the same time as trying to fashion a career as an artist for yourself?
It’s very hard. To be honest, I think I cope with it badly. I’m really, really trying to cope with it at the moment and weirdly, I was asked a similar question in a prior interview. I feel like it’s something men, particularly men of colour, suffer from. The over-thinking thing is a very real thing and I’ve got this book called ‘The Power of Now’ which is about how it is important to be a thinker and over-thinking is part of being intelligent and seeing the world and I think it means you’re quite an empathetic person – I think that’s a really good thing to embrace. You must just always remember that there is a ‘you’ behind the thoughts that you are hearing and ultimately you are in control. You can then step back from the thoughts and observe them, using them as tools instead of letting them dictate your actions. If that makes sense. Now, I exercise and meditate daily, just so I can get myself there otherwise I can over-think to a destructive point.
What has music done for you?
It’s done a lot for me. Growing up, I remember my mum and step-dad arguing all the time and unlike some of the other boys in my area who would leave their houses, instead I would go upstairs and lock myself in the room and make music. I was lucky because I avoided a lot of the troubles that a lot of my boys were caught up in. Music saved me in a sense.
What’s the concept behind your new album ‘Sugar Like Salt’ dropping this Friday?
It’s mad, right now, I feel like I really am really living ‘Sugar Like Salt.’ The whole concept goes towards the deeper thinking thing where you have the good things in life i.e. sugar and the bad things: salt and they come at you but you can’t really tell what’s good and what’s bad until you get close enough to taste it? Sugar and salt looks the same from afar. But when you do get close you realise what is good and bad and then you get closer again and there’s good and bad in both of those things. So I say it’s life. Life is all good and bad, it’s just life experiences and how you deal with them. The album is like that. Half of it is sugar and half of it is salt yet both halves are inseparable from each other. And I want beyond any other reason for me doing music, people to be helped by my music and this concept that I have created.
What’s your favourite colour?
Orange. Well, actually it’s either orange or green. Like an olive green. Green’s been my favourite colour my whole life but recently I’ve been recording I’ve been recording with an orange light and I feel like both the colours compliment each other crazy well. Overall though, I’d probably say green, so scratch me saying orange out.
Tattoos.. How do you feel about them for you?
It’s interesting you say that because when I was saying the ‘Sugar Like Salt’ thing I stopped myself from saying that people should get it tattooed on them but I feel like a tattoo that reminds you of something that you need to have – something fundamental – and that’s what I’ve been trying to work out.
What did you think about Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ video?
Ahh, I felt like it was very liberating, especially for men of colour. To seem someone moving like that as well; the Jim Crow movement’s, the flamboyance.. It’s so expressive – almost camp – and he just didn’t care. 0 fucks given.
So, are there any events coming up that fans should be made aware of and also, final word on the album?
Thanks for reminding me actually. 27th September – headline show at Bermondsey Social Club.. definitely come through. And with the album yeah, it comes out on Friday 15th of June and it’s my best work yet so support the cause.