Lover of soul, South Londoner and new school British R&B crooner Kadeem Tyrell has a voice that is…well to put it simply – enchanting. “Touched by the immediate softness of his range and the calming quality of his music” is how I can best describe my first encounter with his latest project. I first became immersed in his music after hearing a snippet of one of his songs in the background of a friend’s Instagram story. After finding out the song was Let Me know by Kadeem Tyrell, I soon became drawn to his vast discography. This includes older garage, electronic, club and EDM features dating back to around four years ago…
What I soon enjoyed about Kadeem’s style altogether is his ability to perfectly apply his vocals to various genres, which expand beyond the classic r&b sound. So, although the term ‘British R&B’ may be a fitting description for Kadeem’s vocals and the production as a whole on his latest EP Feels. In many ways, he can also be seen as an experimental vocalist from the way he dips into those more electronic and euphoric sounds as seen on the fifth track of this EP titled Jump. Kadeem revealed to me how being exposed to various sounds by his DJ father helped to create his diverse ear for music. By meshing together these individually loved genres, he takes his fans along a special musical journey that allows us to truly appreciate different genres and go on to explore them further off our own accord. Kadeem has a universal sound that draws in both the old school and the new school, which is a great selling point of his music and why his continued rise is nothing but inevitable.
As shown in this conversation, he is not only passionate about his craft, but also recognises his position to give back by continually encouraging the future generation of singers/songwriters. Journey with me as I chat further with Kadeem about his gospel influences, life and how we can encourage creativity in today’s youth…
What inspired me to do this interview with you actually was an Instagram post, you put up recently of a song writing workshop you did at Harris Academy. So, how did that opportunity come about and what did your visit entail?
A teacher who is also a friend of mine reached out. He thought it would be a great idea for me to come down to the school he teaches at. He asked if I could speak to young kids who aspire to be an artist or in the music industry. The visit was mainly about showing the kids my journey through my music career, the ups and downs that happen throughout it. After speaking with them about their aspirations, we went through how a song is made up. We encouraged the kids to write songs of their own and perform them to the class. It was so good to see and hear them have so much to say through their lyrics.
That’s really inspiring and a great way to give back. So, tell us a bit about yourself! Growing up, were you always aware that you wanted to be a musician?
Growing up in church and being surrounded by a family that love to sing, always inspired me to do something in music. It actually took me a while to realise that thing was singing. I’m still learning the guitar to feel like an official musician. Singing was something I was quiet about up until the age of fifteen. It was then that I started growing more towards the idea of being a singer. I began taking it seriously at nineteen or twenty.
I went to a secondary school that didn’t really know how to cater to talent that wasn’t purely academic. Many of the students who felt as though they didn’t fit in are now prospering in their own respective fields. Was this the case for you growing up? Do you think schools still struggle to cater to its young creative students?
That was the exact case for me throughout school. My school had music as a compulsory subject up until year nine. For some reason I didn’t take it up, because I wanted to work towards being an architect. So, I took up maths, economics and sociology trying to find what it is what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t say schools are to blame for not catering to young creatives as much as they could. Not every creative knows that being in the creative industry is something they want to do from a young age. Also, a lot of creatives didn’t or don’t necessarily go to school and do anything creative. It can be learnt or done in leisure hours.
Your voice is incredible. I love the way you’re bringing back that core r&b sound. The message in Let Me Know tackles growth, relationships and more. So, when did you start song writing and do all your songs draw from personal experiences?
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it! I’m really happy to hear that people are open to accepting U.K. r&b. I started writing in secret at home when I was about fifteen. Slowly I started getting better, to the point where I was comfortable enough to share it with people and work with producers. I’m still learning and collaborating with friends of mine who are writers. With that being said, my songs don’t always draw from personal experience. Though, they are written in a way that I can possibly relate to or (in regards to music that is coming soon) are stories that I find interesting.
Within this r&b frame, your style is still so varied. Simply by listening to your music you can hear those various influences coming through. A hint of gospel, a touch of EDM and old school UK garage too. Let Me Know takes me back to my India Arie/Musiq Soulchild days. While Focus takes me on a trip to my Omarion/Marques Houston phase. Yet, with your unique style and quintessentially British touch your sound becomes something I haven’t heard yet. How has the culture and lifestyle growing up in South London shaped your understanding of music?
Growing up in London alone exposed me to sounds and genres that caught my ear and I highly appreciated them. I’m from South London, where one of the UK’s biggest garage crews came from – So Solid Crew. I grew up on the estate they are from and that’s something I hold close. I’m proud of that particular sound coming out of where I call home. Growing up in church and around gospel is something that touches me. It’s deep and meaningful. So, while taking those elements from gospel, I try to incorporate this into my own sound. With my dad being a DJ, from young I was being shaped into a little “Music Man” from early. So, many different types of r&b and soul music were put in front of me to listen to. Lovers Rock and rare groove also caught my attention from a young age. These sounds definitely shaped my sound and helped me to understand where I’m trying to take my music.
Going back to the topic of earlier questions, what do you think are some of the ways schools can actively nurture creative talent in its young students?
Personally, I think it’s a hard one when it comes to trying to nurture young creative talent from a young age. With my experience working with young students who want to pursue a career in singing, they have always started off shy. Sometimes they act as if they don’t want to do it anymore. That’s usually just the fear talking. In all these extracurricular activities it’s so important that the young creative: enjoys it, is allowed a moment to get comfortable and is listened to. I definitely think schools should cater to young children who want to pursue a career in music a little bit more than what is being done now. This is exactly why I try my best to take part in it as much as I can, by coming in and doing singing lessons or games with them. The one I love the most is song writing challenges.
I love that and I love how I’m seeing this whole other side to you. I admire how dedicated you are to helping young people realise their dream. On a mental and emotional level, where do you draw your strength from to continue making music? It’s a difficult ball game, a competitive industry. What particularly motivates you to keep going?
I draw strength from my emotions no matter how I’m feeling. There are many times when I feel low. Times when I feel as though I can’t or don’t want to continue doing music, simply because it’s tough and an emotional roller coaster. My fear of looking back at my life when I’m a little older and saying “I wish I just…” is what keeps me going. I’d hate to stop doing what I love just because it was getting tough and I didn’t push through. I don’t want to regret it when I’m older, so I just ride the wave and try to take in every emotion I go through when doing it. The people who show big love to what I do also motivate me to keep going. What I want is for people to love my music. It’s for them that I do it for, as well as myself.
After releasing the stunning EP Feels the world is really getting to know what Kadeem Tyrell is all about. You’ve done a number of live performances this year. Is that your current focus right now?
I think my focus will always be on the people who show me love most definitely. As I mentioned previously, it’s because of them I continue doing what I enjoy and it’s a great feeling. I love doing intimate shows where everyone is close, relaxed and really taking in what I’m saying. My main focus at the moment is perfecting my music, in order for the people listening to get to know me even more.
Which producers both here and abroad would you like to work with?
There are quite a few people who I would like to work with. For this moment in time, I would say…
In the UK: PRGRSHN, who is currently working with Tiana Major 9 a lot. Also, Sasha Keable, Wretch 32, Rudimental and XVRBLK to name a few.
Over in the US: Kaytranada, Monte Booker, Sango and Rich Harrison who produced Amerie’s 1 Thing as well as Beyonce’s Crazy In love.
That’s a great selection of producers! Dude – Monte Booker, Kaytranada and Sango have some serious skills. I would love to see how that plays out. You’ve spoken a lot about your gospel influences. Which UK-based gospel singers have particularly caught your eye? Can we expect some collabs in the future?
From the UK: Raymond & Co played a massive part in me loving gospel. Though, if I’m fully honest I wasn’t exposed to a lot of U.K. gospel artists. Most of my gospel influences were American.
So, from the US: the likes of Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, The Winans, Mary Mary, Trin-I-Tee 5:7 and much more.
Finally, what words of wisdom would you like to leave here for any young readers reading this interview right now?
Just do it! Don’t give up. Have no fear. Anything is possible…