Interview: Soulful UK artist Liam Bailey talks Amy Winehouse, Paloma Faith and 'exciting' new music
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UK-based soul and reggae artist Liam Bailey is on the cusp of releasing new music for the first time in four years. His upcoming single, “You Saw the Devil in Me” is a highly-anticipated follow up to his critically-acclaimed debut album Definitely Now, which was released in the U.S. in 2014 via Flying Buddha/Sony. The vulnerable, introspective track is slated to drop on June 29 and serves as a preview of more upcoming releases.

The renowned Nottingham, England native singer-songwriter credits R & B legends Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder as two of his early musical influences. Awestruck by their talent, Bailey studied them when he was younger and would sing in the shower while his parents told him to be quiet, as the idea of forging a music career seemed much more like a dream than any kind of viable future reality back then.

Bailey persisted in his musical endeavors and gained a lot of attention in 2010 after releasing two solo EPs via Amy Winehouse’s Lioness Records. The vibrant home recordings (created on Bailey’s laptop) 2am Rough Tracks and So Down, Cold showcased his soulful, gospel and reggae-influenced vocals and eclectic, genre-crossing style. Winehouse was impressed with the collections and told a skeptical Bailey “people need to hear them.”

In 2011 Bailey teamed with award-winning British duo Chase & Status to co-write and perform on their UK Dance Chart-topping collaboration, “Blind Faith.” His debut album, Definitely Now, was produced by Salaam Remi (who is known for working with Winehouse) and features a colorful blend of soul, reggae and blistering blues-rock guitar that bears hints of Jimi Hendrix on “Villain.” Ruminating tracks like “On My Mind” show off Bailey’s bluesy side, for which he has frequently been compared to legendary singers Otis Redding and Sam Cooke.

Overall, Liam Bailey’s songs are brimming with soulful emotion and often tell stories which are meant to inspire. Now he’s back, flexing his seemingly effortless vocal muscles with new songs as he prepares to support his friend Paloma Faith’s massive UK tour, as well as Chase & Status at several upcoming festival dates including SW4 on Aug. 26.

Bailey recently took time out from his busy schedule to discuss his connections with Amy Winehouse and Paloma Faith, his upcoming tour dates, and “exciting” new music (which is due out at the end of June) in the following AXS exclusive Q & A interview.

AXS: You’ve been compared to legendary artists like Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. What does that kind of comparison mean to you, as an artist? And, can you tell us which artists influenced your eclectic musical style as you were breaking into the industry?

Liam Bailey: As an artist, it’s obviously a compliment, but I also find it awkward. I wouldn’t see myself in the same league as someone like Otis Redding or Sam Cooke. However, when it comes to being real and projecting my thoughts in music, I’d like to think my passions match. I remember being influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Oasis and many, many others. I appreciate any artist that delivers honest rock n roll, blues and soul music. It doesn’t matter which genre, as long as it’s honest, I’m into it.

AXS: What are some of the biggest challenges you faced in the early days and what inspired you to keep pushing forward in the rough patches?

LB: I think the biggest challenge I faced was trying to get noticed in Nottingham. The labels didn’t notice people here, and the stigma of moving to London was never a huge appeal to me. I was inspired by self-belief, working at jobs and in places that I didn’t want to be, and trying to find the way out to do something that makes me happy.

AXS: Amy Winehouse signed you to her label for two of your solo EPs. What was it like working with her? What was the best piece of advice she gave you during your time together?

LB: I knew Amy in the last stages of her life, she was definitely the most talented person, not just singer – that I’d ever met. The best advice she gave to me was to keep it real – I’ve met people that can sing just as well as Amy, but it’s all about how you carry yourself as a person. She didn’t take herself too seriously and could have been a stand-up comedian. She was brilliant. The EPs she released were recorded on my laptop. I wasn’t too sure if they should go out but she insisted that people needed to hear them – and I thank her for that. It’s not every day you meet someone like Amy Winehouse.

AXS: You released your debut album, Definitely Now, in 2014. What was your favorite part of the creative process for the record? What was the most meaningful track for you and why?

LB: Being in the studio and making the music and seeing it coming to life. That album is a collection of songs that we’d recorded over several years, so, it was great to see the whole thing come together. The most meaningful track would be "Black Moon" – it’s the one tune on the album that perfectly describes the dark hours in my mind.

AXS: How do you think the music industry has evolved since your last record?

It’s definitely a lot easier to do it nowadays, with the changes in technology and all that. There are less middlemen now. You can put music out easier and push it directly towards the people that want to hear it.

AXS: What current artists are you most excited about right now?

LB: Khruangbin, BADBADNOTGOOD, Anderson .Paak.

AXS: You’re releasing your first new single in a while – “You Saw the Devil in Me” at the end of June. What jump-started your journey in making new music? Can you tell us what inspired the song?

LB: I was jump-started by clearing up my mental health. I wanted to find myself in a creative place again and now thankfully I feel I’m in a better spot. The song is inspired by the toxic relationship I had with myself at the time. 

AXS: Will there be more singles to follow? Or, a new album on the way? Can you tease any details?

LB: Yes, the plan is to keep releasing as much music as I can. There are many exciting things to come.

AXS: You’re heading back out on tour with your friends Paloma Faith and Chase & Status! What do you admire most about each of them as artists? Can you share one of your most memorable moments during a previous live show with them?

LB: I admire Paloma’s dedication to theatrics and entertainment. She commits to her fans and always gives 100 percent. She has the ability to open up to them and let them in. When it comes to Chase & Status, I admire the fact that they make bangers! I was lucky enough to co-write their track "Blind Faith" – a song that means a lot to me.

One of my most memorable moments with Chase & Status was headlining The Other Stage at Glastonbury. They play "Blind Faith" at the end of their set. So, you can imagine what the atmosphere was like for that one. With Paloma, it was singing "The Dark End of The Street" at the O2 in London with her, that was something else.

AXS: What are you most looking forward to about touring again? What can fans expect from your live set?

LB: I’m looking forward to expressing myself in the best way I know how. Anyone that comes to a show can expect new material delivered with passion. It’s probably the best way to see what I’m all about, a way for me to get up there and exercise my feelings through my music.

AXS: Finally, what kind of energy do you draw from your live audiences and what do you hope listeners take away from your new songs and upcoming shows?

LB: I hope I draw excitement – I want them to take in what they’re listening to. So far, I’ve touched people in a real way, and that’s what matters to me. I want them to appreciate my energy through the songs that I’ve written to express myself.

Follow @LiamBailey on Twitter and Facebook and visit his YouTube channel