Late Night Viewing Singer David Stewart Chats About New Single, New Sound And Being Example’s ‘Little Brother’

D Stewart

Singer/Songwriter David Stewart speaks to SB.TV about new track Pouring Rain, genre-hopping and being mentored by Fulham’s finest rapper Example…

Your folks were in the music business, and so what I envisioned was you one day announcing to them that you were to follow them into the industry – and maybe your Dad muttering “oh God NO…”

[David laughs]

Just how did it happen? Was it always assumed you’d go into music or one day did you just drop it over coffee?

Both my folks were in the industry so it was a natural thing. There were guitars around, and my Dad played piano and drums. I loved music and it was the only thing that I had a serious passion about doing. I wasn’t academic, wasn’t into Maths or Science…I just couldn’t do that – music was something that came naturally. They were very happy that I went into it, and gave lots of support.

Tell us a bit about your relationship with rapper Example and the role he has played within your career so far? I read an interview in which you described him as your “older brother.”

I’d actually been on tour with Simply Red and I was supporting them in a band playing drums – drums were my first instrument. The tour manager brought me to meet Elliot [Example], as he knew that I played guitar and Elliot was just about to release his single Watch The Sun Come Up and I basically got the job playing with him. I met Elliot properly in Nando’s…obviously [laughs] I was eighteen and I was very upfront with him and was like ‘I don’t want to be a session musician my whole life’ and he just said ‘cool, that’s fine but you’re so young come and learn and get the experience’ plus my folks were saying ‘go and do it because you need to get the experience.’

Elliot was so supportive from the start and it’s been amazing to watch him grow because watching him made me realise – this happens at this stage and this happens at that stage. As things progressed I started going to him with beats, I remember I went to him with a beat the first week that I started working with him and it was absolutely terrible, but he was nice about it. We just got really close and think he saw some of me in himself. We started writing together on tour and he saw that I was a proper performer and we got on because we had the same interests. We did around 400 gigs in the three years we were together and so he became like a mentor to me. It really was an older brother, little brother situation…

With all that closeness – and we don’t want to get you into trouble – is there anything we should know about him that his fans would not know already?

He hates tags in his clothes.

What do you mean? Tags on the inside of clothes – why?

He just hates feeling them. I’ve been in restaurants where he’s had knifes and is chopping at tags in his clothes and stuff [laughs] we always used to take the mickey out of him – he has lots of weird habits but everyone has weird little habits.

So talk to us a little about your new track Pouring Rain

Pouring Rain is a big jump from my previous material because I released a lot of lo-fi R’n’B stuff before, so this was me stepping out and saying this is really what I do because I had a huge back catalogue of this kind of stuff that no one had heard before. I produced the track and had the beat for like six months, I then wrote a melody over the top of it and had some lyrics. I then actually took it to Elliot when it was almost done and asked if he could listen to it and help me out with it. I went over to his house and played it for him, we made some changes and the song went back and forth. I then wanted some horns on it and so I got some horn players in. It took a long time from making the initial beat and finishing off the song. It’s weird with song writing sometimes it can take 20 minutes to make a great song, sometimes it can take six months [laughs]

Like you mentioned you’ve made a significant change in the type of music you make, what is your attitude towards genre? I’ve heard you are looking to experiment with sounds…

I think the jump between the previous material and this is quite big. I think a lot of the fans that I picked up off the mix tape will probably not be fans now. Pouring Rain is a proper pop track and the other stuff was kind of dark, grimy and talking about being a lad. But this is what I do. This whole record that I’m working on – which will be my debut album – is really stylised and eighties sounding, it has elements of soul and R’n’B because of my Michael JacksonPhil Collins andStevie Wonder influences but it is moving towards the pop stuff. Moving forward I haven’t really thought about what my next thing will be.

I love doing concepts; I like having an end point and then working towards that end point. I just find that if I’ve got something to work towards, I can make things a lot more concise. Who knows? I might go back to R’n’B eventually but I think I’ve just got to keep on progressing. I don’t know where I am going to be in a year, I might do a more sixties sounding record. I just want to evolve and keep things fresh…

As a songwriter what lyric(s) of yours are you most proud of and why? Is there any particular song you favour?

I’ve got a track called War out there. It’s funny since finishing up with Elliot and having the Example bubble around me – I’ve realised it really is war out there and everyone is out for themselves. The track is basically about that, it quite a hard sounding lyric but I think it might resonate with people…

You obviously didn’t choose when and where you were born but what would you say to people who’d say it’s all just been easy for you, you were born into it and you’ve been given endless leg up via all your contacts? How would you address them?

Every gig I have got has been off my own back. The first gig I got I played drums for an artist and I got that myself, off my own merit because I worked hard. Then because I performed well there the tour manager brought me onto the Example gigs. [Pauses] There is no easy way into this business and you need to use what you have. I haven’t used my parents because I want to do it myself. I am very motivated and very determined, I have featured on tracks with Example, Ed SheeranWretch 32 and Yasmin. No one made that happen but myself, they didn’t do that because my parents asked or I had money to pay them. They did it because they thought that I was good enough to work with…there will always be people who say you got this because of your parents but at the end of the day I know I worked hard and got here myself.

Considering your musical background and your close relationship with Example, what’s been the best advice you’ve been given over the years? Is there a line of wisdom that always rings through your head?

Because my Dad is such a brilliant performer, he comes to all to all my gigs so we can assess them afterwards and he said to me the other day, “it’s survival.” He explained that if I go out on stage and play seven of my songs and people just stand there slowly warming up…that that’s not what you do to please a crowd. If I need to put in three cover tracks to make sure that these people are going to be happy at the end of the gig then that’s what I’ve gotta do. You do whatever you have to do to to make sure they are happy.

I read a gleaming review of you covering Justin Timberlake’s ‘Senorita’ somewhere…

Yeah that’s the kind of thing I mean. A lot of people don’t like doing covers because they think it’s a cop out but at the end of the day – I’ve seen Coldplay at Wembley playing [sings Take That’s Back For Good] and if they can do it…everybody loves a cover…

Elliot said to me “the first line of the song is the most important line of the song.” It just grabs listeners’ attention, I’ve picked up so much over the years working with Elliot and being around my folks it’s just soaked into me. I am very lucky.

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