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Music Interview

Smiler talks Lana Del Rey, Frank Ocean

By and Charlotte Grant-West
Smiler in 'Top of the World' music video.


Before hooking up with Lana Del Rey on 'Spender' for his All I Know mixtape earlier this year, Smiler was already being touted as the next big thing in British hip-hop by a multitude of music tastemakers.

Curious to find out more, Digital Spy caught up with the rising star to chat about his new Professor Green collaboration 'Top of the World' and his plans for the future.

Congratulations on all of your success over the past year. How have you found the whole experience?
"It's been a great moment for me; it's been pretty overwhelming, I'm just forever grateful, to be honest with you. We've been putting work in for a very long time and I feel like we almost reached a crossroads where we had something to give. Obviously I would have continued but you kind of get to the point where you can't see foresee the future anymore and you can't see around corners."

For people who haven't heard your music, how would you describe your sound?
"It's very lyrical, but it's very entertaining as well and it taps into what's happening from the streets to relationships. I've tried to put my own twist on it, I pride myself on clarity so I take a lot of pride with my diction and making sure that everything I say gets heard."

You've teamed up with Professor Green, on your new single how did that come about?
"To be honest the track was actually done when he asked me to come on his tour. We've got a lot of mutual respect for each other so it made sense for us to do it; we were just waiting for the right song. So when it came to 'Top of the World' I was like, 'This could be the track'. So I sent it to him, and he was like, 'Yeah, this is a no-brainer'."

Smiler and Professor Green in 'Top of the World' music video.


You had a nice bit of success with 'Spender' and the mixtape as well. How did the Lana Del Rey collaboration come about?
"We used to have the same representation. When I had the idea for the song I was looking for somebody with that sort of 1950s-esque feel about them. I spoke to Greg and he said, 'Well I've got a girl called Lizzie Grant'. After the introduction she came to the studio in the village and we just chilled and recorded the song."

Has she been in contact with you since the song's release?
"We follow each other on Twitter, but getting in touch with her is very difficult, as you can imagine, so we haven't spoken for ages. She's a lovely girl and I wish her all the best."

How is work going on the new album?
"Really crazy, I love how it's sounding at the moment. The whole track listing hasn't been decided yet but I've got more than enough material for the album. But I'm still recording, still recording, recording. I've listened back to it on a number of occasions; in fact I listen to it all most everyday. I'm actually in love with how it sounds now, I'm very happy."

How would you describe it?
"I wouldn't say personal because it doesn't eliminate people. It's introspective as to where I'm coming from and my perspective on things and different topics as well. I want people to relate with me as a person, because I feel like I've touched on a lot of different things that people go through day to day, relationship issues and things that I've gone through in the past."

Where does the name Smiler come from? I know there's a Rod Stewart album with the same name...
"[Laughs] It's nothing to do with that, believe me! It's been with me since I was young, I used to experiment as a kid with a few different tag names and some of my older friends were like, 'Yeah, Smiler sits with you'. It became another side to my personality and kind of stuck."

Smiler


You've been very independent with your career so far, how did you find the transition moving to a major label?
"I think ultimately it was a big weight off my shoulders. But at the same time it felt a bit weird, because if you imagine a mother that's been with her baby for like two or three years, and she decides she's got to send him to nursery, that's what it's like, you just want to go and sit by the nursery.

"Even though people were taking control of my career, I still found myself very hands-on; I still wanted to know things. I can understand how it can be difficult at times because the artist needs to have clear headspace to be creative. But I just feel it's a natural thing, not to the point where I'm treading on their toes but I feel that I am very involved."

Which artists are you a fan of?
"I'm a fan of a lot of different people on the scene. A lot of British people. I love Adele and I love what she does and then Eliza Doolittle, I love the singers who sing totally British. It's where we're from and we should be proud of it. There's nothing wrong with singing with an American accent, but I feel like I, personally, connect more with singers like Ellie Goulding and Eliza Doolittle and Katy B. Those types of musicians at the moment are who I really listen to."

The big news recently is Frank Ocean's decision to open up about his sexuality. What are your thoughts on his announcement?
"If I'm honest I just feel that that was his prerogative; I don't know what his reasoning behind it was to come forward and confess that. I respect the fact that he spoke his mind. His sexuality is none of my business, whatever he decides to do with himself. Where I'm coming from people are very homophobic, but people should be judged on their own merit.

"I personally stay very impartial to those sorts of things, because it can spark a whole new debate. A lot of people in this country and around the world identify with Ocean and a lot of people will probably be grateful for the fact that he has now become a spokesperson for certain people. I mean I'm not one of those people but I'm not judging because of what he's done."

Smiler, Professor Green and Tawiah will release 'Top of the World' in the UK on August 20.

Watch the official music video below:

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