The first ever (and certainly not the last) guest in KaransCave is James Laryea, also known as ‘AKUETTEH’. Born in Sassuolo, Italy and then eventually moving to the UK when he was 13, AKUETTEH described himself to me as a ‘singer, songwriter, producer and performer’. In his in-depth interview with KaransCave he discussed his musical influences growing up, the artists that inspire his sound of music today, his aspirations for his music career and much more.
What musical instrument or instruments do you play?
Guitar. Even though I started learning on the Classical Guitar, now i’m more fancy with the Electric Guitar.
Around what age did you start playing guitar?
About age 12. It’s funny because in Italy, they give you three options to pick from; Recorder, Piano or Guitar. In my family, my mum is really good at keys, so she obviously wanted me to pursue that, but growing up I heard so many songs with cool guitar solos and I always wanted to be able do that. Plus Guitar Hero had just came out at the time, so I definitely wanted to get a guitar.
So when was it that you discovered that you were a talented singer?
It was after I moved to the UK, so probably around 14 or 15. One day in school my music teacher asked all the boys to come to choir after school, so I went. I tried my best to stand out, so I made sure I sung louder than everyone so I could be heard. It must’ve worked because afterwards he said I had a strong voice and asked me if I wanted to come more often, so I went.
So now you’ve discovered you’re a talented singer, when did you start pursuing music as a career, rather than a hobby?
I started going to singing lessons at age 15, but it just wasn’t for me. My teacher was old school and I wasn’t enjoying it.But I kept going to music lessons and that’s when I started to practice singing and playing guitar at the same time. It was hard at first but I got better, then around that time I started to write my first few songs and it’s just grown from there.
Growing up, whether it be by yourself or from your parents,what was some of the music you heard?
Growing up in a Christian household, all I heard was Christian music. If it wasn’t Christian music, it was only country music. The first country artist that comes to mind is Don Williams. I’m still a big fan of country music to this day, if you play me one of his songs, i’ll probably start singing along.
What about when you started playing guitar and singing? Who did you start listening to that influenced you?
The first artist I started listening to that played guitar and sang was James Morrison. He has such a soulful voice, and underneath it he plays the guitar so clean and simple. I also listen to a lot of Jamiroquai. But then I started listening to Stevie Wonder and he blew my mind. Hes the guy. I’d definitely say that he and James Morrison are my biggest influences. I’m planning to go to James Morrison’s concert this September, I’ve never been to a concert.
You’ve never been to a live performance?
Crazy, right? That’s why i’d love my first concert to be someone who I admire and can relate to.
When it comes to your music, if you had to, what genre would you classify it as?
I don’t put it in a specific genre. It’s my painting, so I don’t think it falls into one genre. I can jump from Country to EDM to Soul to Jazz. It helps me create my own unique sound, which not a lot of people can do. A lot of people hear a sound like The Weeknd’s and try to emulate it, rather than be themselves.
How has living in London and attending university affected you musically?
When I came to University of West London, all I knew was playing guitar and singing. Coming to university opened a whole new door for me. I was learning how to produce. Before I came to university, I used to use Garage Band on my phone. Now I was using programmes on Apple Macs. It really was a whole new world for me. An upcoming artist called Aaron London started teaching me how to produce. Through networking and meeting people, I managed to get a week internship in a recording studio in North London. One day I went in and Sampha was there.
Sampha? From Drake’s Too Much and Kanye’s Saint Pablo?
Yeah. Crazy stuff. It’s crazy because I just discovered his music like a month before. And now i’m meeting him. Luckily I had brought my guitar with me and he was playing keys, so we just played together for a while. He’s a lovely guy, one of the best experiences i’ve had in my life.
What was some advice he gave you as an aspiring musician?
He told me just to be as real as I can. For people like him, the art comes before the fame or the album sales. He told me by spending time on minor details on a track, making it perfect, it makes you stand out, rather than just spending an hour on a track and moving to the next one. That’s when people really start to appreciate.
Have you done any live shows or festival performances to get your name out there?
Couple months ago I performed at this festival just outside of London called Cinema Sleepover Club. There must’ve been about 500 people.
You performed for 500 people?
Yeah, it was scary man, but I enjoyed it. The reception was good. I got home and had like 30 new people following me on Facebook. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but i’d never had a reception like that before. But right now, I do open mic nights around London, to network with people and try and create a fan base. You have to start somewhere. I could sit in my room and make music for a week straight, but if nobody will know who I am, what’s the point.
What’s the plan for the rest of the year? A mixtape or EP?
I’m still quite far away from that right now. I’m staying grounded, trying to build a fan base, get people to know me and then that’s when I can show them my craft, rather than drop an EP and have 200 people from Facebook listen to it. I want a good reception whenever I drop my first project. I’m going to continue open mic nights, maybe get a band. I’d love to have a band.
What about on Soundcloud?
I’ll definitely continue to release songs on Soundcloud. Just to let people know i’m still here and making music. I’m working on new music now that hopefully will be out next week.
What’s the goal you want to achieve with music?
I don’t necessarily want to be famous. I want to be known for my craft. I want it to influence peoples lives in a good way. I just want to remain humble. Being raised in a Christian home, I was brought up that way. So it’s important to me. If people watch me perform and they are happy, i’m happy with that.
Check out AKUETTEH’s new cover of Hotline Bling and follow him on SOUNDCLOUD
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