Tete Essien – Interview
Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
TE: I see myself as a pretty modern artist. Someone who isn’t interested in being confined to a particular type or style of music. Before anything else I see myself as a writer, so taking the songs to wherever it feels like they need to go, and following through with those convictions is the most important thing to me. I’ve always been most excited by chasing an idea down the rabbit hole and seeing where you end up with it. Truth be told, I’m addicted to the process. I love artists who, as much as anything, are fans of music and who make that clear in their output, and those who take complete creative control of the presentation of it as well. Those are the sorts of people I want to replicate.
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
TE: I’ve always been attracted to the idea of being someone who makes music, even before I properly listened to it. I started learning an instrument to have a go at writing songs and never really stopped from there. When some friends of mine wanted to put something together, them knowing I played a little bit of guitar led to me getting asked to play along. When that fell through I knew deep down that I still wanted to have a bash of this music lark. I never saw myself as being a solo musician initially, but I’ve grown to enjoy it and I wouldn’t have it any other way now.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
TE: Musically I love all manner of artists. Frank Ocean, Kevin Parker, Tyler the Creator, Jamie T. The types of people who are the masters of their ideas. Vocalists like Barry White, Otis Redding and Lorraine Ellison; the sort of singers who express all kinds of character in their vocals are the ones I find myself returning to the most. I’m a big David Lynch fan too. For me, there’s no one else of that ilk. The writing of John Cooper Clarke has always astounded me; I’d never laughed out loud at poetry before reading his stuff, and just the creative stamina of Donald Glover, across all of his mediums, inspires me to the nth degree.
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
TE:I just want to make the music that I want to listen to and see where that takes me. All of this feels like an opportunity to earn the right to be able to keep making music, and I want to take advantage of it. For as long as it feels like I’ve been working towards it all, I know I’m only at the first step and that makes me excited to see where I can take it to. To do this full-time, make the people I care about proud, and earn enough to take the people I love on holiday, that suits me just fine.
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
TE: They’re about all sorts. Some stuff about the places I go, and the people I’m around. What I love about writing is how it allows you to frame a story and create a narrative, all so you can express a singular feeling or emotion. I didn’t realise I had so much to say, but it offers me the opportunity to set my stall out and say ‘this is how I feel about this’, you know? Even if people don’t know who or what I’m talking about directly, you get to evoke a feeling in them that might remind them of people they’ve known and the things they’ve been through. I take great satisfaction from that.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
TE: It’s mostly done through social media, and that filters through from friends to friends of friends, and hopefully beyond that. Haven’t had much of a chance to gig of late but that’s how I’m likely to continue doing so. You can expect that a similar approach when we’re able to resume.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
TE: I grew up with it, so as a fan of music I’m also a product of it. It might stop a couple man from getting their name on a big arse yacht, but that’s how it’s run now and you’ve gotta play the game. I still buy vinyl when I can, as well as streaming and downloading music, so that doesn’t halt that pursuit of mine. What I will say is that state of immediacy has allowed people to reach further afield quicker, and given some artists the chance to get their music into corners they’d never be able to do so on their own previously. It’s not perfect but in that way it’s levelled the playing field a bit.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
TE: My answer to this changes all the time. It’ll be something else next week. I’m gonna have to pick two, I hope that’s alright. I’ll go for “Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Roberta Flack and “Unititled (How Does It Feel)” by D’Angelo. Roberta’s song because it’s so simple but so effective at the same time. It doesn’t try to do too much, and that’s how I want my songs of passion to be. And then D’Angelo’s tune is just crazy stupid good. A seven minute song, where the crescendo doesn’t hit until about five minutes into it. Keeping you invested in it, the way it does isn’t something everyone can do. The payoff is always worth it.
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
TE: Oh mate, how long have you got? Well, bad breath is hard to ignore innit? People who say “why” when they mean “how”. People who see my name and start trying to pronounce it as if they’re taking long a run up to some wham hurdle, you need to do better. And people who correct you when you were right oughta sit out the next few. Bad manners irk me, and people who only talk about themselves; that’s fine, just don’t try it with me. I’m not a big fan of limp handshakes either, spud me next time if you’re a repeat offender. I’ll stop now though, to avoid alienating anymore people.
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
TE: I dunno, I haven’t really achieved anything yet. I guess the people who see you at a gig and were impressed enough to make a note of you and keep checking out for your name. That’s always nice. Grabbing and holding attention can be one of the harder tasks, so knowing you’ve done that a couple of times at least lets me know I might just be onto something. The little highs are enjoyable too. I’ll answer this again, though, when I’ve achieved something a little more ‘larger scale’.
PD: So what are you working on at the moment?
TE: I’m always writing and trying to add dimensions to my sound. I’ve just released a single and I’ve still got one recorded and ready, waiting in the wings. Beyond that I have whole lists of things that I’m ready to record and release. For me, it’s just about preparing myself for what might be just around the corner, and to avoid being caught flat footed.
PD: What music have you available online and where can we buy it from?
TE: I’ve currently got two singles out and they’re available on the common streaming sites: Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and Soundcloud. There’s some content on YouTube as well, so do look out for that as well.