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TONY NJOKU: LOOKING FOR LIGHT


WORDS + CREATIVE DIRECTION MAISIE JANE DANIELS - PHOTOGRAPHY SAMI WELLER - STYLING SALLY BOTTOMLEY - LIGHTING HARRY BURNER






A devotee of the fundamentals, singer-songwriter Tony Njoku found himself returning to basics in search of his sound. Employing traditional instruments, classical foundations, and the raw essence of jazz, Tony's sound eschews perfection. Instead, he embraces the natural elements that emerge during recording: instruments creaking, voice breaking. Njoku employs precisely this in his latest, expressive EP, "Last Bloom," released on Friday. A reflective body of work, "Last Bloom" marks the culmination of Tony's blooming era - a metamorphosis that evokes sensations ranging from the ecstasy of falling in love to the depths of contemplation.


F Word had the pleasure of spending an enjoyable afternoon capturing Tony's essence and catching up with this exciting artist ahead of his upcoming May performances and the eagerly awaited release of "Last Bloom," which you can listen to HERE.







Maisie Daniels: Hey Tony, It was great meeting you at the F Word shoot last week! How have you been since then? 

TN: All good thanks, just preparing for the EP release and some shows coming up. 



MD: Your mini-album 'Last Bloom' is being released tomorrow (Friday, 3rd May) - congratulations. How does it feel to finally get it out into the world?

TN: Feels great, I’ve been itching to hear what people think of it, hopefully it finds the people it’s meant for. 



MD: How long did it take to make this EP? 

TN: About 2-3 weeks in total I’d say.



MD: You're officially in your bloom era! What does the concept of "last bloom" mean to you? 

TN: Well the ‘bloom era’ idea was really a term to encompass the music I’ve been releasing for the past two - three years or so. All the music I made in that period (from Our New Bloom to Sketches & Noodles and now LB) have been reimaginings and variations of themselves. Whether I use the same chords, or remix the same songs etc, these songs from the bloom era essentially marks a long period of growth and change in both my creative and personal journeys, a metamorphosis. So Last Bloom essentially marks the closing of that cycle finally. It’s very significant for me. 



Tony wears shirt LUEDER; trousers + kilt TALENT'S OWN; shoes G.H.BASS; rings BLEUE BURNHAM



MD: Could you talk us through your journey to becoming a singer-songwriter? 

TN: As a kid I initially just wanted to make beats for other vocalists to work with. But through not having much access to people that were interested in collaborating or that shared my vision I began writing my own vocal/lyrical work. I started of emulating my hero’s at the time, like Anohni, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield, Thom Yorke, Andre 3000 etc and over time I began to develop my own style, my own voice. I’m glad I stuck at it. It can be difficult to really find your voice as an artist. When iIm being lazy or insecure you can still hear me sloppily copying others, it’s a muscle you have to exercise, turning off the noise and listening for what you really want to express. 



MD: How has the influence of classical music shaped your sound? 

TN: Classical music for me feels like foundational music. Same with Jazz. Foundational in the sense that all modern music takes its roots from them. So my interest in classical music comes from just wanting to know more about the fundamentals. That as well as my increasing interest in traditional instruments, space and mistakes in music. I’ve found myself drifting away from the new technologies around modern music, especially the electronic music that I obsessively studied, I find myself trying to record real instruments as much as I can, as well as trying to capture the space and atmosphere in the rooms I record in. I think I’ve been yearning for some reality in the music I make and listen to. I want to hear the voice breaking, the instruments creaking, the distance of the instrument to the mic. A lot of modern classical music obsesses over this, so I’ve naturally just gravitated towards this. 



MD: You are an advocate for encouraging diversity in classical music based on the fact that it is still, to this day, predominantly white. For any person of colour aspiring to be a classical musician, what advice would you give? 

TN: I think the beauty about today’s music ecosystem is that to a degree it’s a democratised space. And so people can really build their own thriving communities without having to pander to the gatekeepers too much. So I’d say it’s free game, decide the path you want to walk down, don’t stray too much from the goal and enjoy the ride. 





MD: Your first single release from the EP, "La Ruée," is such a beautiful piece of music. The melody is so pleasing to listen to; it makes me feel happy. What does the song mean to you? 

TN: It’s a love song. I was falling in love whilst writing it and am very in love now. The music felt like a gift, it just fell out of me in a couple hours when I sat to write it. 



MD: When did you begin to play the piano? And how would you describe that feeling? 

TN: I think I had tinkled here and there on a neighbours/friends piano over the years, but I only started taking it seriously and really figuring it out when I was eighteen. When I figured out how to put some basic chords together I was hooked, it felt like cracking a code, unlocking some hidden part of my brain. Since then I’ve used the piano as a vehicle for self discovery and catharsis. Best decision of my life really.



MD: How do you feel your music has evolved since you first started playing? 

TN: Although I still feel like a novice at piano, my compositional skills have improved a lot since then. It’s like becoming fluent at language, it feel like i’m at a level where I'm able to convey how you feel clearly, and perhaps beautifully, but then there’s a level where what you’re saying becomes deeply poetic and carries so much weight, truth. Hopefully I’m on my way there.



Tony wears cardigan VANS; vest UNIQLO; necklace  ARTIST'S OWN; rings BLEUE BURNHAM



MD: "Looking for Light" is your most recent single drop that features on the EP. Can you talk us through the inspiration behind this track? 

TN: It’s about a lot of things, conflict, turmoil, redemption and I guess trying to empathise or put myself in the shoes of future generations.



MD: When did you write “Looking for Light”? It couldn’t feel more fitting today. 

TN: It’s one of those almost knee jerk reactions to what’s going on. So in the same period as the rest of the EP ending of last October/start if November



MD: I enjoy the use of sound effects, how do you go about experimenting with these? 

TN: That part comes naturally to me, any sound design, any timbral or textural used to be the beginning of my composition process. I used to be really into collecting unusual sounds or configuring them on my synths. So that’s in my DNA at this point. 



MD: In what ways are you able to find the light from day-to-day? 

TN: Meditation, exercise, chocolate cake, my tiny record collection, Jodorowsky and Paolo Sorrentino movies.



Tony wears jacket PULL&BEAR; vest UNIQLO; necklace ARTIST'S OWN



MD: What was the biggest change you made to the EP during the writing process? 

TN: Looking for light had drums initially. I'm glad I took them out.



MD: What are you hoping people will take away from this EP? 

TN: Honestly what ever they need. I always feel like my music works best as a sort of Rorschach chart, it does well to prime you for emotion but give enough room for you to fill in the space with what’s going on in your psyche. At least it does this for me. 



MD: If you had to choose one component for a great EP, what would it be? 

TN: Great string arrangements 



Tony wears cardigan VANS; shirt MARGARET HOWELL; tie STYLIST'S OWN, trousers by COS, shoes



MD: What advice do you have for yourself for tomorrow?

TN: Feel every emotion deeply and move onward.



MD: Is there anything upcoming that we should know about? 

TN: Well there’s the London show on the 9th May at The Old Church Stoke Newington and then some shows around the UK all through May. There’ll be more things to follow but I’ll leave it there for now.



MD: And finally, what's your favourite F-word? 

TN: Fuck-off, starting to use that one a lot. respectfully of course.




Tony wears full look ARTIST'S OWN






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