With a debut album touted “Essential Listening” by the likes of Mixmag, BBC Radio, and many other leading music outlets, Pablo Nouvelle took the first steps to stardom with a string of out-of-the-box compositions. Now, three years later, another batch of musical goodness hits the world and we stumble upon his latest endeavor. As ‘All I Need’ marks round two in his explicit albums grand prix, we sit down with Pablo Nouvelle to discuss his recent creations, the foundations and current state of his sound, and what to expect from his European tour…
With a sound as distinctive as yours, it is inexplicably hard to imagine that you are a fairly new player in Electronic Music. What are your thoughts?
Maybe it’s because I don’t see myself as a pure electronic artist. In fact, I’m still searching for the right words when someone asks me what kind of music I do. Incapable to overcome that complexity, I decided that it’s probably a good thing. I studied animation film (and not architecture as often mentioned) and used to love and make rap music. I realized only years later that it’s actually soul music – the root of it all – where my heart belongs. But as a child of our time, I got into both Electronic Music and Radiohead or the XX, and then I started to mix it all up. So here we are today.
Clearly, Soul music has played a very important role in your life, as Marvin Gay, Donny Hathaway, and Gill Scott Heron proved to be your main musical influencers. Could you tell us why Soul music – and these artists in particular – have been so important to you and how they kick-started the Pablo Nouvelle sound of today?
It was actually my former band mate and his huge CD collection that opened the door to the world of soul music. While Donny Hathaway is the emotion, Gill Scott Heron is the politician and Marvin Gay is probably the father of it all. It was also his vocals that defined the first Pablo Nouvelle sound as I used to sample his stuff a lot. Now I’m proud to have the first official Marvin Gay sample on the title track of my album.
Throughout the years, your musical preference has shifted from hip-hop and soul to the sample-based creations on your debut album and the sound that’s at the core of ‘All I Need’. Can we expect more change or should the sound on your brand new album be considered the ultimate and final Pablo Nouvelle sound?
It’s all in movement; nothing is definite and this is just the beginning. I would consider ‘All I Need’ as the most ‘pop’ my sound gets at the moment. I tent to move into an even more electronic, less vocal-based direction. But to me, this album is basically a ‘best of…’ of what I’ve written and produced in the last three years, in addition to what has been released previously on an variety of EPs.
In what way is ‘All I Need’ different from your debut album?
The big difference to the older songs is that basically all of the songs on ‘All I Need’ are the product of writing sessions I’ve had in London, Los Angeles, and Switzerland. This also explains why there are so many features on the album. For me, that was a big step to take. Out of the solitude of my own studio into the wide unknown. But it turned out that co-writing is something I love to do.
You have to imagine that I often wrote with people without ever meeting them or that I used many vocal samples on my debut album. So with this album, when in the same room, you start to get to know each other while writing a song. That can be pretty intense and personal. Making music alone is much like shooting an animation film. You can work and shape your project until you are happy with it. But in a session, it’s like being on a live action film set. The singer is there only for this very moment. Either you are prepared to lead your counterpart in the best possible direction or you miss the moment and end up with unusable material.
You wrote over forty songs for the album, but only fifteen of them made the cut in the end. Did you find it hard to make the final selection or were these the clear favorites to begin with?
I literally carried a long list of songs with me for quite some time. It was not easy at all to cut them down. Of course, there were favorites like ‘All I Need’ or ‘We Ain’t Dead Yet’, which are key songs for me. But knowing how this choice would define the sound of my album made it hard. I even dropped one song when the master was already there. Not that the song wasn’t good enough; I just felt that the album was too long.
How’d you experience working with such a wide range of singers?
First of all, I am thankful to have met so many incredible artists over the past few years. It is an amazing privilege to be able to work with so many different human beings and having their voices on my record. The majority of them is UK-based; London is just such an amazing city, filled with so many talented and dedicated people! The only difficulty was to not overload the album with vocals. There was a point where I got so many great vocals that I had to kill some of my darling singers to keep that Pablo Nouvelle feeling, which was originally meant to be an instrumental project.
What do YOU think makes your sound so recognizable?
I’m not sure. I know I’ve got my signature sounds and my own style to build songs layer after layer, but for me as an artist, it was and still is essential to break out of paths I’ve already walked down.
You just kicked off a big European tour. What can we expect from this tour and your performances, and why is it something that your fans (or anyone else for that matter) absolutely cannot miss out on?
I think when it comes to live sets, you’ll see why I do not define myself as an electronic artist only. Our sets are pretty distinctive; we are a tight-knit of musicians. We play as a trio, with a drummer who is singing and a guitar/bass player who is singing too. I play different synthesizers and a sampler myself, playing everything from vocal snippets to drums and harmonies. Everything that can be called ‘sound’, basically. The special thing is that everything is played live. No play-along, no playback, nothing. We try to be as honest as possible on stage and keep the soul of the songs in our live interpretations.
And finally, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
I want to say thank you for all the love I’ve received from my fans over the last few years. Being able to release this album, knowing that there are actually people out there waiting for it, means the world to me.