Solo Artist of the Day: Tete Essien

Kicking off Monday with a solo artist, and a homegrown one at that!

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Simple things first – where are you from?

Bromley in Greater London. Grew up there for, more or less, all of my life, so it’s been a big part of who I am. It’s pretty quiet and I appreciate that about it. Though, we could do with a few more late closing places.

How long have you been playing for?

I started messing around with a guitar when I was around 14 or so, and that’s roundabout the same time I started writing songs, or lyrics at least. It kind of feels like a long journey from there. I’d messed around with groups and different ideas, but it wasn’t until about 14 or 15 months ago that I started out making music in this format and being a solo musician.

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What are your influences?

I always have to mention Frank Ocean, Tame Impala, Tyler the Creator and Jamie T. I love those guys because you can tell, before anything else, that they’re all fans of music, and that’s how I view myself. Arctic Monkeys are huge for me as well. The songs and the progression, I’ve not seen too many bands navigate that as well as they have. I really like music that you can feel soul in, not just soul music, though, that has its place in my record collection too. My favourite singer is Otis Redding, he’s the gold standard for me, sorry Bono.

Describe your music. What makes you unique?

A lot of it is based on grooves and trying to get the people around you to move. Then there are other things which have strong melodies, and that are led by them. It’s a song by song process, so I let that inform how each track should sound, rather than trying to shoehorn in a sonic or style to fit an overarching sound. The songs become what it feels like they’re supposed to be. I rarely discard a song either. If it feels like I’ve got room to manoeuvre with it and that it can be worked on, I’ll try and mine something out of it. I think that sets me apart from other musicians. There’s almost always something that can be saved out of a “bad” idea. I’ve grown to trust my instincts and that informs my approach in that way.

Do you have any particular lyrical themes?

It sometimes feels like subject matter finds me. It only takes a word or phrase, I’ll make a note of it and store it in my bank, like a spare wheel in the car boot. Whether I’m going on about the people around me, the state of things as I see it or some kind of personal scenario I’m working through, it has to have some sort of honesty imbued in it. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be entirely autobiographical either, but the truth has to sit in there somewhere, for me.

What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?

I’m a new act innit, so the whole situation outside has put pause to me getting to play my first shows with this project. Can I answer that again in 12 months?

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?

I once saw a man crowd surf the entire length of the O2 Academy Brixton on an inflatable lido, think it was a crocodile, that impresses me to this day. As for me, I once did guest vocals at a mate’s show and whilst singing the song, a woman got me to sign her chest with a Sharpie she had on her. Didn’t miss a lyric or a tick. My signature peaked that evening.

What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?

On the songs I’ve got recorded and have released, I play an Epiphone Dot and a Squier Jazzmaster, but the Jazzmaster is my main guitar for playing live. We played a Kemper Profiler Head on all of it to model an AC30 and got the drive sounds from various stompboxes I had on me.

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

I’d love to finally get a few shows under my belt. I’ve got so many things I want to unveil and get out into a live setting. I’ve got a provisional plan of the songs I want to release and how I want to do so, so hopefully I’ll get to talking with management about that in the near future. Beyond that it’s business as usual; I’ll be trying to write songs better than the last ones.

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If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!

I’d love to support Queens of the Stone Age. Obviously, they’re a class act but as well as that, they’re big tequila drinkers and anyone’ll tell you that’s right up my alley. I’d probably pick my mate’s band, Pilhouse, to support us but only if they cover The Streets again. They’re a fine lot, check ‘em out.

Tete Essien: facebook | twitter | instagram | spotify

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