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Korby's Debut EP Brings Us a Sense of Euphoria

07 March 2024
Writer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Korby is one of the freshest up-and-coming artists in the underground R&B scene. Signed to London’s Neighbourhood Recordings, his highly anticipated debut EP showcases a myriad of infectious grooves, soulful chord progressions and introspective writing. The journey to releasing this body of work has been non-linear, with many twists and turns along the way. During a late-night chat, Jonah Orbach was lucky enough to speak to Korby about the path to becoming his own kind of artist and the importance of maintaining a strong community.

Jonah Orbach: How's life been?

Korby: It's been calm. It's been nice. It's been interesting as well. I’m just putting out my first body of music now. We've been working on it for over a year. It took almost two years for some of the tracks. I feel like this is the most excited I've ever been for anything, so, yeah, I'm feeling good.

JO: Do you have a lot of music stored in the vault?

K: The interesting thing is that when the first few songs for the EP were being made, I had no intention of putting together an EP. I got to a point where I was like, all right, I'm going to stop trying to make good music and just have fun and do what I want to do. And that's literally where every song on the EP came from. There were songs that we had set out to try and make into something specific. But all of the songs that ended up being on the EP were just free. They weren't premeditated and they weren't planned. For example, the first two singles that came, 'Wait For You' and 'Feel My Face', were made maybe a week between each other—in August and September 2022.

JO: So, they've been there for a while.

K: Yeah, they've been cooking for a while. Within that time period, I ended up making a lot of songs, but the ones that really stuck with us for the EP were the ones that just came out of nowhere.

JO: Yeah, it's funny how it works like that. Sometimes, the less you plan, the better. It sounds like ideas are coming from relieving yourself of certain constraints.

K: Yeah, someone even asked me about it yesterday. We were shooting some bits for 'To Let Go' on the EP and he asked me, ‘Where did this come from? How did you come up with that melody?’ And I said to him, ‘Listen, bro, I actually don't even know. I can't tell you why I sat down and set out. I didn't write the melody, I didn't write the music, and I didn't set out to write that. It just came out like that. And that's where a lot of the songs on this EP came from’. So, I feel like whether it's conscious or not, we ended up choosing the songs that sounded like the most natural expression. There are loads of songs that are still great. They just didn't have the same essence as the ones on the project.

JO: What led you to make music? Have you always wanted to do it?

K: I started playing the piano quite early. My dad got me lessons when I was 6. He played the drums in church. As soon as I was old enough, he got me keyboard lessons so I could play next to him while he played the drums. And, as soon as my younger brother was old enough, my dad got him lessons on the piano. There's a picture of all of us three at church, with me on the guitar, my brother on the piano and my dad on the drums. That was every Sunday for a while. It was kind of a chore at first. It didn't feel cool or fun. It wasn't sexy, but I grew to enjoy it. It wasn't something I was thinking I wanted to do. But, in the back of my head, it was always something that I did. From 6 years old, I was always playing, or practising or learning some sort of musical instrument. It became not just a hobby, but part of my personality. At school, some people were really good at football and some people were really good at math. I played the piano and the guitar, but I didn't think it was going to be my career path.

JO: So, what was the turning point?

K: When I was 16 and first went to college, my friend had a MacBook Air, which I used to borrow whenever she wasn't using it. I would go on Garage Band and make beats with different loops. That's when I realised, okay, this is really fun. I want to spend all of my hours that I can doing this. The career still wasn't as viable back then, I'll be honest. But it was the point where I was like, listen, I'm going to try and see if I can make this happen. Then, when I was going to university in Leicester while my friends were going to Birmingham, I got a MacBook and got Logic Pro. I'd been working on it and learning it over the last couple of months and I was getting decently good at it. I started making songs for myself that year. Months later, my friend called me from Birmingham, saying, ‘Yo, I've got loads of studio credit at Pirate Studios. If you come tonight, we'll just book it for 12 hours and have some fun.’ And that was a point where I thought that something above me was allowing this to happen; I couldn't take credit for that. That was probably the most defining moment of my whole career. When that happened, I decided that I was going to give it my very best. And by chance had it, I was there every week for the next seven, eight months of university until I came back to London, where we continued doing sessions. Then we kept going to London as well.

JO: Did the EP tracks start to form around that time?

K: Yeah, one of my producer friends lived in a town a little bit further out from me. I used to go to his house every so often and then spend the night there. He had a studio in his basement and we would just make songs. His mum would make us breakfast in the morning, and then I'd go straight back down. And that was a period of my life, maybe three, almost four years ago, where it became all right. I was intentionally trying to improve and learn how to be good. Those were the defining moments. And then, when I made the two songs, 'Wait For You' and 'Feel My Face', I realised, all right, I think I might have something.

JO: Is the production and recording of this EP handled by you?

K: Yes. I work closely with a guy called RJ. Every song on there, we've done pretty much together. But there are some songs that I would start here at my place. For 'Feel My Face', I went to RJ pretty much with a whole body of a song. Then he just made it sound good, filled up the speakers, and then we arranged it properly. A lot of the time, I'll bring songs to him like that. Whether I've got a piano demo or a bass and drum loop demo, or I've got a fully-fledged song that just needs to be finished, I'm with him literally every single weekend. We'll just be chilling, making songs, eating food.

JO: Is there something that you gravitate towards, production- or instrumentation-wise, that makes you want to put pen to paper?

K: Yeah, I think now I've realised what it is. It could be any instrument or any element of the song that sounds like it's trying to tell you something. Like when the bass is trying to tell you something, the drums are trying to tell you something, or the melody. It could be a two-second snippet of a stem that sounds like a sentence, and then, by divine intervention, the sentence just drops into my head and then I'm like, yo, okay, that's what that song is about.

JO: What was it like to sign to Neighbourhood Recordings before releasing any tracks? How'd you meet those guys?

K: Yeah, it was kind of funny. I'd been posting my music on TikTok on a whim, and it was getting a lot of views. People were really liking the music so I thought Neighbourhood had seen the music on TikTok and decided to hit me up based on that. But it just happened that my other co-manager had just sent some of the demos to Benny at Neighbourhood, and they just really liked it. I met with Benny a few times and he and his team seemed the most into the music. They seemed to understand where it was coming from and how I was trying to present it. For me, the EP is my baby—it's part of me. I wanted it to be cared for with the same care that I gave it. Benny and Neighbourhood really seem to have that care and attention to music. I really like everything they're about and how they operate. It is really up my alley; I love how they do things.

JO: Finding those creative connections with people is such a special thing. Is community or collaboration a big part of your process, or do you like to do things more in an isolated kind of manner?

K: Collaboration, definitely. That's where every good thing comes from. And where I'm from in London is very multicultural. I'm from Northwest London, and there is a melting pot of all types of people only one road away from each other. It is a whole mashup, which is reflected in the way that people move. I've had every kind of neighbour, every culture living next to me, every type of ethnicity on my street. I went to school with all kinds of people, and I guess that helped me understand that all good things come from a collaboration or some sort of mashup of two things that didn't already exist. I feel like that's where every new and good thing comes from. So, collaboration for me is really important. I don't think I would be able to make music if I couldn't collaborate with anyone, really.

JO: What are your goals for 2024?

K: The release of the EP is the goal right now. Just to have it out and to have people hear it. Honestly, I really just want people to hear it. I don't really have any specific goals in terms of achievements. There are a lot of things I'd love to do. I can list them, but we would be here forever. But honestly, I just want to share music with people so hopefully they feel the same thing that I felt when making it. Even if it's just a glimpse of that feeling, for me, that is the whole point of making music. Because there's a certain euphoria that comes with that. I just want people to feel a sense of that euphoria. And if I can present that to as many people as possible, I've smashed it, basically.

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SEE ISSUE #06 HERE. The theme for this issue, Revelations, delves into the unfiltered aspects of life. It’s an appreciation and exploration of raw beauty, where authenticity reigns supreme; the unconventional is not just accepted but celebrated. In a world of manufactured perfection, this issue chooses to validate our quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, they are what make us inimitable.

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