“‘Actual Life’ is just the first chapter in a diary,” says Fred again.. of his powerful and unifying debut solo record. Initially, Fred again.. found success in collaborations with heavyweights such as Stormzy and Ed Sheeran. But now, the critically acclaimed songwriter and producer is delving into a delicate exploration of humanity all on his own.
Speaking of his fondness for collaborations, Fred again.. explains, “I'll always do that, but at the time I started writing the record, it felt like there was a thing I needed to be making, and I wasn’t making it.” So with that, and a gentle push by friend and mentor Brian Eno, ‘Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020)', a record that fuses dancing piano notes with house beats, was born.
For Fred again.. there was no precise moment when music entered his life — it was just there — but it was his brother and now manager who he credits with motivating his musical persuasion. “We just hustled very hard from when I was 15 to 23, and still now. I took sessions with every single person I could possibly meet so I could work with all the people that I wanted to work with.” Although, while music was an omnipresent force in Fred again..’s life from an early age, he quickly quashes the notion that it came naturally to him: “I think it's more like the 10,000 hours concept. I feel very strongly about that.”
10,000 hours later, and Fred again.. is well on his way to mastering the principle of success. His first solo project documents real-life stories and conversations, which work together to underline each song’s storyline and spotlight true human emotions. The novel concept came to Fred one hungover morning after a chance meeting with a construction worker.
“I was in Atlanta, and this guy called Carlos rolled up to me, and he was kind of beautiful. I was just having gags with him, and I started filming bits on my phone as I do on nights out, and he had this beautiful, beautiful energy. When I woke up in the morning hungover as hell, I was flicking through my phone and creasing at everything from the previous night. In the clips, he was saying, “We gon’ make it through, man!” I put that into Logic and started messing around with it, and I immediately loved it.”
The excerpts from that night later became ‘Carlos (Make It Thru)’. From there, he knew he had stumbled on something amazing, a concept that allowed him to access raw human emotion and turn it into an art form. “I could feel the song catching the absolute reality of a real-life moment and revealing its total beauty,” he tells DJ Mag. “I became addicted to that feeling.”
Something that Fred again.. has received regular praise for is creating optimism through music at a time when so many feel pessimistic. However, it wasn’t until the album’s release that he realised it would be perceived as a work of positivity. “I found it confusing at first, and there's definitely no right interpretation of a song, but to me it wasn't positive or optimistic at all.” It’s that emotional connection people feel from Fred again..’s music that makes them optimistic: it’s not a joyous feeling of elation, it’s feeling seen and feeling together.
Spearheaded by his ‘Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)’ Beatport smash that samples The Blessed Madonna, Fred again.. has made a triumphant entrance as a solo artist. Before the year is out, the emotionally intellectual producer will release another solo record, as well as a collaborative album that was written with ambient pioneer Brian Eno. And, by the sounds of it, they’ll be as humanly poignant as the last. “The next record is basically ‘Actual Life 2’,” he says. “I’m going to make music this way for as long as I’m making music, which means as long as I’m alive.”