I had the pleasure of sitting down with the multitalented Alicai Harley. Alicai has blown up with her single latest “Gold”. We spoke about how she created her signature sound, Alicai’s achievements thus far and what she hopes for the future.
Alicai Tell us about yourself
I came here when I was five and I first lived in Peckham then we moved to Tulse Hill and then we moved to Thornton Heath when I was 11.
Before I came here I was musical but I didn’t know because I was so young. All I’ve ever known is music in my head. I don’t know at what stage this started until I was speaking to one of my oldest cousins and she was like “ya still a sing” and I was like “what? What do you mean?”
I was always musical, it’s never been anything else.
What kind of music were you into at that point then?
I loved Destiny’s child and I liked the Cheetah Girls because it was me and my other two cousins we literally were every group.
So tell us about the grind. What work have you put in that the fans don’t get to see?
I started going to Open Mics when I was about 16. But, this has been an amazing two years, I literally sat on my computer with my best friend (he’s a producer) and he said “I’m putting everything to the side and we’re gonna make you blow’ and that was our focus. We searched all open mics in London and went to every single open mic and people started clocking on to the name and because of the pink hair you became familiar with a lot of artists.
Then I started dropping actual music and I started Hot shot Tuesday. It was because my friend said “your so talented in how you write…but you need some form of consistency” and she was like “you can do it!”. Every week I wrote a song in the week. There was times where my throat was so sore there was tea on the side and we kept on going “next take, next take”. I’m so proud though because I never skipped a week.
When you did you begin to develop your sound and your style?
If you asked me maybe a week ago I would’ve said it was from Hot Shot Tuesdays, but it was always there. I went into my emails and was listening to all the stuff I was doing when I was 16, if you listen to the stuff then and now it’s exactly the same. I’ve always done it like this, but I think now it’s just mastered. I knew there was something that I could have ran with but I just needed to master it and now I know how I’m gonna arrange something once I hear a beat.
So, talk us through how you wrote and arranged ‘Gold”
I started off with the chorus because it was very catchy it grabs you straight away, and then I went in for the verse, then I went in for a gonna-be verse which ended up becoming like a middle 8. The thing with Gold is that the chorus doesn’t repeat itself, so the first chorus is different from the second chorus and it mixes in the last part, and then the verses are kinda like a chorus as well – a whole lot of choruses!
I think what’s standout with “Gold” is that it sounds so familiar, like what we’ve been growing up with for years but it also sounds really London. Its a mixture of the Caribbean and the UK, not necessarily an imitation of the Caribbean.
How did you go about about meshing those London and the Caribbean in your own way?
It’s how I talk. Exactly how my music sounds is exactly how I talk. I do accents as well so even the “real brother real dun dada” the banter and that is all very cheeky, its me all over. I literally done it the way I talk, there is a lot of character in there as well.
The last Hot Shot Tuesday which was the tenth one I thought I was gonna do a song called “New Better” which I was performing at all open mics. So I recorded the audio and was gonna send it over to get mixed and I never sent it over. I had three days, it had to be out Tuesday and I was out on the Friday and I came back from a party, my friend wanted me to go so I went. I left that party and that’s literally what brought on Gold, I came back home 4 o’clock in the morning and I wrote Gold. I sent it to my mate and he was just going crazy and I knew it was gonna work and do things. I recorded it the next day, shot a little video and we dropped it out. When I recorded that track the same night I went through a list of DJ’s not just in the UK but in the US, Jamaica. I sent as much emails as I could and I did send it to Seani.
How do you feel being a part of history with the partnership between Bruk Out and Polydor?
Its unreal, I am actually a part of history! It feels amazing, it’s an amazing feeling. Its indescribable because it proves to me everything happens for a reason. There was a lot of easier routes I could have taken, some people said I needed to take out the crazy but I don’t need to – I wanted to be me and me’s working, it’s God.
About the time my emails we’re going crazy, and I got an email from Seani B. He messaged me and I sent over the track, he said come down to Boxpark the next day, I performed it at Boxpark and it went from there. Next thing you know we’re here, Bruk Out and Polydor.
What’s next, have you got another single coming out?
Yes. I’m deciding between a few they’re different but you still hear it and know its me its still got the character.
Where do you want to be in 5 years time?
Selling out the 02 Arena on multiple dates.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
See Alicai at ILUVLIVE showcase as Zigfred Von Underbelly on the 6th November.
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