In Conversation with Multi-Instrumentalist and Soul Singer Royce Wood Junior

London producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and soul singer Royce Wood Junior will release a deluxe edition of his debut album The Ashen Tang via 37 Adventures on 29 January. The record beautifully incorporates elements of nostalgia with modern, multi-layered production that perfectly characterise Royce’s unique sound. Combining a distinctive mix of soul, funk and R&B, Royce’s debut evokes the sounds of R&B heroes Prince,  D’Angelo and Stevie Wonder. The album is also infused with spikes of wonky electronica that brings to mind Radiohead or J-Dilla, effortlessly bringing together these genres into jaunty and harmonious pop songs. The musician discusses his new tracks with us.

A: Has there been any event in particular which has influenced the new single Midnight lyrically?
RWJ: Midnight was written in a day… I rarely have whole songs come out as quickly as that one. I was quite broke and underachieving during that time and I suppose the song was just a bit of a prayer to the universe that hopefully things would get better soon. It’s about trying to excavate some positivity from something that’s pretty much entirely negative and the effort that that takes.

A: Can you tell us a bit more about the new tracks on the deluxe version of The Ashen Tang?
RWJ: There three new ones on there… one of them is Ophelia, a maudlin lament but written in all majors… I always wanted to use kind of cathedral rave sounds in the context of a ballad and tried it on this one. Love’s A Lonely Town is an early 1970s slow jam that features loads of different singers. I was thinking about the original Grange Hill theme tune during the production of it… the sausage that comes flying over on that fork… lots of wah in there. Lastly Don’t Wanna Lose You is a cover of a late 1990s Grand Central classic by Tony D and Veba.

A: Has there been a change in sound between the tracks originally recorded for The Ashen Tang and the new material?
RWJ: There’s still definitely a thread. The songs were all written during the same period but I hadn’t produced finished versions of them by the time of the original release. They’re probably the best songs on the record and the album feels more complete with the new songs on it.

A: To what extent do your past musical influences continue to inspire your current work?
RWJ: Massively… I get influenced by modern production but not really the songwriting. Production is constantly evolving but original writing is rarer I think. The goalposts have moved in terms of the writing itself… there’s no time for subtlety in this age because of the sheer volume of music out there to get through as a consumer. This means that only the brashest and most immediate statements are able to cut through and make it into the public consciousness. An overtly earnest lyric is no longer cringed at like it was a few years ago, in fact it’s actually celebrated. On the production side, I appreciate boldness, he way that some of SOPHIE’s work sounds like he’s taking the piss (and he probably is) seems to be the only way of finding uncharted territory in that realm.

A: How has working with other artists informed your solo work?
RWJ: It’s made me remember not to repeat the same process for every track. It’s great to see how others place emphasis on certain elements of the music, and other people will write something that you would never dream of, which is always welcome in a collaboration. It’s quite easy to wallow in your own routines: you end up using the same process over and over again and collaborating can jostle you out of that, which helps to keep things a bit fresher.

Courtney P.

The Ashen Tang and single Midnight is released via 37 Adventures on 29 January. The deluxe edition of the album will also feature three new songs, Love’s a Lonely Town, Ophelia and Don’t Wanna Lose You.

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1. Royce Wood Junior.