We Chatted to the Midlands’ Answer to James Blake
As a genre, RnB can never seem to sit still. Constantly evolving into something new, its chameleonic form attracts countless emotional, creative, busy minds to listen and produce their own stories. One of those doing just that is Louis Ernest, perhaps better known as Blu Ernest. Hailing from the Midlands, his recently released debut EP and its hazy, lo-fi signature far from means that Blu Ernest doesn’t have a lot on his mind.
Music Bloggery caught up with him ahead of his new EP release to talk a bit about inspirations, love and loss.
You can hear elements of influences such as James Blake and Frank Ocean in your music, who else do you cite as influences?
I love those artists with my entire heart, so thank you!
A lot of the artists I’m inspired by are those who have influenced me through only one song, an album or even an aesthetic. I spent a year in Düsseldorf in 2014 which was a difficult year for me – but during that time I listened to new artists whenever I could, to take my mind off things. It would be a weird, weird list, but I know they’ve all given me something to take away from that time in my life. I think albums such as 2014 Forest Hills Drive and T R A P S O U L were game changers for me.
Before that, I was mainly into anything in between rock and acoustic; I even tried to dabble with house music. In terms of my music taste, I’d genuinely never been introduced to hip-hop/RnB before, but the pace and the vibe it created had me hooked from the first play. I’ve always felt like an old soul and anything that can make me feel nostalgic seems to resonate, which is why I particularly love Lana Del Rey. Not just for her nostalgic voice, but how dedicated she is as an artist to push her haunting aesthetic/sound into today’s palate.
Artists like SBTRKT & The Weeknd pushed me to take my production more seriously as this new genre-merging sound to started blowing up, meaning artists didn’t have to stick in their own lanes anymore & that they could dip their feet wherever they wanted to make something ear-catching. *Frank, if you’re reading, call me*.
It seems music is a big part of your family, is that something you’d agree with?
It always has been and always will be for me. I lost my beautiful pops a few years ago, but he was my inspiration to start playing music. He was an incredible drummer, and I’ll always remember him buying me and my brother our first guitars when we were younger.
My brother/friends and I have been gigging since we were twelve, and he’d drive us round to all kinds of pubs and places around the UK, listening to Red Hot Chilli Peppers & Blink 182. I think my family has the biggest connection with rock music from weekends away in our old Nissan playing Avenged Sevenfold and Audioslave and that’s still stuck with me.
What’s the inspiration behind the songs on the Demos EP?
The main inspiration, as cliché as it is, is probably just relationships and failed love-stuff. A lot of people think I’m a very happy-go-lucky kind of guy and sad stuff doesn’t happen to people like me, or at least it doesn’t get us all blue. I think it affects people like that the most, because sometimes they have to put on an act and push all the negative stuff somewhere else.
Maybe it’s an accumulation of reoccurring themes that just creep up when you’re with someone, or just feeling like you’re torn between two things all the time. Even just talking about stuff like this feels therapeutic, so if it can help anyone else then that’s wicked but it’ll probably just make you worse!
Which song on your EP means the most to you?
Personally, ‘Dependant On Me’ is the track that speaks to me most, as it’s such a true story. It’s definitely one of those “I didn’t have to think about writing it, it just came out” tracks that artists talk about.
I just remember being with one person in particular, and us having no strong feelings for each other – yet we’d stay together because it was more bearable than the thought of being alone.
It’s that growing dependency on the other person, where you lose your independence and the realisation that you’re not the one in control of your happiness anymore. It was a proper ‘vent’ song, so it feels really good to sing live.
What were you listening to whilst writing and recording?
This is probably the reason I took so long to release Demos! Goddamn, there was so much good music out. I’d get to the end of the song then I’d hear someone like Tom Misch and be like “nope, it needs more RnB vibes, definitely”. I remember listening to a lot of Childish Gambino, Kendrick & 6LACK. They’ve all released crazy stuff recently & it was the perfect inspiration regardless of how much they’ve made me doubt my own music. It was very annoying and time consuming, so I’d recommend never listening to anyone else from the moment you plug that guitar in to the moment it’s out (if you’re like me).
Your music feels really contemporary and slots into 2018’s music scene perfectly – how did you reach your current style?
Thank you, that’s really nice! I think staying up to date with what’s at the top of the charts is helpful. Sonically, the sounds should be noted, but less the songwriting in some cases.
I feel like music is closer to fashion nowadays, so if you know what’s on ‘trend’ with your ears, then you know what’s going to sound current. It’s just about looking for those noises/ideas that are being replicated across the genres and switching up that sound so that people can adopt you too, without thinking “this is too far-fetched”. It needs to have an element of familiarity with just enough “new” in my opinion.
Your voice also suits acoustic sets brilliantly, how do you feel about performing acoustic sets compared to your usual sound?
Acoustic sets are my favourite. In a small intimate venue, there’s nothing more satisfying than closing your eyes and hearing a room fall silent. It’s how I imagine Eleven feels when she goes in her sensory deprivation tank in Stranger Things. It’s peaceful. Compared to my normal sound, sometimes I get called ‘that kid who plays with a backing track’ – because as much as everyone else thinks it’s not ‘musician’s code’ in guitar music to play to a backing track – sometimes it’s just easier.
I love playing in a live band more than anything, but I think it’s a weird argument to say that someone can only play live with a band or just by themselves, no pre-recorded stuff. I like that I’m part of a generation who are ignoring this – if it sounds good, then play it. Plus, it’s cheaper than paying bandmates for now.
What’s next for Blu Ernest following the recent release of Demos?
I’ve got lots of new stuff waiting to be released which is the most painful thing – but I’ll probably just practise it loads, and play open mic nights in my town. I’d love to get some festival dates and do some more gigging up and down the country this year, so we’ll have to see – but I’m just happy I laid this big blu egg and that my sound is finally out there.
I’m excited to just grow, and I’m humbled from anyone who’s seen any potential in the stuff I’ve produced, including yourselves – so thank you.
Demos is out now, and can be bought and streamed on Spotify and iTunes.