In The Middle Associate Editor Anastasia Roe sit down with Mercury-nominated hip-hop artist Loyle Carner to talk about his almost sold-out tour, exchanging tickets for football shirts, and his wonderful mum.
“Welcome to the glamorous backstage!” Ben Coyle-Larner cries, otherwise known by his stage name, Loyle Carner, as we enter the dressing room of the Union’s very own Stylus. The twenty-two year old hip-hop artist is comfortably sat cutting and munching his way through a pomelo, “the most unnecessary fruit”, he tells me.
Having just been nominated for the Mercury-prize for his debut album, Yesterday’s Gone, Loyle is currently on a tour across the UK to promote the critically successful work. “We’ve been to Liverpool so far, last night. I got booed actually because I was wearing a Liverpool shirt and there were Everton fans in the crowd. It was still good though.” With the majority of shows being completely sold out, demand for tickets has gone through the roof: “We’ve had to upgrade some of them because of the demand, it’s nuts. We’ve been playing so many fucking shows I don’t understand why people still wanna come, but they obviously do which is a really big deal.”
In exchange for a ticket to his shows, Loyle has also taken the internet by storm by requesting vintage football shirts: “Yeah that got a bit out of hand. We ended up in The Mirror and trending on twitter. What the fuck. I put it out and expected to get two or three shirts.” And it seems the demand is so high that one boy is so desperate for a ticket that he’s bringing a shirt “that’s worth like £350…I hope the kid knows that and it’s not his dads.”
Few artists can boast a Mercury-nominated album at such a young age, but the ease with which Loyle approaches both life and his music, it’s not hard to see how success has come about so quickly. “I don’t know if I had a specific moment you know,“ Loyle tells me when I ask if he remembers the moment he wanted to pursue music. “Almost by accident, it kicked off. Which is annoying cause it sounds like I did it without trying, which isn’t true, I did try. But it wasn’t like ‘yo today, this is it, I’m gonna be a star.”
As well as clearly possessing a strong work ethic, what attracts people to Loyle’s music is his honesty; later on stage he performs a heartwarming rendition of ‘BFG’, a song dedicated to his step-dad after his sudden death in 2014. Poetic, melancholic and beautifully authentic, Loyle’s words create a warm fuzz across the room, felt and cherished by a mesmerized and tearful audience: “I had an arrogant view till it happened to you / Stars struck on the past and I’m staggering through.” Loyle remarks that “expressing things that a lot of people are feeling is a very important thing, especially for men” and, at the end of the day “feelings are feelings, everyone has them.”
Usually, a relationship between an artist and their fans is distant, with the fans seeing the artist as an idol, a star that is out of reach. In contrast, Loyle’s down to earth honesty is reflected not just through his music, but also how he approaches his fans. “People talk to me like we’re friends, but I think that’s because how people see me. In some way, we’re mates; they’ve just had a conversation I’ve not had yet.” From requesting vintage football shirts to photobombing Sampha on the Mercury red carpet – “I made a big fool of myself”- Loyle is, and feels to his fans, like the friend they never had: “When we went to the Mercury’s we just stuck out like a sore thumb. Cause we’re not celebrities or anything, we’re just regular dudes making tunes.”
Alongside his musical ability, Loyle continues to build on his qualities that make him ideal husband material, by also having a passion for cooking. Last year, working alongside Goma Collective, Loyle set up Chilli Con Carner, a scheme aimed at kids with ADHD to teach them how to cook and help focus their attention: “I’ve got ADHD and I used to really calm myself down when I was cooking,” Loyle explains. “I figured if it worked for me, it could work for kids like me. We set it up for kids between 14 and 16 and it runs in the summer, sometimes in Easter. We’re looking for a new batch of kids now.”
To end, we ask Loyle who he would rate the best lyricist out of his mum, Rebel Kleff and him, to which he replies, “my mum, Rebel Kleff, then me” without a moment of hesitation. “Chris raps how I want to rap, he’s just got it. And my mum’s top of the list. She’s better than most rappers from the UK at the moment. Real talk.”
In the words of Loyle’s mum, therefore, I cannot help but agree that “he was and is a complete joy / The world is his, that scribble of a boy.” Loyle has a unique presence and manner that makes you feel as if you’ve known him for years; whether that be as the friend you never had or the boyfriend you wished you had. Like a warm cup of tea on a cold winter evening, there’s one thing Loyle Carner will always remind you of and bring you back to: home.
Image: Urban Outfitters