Tom Misch: Geography Tour

“Apparently, I have a sound, and people can hear it,” Tom Misch claims modestly. Forsomeone with a cohesive and sprawling body of mellow beats behind him, he seemsmildly bewildered that this is the case. “I try so many genres that it’s hard sometimes topinpoint. I guess my sound is uplifting, soulful, funky — and happy more than it is sad.”It’s a perfect description of his debut album, due in 2018, which brings togetherlow-slung hip-hop beats, glittering disco, and noodling jazz instrumentation in a wayonly Misch can.

If Misch seems surprised, it’s because his fanbase has developed naturally. He neverset out with any grand plan when he began making beats, and uploading roughly threetracks a week to Soundcloud at 16. “I prefer a more organic approach to making music,but also to building a fanbase,” he reflects. “I don’t want a big push on my music as Idon’t want to be as big as possible.” And yet, he’s rapidly become one of the U.K.’smost exciting emerging new artists, gaining 1.1 million monthly listeners on Spotify andplaying a sold-out tour of the U.K., U.S. and Europe in 2016. Collaborating with a clutchof fellow trailblazers like Novelist, Loyle Carner, and Zak Abel, he’s accumulated a totalof 75 million streams across all platforms to date — and it all started in his bedroom.

Misch’s earliest introduction to music came via his artistic family, including hispsychiatrist father, a passionate violinist, who would take him to concerts and the operaas a child. He sang in a choir at school, and picked up the violin himself at the age offour. When one of his older sisters took up guitar and later abandoned it, nine-year-oldMisch inherited the instrument, and taught himself to play Red Hot Chilli Peppers andNirvana songs. Today, he also plays bass, banjo, and a smattering of keys.

It was one of his sister’s boyfriends who introduced him to the music of J Dilla at 15, andfrom then on, Misch was hooked. He took up Music Technology at school the followingyear, and began learning how to create his own “really chilled out, boom-bap kind of‘90s hip-hop” on Logic Pro. “When I wasn’t at school, I’d be making beats,” he says. “Itwas just what I did.” As he began sharing his tunes on Soundcloud, he found theresponse was overwhelming. “You put songs out and you build a fanbase — it’s kind ofaddictive.”

A collaboration with his sister Laura, on the jazz-inflected “Follow,” was a major turningpoint for both siblings after it was uploaded to influencer YouTube channel MajesticCasual. The track features Laura on sax and Tom on beats and vocals, intertwined tomesmeric effect. “That was the​point where I was like, okay, maybe I could do this as acareer,” Misch reflects. “Suddenly it had 100,000 plays.” Shortly afterward, Soulection
co-founder Joe Kay commented on one of Misch’s productions on Soundcloud, askingthe teenage prodigy to guest on his radio show.

Soon afterward, in 2014, Misch contributed to Soulection’s White Label series, weavingtogether obscure jazz samples, guitar, and vocals to create the perfect summer listen(including the dreamy fan favourite “The Journey”). His Beat Tape series collected thebest of his hip-hop instrumentals, the 5 Day Mischon project featured collaborations withgrime MC Novelist and singer-songwriter Zak Abel, and his 2016 Reverie EP broughtthe official release of Misch’s most sophisticated songs to date. As well as soulfulsingers Carmody and Jordan Rakei, he struck up a collaborative relationship with fellowsouth Londoner Loyle Carner, whose mellow bars flow over Misch’s productions like abreeze on a hot day.

Both artists form part of the much-hyped scene of singer-songwriters emerging fromsouth east London, including King Krule and Cosmo Pyke. Each has a DIY mindset anda brooding, poetic approach to lyricism that weaves them loosely together. “There’sdefinitely a certain sound,” reflects Misch. “Everyone’s music in south London is reallychilled. It reflects the vibe of this part of London — it’s laid back.”

Misch has lived in south London all his life, and he loves it so much that his new single,“South of the River,” is dedicated to it. “I much prefer the general vibe of south London,”he says. “I love this area, Peckham, Dulwich, Forest Hill. Singing that line — Youshould come south of the river — it just felt really good.” With its string arrangementsmirroring disco synth stabs and a funky bassline, it’s an irresistible bop that nods clearlyto Misch’s danceable new direction.

One of the biggest influences on Misch’s sound has long been jazz. With a degree injazz guitar, Misch is an avid listener of Robert Glasper, Roy Hargrove, Cory Henry, andjazz-influenced songwriters like D’Angelo and Erykah Badu. “It’s kind of a warm feeling,when you hear a certain chord progression,” he explains.

In the making of his debut album, he’s also been drawing on inspiration from disco,house, and techno, discovered through the portal of producers like Kaytranada andMotor City Drum Ensemble. The euphoric feel of 1970s and ‘80s disco (think EarthWind and Fire or Gwen McCrae), and the thump of nightclubs like Fabric or Corsica,inspired him to bring more movement into his songs. “I want people to dance at my liveshows, I want to bring more energy,” he says. “When you’re in a club and you can feelthe bass...I want people to have that experience.”

Misch’s sound is true to its roots — he still makes his tracks in the same bedroom studioin his parents’ house, and his mum produces his artwork. (“Her work is very DIY, justlike my music, and feels homespun,” he explains.) But he’s never afraid to explore newterritory. “I think it’s really important to make music that hasn’t been made before,” hesays. “I’m trying to work out what my sound is, and pursuing that.” Fans might think theyknow his style, but Misch is a restless experimentalist, keen to spend endless hourshoning his craft. One of his favorite new songs is a “Brazilian-sounding” jam that reflectshow deeply he feels about his work. As he puts it: “It’s about how you can’t take awaymy love for music. I’ll always have that.”

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