Fame Academy’s real winner Lemar has already sold in excess of 2 million records and returns with his 4th studio entitled The Reason, which is lead by SoulShock and Karlin produced ‘If She Knew’.
Marvin Sparks caught up with the 2-time MOBO and 2-time Brit Awards winner to discuss fatherhood, plans to conquer USA, the motivation behind The Reason and more...
Marvin Sparks : Welcome back, what have you been up to since your last album?
Lemar: What have I been up to between albums? Wow, I’ve been doing a lot of things. I ended the last album with a tour, which was pretty cool. I went to Europe for a bit, toured with Beyoncé which was cool. Then I started the album - the album recording process has taken about 9 months, I did 78 songs and shortened that down to the 10 songs, which are on the album, ‘The Reason‘ which comes out in November. That’s it really, I’ve been working hard and living life really and life doing its thing.
Marvin Sparks : You forgot one important event; congratulations on becoming a father.
Lemar: Aww man, like I said, living life and life doing its thing. It’s a beautiful thing, man, I had a daughter, which is a great thing, and she’s been a blessing to my life.
Marvin Sparks : How have you found balancing being a father and a recording artist?
Lemar: Do you know what, so far, so good. I thought it would be harder than it is, but it’s just like getting to know another person who is there. Luckily, I’ve got a lot of help around; my partner and loads of family, so I can still do my thing and come and do the good bits, so it’s all good.
Marvin Sparks : I was at your listening party and you were making us green with envy when telling us the locations where you recorded this album.
Lemar: I got to travel quite a lot [whilst making] this album. I went to Miami, L.A., Sweden, did a little bit of recording [in the UK] but the place that stays predominately in my mind is Miami. I got to spend a lot of time there and work with some really cool people.
Marvin Sparks : Was there a particular reason why you chose Miami?
Lemar: Errr... Sun, beach, the ocean; that was really high up there on the list. I just wanted to get away and get inspired. I found that when I was there I got to relax, I got to dig a little bit deeper into my soul - and you know, whenever you dig into your soul you get good records.
Marvin Sparks : What was the reason behind the album title?
Lemar: That title kind of best sums up my whole recording process. There’s a song on the album called ‘The Reason’ which sums up everything; that kind of sums up my views on life and everything that has happened to me since my last album and even prior to that. Also, I called the album ‘The Reason’ just because I want people to think a little. I think the album’s a very current album, so there are some songs on there which talk about social issues - stuff that’s going on at the moment like the war - or just life in general, as well as it having some party songs and some relationship songs.
For me it was a time where I was trying to find the reason behind why I wanted to become an artist in the first place and the reason why I wanted to become an artist is to do inspirational music, so for me, that is what the album is. It’s meant to be a bunch of inspirational songs that inspire people to think twice about what they see in everyday life.
Marvin Sparks : This is your 4th album; did you find it hard choosing which direction to go in?
Lemar: Initially, yes. I finished the last album, and I was really proud of my last album, it was that throwback old school soul, very live sounding album. I thought it was a good body of work, so after that I thought, I know I have to top this somehow but I genuinely don’t know how to do it. I have confidence that I will, but I don’t know how I’m going to get there.
I then thought, let me get out of here for a bit, come out of my comfort zone, find out more about me and make the music that I love. It was once I stopped thinking about how I was going to make a better album that everything just fell into place. I just thought ‘I’m going to relax, I’m going to enjoy it,’ and once I started enjoying it, good music started coming through.
Marvin Sparks : On the album you’ve worked with Jack Splash and Salaam Remi amongst others. How did you decide which producers you were going to work with?
Lemar: I had a whole bunch of meetings. I hooked up with people in L.A., in Miami - different writers, different producers. Normally, I’d meet a producer and go straight into the studio to see where we were, but this time I just wanted to have a breakfast or have a lunch, then just sit down and talk. They find out what I’m about, I find out what they’re about. After that I came back to London, I ticked off - on the list: “Yeah, I think I’m going to get along with this person,” went back again and hung out. Some of them worked, some of them didn’t but majority worked, because I already had the vibe of what type of person they were.
Marvin Sparks : Your first single is ‘If She Knew’. Tell us how that one came about.
Lemar: Like I said, I wrote 78 songs for the album. There was one song that I didn’t write and that was called ‘Wait Forever’ and that was written by Claude Kelly and SoulShock and Karlin. Nick Raphael, my A&R heard the song ‘Wait Forever’ and said: “Look Lemar, you need to listen to this song, it’s really good,” so I listened to it and thought it really is good. I can relate to it and it relates to my life so I’m going to fly down there and sing the song. When I flew to LA to record the song, I hit it off with SoulShock and Karlin, the next day we decided to record a song and that was ‘If She Knew’ - we came up with a good one. When we took it to the label they were like: “We like ‘Wait Forever’ but ‘If She Knew’, we think that could be the one.” It was the 77th song I wrote and it’s the one you all hear.
Marvin Sparks : 78 songs? That’s a whole heap. I guess you weren’t really out there holidaying then?
Lemar: Well it did take 9 months to record, so there were a few days off where I could go and do my own thing [laughs].
Marvin Sparks: ‘Weight of the World’ is a song that when I first heard who produced it, then heard the actual song I thought it was a song many wouldn’t expect from Lemar. What made you decide to record that?
Lemar: I was in Miami and I was talking to Sam Watters - that’s who I wrote the song with - and we were coming up with different concepts and ideas and we were listening to some beats in the studio. There was one particular person we were listening to in the studio where every single beat was amazing. He came up with this one beat which was ‘Weight of the World’ and it just so happened that the music that I was listening to was from Jim Jonsin who did ‘Lollipop’ with Lil’ Wayne, so it was very hard-hitting.
We thought it would be a cool thing to do a contemporary song over a hard-hitting beat and that’s how ‘Weight of the World’ came about. We heard that song and that’s it, the mind started going and the song was created.
Marvin Sparks: We all saw you boxing on Sport Relief. First off, as a boxing fan, it was a very good fight. How did the fight compare with the final of Fame Academy?
Lemar: Oh the final of Fame Academy was much more scary because you know it‘s everything you fought for your life is on the line; this is make or break. If I come away from this show I can get something, if I come away looking bad then everything can go to waste, but luckily everything went all right.
The boxing match was cool, you know. It was much less scary than I thought, I just wish I had more stamina; I wish I’d done some jogging before because I was there in the first round, second round I had gone home [laughs].
Marvin Sparks: Have you been watching X-Factor at all? If so, who’s your tip?
Lemar: It’s a hard one; I think as a whole complete artist, I would have to say Alexandra’s really good. I think she’s got a great voice, she looks beautiful - can’t really fault her, I think she just needs to do some good performances. But then there’s this girl, I don’t know her name [Diana], she’s a white girl and sounds similar to like Dido. I think because she’s different - because you know it’s not always about who’s the best singer...
Marvin Sparks: As we saw with Fame Academy...
Lemar: Well, yeah, y‘know. It’s who - [for example] they lost someone or they are from Wales and everyone from Wales votes for them, so I think because she’s different she may end up getting some votes. But I don’t know, overall, I think it’s a good year, but me personally, I like Alexandra.
Marvin Sparks: Having been a 2-time MOBO winner yourself, what did you think of this year’s MOBO Awards?
Lemar: I thought it was cool; I thought it was great that they managed to go to Wembley and fill it out and the people that won were good. I was really happy that Chipmunk won an award. Because in that category - someone asked me who do I think was going to win in that category - I thought T2 were going to pick it up because it was the most recognisable song, but in my heart of hearts I was like: “I think Chipmunk is [good].”
Marvin Sparks: Is that because he is from north London?
Lemar: Nah, I just genuinely think he has got good lyrics and he‘s got that vibe and energy, so I was happy that he won it.
Marvin Sparks: What have you been listening to these days?
Lemar: A few songs have caught me; I like that Madcon song ‘Beggin,’ I think that’s a good song. I was away for a while and when I came back I heard Sam Sparro ’Black and Gold,’ I thought that song was quite cool. I haven’t had the chance to listen to too many albums that I have listened to from beginning to end. I want to check out Lil’ Wayne’s album.
Marvin Sparks: Any UK stuff?
Lemar: Erm.... I don’t know. There’s the usual list: Dizzee Rascal, Sway - obviously, I did the song with him, so definitely, I’m into his stuff - Chipmunk. I’ve got Estelle’s album - I bought that in America and I thought that was a cool album.
Marvin Sparks: UK Soul has seen a lot of success recently. Do you feel you were the person who opened the door for this?
Lemar: Well, I don’t want to blow a trumpet or anything but I’ll definitely say I contributed. I think its fair - without being arrogant - to say I contributed. I think ‘If There’s Any Justice’ was the start of a big comeback. Since then, there’s been James Morrison, Will Young’s stuff is very soulful, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Duffy, Corrine Bailey Rae, Bryn Christopher - who I only heard recently, so record companies thought ‘It can sell, let’s find some stuff to fill that gap’. So you know; I was part of it [laughs].
Marvin Sparks: Quite a few UK artists have gone over to America and conquered, is that in the plans for you?
Lemar: I’d love to; I’d love to and genuinely I’m gong to stick my hand on my heart and say I really do think this is the album to do it. This album - I’m really happy with it, so if the doors were to open and it’s in God’s plans for me, then I’ll embrace it fully and definitely go for it.