“Some people make music for the lifestyle it brings, but I do it because I need to do it. It’s not something I necessarily enjoy doing.”
I hate Roy English, and by that, I mean I adore him. But his releasing just three songs for me to absorb is just cruel. For all its brevity, though, it’s an amazingly impressive EP. I’m Not Here Pt. 1 is something you’ll want to play over and over and over—until your spouse or some other loved one asks if you could please, please, please play something else, if only for a while. (Don’t worry; you’ll always come back to it.)
English is a former street urchin (i.e., troubadour without a home) who was recently signed by Maverick, the management team behind mongo one-named heavyweights Madonna and Pharrell (perhaps you’ve heard of them?). Hearing that may make you skeptical at first: a guy whom next to no one’s heard of, with just three recorded songs, is poised for superstardom? But, damn: If ever there was a new artist worthy of such a deal, it’s English.
Even more mind-blowing is the fact that he’s currently on tour—a sold-out tour, no less—with 5 Seconds of Summer. Of course, I had to ask about him that, as well as other milestones in the young artist’s life.
How did the 5 Seconds of Summer tour come about?
I’ve been friends with the boys for a little while, and we were all fans of each other’s music. The idea had been kicked around just because it’d be fun, but then Luke [Hemmings; lead vocals, guitar] called me after we got back from a trip to Bali and was like, “Hey, would you actually want to do it?” and I was like, “Yup,” and that was pretty much it.
You donate a portion of your profits to music schools and help for the homeless. Why are music schools important to you?
I think it’s important to give back with whatever platform you’re given, even if it’s something small. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I do now without certain people coming alongside me, teaching me and helping me. The music school in Haiti is a way for me to do that. My friend Michael Brun took me there for the first time and showed me the country and the culture, and I fell in love. We actually ended up doing I’m Not Here Pt. 1 out there.
Your press release slips in the fact that you were once homeless yourself. Can you elaborate on that? How did you find your way back from the streets?
I never had it as bad as some people, but there was a time when I had nothing: no money, no car, no place to stay. I had been trying to make it in the music industry for a lot of years, but those doors didn’t seem like they were ever going to open up. I clearly remember walking down Hollywood Boulevard as the sun was coming up one morning, with everything I had in a backpack, and I wrote the line, “I saw stars on the pavement, California dreams, looked up through the bright lights, no stars did I see.” This was five years ago. I recorded a little demo of a song called “Cool” and it ended up being discovered by a DJ called Alesso, who I’d never heard of at the time. He remade the song into a dance song, [which] did really well and helped open a lot of doors for me.
How did the signing with Maverick Music come about?
Rick Krim, the co-president of Sony, and I had been talking for some time, and I didn’t have a manager so he set me up on meetings with a bunch of incredible people, many of them I still keep in contact with. He had mentioned Ron Laffite at Maverick and spoke really highly of him, so we set up a meeting. I instantly loved Ron and the way he thinks. He has a certain energy about him, and after meeting Dana and Yara on his team, I was completely sold. He also manages two of my favorite artist/producers (Pharrell and Ryan Tedder [OneRepublic]), and has done great work with their careers in both sides of the spectrum.
What really drives your desire to play and perform music?
I don’t think I can do anything else. Some people make music for the lifestyle it brings, but I do it because I need to do it. It’s not something I necessarily enjoy doing.
Which do you prefer: studio or stage? Why?
Both. I love performing, and that’s a different person than who I am when I’m alone in the studio. On this tour, I have a studio set up in the back of the bus so I get to do both every day. There are a few shows I’m especially excited to draw inspiration from on this tour. The Forum [Sept. 7 in Englewood, CA] is going to be a moment for me, and the Taco Bell Arena [Aug. 27 in Boise] will be a special one, too.
The title of your debut EP I’m Not Here Pt. 1 must have meaning for you; what is it?
It’s multiple things. The biggest thing is that when you feel like you don’t matter, know that you do. Where you are now on the physical plane is not the ultimate reality; these are just our bodies. Me, myself, is not confided by this body.
When can we expect I’m Not Here Pt. 2?
Next couple weeks, or something. Hopefully very soon. [Author’s note: I’m keeping everything I can crossed!] | Laura Hamlett
08.27 | Taco Bell Arena, Boise
08.28 | White River Amphitheatre, Auburn WA
08.31 | Sunlight Supply Amphitheatre, Ridgefield WA
09.02 | Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View CA
09.03 | Toyota Amphitheatre, Wheatland CA
09.04 | Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, Irvine CA
09.07 | The Forum, Inglewood CA
09.09 | Sleep Train Amphitheatre, Chula Vista CA
09.10 | Ak-Chin Pavilion, Phoenix
09.11 | Isleta Amphitheater, Albuquerque
09.16 | Smoothie King Center, New Orleans