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Interview: Sivu

Adam Stockley speaks to the up-and-coming singer songwriter ahead of his debut album release

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Having worked with alt-J and Mercury Prize-winning producer Charlie Andrew, as well as touring with the likes of London Grammar, it’s fair to say that Sivu is steadily rising up the ranks. Releasing his debut album Something on High this week, we first of all asked him what influenced the new album.

“Björk is someone I’ve always really loved from a production point of view, with the use of electronic music with real instruments. Beck is also one of my favourite artists. I liked the fact that he is a singer-songwriter, but production-wise, he was a bit more. So, we [Sivu and Charlie Andrew] started from there as a kind of base.”

Something On High also features the song ‘Better Man Than He’, with the video having Sivu singing in an MRI machine. We wondered both why and how. “[Laughs] I was looking for ways of making music videos without any money, cameras or using that much stuff. I saw a video of man beatboxing in an MRI machine on YouTube and I thought it was a very interesting idea. So, I emailed St. Bart’s Hospital in London and they were really up for it.

“It was hard to get the music in there. So, I had these big headphones on and they were blasting the music, since the machine was so loud. It was kind of terrifying at the time, but I think it was worth it in the end.” We asked him what it was like to work with alt-J producer Charlie Andrew.

“He’s such a cool guy! He’s really good because the way he approaches things is such an alternative way, he would never want to do anything the normal way. It’s always really exciting to go to him with a song and he sees a completely different way of doing things. He’s into a lot of left-field, crazy stuff and that just bleeds into what he does. It’s just so fun to work with because you don’t know what is going to happen.

“Before I worked with Charlie, it was always quite limited because I didn’t know where I could go—it was just me and a guitar. So, when we started working together it made both of us, but especially me, more ambitious with things. He could take the songs in a completely different direction. He was always trying to push me from a song writing point of view, so that was really good.”

Last month, Sivu was featured on new alt-J track ‘Warm Foothills’, along with Lianne La Havas, Conor Oberst and Marika Hackman. Their album This Is All Yours went straight to number one; we asked him how he got such an offer. “Well, I’d met Joe [Newman, alt-J frontman] once before because I was in and out of recording with Charlie at the time, so he asked if I would be up for it. I jumped at the chance! I recorded the same day as Marika [Hackman] as well. At the time, they didn’t know who was gonna sing what, so we had to sing the whole song. I think it’s one of the most beautiful tracks on the record, with the way all the voices merge together. It was a bit overwhelming, but I’m really happy with the way the song has turned out.”

Having toured with London Grammar and The Staves, as well as supporting Bombay Bicycle Club in December, was it harder to perform those bigger shows? Were some better than others? “When I perform with my band, I guess it’s kind of easier. It’s always difficult with support slots whether people will be open to it or not, with some artists not so much. Playing on your own is more terrifying, but sometimes more rewarding. If you can silence a big audience, it always feels really good, but sometimes it can go really wrong.

“The split headline tour with Marika Hackman was really fun because it was so off-the-cuff. I’ve just recently toured with Rae Morris, which was really fun too—she’s so lovely. All her shows were really busy and her crowd were really quiet, which was really good. Hopefully Nick Mulvey should be really good as well. I’ve been really lucky!”

Something On High is out now and Sivu will be touring with Bombay Bicycle Club in December