Mr Hudson: Exclusive shoot and interview for FAULT Online

After originally breaking onto the music scene in 2007, Mr Hudson has now notched up over 80,000,000 views on YouTube (with his feature on Jay-Z anthem ‘Young Forever’) to date , collaborated with Kanye West on the platinum-selling ‘808s & Heartbreak’ album, and released his solo album Straight No Chaser in 2009, spawning the #2 single ‘Supernova’ featuring Mr West.

Since this last release, he has featured on Jay Z’s ‘The Blueprint 3’ in 2009, and on the Jay-Z/West juggernaut ‘Watch The Throne’ in 2011, as well as having recorded and toured with industry giants from Tinie Tempah and Calvin Harris to Amy Winehouse and Miley Cyrus. Now he’s back with another album of his own- the upcoming Step Into The Shadows. This is a record with a new sound and a dark intensity, with cameos by the likes of George The Poet, Giggs and Luther star Idris Elba, who features on the title track that dropped in May of this year.

Blazer: Monta Heritage Shirt: Sand Trousers: Duchamp Tie: Topman Shoes: Kurt Geiger Watch: Triwa
Blazer: Monta Heritage
Shirt: Sand
Trousers: Duchamp
Tie: Topman
Shoes: Kurt Geiger
Watch: Triwa

FAULT: Your new album is very influenced by London. How has your experience of the city shaped your music?

Mr Hudson: I’ve just been running around so much the last few years- the first big tour we did was with Amy Winehouse around the UK and Europe and then I was in America with the G.O.O.D guys and Kanye. So it was a real decision to set up a studio in London and not run around so much.

I was struck by the narrative quality of the new album- the imagery, the place names. Is that something you are conscious of?

I really wanted to pin it- like on Google Maps- there are pins all through the music. Part of that was due to living and working in Central London. My studio was in Clerkenwell, near Smithfield market, and that place has a vibe. And I was watching a lot of Luther, which was where I first saw Idris [Elba.] I was like “I want to work with this guy” and he came round the next day!

When you were first coming onto the scene there was a kind of Brit bubble with Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and Mark Ronson. Do you see that trend coming round again?

I think we have a really nice kind of Brit Pop bubble happening but at the same time, I think the mainstream is definitely looking towards the US and a very America-centric sound, which it wasn’t ten years ago. It’s interesting that some people still want to sing with an American accent- girls more than guys- but I love the scene that’s coming through at the moment; Disclosure, Sam Smith, Aluna George, MNEK.

Suit: Richard Anderson Shirt: Sand Tie: Topman
Suit: Richard Anderson
Shirt: Sand
Tie: Topman

With the new album you have spoken about the theme of secrecy and hidden moments. Was there a desire to get away from the hyper-activity of being so in the public eye?

Yeah, and really just to slow down. Some of the tracks on the album are so slow which might seem a bit downbeat but my thing with music is that you’ve just got to let that out if that’s what you’re feeling. I’ve always just made the music that I want to hear come out the speakers. Sometimes it will resonate with the mainstream and sometimes it won’t.

You have spoken about the ‘physicality’ of your music. In that vein, what is your approach to the live experience?

I love singing live- I have mixed feelings about the way in which the industry has moved towards performing to a track. You’d be surprised by how little of the sound you hear is actually made on stage. I’ve always been influenced by the likes of Bowie, Chet Baker, Cole Porter, and I play musical instruments so it makes me sad that music doesn’t really start with the musicians anymore. These days it starts on a laptop in a room, the vocals are done in that same room, and then maybe when it comes to the stage you get people together in a rehearsal room.

Suit: Richard Anderson Shirt: Sand Tie: Topman Coat: Atelier Scotch Shoes: Church’s Watch: Triwa
Suit: Richard Anderson
Shirt: Sand
Tie: Topman
Coat: Atelier Scotch
Shoes: Church’s
Watch: Triwa

Do you create everyday?

Yeah- even if just in my head. I love sitting with a guitar on my knee, or at the piano with a cup of tea. I’m more into the process of actually making music than being recognised for it or being famous- whatever that is! I worry that we’ve shifted back into a sort of ‘music as a way to be rich and famous.’ Money’s cool but it’s not a way of life. Shakespeare was not the richest man in London in his day!

Did you approach the new record with a view to core themes, or a particular message?

I just went in and thought about making music. I made a real effort not to be cerebral about it. Not to think about it but to actually do it. For me, the new record feels like driving or walking around London at night. My reference points were things like (the film) Drive, Luther, Blade Runner, Hitchcock.

Coat: Atelier Scotch T-Shirt: Lazer-eye Watch: Triwa
Coat: Atelier Scotch
T-Shirt: Lazer-eye
Watch: Triwa

It’s interesting that those are all visual references.

Yeah! I wanted to paint some pictures with the music, as if each song is a vignette of a time and place. Driving around West London, driving through Canary Wharf. In terms of music I was drawn to this kind of unnamed genre that centres on a guy who is miserable, but it’s okay. A kind of Frank Sinatra ‘One for my Baby, One for the Road.’ You’re going through it but it’s okay and you’re not a wreck. We celebrate Sinatra for the kind of big, brassy music he made but he has some incredible, miserable albums!

What is your FAULT?

I think I’m too diplomatic sometimes- too much of a peacekeeper. If we were having a row, I’d just do whatever to calm everyone down but that avoids the problem. I don’t face up to shit.- I’m a coward. It’s a stiff upper lip thing of not wanting to deal with it.

Photography: Miles Holder

Words: Will Ballantyne-Reid

Styling: a+c studios

Makeup: Patricia Obaro Odje

Hair: Natalie Viner