Exclusive interview with Ady Suleiman at Glastonbury

With smooth bluesy tones and sultry eyes, Ady Suleiman serenades a small crowd as a prelude to his later performance at the Pussy Parlure at Glastonbury. His tunes create a dreamy atmosphere and the muddy surroundings of the tiny tent melt away. The 23-year-old grew up in Nottingham and has been honing a unique sound ever since.

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Looking back on the puzzle pieces that have slotted together to create the singer he is today, Ady references inspiration from every era. ‘The song that got me into music was Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix,’ says Ady, grinning at the memory. ‘I remember I got his compilation CD when I was 13 and when I first listened, I fucking hated it. I didn’t understand it at all – I was like, “what is this psychedelic shit?’’

 And then I actually put the CD back in the wrong case and went on holiday and when I opened it up I thought “fucking hell I’ve only bought this CD and I’ve got to listen to it the whole time on my walkman”. I thought, well, it’s better than no music so I put it on and as I got to Little Wing I just understood the emotion that he was trying to convey.

Honestly it nearly brought a tear to my eye which was fucking weird. Because I understood it, I went back again and kept listening to it and I was like “Oh my god this is amazing!” Because it took me a while to get it so when I got it I appreciated it even more.’  

Ady started writing when he was 14 and music soon became a sizeable portion of his life. ‘When I started making music I loved it just the same as playing football in the park. It wasn’t because I was thinking about a career,’ he says. ‘I watched DVDs of Woodstock and got involved in the whole culture. It just became part of my personality, you know, it was like “that’s Ady the guy who fucking loves music”. You’ve got the sports guys and the maths guys at school and my thing was music.’

While writing came first, performing in public didn’t happen until later. ‘I never had the confidence to go out and gig in my teenage years really. My first gig was school when they put a band around me with soul and jazz stuff but I didn’t do any solo stuff till 18/19. I’d been writing but never really playing it for anyone. I was at school and it wasn’t really my focus on the weekend. I never thought “Oh I’m gonna go and do a gig.” I thought I would chill with my mates. Being at university in Liverpool with people who are into music as a career gave me the confidence to go out and start gigging. There’s great music history and culture in Liverpool… it’s a cool place for music to develop.’

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After studying in Liverpool, Ady attributes returning to his hometown as the reason he found his place on the scene. ‘I had to go home to get a fucking job to pay the rent. When I got there I just felt really at home, everyone was into hiphop and reggae and there was a fucking amazing soul scene at the time. I just thought this is the right place for what I’m doing at the moment.’

The Nottingham music scene has gone from strength to strength, with BBC Radio Nottingham’s Dean Jackson picking up on acts like Jake Bugg. ‘Dean played a massive part because he is like fucking obsessed and enjoys his job, so when he sees talent he doesn’t just play your fucking record, he’s like “I’m gonna fight for you”, because that’s his job. The whole city got behind me and he put me forward to Radio 1Extra and Mistajam became a fan of mine and was playing my records.’

‘I come from a small town, it’s not like I come from London. Saying I wanted to be a recording artist sounded a bit stupid because it didn’t sound like a realistic thing, but my family were so supportive. People from round where I’m from would be like “Nah go and study some boring shit.” But people in school said I was a good singer and my parents were like if that’s what you love doing, you should do it. Without their support and people telling me I was decent I wouldn’t have done it.’

Ady’s debut single ‘Running Away’ is out now. You can find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Words Alex Bee