Collard’s creative journey has been timeless, vulnerable and affecting. After only a few moments into Unholy, Collard’s stylistically momentous solo debut album, it becomes clear that he has created something relevant.While staying relatable, Collard maintains that it has been vital to create something against the grain of the current trend of algorithm-driven music. His music follows no trend and refuses to be categorised. 


Tell us about your 2019! 
It has been pretty crazy, to be fair. Building up to this year has been really slow; I built the album over three years. So, for it to come out and then everything skyrocket, well not ‘skyrocket’ as that is just the climate of the music industry we are in right now, but to get the attention from people I respect, people I adore, look up to, and am inspired by, is quite mad.

What has been your greatest achievement, no matter how internal or external, so far this year?
Elton John. By far. We had a FaceTime on Beats1 Radio and we talked a lot, in depth. He compared me to a lot of other contemporary artists in my lane yet found something individual within me. He found a hidden gem inside me. He is my idol. Elton John and then Frank Ocean, that is how I look at it in terms of the best songwriters ever. Elton John is the greatest songwriter before me; Frank Ocean is the greatest songwriter in my generation. Then next… hopefully me.

Can you talk about your opinions on remaining authentic, genre-less, and true to yourself?
I think for me it was pretty easy, just because I made the decision to be genre-less and seamless quite early. I knew that when I made the first song on Unholy, it didn’t fit anywhere in the UK music industry. It was quite easy, to be fair. And I knew that it would be harder to get noticed and be applauded but fuck it. I can’t sleep at night if it’s not real and if it’s not who I am. I made an album, nine tracks, which I know I can live by forever, and that is all that really matters to me. If I attached myself to grime or to UK-afrobeat-rap, then I gotta stay there! I just kind of looked at myself and thought ‘I’m still listening to Prince man, I’m still listening to James Brown’, and that must mean something. I thought I should probably emulate that for myself. I want to emulate that timelessness. Everything after Prince and James Brown will be likened to them. At the moment I am likened to them, but if you listen to the album then you will see a separation. And then with my next album there will be more separation, until I am finally just Collard. That is hard to find, and I put in the work to find that. Fuck being part of the scene.

Where is your favourite place to be creative?
I like to make music in the bath or in the studio. I have been with my producer, Zach, for like eight years now, and he is a good moral compass. He will say things like ‘I have heard that before bro, try again, don’t spoil my beat with your already-heard lyrics or already-heard melody’. He is super honest, and he is super tasteful. It makes me wanna go to the studio and make something that nobody has ever heard before. I want to strive for that.

What is the starting point for you when making a track? Do you start with a lyric, a concept, a beat? Or does it vary every time?
It’s the beat. I let Zach express himself. I tell Zach what I wanna hear at that moment and what I wanna sing like, and he fits around that vision. I apply myself to it. I make the chorus first, because I think the chorus is the most important; the chorus is what people relate to. If you have a good chorus, it doesn’t matter what your verse is. That is just the age we are in; people like a good chorus. Just to escape from their normal life and be in something which captures how they have felt before. Zach makes a chorus for me and then I create that lyrically.

Your music is very conceptual and narrative-driven, and this is so expertly conveyed and transferred in your visuals. How do you visualise, materialise and lift these concepts from the page into something tangible and three-dimensional?

I just come up with key words. With “Hell Song” I was like, this song is about sex, it’s about longing, it’s about lust, it’s about physically needing someone. The song is about the physical. It is about adoring someone physically. And then my creative directors were like ‘let’s make it about heat’. Everyone naturally feels heat when they are horny or when they are on it or when they feel something for someone. “Ground Control” is more about diving into my darkest memories of where I put my sexual desire or need for fucking feeling above someone’s safety, and that’s “Ground Control.” They wanted to paint that; they wanted to paint being in torment with yourself. It is natural to want to protect someone that you care about. “Warrior Cry” is different again, as that is more emotional and shows more of a longing for someone.

Where would you recommend that a listener be when hearing your music?
After a break up, in your house, alone. When you’re in your feelings and you’re alone processing what happened and shit. Listen to my album. You will find that that person was either a dickhead or they truly loved you. If he broke up with you, he is a wanker. And that is what my album is about. A lot of people think that I am writing from my perspective, but sometimes I am such a bastard that I write from someone’s perspective who has felt something about me. I write about how I know a woman feels about me, emotionally. It is a bit bastardly. I try to be balanced, and equal. I process shit differently to the people I have been with. I understand how they feel about me, and then I have to think about how I feel about them.”

Your sound is contemplative, personal and truly immersive. How do you convey this listening experience throughout your live performances?
I just lose myself in what I am doing. When I perform “Merciless”, I think it is different to how I perform “Hell Song.” “Hell Song” is just me being like ‘fuck it, I’m here now’; it is the song I start with live. People will be like ‘who the fuck is this guy, who does he think he is’? In essence, I am really a sexual being. “Merciless” is when you see me more still and more reflective about the lyrics. Sex is lovely, sex is deep, sex is emotional, but it is only one part of something. I think being sad, emotional, depressed, and hurt is like a whole other level. So, naturally I perform them differently. When I start with “Hell Song” everyone is like ‘this geezer is fucking loving life, he is so sexual!’ and then I hit them with the deep stuff, I hit ‘em with “Merciless” and they’re like ‘fuck he is so sad!’ I am an inherently sad person, but I use things like “Hell Song” to feel happiness. I make music to feel like I’m not so sad.

As a solo artist it is quite common to experience self-doubt and criticism. How do you remain motivated and inspired on a daily basis? I don’t. I am super hard on myself. At my first debut performance people were like ‘you did great’, but I understand the separation between being a consumer and being who you are. So, I know I didn’t give full ‘Collard’. I am super critical about myself and I am super judgemental. But I think you are supposed to be because it’s your art. It isn’t true art if you’re not fucking critical about it, or upset about it, or happy about it, or emotionally inclined to feeling every single fucking way you possibly can. I am a learner and I know what goes wrong and I never make the same mistake. My band are so sick. When my band bring my music alive, I am taken aback. They really understand what I am talking about.

What is the biggest compliment you have ever received?
It was from my Nan. My Nan is a very unimpressed woman. She tells me things like ‘if music doesn’t hit your soul then it’s not music, fuck it’. Music that just gets you in the mood for a night out or is a momentary escape is fucking shit. Music is supposed to capture you, and make you reflect on the person you are. And that is my Nan. When she hears my music, she tells me whether or not it makes her think about who she is. Music should make you think about what you’re suffering. If it’s a good vibe I can appreciate it, but I don’t see it as invaluable. Invaluable music to me is the music that makes you reflect on yourself, and makes you wanna be a better person, and makes you reflect on how you have treated other people. Music should make you feel something.

Unholy represents a moment in time, a chapter of your life. But where do you see yourself progressing and evolving from here?
A lot of my shit is about sex, man. I like sex. But my next album is probably going to be called Brown. It will just be about being brown in a white society. I grew up in Surrey, so I wanna talk about how being brown appeals to white Surrey girls. That is the second album for me.

Photography: Niklas Haze, Styling: Juan Jose Mouko Nsue, Make Up: Ellie Morris, Words: Lilly Major, Photo Assistant: Alex Kim