20-year-old Joel Compass has been turning heads since his debut track ‘Back To Me’ surfaced earlier this year, receiving over 30,000 SoundCloud plays and 150,000 YouTube views in just one week. His single “Astronaut” was released last week on Black Butter records along with an EP of the same title.
Is your actual name Joel Compass?
Yes, it is my actual name.
Did your parents know you were destined for fame?
There are so many Compasses! One of them was going to do something.
Does music run in the family?
My uncle got a scholarship to the Royal College of Music to play the guitar. He literally just picked it up and was amazing at it.
How would you sum up your signature sound?
The atmospherics of Pink Floyd, meets garage and hip-hop. It’s along the same kind of lines as Frank Ocean and The Weeknd.
What sets you apart?
Mainly what I talk about which is quite deep… times that weren’t great. But on my album there will be a lot about the times that are good too.
Where are you drawing your inspiration from?
I don’t listen to songs too much. I only listen to a song for about 30 seconds.
You sound like an A&R guy!
I don’t want to get too much of an idea from somewhere else because otherwise naturally, through osmosis, I might end up making something along those lines.
You’re only 20 now, but you’ve been producing for years. Do you consider yourself a producer or a singer, first and foremost?
If you asked me that a year ago I would have said a producer. But I’ve been in the studio all year working on tracks as a vocalist, so now I’d have to say an artist. I go to the studio and just love it. I haven’t really produced for many people, so I can’t really say I’m a producer at the moment. I want to do the whole artist thing until my album comes out in January, and then that’s my sound summed up on the album for everyone to hear and shows what I can do for other people too.
How did you get into producing?
My uncle had Fruity Loops, an old music software, which he was always using. He got me a copy and I just started working away from the age of 12, creating grime beats. They were proper terrible, but in school everyone had a copy of Fruity Loops. Everyone else seemed to stop and I carried on. I started beat-boxing too and ended up winning best beat-boxer in London when I was 15.
And how did that lead to you getting signed?
I was always producing, and one night I finished a track at 11pm. Everyone was sleeping in the house and I couldn’t be too loud. The first verse was really quiet and I put the lyrics down myself (rather than getting someone else to do it). I played it to a couple of friends and they said I should put it up on Soundcloud and ended up getting scouted. Next thing I was going to meet Amanda Ghost and that was it.
How have you found your live shows so far?
Performing at Wireless festival was certainly jumping in at the deep end. I think the reason we were all prepared to do it was because when I go back and do some smaller shows it will be a lot easier.
Who are your musical inspirations?
In terms of producers I think Kanye – his album is just ridiculous. When I compared it to Jay Z’s, Kanye’s was just so much better. I think Pharrell right now is really smashing it. That’s a position I’d like to be in right now. Making the best tracks for everyone. Miguel’s really making waves too.
How would you sum up your album in a sentence?
It’s everything that you’ve heard from me so far, but all the tracks are going to be flipped on their head.
What’s your favourite track on the album?
It’s a track that no one’s heard but the one that I got signed for. If it was any different my career might never have happened.
What would you be doing?
I’d probably be studying medicine. I was about to go to uni – it was uni or the deal
How did your parents feel about you taking the deal?
My mum didn’t really understand what was going on. In fact I didn’t tell her until a year after I was signed. I haven’t lived with her since I was 16, so I could get away with it. I have goals that I want to do after doing music in the field of medicine.
What are your plans for the next few months?
I’m finishing the album. I would like to produce for other people too. My favourite female artist at the moment is Twigs. She is definitely the person who I’m feeling right now to work with.
Who are your idols?
Ben Carson, the first person who separated Siamese twins. He makes you think that no one has an excuse to not do something with their life. Wherever you are you can get to the point you want to get to. It’s given me my motto in life, “somebody’s going to do it – make it you”.
Interviewed by Holly Rubenstein for IDOL magazine.