XamVolo talks Decca, his debut album and striving for more

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Xam Volo (photo credit: Christopher Flack)

Two time GIT Award nominee XamVolo is on the crest of a wave, Getintothis’ Lewis Ridley talks to him ahead of his Arts Club date later this month.

Sam Folorunsho, or XamVolo to me and you, is a cool guy. Having turning his music from a hobby to something much more serious during an architecture degree at the University of Liverpool, he signed to Decca a couple of years back and things got a whole lot more serious.

Singles dropped as XamVolo soon became the soul star that Liverpool was looking for and has become embroiled in his adopted hometown following his move away from London. Fast forward to now, and his album is primed for release on Friday, January 18, before a date at Arts Club on Thursday, February 7.

When I speak to him, he’s preparing to head back home for Christmas, although I realise quickly I’m speaking to a man whose mind very rarely has downtime, who is as analytic as artistic, as humble as honest.

“It was mainly the course, the university was great for architecture. I chose architecture because it seemed like the right compromise between artistic output and a lucrative profession. I guess I was keen to learn something new, I didn’t have much to go off but I just went for it. Eventually, I didn’t really like it, but that’s the way it goes.”

An architecture degree is hardly what most musicians in this city, or any city for that matter, would find themselves doing when not writing, recording or on stage. Sam saw the full programme out, even if his epiphany came well before then.

“I was in second year, and I began to see that people were, you know, doing things in music. People were doing well musically, and actually making headway. So, what was stopping me from doing that?”

Sam taught himself production as a bedroom artist, his spare time back home before his move spent learning a craft which one gets the feeling he never saw becoming so serious.

“All of a sudden thing started moving, the LIMF Academy was huge. I started meeting people who could really help me, and it built my confidence and basically dissipated any hesitation I had. By the end of the degree, music was it, and I wanted to move on and get out of that space. It doesn’t make sense to everyone, but it made sense to me.”

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Sam began refining XamVolo, he stepped out of his bedroom and into studios, live spaces, and gained a band. Things changed quickly.

“It didn’t force me, but things began to give me that push to realise that if I was doing this thing, it’s not just about the live show, it’s about video, streaming, and all of these other things. Even how we structure a set for breathing, all of these things I’d never considered before I had to learn really quickly. You win some things and lose others, but you develop.”

“I’ve gained a taste, too, a taste for a band, for example. But I’ve learned how I want to do things, and people in Liverpool have helped me so much for that.

In June 2016, XamVolo signed to Decca.

“There’s two sides to it really, well, two main sides. The first side is having that label support, you’ve got a team of people taking a burden off you so you can focus on the music and creative side. It’s made me take things more seriously, I’ve thought about the whole thing rather than just the music. I didn’t have a problem with my confidence, but it’s helped me solidify my identity, regardless of anything I know that I’ve got some things right. I can’t undo anything I’ve done so far.”

There’s no doubt that when artists are signed they are better placed to make ground and for Sam that’s been a major boost.

“After I’d signed, I noticed that I was coming to people and leaving more of an impression. I’m not saying that it’s everything, but inadvertently people hear a name like Decca and it carries weight.”

One of the opportunities XamVolo has gained is a support slot when Paloma Faith played at the Echo Arena earlier this year.

“I kinda knew what it was, and it was really nice because apparently it was actually her that chose me. It wasn’t a my people and her people thing, she’d actually chose me, so that was really nice. It was a great opportunity, it really was, but it was her crowd. It wasn’t my crowd, I didn’t earn that crowd.”

“It was inspiring, you come to Liverpool and see the Echo Arena and you think that’s where you wanna be heading, two of my family are from Liverpool and it was amazing to give something back to all these people that have given me so much. It was inspiring to see all those people that had come, just to see her.

“I care more about making good music more than anything, but seeing an event like that and realising that someone has managed to achieve that is inspiring. Seeing how things work at that level, the high end production and structure, it really helped me progress. If I was to take myself out of my head, it was amazing, yeah, but it was much more than that for me.”

Cover art for XamVolo’s debut album by Robin Clewley

And such as XamVolo the analyst, the forward thinking, the competitor, even – striving to improve, fine tune, learn new skills and do new things. His debut album, All The Sweetness on The Surface, is due for release on January 18.

“I don’t really like the big thing that says that I’ve ascended from local to regional stage, I’d wrote loads before I’d even came to Liverpool, and met anyone. People might look and think I’ve only got EPs, but in reality its dozens and dozens of tracks. In reality, some people might think the album has come too early, but it’s not really a big deal for me.

“I wasn’t gonna pump a load of money into it and make it this big thing, I just wanted something longer than an EP, and that’s the statement. I’ve never worked harder on anything ever, including my degree and everything.”

“Some of the tracks predate my time here, some of them have been ready for four months, some of them five years. I just didn’t have that thing where I was able to put them together. I hope people enjoy it. I feel like it’s something like my previous stuff, but I’ve tried to work on things outside and be ambitious. I’ve said, “that’s not good enough” to myself and made it better.

“There’s an artistic concept, and a production concept behind it. People say all the time you shouldn’t explain art, but I want to talk about it, I really thought about the tracks, so I’m looking forward to it. I’m not gonna lie, I’m excited.”

But, again, Sam is reflective on the process. Incredibly, there’s concern, while he awaits the reception from his as yet unreleased album, he’s thinking forward to what he can produce next.

“Everything kind of fell in to place artistically for this one, there were moments where things just happened. I don’t know whether I can do anything that sits in the same place, or hold it’s own, it’s hard to explain. I really hope people like this one, whether they really listen to it or just having it on in the background.

“Then again, my manager once said to me that you know you’re doing something right when someone either loves something, or hates it. I want that.”

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XamVolo posted a single from the album, Sins of A Soldier, and asked social media: “What do you think this is about?

“That’s a funny one. So we were writing this from the perspective of a nuke, a nuclear bomb, that was the intention. It was quite heady at that time, I was working with people who I hadn’t before and there were a lot of people throwing ideas. I couldn’t really pull the reins as much as to where it was going.

“I came up with the bass line years ago, and I took that to that session. It’s hard to describe the process, collaborations are difficult when you don’t know the people that well, it’s harder to jump on the same page – everyone knew that. Again, it’s an experience, and when we went to produce Feel’s Good we were more in sync, so I think that Sins of A Solider is a melting pot of ideas, that’s why it’s interesting.

“If someone’s into golf, then they’re gonna care about all their clubs, right? As a musician, you care about all these little things that you can’t really expect other people to that are outside of your head, so there’s that. I love when people take time to take a song in and listen to it again and again, that’s one of the biggest compliments.”

  • XamVolo’s debut album, All The Sweetness On The Surface is released on Friday, January 18. He plays Liverpool’s Arts Club on Thursday, February 7.

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