Brighton UK’s Steven Bamidele returns this fall with Uncrowded, an EP that thoughtfully mines isolation, loss, and heartbreak into raw, revelatory soul music.
Born in Jebba, Nigeria to a Nigerian mother and white British father, Bamidele grew up in Long Melford, Suffolk as one of the few, and often only, children of colour (themes around racial isolation and its stark personal impact reverberates in Bamidele’s music today). Raised on the sounds of church music via his mother’s choir vocals, it wasn’t until a music lesson in Year 5 that the creative spark in a young Bamidele was ignited and immediately recognized by his teachers. Teenage years would see the budding musician harnessing pop-punk, rap, hip-hop and rock infused influences into his own evolving sound. Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie and Marvin Gaye eventually became sonic and political touchstones, and after founding a series of hometown bands, alongside collaborator and friend Max Bridges (now bassist for Stretch Soul Gang), Bamidele went solo.
Despite releasing a string of stunning solo EPs since 2017, by 2019 Bamidele was on the verge of quitting his own music after the death of his father and the ensuing pandemic. “I started producing for other people to take pressure off of the ego and the constant self-examination of being a solo songwriter,” he explains, summing up a year of personal and collective loss. The following twelve months, however, was profoundly transformative, leading Bamidele back to tracks “Tethered” and “Painted Over” that had sat unfinished for years. “There’s something about a song being with you for a long period of time that seems to give it extra gravity. I like hanging around with the music and whenever it’s ready to go, it’s ready.”
Bamidele’s latest self-produced release ‘Uncrowded’ (out October 15 via Park The Van) is neo-soul with raw edges. On the George Floyd inspired track, “Other Side,” Bamidele’s conviction bursts forward with a sense of purpose and hope as he sings about the world-wide uprising that now defines 2020. “As a person of color who has grown up in largely white parts of the UK, there are a lot of feelings and conversations I’ve felt I couldn’t have, for fear of rocking the boat and making people uncomfortable,” Bamidele explains. “I’ve never had many friends who look like me, and so my frustration with racism often seemed like unwarranted anger, rather than completely justified retaliation to unfair treatment.”
On “Other Side” Bamidele’s aim was to make a song for the oppressed. “I wanted to make a song that anyone who has been subjugated can resonate with, whether that be due to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion etc,” Bamidele makes clear. “The video needed to reflect this too, so I was adamant to get a director-of-colour on board. That led us to Trevor Banks, who has done an amazing job capturing the emotion in the track.”
Photo Courtesy: Alex Butcher