- Thu, 2004-05-20 15:45
On the eve of his first headline tour, Lemar discusses how he’s coping with fame, his plans for album #2 and just what we can expect from his live shows...
ILM: The tour kicks off on 30th May, but you’ve already done some shows. What were they like?
Lemar: It was a whole new experience for me. For the first time ever I had a support act, my own show. It sold out two nights at Shepherd’s Bush, which was amazing and it seemed like everyone was singing along to every song. The audience was properly up for it and they were with me till the whole end, so it was just a great experience.
ILM: Was it weird to go out there alone for the first time and think ‘This is my show’?
Lemar: Yeah, extremely weird – extremely! Especially when you know, I spent eight, nine years supporting other people, so to finally get to the stage where I’m headlining my own shows and people are coming to me and doing support acts for me, it makes you give a hundred percent.
ILM: Do you feel you’re going to be much more comfortable on this tour because you’ve done it all before?
Lemar: Yes. Trying to get into the industry, you’re always trying to prove yourself; whereas now I feel much more like - my album’s out, people will know me and the people who are coming now are coming to hear my interpretation of what they’ve bought. It’s a nice feeling and I want to give them their money’s worth - and some change! You do all the TV promotion, you do all the interviews, all the radio to get them into the theatre or the arena or the club, but that’s where you can also lose them, you know? So I’m intent that when you come, you leave with the impression that Lemar’s a really good singer.
ILM: Where are you going with this tour?
Lemar: All over the place. I’m in Manchester, I’m in Oxford, I’m in London, I’m in Bournemouth, I’m in Plymouth… What I like about this job is that every day is a new experience: you meet somebody new, you chat to different people.
ILM: Do you get a different vibe performing in different parts of the country?
Lemar: Yes, it’s like the further you go up England, the madder it gets! All the artists come to London, so Londoners will get impressed and they’ll come over and say ‘That was really, really good’, and they will give it up, but you have to work for it. Now I think I’m slightly spoilt because I’m a little bit more well-known, so when I go on stage I’m getting a bit of love and it’s cool. But come outside London and they’re like, ‘Aaaargh!’ Come to the top and you can just stand on the stage and they’ll go ‘Aaaargh!’ It’s great.
ILM: Will there be celebrities in attendance on this tour?
Lemar: Do you know, actually on this tour I’ve got to invite Beverley [Knight] down. That would be great; actually you have given me a great idea. And Jamelia, she’s a cool, she’s a friend. Maybe she’ll come down and check it out too.
ILM: You must know a lot of celebrities from the scene?
Lemar: Again, it’s like at work, man: you pass people. You say ‘hi’ and have a little banter, but to go out and hang? I don’t even go out myself that much, because of the work rate: you don’t even get to see your family and your friends that much, so to hang out with popstars… When it’s time to rest, you have to rest. The last four days are the first four days I’ve had off I think this year; it’s just constant, constant. On those days I just sleep.
ILM: Have you been surprised at how mad it’s gone for you?
Lemar: Yeah, I’m extremely surprised and extremely happy. You try so much and the reason you try so much for so many years is because you believe there is something there. So it coming is less a surprise, and more a relief. But I was prepared for the long haul, and how big it’s gone is a massive surprise for me - and a grateful one.
I’ve seen some extremely talented people that don’t have a chance, some extremely talented people that do have a chance and mess it up, and some people that are just OK and go on to become megastars. You just play with the hand you’re dealt, I guess. I know that it is not a hundred percent down to ability; it’s just that you’ve got an opportunity and you should be grateful for it. So for every person who buys a CD or says ‘You’ve done well’, for me, that’s a humbling thing.
ILM: What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Lemar: For me, the Brits. I brought out the singles, they did well; I brought out the album, that was great; but when I got the Brit I got to thank my family, got to thank my mum and my dad, got to thank Best Kept Secret, my management, the company, all in front of the fans and the whole of the industry. For years I was going to all those companies and the door wasn’t really opening, so for them to witness that, it was good stuff.
ILM: Haven’t you just come back from Australia?
Lemar: Australia is a beautiful place. I really enjoyed it, but you don’t really get to see much of places, because you are just work, work, work. But I really am enjoying the travelling and seeing different places. After that I went to LA and met a few producers because on the second album, I want to push things a little bit; I want the songs to be slightly better, I want the production to be improved. It’s going well.
ILM: Who are you going to be working with?
Lemar: I’m going to be working with Best Kept Secret again; I’ve done a song with Brian McKnight, which is pretty cool; Jam & Lewis, I met them this time and I am actually going back to do some songs. They’re great, they’re legends. Standing in the same room and talking about where I want to go, in what direction, it was great stuff.
Also Mike City I met up with, and Diane Warren - if you see her office, she owns like the top floor of some building and has just got every disc from every major artist and there’s like millions and millions and millions of them! She’s extremely, extremely great at writing. I went to have a listen, I mean, meeting these types of people can only improve you; from a writing perspective to the way you approach the whole music industry, it can only improve you.
ILM: Do you think it’ll be tough trying to crack the US?
Lemar: Yes. You’ve got to focus, put in the hard work and also concentrate on songs. I think soul did much better in England than the whole r n’ b scene mainly because it’s more song-based and we appreciate a good song. Rock and pop is quite dominant over here, but most rock songs are songs: chorus, verse, middle eight, storyline, melody. So if I can concentrate on that, then try and put in soul, or try and put in an r n’ b edge, maybe that’ll be a slight difference.
ILM: Have you had a pinch me moment?
Lemar: Pinch me moment! There is no route into anything, just a young guy from Tottenham with a dream.
ILM: Do you still live in Tottenham?
Lemar: I have moved, but I’m still in North London. Everyone’s just supportive. I love Tottenham and everyone’s cool with me. I love the area and I go back there once in a while for chicken.
ILM: Shame about the football though...
Lemar: Oh man. We’re going to come back up again. We’re going to come back in, there’s faith, there’s faith!
ILM: Is music harder than working in a bank [Lemar’s former profession]?
Lemar: The work is harder. You actually work much longer hours, but it’s much more fun. And the pay is slightly better; I get a better hourly rate!
ILM: Have you seen any guys from the bank since you left?
Lemar: Oh yeah. My really, really good mate Steve works there, and they’re just happy for me; because the whole time I was there, four or five years at Natwest, they knew I was trying to do music, so the fact that I succeeded and I’m doing it - they’ll be happy.
ILM: How are you coping with the whole sex symbol thing?
Lemar: I’m not complaining! I’m not one to take that title and I’m not one to give it to someone else, but if someone says that, I won’t complain; it doesn’t hurt the ego! But I just reckon you have to do what you do, and try to ignore everything else around you.