Interview/Premiere: Sheldon Agwu

Today we’ve got the premiere play of the brand new track ‘Nightlife’ from London-based beatmaker and multi-instrumentalist Sheldon Agwu.

With this new release, Agwu announces the continuation of his ‘Seeds of Sanctum’ EP series. As Agwu’s guitar playing shines on ‘Nightlife’, J Dilla-esque production and an affinity for Stones Throw artists like Kiefer combine with a love for jazz language.

The sound is experimental and, at first, listen, might sound rough. When you examine the track closer, you’ll find an intricate combination of guitar, beats, and electronica.

“I wrote this music to share where I’m at musically as an Artist/Producer. This is a collection of all my musical experiences and influences so far, and is an honest representation of my upbringing in London.”

We caught up with Agwu to ask him a few questions about the EP, his earliest musical memories, influences and more.

Hey Sheldon. Where are you up to at the moment?

Hey man, what’s up, these days I’m spending most of my time checking out new music, listening to podcasts, buying artwork, doing a bit of crate digging here and there, and also some teaching.

What’s your earliest musical memory? Also, when did making music become your job?

My earliest musical memories were listening to my Dad play at home and watching him in Church; I remember he used to record himself onto cassette tapes. The sound he had, was very warm analogue tremolo and him singing his own style, which he called “African Native Blues” I even remember what the inside of the guitar case smelt like! I used to follow him around to rehearsals when I was really young, and being exposed to music in an environment where music was played for something more than oneself, that taught me about what it means to play music from the soul and heart; at the end of the day, we all have one. What comes from the heart touches the heart.

Honestly, I’ve never really seen music as a job, but the older I get, and the more I pursue it, you start to see it as a way of life, and I guess being able to sustain yourself doing it turns it into a job, or a better term would be a career, one that you’re truly passionate about.

Tell us about your forthcoming EP. How does the sound compare to the first “Seeds of Sanctum”?

I spent a lot of time in my home studio working on it and learnt a great deal. Compared to the first one, I guess the sound is a little bit more refined. I was getting more into textures and sonics, understanding more about mics; I also was playing and recording more instruments like Drums, Keys and Bass. I was thinking more about the overall track and what I thought it needed to be elevated. So, there was less focus on guitar playing.

What’s the story behind the project’s title? Is there any theme or inspiration running through the EP series?

During the lockdown, I turned my garden shed into a little creative space where I can record, write, produce, practice and teach. The reason I called it the sanctum was because it signifies personally how far I’ve come since making that subconscious decision to pursue music. When you’re a kid, and you get bit by the music bug, you don’t really know how to go about it; you just know you’ve fallen in love with this never-ending vast world that is music and the arts in general. So yeah, that’s pretty much that….

From where do you draw your musical influences?

In terms of musical influences, I have many, and they keep growing; that’s the beauty of it all.

How do you manage your time between producing music, session playing,and being the musical director for the house bands at the Jazz Café and XOYO?

During the past couple of years, I took a back seat from session playing and leading tribute bands to focus solely on my own music. Those experiences were amazing and learnt a lot from that time. I think working on your own stuff requires your full attention.

Could you share some of the tunes you are digging at the moment?

Man, I know I’m probably late in the game, but currently, I’ve been listening to a lot of Madlib; his stuff always sounds incredible; also, Jeff Parker he’s one of those Artists/Musicians who wears a lot of different musical hats, he keeps surprising me, and also a lot of the Blue Note Albums from the mid 50’s to the late ’60s especially. I guess some stand-alone tracks would be ‘Canto de Ossanha’ by Dorothy Ashby from her album Dorothy’s Harp, ‘Prelude’ by Madlib from his album Yesterdays New Quintet, ‘Jrifted’ by Jeff Parker from his album called The New Breed, and ‘All Night Long’ by Freddie Roach, from his album Brown Sugar.

What is the greatest pleasure for you in playing your music?

I think the greatest pleasure in playing your own music is that you’re telling your own story about your influences and your experiences they all shape you. I believe there’s a lot of power in that, and I don’t think anyone can take that away from you.

Do you have any upcoming gigs?

I’m in the early stages of putting together a live set based on the material I’ve been putting out these past few years. Once I get that ready, I plan on playing it live. I’m very much looking forward to that.

CF Smith

Permeating your ears with good music.

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