- Course: BA English and Music
- Year of graduation: 2010
- Nationality: British
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your current career?
I am a multi-platinum selling music producer, songwriter and DJ. I have written and produced 11 UK official charts top 20 records, including 8 top 10s. I have also contributed to 6 UK #1 albums and songs I have written have had around 4bn streams across Spotify and Apple Music. During my third year exams at Leeds I signed a record deal with Parlophone/FFRR records as one half of Blonde, a dance music production/DJ duo. With Blonde I sold over 2.5m records in the UK, amassed over 250m streams and 165m YouTube views and toured the world for 6 years. Highlights of the touring include DJing at Wembley and the o2 Arenas in London, playing weekly in Ibiza (Pacha, Ushuaia, Amnesia) for three summers and multiple performances at Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds Festival. I also travelled extensively for shows across Europe, North America and Asia. In 2018 I started to shift my focus to writing and producing music for other artists. I was fortunate enough to work with Louis Tomlinson, Craig David, Jason Derulo, Anne-Marie, Ella Eyre, The Vamps, Paloma Faith and Macklemore in the first year. I also wrote a song for Rudimental and Ed Sheeran which sold over 4m units worldwide. Recently I have been writing and producing for artists including: Aitch, Digga D, Goddard & Venbee, Tion Wayne, KSI, Nines, Bad Boy Chiller Crew, ArrDee, Bandokay, Headie One and A1 x J1.
How do you think the skills and knowledge you developed at Leeds helped with your career success?
My time studying at Leeds allowed me to develop my critical thinking skills which I feel has been immensely beneficial to navigating the music industry. I found myself quite prepared to understand and negotiate complex legal contracts which I believe is in part down to the tuition I received while at Leeds. Attending talks from alumni at the music department given by individuals with real world music careers and seeing how well I could relate to them really made me feel that I could do it myself. I think that was a big confidence boost. My aesthetics and criticism module in particular, led by Professor Martin Iddon, really shaped the way in which I approached music from a conceptual and philosophical standpoint. The city of Leeds itself was completely pivotal in my music career. I worked since first year as a music promoter for an independent promotions company called the Iron Wagon. I helped to promote and run shows at Wire, Hifi, The Irish Centre, The Faversham and Beaverworks. It was during this time that I developed my skills as a DJ and became interested in music production. Without the city’s strong music scene and love of dance culture I’m not sure my career would’ve turned out in the same manner.
What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?
I was initially attracted to the Joint Honours program as I couldn’t decide between English (which I felt was a more sensible and broad degree to provide a solid foundation for more career based specialisation) or Music which had been a lifelong passion and something which I felt very strongly about. The fact that I was able to study both allowed me to stay connected to the subject I am passionate about.
What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?
I really enjoyed the smaller class size seminars, both the contemporary literature module in English and the Contemporary Aesthetics and Criticism module in Music that I studied during my time at Leeds were specifically memorable. I felt like the smaller group sizes allowed for more free and creative discussion around topics and it was very engaging.
What would you say about the learning and the support facilities in your School and at the University in general?
I really enjoyed the facilities, I didn’t specifically utilise any of the support on offer as I had a very straightforward experience at the University but I always felt very comfortable in the School of Music in particular. It had a really nice energy and feel to it as a space.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?
Both courses were really well devised and challenging. I think they were pretty fundamental to my personal development and fostered a real love of self-educating in me which I am still very passionate about to this day. I think for someone who considered music to be a potential vocation then the Music course offered a safe and exciting environment in which to explore the angles and opportunities one could take in establishing a music career.