Actual Life 2 (February 2 - October 15 2021)

Actual Life 2 (February 2 - October 15 2021)

When Fred again.. began work on Actual Life 2 (February 22 - October 15 2021), the BRIT Award-winning producer saw it as a way to close the book on the most traumatic period of his life. Still processing the grief of losing a loved one, he imagined that making his second solo album would be a way to get through and move on. Instead, he learned that life doesn’t work that way. Grief has long legs. “I was like, ‘Yeah, OK, this is going to be the journey through grief, from it being there and unbearable to it all being solved,” Fred Gibson, the man behind the handle, tells Apple Music. “By the end, I was like, ‘This is an ever-going thing, and this is just one chapter of it.’” Following up on his debut, Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020), released in April 2021, it’s a soulful and emotional dance record. Blending euphoric bangers and atmospheric electronica, it confirms the producer who’s collaborated with Headie One, Stormzy, Romy, Ed Sheeran, and FKA Twigs as an exhilarating artist in his own right. Like its predecessor, Actual Life 2 (February 22 - October 15 2021) uses snippets and samples from real-life events and conversations as the foundation for intricate soundscapes. “As soon as I make a song, I start dragging in shit from my iPhone, a bunch of voice notes that I’ve recorded from around the world,” says Gibson. “I just love the way that feels, so much more than opening up some dry synth and playing some notes.” Gibson says Actual Life is an ongoing project, each LP a snapshot of his life in that particular era. “I’m going to do this forever now. It’ll be like chapters. I’m obsessed with it.” Let Fred again.. guide you through this phase, track by track. “February 2nd 2021” “It’s the first sample I found. It’s picking up from where the last album ended, beginning to try and move on from a thing. It felt very clearly like it needed to be at the beginning.” “Catrin (The City)” “I thought this lyric was just really beautiful and very much resonated with me. I adore London, and I always have, and I always will. I make most of my music just out in the city, just on benches or in museums. My real brother on this record felt like the city. It just felt very clear and honest to me that this was how the album needed to begin. I only sing four lines in this tune, but they’re like flashbacks. I see them as being montage flashbacks at different moments from last year. And then it moves forward again.” “Roze (Forgive)” “This is a sample I’d found on Instagram—someone in his bedroom singing this song. To me the feeling of it was it’s still not moving forward, it’s still reflecting on the past. But it was at least a step in there being a nostalgia over it—it wasn’t present tense. It was like, ‘This is what’s happened.’ The main breakthrough on that was finding the thing of doing it with the strings. I’m going to record a version of it actually with a string orchestra, which will be fun.” “Gigi (What You Went Through)” “This is [London singer-songwriter] Gigi Moss, a sample of her singing at a pub. Sometimes it’s very much as simple as just stumbling across someone saying what I’d want to say and then I’ll be like, ‘OK, thank you for holding my hand through that. You need to carry on helping me, and I can sample it so I can sing around it.’ I find it hard to go from a white, blank page to singing it myself off of nothing. But if there’s someone else there singing it with me, I see it as a safety blanket.” “Kahan (Last Year)” [feat. Kodak Black] “For a while, there was a version of this where I wanted it to feel like I was out of my mind, chaotic and claustrophobic. Then my brother, who I work with on lots of music, was like, ‘What if you make the opposite interpretation, just a piano?’ As soon as it was on piano, it was able to breathe. And then I was like, ‘OK, I would want to sing on this now. I need to tell my part of the story.’ It becomes more of a duet. The whole record is very much in memory mode of the previous year, and I think this song summarizes that.” “Tate (How I Feel)” “The lyric is saying, ‘I don’t know how I feel’—just that over and over again. The music sounds more positive, which I think was just how I was feeling. I couldn’t work out if it was a good or a bad thing. I think, in hindsight, it was just a pending thing. I thought I was through it. I was like, ‘We’re getting to the good bit and to a good state of mind.’ But that was definitely, definitely not the case.” “Hannah (The Sun)” “It’s in the same portion of time [of ‘Tate (How I Feel)’], of that feeling of thinking the sun’s coming through, there’s an optimism here. It was short-lived but real. I like things when the answer isn’t, ‘Yeah, and then that was that and that’s it, done.’ I like it more when it’s like, ‘It really felt like it was that, but it was a total fallacy, and you were totally wrong two weeks later.’ I’m into that side of it; it feels more human.” “Carlos (Interlude)” “Carlos is the OG. He’s the first person I met that I sampled. And I adore him and feel forever indebted to him. I’m going to try and track him down at the beginning of next year when I’m in America. Every album will sample Carlos somewhere. I like the challenge of finding new ways of using this little, 14-second video I have with Carlos. I’ve made 20 songs out of it.” “Faisal (Envelops Me)” “This is probably the song that means the most to me on the record. The verse is very much about the traumas of the year before, but I think the chorus is representing a hug of the beautiful people I have around me. I think I was coming out of the short-lived sun moment and realizing that this would be a lifelong thing. I think traumas and grief, it gets less frenetic and there—but then it just becomes part of you. It doesn’t just disappear. It just becomes you. And that’s not a bad thing; it’s just a true thing. I was making peace with the fact that there would be no leaving this behind.” “Tayla (Every Night)” “I love this sample. It’s of this amazing singer called Tayla Parx. It’s a song that we actually wrote together a time ago, but it was a ballad—it’s a song I’ve made quite a few versions of. This one felt right for this moment in this record. Before it picked up, I wanted it to have this stiller, more washed, padded moment of just a few lyrics before it starts to get some momentum.” “Tanya (Maybe Life)” “This is the beginning of a form of optimism. I like it sounding like all these loads of different voices, loads of different chops, loads of different people around you trying to help in different ways. There’s a chop of Tanya going, ‘Maybe life ain’t as bad as it seems.’ There’s a chop of Romy from The xx going, ‘You can lean on me, you can lean on me.’ There’s a chop of a whole host of other stuff, and they were representing the different people around me and the different approaches that—they’re all love, but just the different aspects of the people around me.” “Marco (And Everyone)” “I love making these reprise songs that summarize all the samples that you’ve heard in the record. On the last record, the reprise song was over this washy pad, and it was very ambient and still, so I was like, ‘OK, let’s try doing that same thing of finding a song that can incorporate everything you’ve heard, but in the opposite way of a super-driving beat.’ Also, I was like, ‘We’re picking up now; I want to be building a momentum.’” “Billie (Loving Arms)” “This is the real climax of the feeling of letting people help you, the most visceral incarnation of that. It feels like a pinger to me—just a proper, undiluted serotonin hit of falling into someone else. After a year of that whole aspect of things being gone, I think those things are even sweeter. This song felt like the pinnacle of allowing people in.” “Billie (Interlude)” “I knew that the record had to end with ‘Mollie’ because I was absolutely adamant it didn’t end with ‘Loving Arms.’ It was so insincere for it to end on ‘Loving Arms’ because that so isn’t the truth of the end of the journey—not that there is an end. I wanted to end ‘Loving Arms’ in a way that it could get into ‘Mollie’ without it being too rogue. It needed to just pause for a second to allow it the space to breathe so it could go into that last song.” “Mollie (Hear Your Name)” “If ‘Loving Arms’ is the Saturday night, the reality is much more of a Sunday afternoon. That ‘Loving Arms’ serotonin hit isn’t a sustainable state of mind. It’s more like ‘Mollie’—‘OK, actually we are more here, and this is our cruise pace and that’s OK, and we’re going to try and marathon this out as opposed to some little sprint of a gassed-up pinger’s life.’” “15th October 2021” “This is literally just me, very ill in my bed, finishing the record. It’s just a message to someone, a little minute of stillness after ‘Mollie.’”

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