Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020)
Like many of the best things in life, the genesis of London producer Fred again..’s debut album lies in a chance meeting on a night out. “I met a guy called Carlos in a bar in Atlanta,” the London producer born Fred Gibson tells Apple Music. “And he just had the most joyous spirit. I had some videos on my phone from the night, and when I got back to the hotel, I dragged them into Logic and began to make a song out of them.” Soon, this became a key element of his working process, and one he dubbed “Actual Life.” “Why write a song about an experience when you can just make the song out of the experience?” he says. He began trawling old videos on his phone and recording phone conversations and ended up releasing tracks featuring snippets of friends.
After working on tracks by artists including FKA twigs, Romy, Ed Sheeran, and Burna Boy, collaborating with Headie One on the GANG project, and being named Producer of the Year at The BRITs in February 2020, he spent much of the rest of the year focused on turning his Actual Life concept into his first full-length album. “It’s called Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020) because I want every album I make to be a kind of diary entry of the time it was made,” he says. “I like to try and shine a light on the things that otherwise seem unglamorous.” With Gibson citing a friend falling seriously ill and the upheaval of lockdown as two key influences on the record, Actual Life demonstrates his knack for creating an unshakable hook and is at times heart-wrenching and melancholic but always imbued with a healthy sense of optimism and the joy of life. “I went through some tough things this last year, but I often think the most optimistic people are those doing it in the face of adversity,” he says. “Hopefully that comes across in the music.” Here, he talks us through some key tracks on the album.
“Kyle (I Found You)” “This was the first tune I made for the project, and the vocal is from Kyle Tran Myhre, a poet I found on Instagram who goes by the name of Guante. The sample is him reading at an open-mic night, and he has such a beautifully nervous but lovable spirit. Musically, it’s quite influenced by a few nights I spent in [Berlin techno club] Berghain at the start of . You wouldn’t think it from the chords and vocal of the track, but the drums underneath have that very reverb-heavy sound you’d get on a techno record.”
“Julia (Deep Diving)” “I found Julia [Michaels] on Instagram too, and she’s a singer-songwriter. She has the most infectiously joyful tone to her voice and there’s a real innocence to her speaking tone. She’s got a beautiful singing voice too, but her speaking voice is just so special to me. I think this track really captures the joy of falling in love with someone.”
“Big Hen (Steal My Joy)” “I made this track at 5 am on a beautiful summer’s day in August . I decided to get up really early to work on music and this just came together so quickly. The drums obviously have a garage influence. It’s a really hopeful and joyful song.”
“Angie (I’ve Been Lost)” “The interlude just before this track is a reprise of a lot of the memories and samples on the record, and then the track kind of concludes the record. It’s funny because it feels like it ends on a positive note, but really it’s me trying to say I don’t know what’s going on and how I’m feeling. The sample is from Angie McMahon, an amazing singer I saw play to, like, 20 people in a basement a while back. When she says, ‘I’ve been lost, I’ve been lost, but I’m really trying,’ I think you can take that sentence in a few different ways.”
“Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)” “So this features Marea Stamper, aka The Blessed Madonna. I met Marea initially in Palestine at a trip for songwriters organized by [creative group] Block9 and Banksy. She’s such an open book and a real bastion of the human spirit, and we’ve been good friends since. This sample came from a conversation we were having on Zoom about what’s happened to our industry this year and hopefully what will come next. She’s such a natural orator and a great example of someone who’s optimistic in the face of adversity. This song’s almost like a bonus track, as it looks ahead to what’s coming next.”