Who: Rocky NTI
What: Music Artist
Spotify: Rocky Nti
how to get signed to virgin music
Rocky Nti is a music artist and has just released his new track ‘Follow you’, which can be found on Spotify.
In the last 12 months he’s supported the likes of Tom Grennan and Sundara Karma. He’s also written with Kano, Jake Gosling and Olly Burden (the Prodigy) and Dimitri Tikovoi. He’s made an appearance at Glastonbury Festival, BBC Radio 1 playlist additions and the sold-out European tour with Panic! At the disco.
Introduce yourself and tell us where you’re from?
Rocky, I was born in North London and I grew up in a small place called Milton Keynes. I moved back down to London, kept making noise, met some amazing people and that’s fast forwarded to now hoping people like my music. People seem to, which is great and that’s why I keep doing it really. I’ve just put out some new music and been working on new records. I think I’m making the best music I’ve ever made so far.
How old are you and how long have you been singing for?
I used to do musicals so I’ve been singing since I was a kid, but I only started singing from the age of 14 when I found a guitar in my garage. I’ve been properly writing songs for about 10/12 years now. Instead of getting drunk in the park I was just sat at home listening to the radio teaching myself how to play and writing songs. I moved to London when I was 19 to do music professionally. I went to university in Bath Spa to study acting. I was going to go to America to study, I got a scholarship but I couldn’t afford to go. I went to university because that was what everyone was doing.
”It’s this man-made concept of life that we’ve created for ourselves. Go to school, then get a degree, move to a big city, get a job somewhere and then get married and life ends at 30. Then you stop! It’s a blessing that I went to university because I made more music there and it got me into the scene because a music manager saw my video. It seemed like a detour at the time, but it was where I was supposed to go” - Rocky
Your music is often described as indie pop infused with West Africa. What kind of genre would you describe yourself as?
I just make it. It’s only until now, where there’s a cohesive body of work that I’m kind of like ah this is what it is. Sometimes creatives go in with a blueprint of what they want to create in terms of painters who can see a picture or architects who can see the buildings in their heads. Whereas I went in with an open mind to do whatever. I’ve got a load of songs that are afro-indie and alternative pop kind of vibes. It’s got roots from Ghana and London because that’s what I’ve grown up listening to.
How would you describe the typical Rocky listener?
The more I put out music, the more I’m surprised at the type of people that like it. The beauty of music is that some songs are genre-less and some can cross genres. Some artist can appeal to loads of different people especially in a globalized society that we live in now. I don’t try to pigeon hole stuff because then you have a danger of excluding a lot of people. The typical Rocky listener just wants to dance! I’m not a sad guy and I don’t make sad music; I’ll leave that to the Weeknd. I just try and make up-beat stuff.
Your signed to Virgin music? When did you get signed?
I signed in April, so it’s relatively new. Again, it’s another step on the journey. A lot of people are like wow you’re signed (like you’re married) that’s the end. I wish I could retire. Like any sort of entrepreneur doing a start-up, I’ve just got an investor behind me so I just have to make sure I still believe and create amazing products through my songs. To be able to create a vision and a world where people want to live in and Virgin are going to push that which is great.
Tell us about your journey up to getting signed and how does one get signed by Virgin?
OK so here’s a 101 on how to get signed…
”Find your unique voice. Not necessarily just your vocal chords but find what you’re going to talk about. Find your story and how you’re going to articulate that”
Step 2: Get dope management because you’re only as strong as your team around you and they’ll be able to open doors for you that you can’t open yourself. It’s like a tree, you’ll only grow as tall as the foundation in your roots.
Step 3: Write bangers. You have to make hits. There’s a genius in writing a song that people like and there’s time and dedication that you need to allocate towards being able to create something that connects with people personally.
Step 4: Meet an A&R (Artists and repertoire) that you really like, in terms of a record label that really believes in your vision. People talk about labels as these massive corporations but at the end of the day they’re just people within a building and you just need to find your people.
Step 5: Look sick! Make sure your aesthetics are on fleek, because it’s so important in the modern age. Articulate your vision in a creative way. It’s just as important as having dope music. We’re visual creatures and we see and perceive the world around us. To think that your profile picture isn’t massively important is a massive loss. The pictures you take and the content you create is just as important as you.
If you nail all of those, you’ll be signed easily!
Just on Step 4 and how you said you need to connect with your listeners on an emotional level, where do you get inspiration for your lyrics from?
I write from a subconscious point of view and it takes me a while to reflect. I try to switch off in the studio and try and catch a vibe and capture the energy that’s in the room. I think what’s as important as making a dope song is that you need to be in a space to create. Later on you reflect and think oh that song was about that person.
Your creativity is like a muscle and because I’ve been using that for ten years, it’s easy to tap into.
You’ve written with the likes of Kano and Jake Gosling and Olly burden. Tell us more about your experiences with writing with Kano because you’ve both very different genres.
I grew up listening to home sweet home, and ‘night night’ is still one of my favourite love songs of all time. It’s a genius song. I was working with a guy called Jackwob and we’ve been making music for a long time together. Jack and I made this really left, dark progressive hipster song for banter…
…& then Kano came in sat in silence whilst we played it. Then he was like this is sick, I want to spit on it!
So we sat there in silence for an hour, with the song on loop and then he was like ‘I’m ready’ steps up onto the mic and then starts spitting these versus off the top of his head. It was a moment of experience in excellence. When you see someone at the top of their game. Someone that’s been flexing their creative muscle in a genius way and iron sharpens iron. Those people are top of their game for a reason and when you’re working with them it elevates you.
Would you say it’s important to work with artists from all different genres to really broaden your horizons?
You never want to put yourself in a box. If you want to work with someone work with someone. The most irrelevant relationships I’ve thought have been the most fruitful. Sometimes when it’s unorthodox for example a classic violinist. Sometimes experimenting fails but you’re always going to lose if you play it safe.
Coming from an African background, what were your parents like growing up and were they supportive of your singing career?
Stereotypically, they shouldn’t have been but my parents are amazing humans. My dad said if I’m going to do this music thing then make sure you get money, which is a valid point. As much as you want to be a free spirit and be creative, you have to pay your bills and be realistic. My parents are a perfect blend because my mum’s a dreamer and my dad’s really pragmatic, which makes it a good balance.
What would you say you are?
I’m probably a dreamer. I try to be a hard -worker and I have a dream but I also know that the only person that’s going to make it possible is me. No one else if going to believe in my vision more than me and no one should. It’s weird if you think that other people are going to champion you more than you are.
Had you ever thought about giving it all up and getting an office job?
Everyday. Admitting that is fine. There’s a taboo (in all aspects of life) and if you have a doubt about anything it’s wrong. It’s fine to doubt yourself sometimes as long as you keep preserving. It would be a lie to say it’s easy. Every level you want to get to you have to sacrifice something. Life is about sacrificing and making calculated risks. I couldn’t do an office job, but maybe a creative role?
Who would you love to collaborate with in the music industry?
I want to be on a Kanye West album. Doing work with Justin Vernon would be amazing. He doesn’t really do what I do but I think he’s just a genius. Or Chance the Rapper, James Blake all those kinds of people, it would be great to get them in a room to hear their stories. Not just to make music but to talk.
What’s been your biggest mistake year to date and what have you learnt from this?
There’s not many things that I would want to re-do but in my early career I listened to a lot of people and followed them on how I should handle my project and relationships. I hid behind my management or label. I was a people pleaser and I’ve realised that you can’t please everyone.
What’s the big dream for you and the 5-year plan?
I don’t allow myself to have a 5-year plan anymore. I’ve realised that music is a part of my life and it’s not all of it. The past year I’ve learnt what to hold on to tightly and what to take lightly and I think music was something I was just suffocating in my own hand, whereas I’ve kind of let go of it a bit more.
I’m excited about having a family one day and fulfilling my potential. To look back in 5 years and think ‘you smashed it’. To have done as much as I could in those years. The only person you can judge yourself to is who you were yesterday. You can’t judge yourself to anyone else. Earlier I was comparing myself to everyone around me, loads of my friends are mad successful. I knew Ed, Loyle Carner, Jesse before they blew up and I was judging my success against theirs.
How did you get your name out there in the early stages?
It was just a graft. We I started playing guitar I went to every open-mic night I could go to. I think when you find something you’re passionate about you’re never going to feel like you’re grafting.
I have a passion for creating music and that’s how I’m tailored. So I would go to events, the studio, open-mic nights. I was just about.
I think you need to be discerning with what season you’re in. Sometimes you need to be active and sometimes you need to hibernate. In the early stages of my career, it was about getting out there and then there were times where I would just hibernate and create. You are your own brand.
One thing you wish you knew when starting out as an artist?
That it was going to be this tough. If I could tell myself that it was going to be really fun and it’s going to be the best adventure you’ll ever be on but it’s gunna be an uphill struggle. Because none of my family or friends were in music, I was going into it completely blind. I didn’t realise how hard and gritty it really is.
You have to realise it’s a lonely world and prepare yourself for that.
What does the definition of success mean to you?
Fulfilling potential. Financial freedom (not restricted to create and support your family and friends), revelation; in terms of understanding my faith and who God is and then being able to give love and receive that love back. So, my success would be filling those three things.
So rather than focusing on one thing, I want holistic growth on all the spheres of my life. If everything was popping then that would be cool.
What brings you real joy at the minute? Like, real unadulterated happiness?
I was sat on the beach in Brighton, reading a C. S. Lewis book and in that moment I understood peace. Also, listening to podcasts. I was listening to one by Rob Bell who was doing an interview on faith and theology and I’ve had real moments of revelation. Whether that would be creatively or where someone articulates what you’re feeling and have been thinking.
In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)?
Things that don’t belong to me. I’ve been more understanding of who I am and where my journey is. What I want to include in the story of my life. If your life is a book and every day is presented to you and you want your story to be written in a certain way. There are certain things from a day to day perspective which you should abstain from.
If I want financial freedom, revelation and to give and receive love, what I do on a day to day basis will determine that. Being able to say no to the things that don’t point me towards that. Life isn’t fair and nobody owes you anything. The truth is, if you don’t work hard and if you don’t align yourself to the ultimate goal in your life it will not happen. Now I’ve been learned to focus on what’s mine and to just go towards that.
What’s your favourite song?
If I’m at home chilling then I’ll listen to Bon Iver’s cover of I can’t make you love me. If you want to get into your feelings that’s the one. To turn up to, I’ll listen to ASAP Rocky and Skepta -Praise the Lord. Bethel Music – Breathe (spontaneous) is also one of my top three.
If you had to gift one book what would it be and why?
12 rules for life by Jordan B. Peterson.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, what would it say and why?
It sucks now, but it’s gunna be temporary. There is joy to be found in the dirt of life.
15 AUGUST, 2018