Stare Into the Sun
Colours, the debut album from Britain’s Graffiti6, is as vividly vibrant as both the project’s moniker and its album title suggest: an uncategorizable mélange of pop, psychedelia, R&B, and British Northern Soul that fully capitalizes on the soaring uplift of Jamie Scott’s emotionally transparent voice and gift for melody and TommyD’s irresistible rhythms and inventive production. Songs like “Stone In My Heart,” “Stare Into The Sun,” “Annie You Save Me,” and “Free” are “latter-day psych-soul nuggets, all phased vocals and sunshine melodies given the warp factor,” as London’s Guardian newspaper put it, while the remainder of Colours zigzags all over the musical map from the folk-soul balladry of “Goodbye Geoffrey Drake,” to the spare, gospel-inflected feel of “Over You,” to the down-tempo sultriness of “Calm The Storm,” to the jangly indie-rock vibe of “Lay Me Down.” “For me, the unexpectedness of the sound is the whole point,” Scott says. “It’s fun to mess with people’s heads.”
The relentless experimentation on Colours reflects the lively imagination of its creators, singer-songwriter Jamie Scott and songwriter-producer Tommy Danvers (who goes by TommyD) — both London-born multi-instrumentalists who began making music together in 2009 and decided to call the resulting collaboration Graffiti6. (A third member, the British artist and illustrator Jimi Crayon, designs all of Graffiti6’s artwork and is responsible for their bold logo and Technicolor visuals.)
Scott grew up enthralled with soul and folk music, thanks to his father’s love for Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, and Marvin Gaye, and his mother’s predilection toward James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell. Upon hearing Mitchell’s Blue at the age of seven, Scott picked up a guitar and taught himself to play. “At school, friends would be talking about bands like Bon Jovi and I didn’t have a clue who they were talking about as I didn’t start to listen to pop radio till I was 15,” he says. Scott began writing songs, and, by 17, had left school to focus on a career as a musician. He signed his first publishing deal at 20, followed by a record deal with Sony Music in the U.K., and began working with Jamiroquai keyboardist Toby Smith, but his album was never released due to the merger between Sony and BMG. After signing with Polydor in 2006, Scott released his solo debut album, Park Bench Theories, under the name Jamie Scott and the Town. The album was a folky, acoustic-based affair on which Scott was backed by members of the Scottish band Travis. Jamie Scott and the Town toured for two years (including opening for Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, and Take That) and built up a sizable following in Europe and Asia.
Scott was considering working with new collaborators as a way to repackage the album when an A&R executive at Polydor suggested he meet Danvers, who had remixed tracks by Michael Jackson and Björk, and arranged and orchestrated concerts and recordings, along with his wife, for Kanye West, Jay-Z, Adele, Beyoncé, and Noel Gallagher, among others. A multi-instrumentalist, Danvers grew up listening to psychedelic rock, punk, and blues music before falling in love with hip-hop at age 17. “Public Enemy, Run-DMC, LL Cool J — it was that era,” he says. “I used to fly to New York City just to buy records and sneakers.” Danvers played guitar, keyboards, drums, and sang in a number of bands around South London, worked as a tape op in a commercial studio, and sold musical and studio equipment before he began DJ’ing at a local club at age 18. Over the next 13 years, Danvers made a name for himself as a DJ. He was a resident at Ministry of Sound and a regular at Cream and Back to Basics in the U.K., as well as Danceteria, Twilo, and DV8 in the U.S. Influenced by the sound of New York’s Paradise Garage and the rise of House music, Danvers formed a production duo with musician/DJ Jeremy Healy under the name Ezee Posse. Around that time, Danvers was asked to produce a track by an unsigned band called Right Said Fred. The song, “I’m Too Sexy,” debuted at No. 1 in the U.S. and hit the Top 10 in nine countries. Although it propelled his remix career, Danvers was more interested in writing, which led to his penning several songs for KT Tunstall, Corinne Bailey Rae, Janet Jackson, and Kylie Minogue. “Jamie came along soon after that,” Danvers says.
“Tommy and I hit it off straight away,” Scott says. “I brought in an idea I had for a folk thing I was doing and he said, ‘Let’s go for it,’ so we wrote it on acoustic guitar.” The track was “Stare Into The Sun.” Scott left to go on holiday for two weeks and received an email from Danvers when he returned saying he’d done a bit of work on the track and what did Jamie think? “When I first heard it, I was like, ‘What the f**k has he done to my song?’” Scott says with a laugh. “I was literally fuming. I had been expecting it to sound like my solo album. But then after listening to it a few times, I thought, ‘That’s not going on Park Bench Theories, but I love it.’”
“I was already a fan of Jamie’s music,” Danvers says. “He was playing in this intricate style with amazing lyrics, and I just said, ‘Look, you’ve got to let rip on this, mate.’ We both love a lot of the same music, so I think I awakened the Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye in him. He has a truly unique voice. It doesn’t sound like anyone else and that’s what I love about it.”
Rather than repackage Scott’s solo album and have Danvers produce it, the two decided to start writing original material together. “I didn’t want it to be a producer producing a solo artist,” Scott says. “It was a collaboration. The sound was just too strong to be anything else.” “Basically we just thought, ‘This is really good, there’s something happening here between us,’” Danvers says. “A musical relationship is very much like a personal relationship in the sense that you’ve got to just see where the road takes you, so we put our heads down, shut the doors, and kept working.” Over the next year and a half, the songs began to pour out. “It opened a door to a whole new way I could start thinking about some of the songs, with all these big harmonies,” Scott says. Indeed every song on Colours can be stripped down and performed on acoustic guitars and sound just as exciting. Check YouTube for Graffiti6’s stellar versions of “Annie You Save Me,” “Stone In My Heart,” “Calm The Storm,” and “Lay Me Down,” as well as covers of Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” and Black Eyed Peas’ “I Got A Feeling.” Graffiti6’s live shows have also earned them a growing devoted fanbase around the world.
“We really are just two musicians enjoying the sound we make,” Danvers says. “It’s a sound that neither of us could make without the other.”
Graffiti6 released Colours on their own NWFree Music label in the U.K. in October 2010 and in April 2011 signed to Capitol Records, which will release a digital EP in June, followed by Colours later this year. Their songs have already been heard on such shows as Grey’s Anatomy, Covert Affairs, CSI: NY, One Tree Hill, and in the new MTV series Teen Wolf. Scott has relocated from London to Los Angeles and is looking forward to spending much of his time Stateside. “I’ve been signed to record labels for nine years and I’ve always wanted to come to America,” he says. “It was the one place where we got a load of love right away from the industry, so the minute my manager said, ‘Let’s do it, let’s move,’ I said, ‘I’ve got my bags packed, man. I’ve had them packed for nine years.’”