Layfullstop Bringing Soul, Jazz & Hip Hop to the Modern Forefront

“Layfullstop is a unique vocalist, who uses aspects of singing and babble as a way to bring forward aspects of Soul, Jazz and Hip-Hop to the modern forefront.”

Interview and photos by Hannah Dixon

Having moved from Birmingham about six years ago to start college, Mariah feels she has found her roots and herself, as it were, in Manchester. Now, as a stand out female in a predominantly male music scene, she is about to start her final year at University studying criminology and psychology while simultaneously creating some of the freshest music in Manchester at the moment.

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POWER.

I was lucky to spend some time with Lay, taking a wee turn around the field of Fallow and putting the world to rights as she shared a little about herself, her music, and her experiences as an up and coming artist, as well as an ear opening, eye popping time in the studio witnessing some of her freshest material continue to take form.

All ears open for teetotal people! Wow, take us to Cansas, LAY

Talkin’ Demographics…

TO SUCCEED AS A STAND OUT FEMALE ARTIST IN THE PREDOMINANTLY MALE MUSIC INDUSTRY, GIRL POWER IS MOST CERTAINLY ESSENTIAL AND, INDISPUTABLY, IF ANYONE HAS IT, IT IS LAY.

“Although there is a stigma that many females capture the spotlight in Manchester Music, as much as anywhere else, simply down to the fact that they are female – which is obviously an unfair advantage, there is simultaneously that parallel issue of so many male artists producing, rapping, singing, and doing it so well, yet not receiving as much recognition.
They are disadvantaged by being one OF many, rather than one or a few AMONG many, in terms of gender anyway … not that there is a war going on or anything! – but it IS a thing, there are uneven standards that advantage and disadvantage both male and female artists.

In truth, it IS a predominantly male-driven industry, especially within certain scenes. Naturally a female might be quicker to stand out simply because she may be a rarity in making music where it is sadly less common for young females to do so in a prolific way…
I work alongside a lot of hard working individuals, largely guys, who rarely get the credit they deserve – its madness. How can all these talented guys, working hard, creating amazing stuff receive the same attention and recognition they deserve without that stand out advantage of the “woo-woo lust for the lady boobs” factor on their side…?!”

“Though gender does have influence in the dynamics and workings of the industry,
I strongly feel it shouldn’t.
Music should have nothing to do with whether a person is male or female.
Gender should literally have nothing to do with it– it’s the people.
Musicians and artists are people.”

That said, and firmly believed in, you have noticed that image is hugely capable of effecting expectation? Even as an artist with a solid direction of expression you are pursuing, which, from what I can gather would ideally leave gender-rooted-distinction of any kind in the side lines…

“For instance if I wear a dress I get this sense the music people then expect from me in that moment might be much more about singing… If I turn up with my hat on there might be some unspoken expectation that I’ll be rapping. I sometimes feel that people just expect me to spit if I’m dressed a certain way, which is strange. I’d like to hope that sound and image are completely different things and yet they clearly affect and come into play with each other.
Once you recognise and accept that, though, it can be played to your advantage, I suppose…”

Who do you work with on the production side of things?

“In terms of producers I find a lot of beats on Soundcloud, so there are a lot of varied inputs. I speak to the producer and of course involve them in the tracks – it’s all about sharing and connecting!
With that said I also work closer to home with friends and family from around Manchester. I work a lot with Sif, who’s an extremely talented producer – I also do a lot of stuff with Pitch from the Mouse Outfit, again an extremely talented guy.
Lots of work is done online, such as with the producers working with Roots Raddix and Cul-De-Sac, -so ,yeah, a mixture of stuff I stumble upon, friends and just good, talented people I trust, really.

Roots Raddix is a collective made up of individual artists working in Hip-Hop, Jazz, Soul, Trap and Grime. We are Woddy Green, IAMDDB, ZzSlepton, Elijah Kaizen and myself, Layfullstop. Woddy Green is another of my favourite artists, mos definitely, his passion for music – he has the same passion for music that i see in how Erykah Badu speaks about music, its inspiring.
Roots Raddix is not a label, it’s a FAMILY – that I cannot stress enough. Family.

Cul-De-Sac is made up of Truce, Kid Katharsis, Berry Black and myself. Again, a group of individuals I’m closely connected to doing a lot of good work and creating some really great music. We are family too, absolutely, just a different type of family from Roots Raddix. Both are my family – always there to support and be supported – despite very different dynamics.”

What do you like to write about ?
“I try to write about my experiences, things I have a right to speak on, and reflect upon how I’ve dealt with whatever the experience – to see how I’ve grown and to note how I perhaps went wrong.
A lot of new writing is rooted in that, especially as will be heard in my new track T-total.
I also like to write about the mundane subliminally… an example is just worrying about having the money to pay the rent– each line broken down will take on a different experience or aspect of whatever experience I’m thinking from.
I keep it to first person writing – again to keep it close to yourself – I can’t write with truth about what I don’t truly know.
I don’t want to create, sing or rap about stuff I haven’t experienced myself. It’s got to be subjective, truly from yourself. To represent yourself as the unique individual you are through your music is key.
You shouldn’t tailor to fit. You fit. You do your thing.
That’s what lead me towards spitting. There was a lot of love songs being sung by young girls and I hadn’t experienced that yet, so I didn’t want to sing about it. I avoided love songs and I spoke instead, about very different things.”

Who musically inspires you?
“My favourite has to be the Internet, like, Flippin Syd. Syd the Kyd man. She is a huge inspirationd, I love listening to the internet and I’ll always remember her classing herself not as a singer but as a vocalist… that inspired me to think of what I can do with my voice very differently, she really opened up how I viewed myself as an artist. She is my most inspirational female, even before Erykah Badu.
Erykah Badu, too though, of course!
Amy Winehouse too, oh man, ‘Moody’s mood for love’… that track. – every track! but That track. Frank is an amazing album. What can be said, woman is a Goddess- she puts the G in goddess. Amy.
Kali Uchis is another inspirational artist, i feel I relate to, she’s really on it. ‘I know what I want’ is a favourite track.”

“I feel I’m nowhere near people in the music industry but even in this little space of time I’ve seen so many different things that can affect people so differently. You never know if you are talking to someone on their last straw. There have been so many times I’ve felt last straw. I remember one performance, I thought it was The Worst performance- I literally hated it. But my brother, Blind Mic, he came over and said “that was the sickest performance man” – he will never understand the lift that gave, everyone needs that. You just need to have that confirmation sometimes. People inspire me.
It’s good to be humble but you have to be happy with and proud of what you are creating at the same time, it’s an important thing to have balanced.”

Do you find you prefer creating within a group or as a solo artist ?
I suppose with solo work there is freedom to pursue specifically and explicitly your own ideas, but it must also be great to have people you love to bounce off and build together as well.

“In a group, we all write with our own experiences – so much difference and yet everyone comes into it – we take everything into hand. What I Love about working in a group is that we will be working off the same beat, that objective thing – that base – and we all come out with something different. That as the art of the music is flippin sick, like – we’ll turn to each other like “wow what were you listening to !? the snare !? where did you find that where did that come from ?!” – taking in completely different aspects of the same beat, we come out with such completely different stuff. It’s amazing that so much variation springs out of each individual reaction to that same originating point, and yet it fits so well together”

“But then with Aura, I did not want it to be released because there was an alternate version to it. We needed to put it on the Cul-De-Sac EP, so the original is there, separately, but also already out in another form. I remember singing that and writing that in one take and I just really loved the vibe. (Layfullstop’s sound Cloud: https://soundcloud.com/layfullstop/lay-aura)

Inevitably, when working with other people, and what you create depending as it does on the dynamic of the group, the vibe can sometimes be very easily shifted, even a hint of doubt can throw you off, or there can just be contrasting but equally valid directions of energy and you sort of lose control, listening to the vibes of four people and not one, – the pros and cons!
But performing with a squad really is Sick as I say, there’s no feeling like it.

When working on my Mariah Nathan solo stuff, I’d say it’s my most real. I feel I can be most open and fully express what I want to, and in the exact manner of expression I want.”

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What are you looking forward to this year for you as an artist ?

“As LAY I only have four tracks officially out, yet there is so much work going on behind the scene. I’m figuring out my next move and the move after that so I can keep control of the direction everything takes. That constant work and continually moving to better yourself is so important to solidify your sound and realise what you truly want to be creating.

This year is my final year studying criminology and psychology at Uni, so balancing that well while advancing everything to do with music is important. Post-graduation I already have my team sorted. We are working now and plans are well on their way but it’s after I graduate that will truly be Go Tiime; that’s when it will be like – I’m free! I’m ready! Time for everything to really roll!

Right now I just want to consistently talk to as many people as I can, make connections with producers, other artists and make the most of that ease of communication which might get at least partly lost once things speed up with everything else, – like – it’s the music industry. I am aware that certain freedoms might be taken away from me. I’m prepared for that but want to make the most out of how much control I personally have right now, like I can communicate with everyone who gets in contact right now who are enjoying my music- which I love, but that possibly won’t be the case soon.

Even now I’ve had to turn down a lot of collaborations I’d love to get on board with.”

WORDS OF WISDOM FROM THE LAY de la DAY HERSELF 
“If you feel like you are ready, try. There are so many people who spend years thinking they aren’t ready. No one knows whether you are ready, only yourself.
SO many have such talent and hard work that they hide when they need to show- because that Is how stuff happens. Take it upon yourself to have the faith to make it happen. Just do it. If I hadn’t of released any of my tracks for fear – I would have never found myself – you find yourself by getting out there.
IF you feel like you are ready, try, and give it your all.
Don’t say you are ready and do nothing. Do your thing.
What is stopping you?
Overcome it and do what you need to do to be where you want to be.”

Interview by Hannah Dixon
(Layfullstop’s soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/layfullstop/lay-aura)

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