BBC Sound of 2018: Chorister-turned-pop singer Rex Orange County is second

BBC Sound of 2018: Chorister-turned-pop singer Rex Orange County is second
From BBC - January 11, 2018

The emotional intricacies of Rex Orange County's exquisite pop songs have earned him second place on BBC Music's Sound of 2018 list, which aims to find music's Next Big Things.

Born Alex O'Connor, he grew up in sleepy Haslemere in Surrey, singing in the school choir and disturbing the peace with his drum practice.

He briefly attended the Brit School, whose alumni include Adele, Amy Winehouse and Katy B, but released his first, self-produced album before he graduated.

Recorded in his bedroom, bcos u will never be free showcased his sweet voice and unselfconscious lyrics, while hinting at his prowess as a songwriter.

That came to fruition on last year's Apricot Princess, a breezy, laid-back album of love songs that glides smoothly between pop, rock, hip-hop, jazz and R&B.

"It's so effortless," says Annie Mac, who has championed the 19-year-old on her BBC Radio 1 show. "Every song sounds like a classic."

She's not his only fan: US rapper Tyler, The Creator put O'Connor on his latest album, Flower Boy; Frank Ocean hired him for his touring band; and he backed Skepta at last year's Mercury Prize.

"I have been able to do a lot of cool things," he tells the BBC. "That's always the dream, for any artist."

How does it feel to be on the Sound of 2018?

It's cool. I am really honoured to have been chosen. The BBC has shown me a lot of love in the past - so it's great. I am excited.

Do you remember the first time you got played on the radio?

For sure! The first person on the BBC that played me was Huw Stephens. I was sat around my laptop with my girlfriend and my family and it was super-exciting. It felt weird and it sounded weirder but it was great.

What was it like growing up in Haslemere?

I always played music, I was in a choir when I was super young. I took piano lessons and I wanted to play drums when I was six. Luckily enough, my parents let me have a drum kit in my room - which is kind of crazy.

Presumably the countryside's a good place to practice drums because the neighbours are not too close.

It was exceedingly loud now I look back on it - but the neighbours were fine. My mum always said, "I am so glad you got better because the first couple of years with you bashing away up there was difficult!"

School was good, too. I had a teacher that really got me into music. And I went to study music for sixth form in London.

This is at the Brits School?

That's right. I do not really mind people know I went there but I do not feel it defined me or anything.

What prompted you to leave the drums behind and become a frontman?

Midway through college, I was discovering a lot of artists who played the guitar. Prior to that, I was still studying Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder songs [and] I did not think guitar was an instrument I was interested in in any way.

But when I started actually listening to those songs - the chords and the melodies and the lyrics - I realised I'd rather be doing that because, at that school, the people who played drums were amazing.

I mean, I am totally competent and I have played drums on all my music, but there were people there who were born to play, and I was just not that. I knew I had talents in other fields so I just utilised them.

On Paradise, you sing: "Who needs an academic career when you are the one with all the ideas?" Did you grow disillusioned with school?

Sort ofI am a typical artist: I did not do particularly well with science and maths. School did stress me out, like it does for a lot of young people. I did not like having to do work that I did not care about.

Your second album, Apricot Princess, is very upbeat compared to the first. What changed?


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