Example: “It’s hard to write emotional music if you’re happy”
The last time inthemix spoke to Example, he was gearing up to his drop fourth album The Evolution of Man. A breakup record as raw as they come, Elliot Gleave’s latest didn’t beat around the bush – as he put it then, “I became an asshole, and I’m not proud of it.” A few months down the track, the Brit’s in a very different place. The album proved a big hit and Gleave’s been touring seemingly nonstop, fitting in collaborations with a rollcall of dance music’s biggest names and even getting engaged to Australian model Erin McNaught. Now, he’s a few days out from touching down in Australia, where he’ll kick off the five-date Groovin the Moo tour and a string of sideshows next week. It’s his third visit to Australia in less than six months (“I’m going to move to Australia one day, that’s the plan” he told us) – evidently, there’s plenty of people out here who count themselves among Example’s legion of fans. Ahead of the tour, we got 15 minutes on the phone with the man to chat music.
You’ve spoken a lot before about The Evolution of Man coming off the back of a break up, and a lot of artists say it’s the tough times that make them do the best work. Does that make you afraid at all about writing your next album, given it’s going to come from a happier place?
I suppose so, yeah, because all my biggest songs have been quite sad. So maybe it’s hard to write emotional music if you’re happy. But I suppose there’s people like Chris Martin, who seems like a happy, married man with a family and he has pretty big emotional songs. I’m going to try and focus on writing songs about other people I know rather than focussing on myself for once.
Evolution of Man was a very raw album as well – you didn’t hold back thematically. Is it nerve racking to put yourself out there like that?
Not really, for me it felt like something I needed to do to get a lot of stuff off my chest. It was like an apology to my ex-girlfriend, the parents. It just felt like I needed to re-find who I was. Be Example and find Elliot again.
You’ve worked with Feed Me before and I spoke to him the other day and he said that when you two first met, he wasn’t a huge fan of your music and he told you that. Are your peers usually that honest with you, or is there a lot of false flattery going around?
When I worked with Calvin Harris for instance, he’s very honest. He’ll say “I don’t like that song” or “I don’t like your voice on this”. I think it’s good to work with honest people.
You had Feed Me of course and then guys like Benga on this album. Do you see yourself as being part of that UK bass scene? Because I guess you’ve shifted genres from more rap territory over to dancier stuff, lately.
I dunno, I mean my music changes all the time. My first album was hip-hop but my second album was more pop and nothing like my third album. And then the third album was nothing like the first, so I just think it keeps changing all the time. I don’t really consider myself part of a scene because I’ve worked with people like Benga and Skream and Feed Me and Flux Pavillion and they’re all part of the bass scene, I suppose. But I don’t think they would consider themselves part of a bass scene. I think it’s just electronic music, isn’t it? It’s not really vocal, it’s in the whole bass world. I’m probably one of the first people they come to when they have a song and they want vocals.
Yeah, you’ve lent vocals to Calvin Harris and Flux. Do those collaborations come about more from being friends than anything else?
Yeah, totally. I only work with friends. When people ask to do collaborations I’ll refuse to work with anybody that I haven’t met.
Who’s asked you for a collaboration recently that you’ve turned down?
It wouldn’t be fair to say, would it?
So is that just because you wouldn’t enjoy working with someone you didn’t know, or because you wouldn’t feel as comfortable?
If it’s someone I didn’t know, I’d usually like to meet them for a drink first or a beer or whatever and just get to know them and see if our personalities get on. Because it’s kind of pointless arranging a whole day in the studio if your personalities aren’t going to work together.
You Tweeted about The Voice being rubbish yesterday and that got me thinking. As dance music gets bigger and more commercially viable, especially in America, do you think manufactured dance stars is something that we’ll start to see?
I don’t think it will ever happen, because I’d be really surprised if any of the producers from the scene would go on a show like that. I don’t know many DJs who’d like to go on a show like that. But even if there was a manufactured dance star from a show like that, I can’t imagine any of them finding any success – because none of the DJs would want to play their music, would they?
You’ve spoken before about how being on tour can just fuck you over a bit. Is scaling back shows something you’re thinking about for the future?
Eventually, one day. But at the moment I’m kind of just happy rolling through, you know? I mean, this summer I’ve got like 64 shows, between now and September. So there’s not really much downtime. I’ve already done 52 shows this year. And I’ve got another 60 something shows planned between now and September and there’s talk of a US tour aswell in October/November. And potentially some UK shows so really I just wanna try and avoid taking time off because sometimes I think it’s better to just stay in the flow of things.