Some argue that weekends are for beginners. Ostensible proof of this theory is the weekly School Night party and showcase held at Hollywood’s Bardot, the upstairs of Avalon, a venue across from the iconic Capitol Records building on Vine and Hollywood Blvd. Monday, August 4th was particularly packed as a sold out crowd of Angelinos thirsting for a taste of the new lined the intimate venue from wall to staircase and hallway. The early hours featured treats by Rock band Criminal Hygiene and Deep House from frequent School Night DJ, Cedes. But the reason for the crowd was the promise of a set from much buzzed about UK import Liam Bailey.
A product of Notingham, England with a mixed British and Jamaican heritage, Liam has constructed a style that, although familiar due to it’s vintage nature, would be downplayed by saying it is derivative. A unique vocal blend of Rock and Soul is nuanced with a strong Brit accent and seasoned by his West Indian roots. Recently EDM has acted as a Trojan Hoarse of sorts for Soul artists. UK Soul to be more specific (i.e. Sam Smith, John Newman, Emeli Sande). Liam had a huge push thanks to Drum & Bass legend Shy FX (“Soon Come”) and even more so by Dubstep duo Chase & Status (“Blind Faith”) who featured Bailey on tour. “I always had an interest in [Electronic Music] but I was one of those guys smoking weed listening to Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley going ‘I can’t deal with any of this Dance music.’ I couldn’t deal with it when I was off my head you know what I mean.” Bailey says about his Notingham days. “But then moving to London [I got] more into it a little bit through different people. I always wrote with my mate over Drum n Bass stuff. All the new stuff sort of threw me, like Dubstep, but I realized I sounded good on it so I kinda’ went with it.” It turned out to be a blessing in disguise that would garner him loads of new fans. “Once they like your voice they will listen to you on other things as well. Everybody needs to chill out sometimes from Dance so it’s handy when the guy they know is doing the chill out thing as well.”
It’s true the Dance scene broadened his audience, but, based on the crowd at Bardot, his following was boosted primarily through another ally. Amy Winehouse. Liam was introduced to the late great Soul singer (“I never liked when they called Amy a Soul singer. She was a Jazz singer.” Liam told me) by producer Salaam Remi (Fugees, Nas), who had produced many of the tracks on her break out album Back To Black. A friendship was born and from it she released 2 EP’s by Liam, So Down, Cold and 2AM Rough Tracks, on her Lioness Records imprint in 2010. “We were friends more than we were working. We hardly spoke about music and if we did it was about my music, not hers,” Liam reflects, “Her putting things out on her imprint was a love thing, so rather than like a ‘let’s build your career’ [conversation] we’d more like be arguing about something or teaching each other a new lick, ya naw mean.” As far as co-signing goes, in this day and age it doesn’t get much better than that. Since her passing, Salaam has taken up the mantle and signed Liam to his Sony label, Flying Buddha Records.
The debut album, Definitely NOW, is scheduled for release August 19, 2014 and he is currently touring to debut the new songs. At Bardot, the band takes the stage to the sounds of the enthusiastic audience. Sadly this is just the sound check. Liam was delayed and couldn’t make it earlier so a quick test of the equipment had to be done in front of the entire sold out crowd. Not one to disappoint, he gets the band jamming impromptu while singing “sound check, this is the sound check” which further excites the crowd. After a quick break they return officially for their set time. The songs played included two currently featured on his soundcloud page, “Villain” and “On My Mind”, showing a style more akin to Hendrix than the vintage Soul and Roots Reggae we’d already become familiar with. To this, Liam explains, “the album is like side-A, side-B. There’s the rawness and then there’s the Soul in there, more acoustic, more reggae inflections coming through. I just figured I could do that rather than sticking to one thing, ‘cause I don’t like being boxed and that’s tried to happen before you know.” Diversifying too much while branding your image has come back and bit many an artist in the ass. Lucky for Liam, the crowd doesn’t seem to mind as each song is greeted with wails and applause. 30-minutes pass and the show concludes. A wise man once said “leave them wanting more.” With the release of the album, a longer show will be developed to showcase that Side-A, Side-B rawness and soul, taking the crowd on a journey of textures and tones. In the meantime we will hold on anxiously for the album to come out and show us both sides of Liam Bailey.
– Dominic Painter
Catch Liam Bailey live:
Aug 10 – Central Park Summerstage, NYC w/ Passenger
Aug 18 – School Night @ Brooklyn Bowl, NYC
Aug 23 – Live performance on CBS This Morning “Second Cup Cafe”