Kieran Alleyne is definitely somebody who you guys should be more than just ‘aware of’, as he could well be the UK’s answer to the savior of that real, good R&B music. Verge’s Music Ed Tasha Demi sat down with the Nottingham born ‘triple threat’, to talk his new single, wanting to work with Angel, and… badminton…
Basketball was always youâ€™re love, and then you went and landed a role in Thriller Live at just 13 years old which is huge. Talk me through that experience â€“ going from one to the other? When did you really know that, yeah, THIS is what I want to do forever.
The moment I did that first song, the first performance of Thriller, I knew I didnâ€™t care about basketball anymore, I didnâ€™t mind if I didnâ€™t play again, this is what I wanted to do. My love for music and singing and performing on that night it just changed. Everything got so much stronger and there was no going back.
As a 13 year old, how did you cope with working on the show for 2 years â€“ thatâ€™s pretty intense! Talk us through how you hooked up with Max Gousse and what happened?
To be doing the show at 13 was obviously a massive experience for me. I was still going to school during the week and then doing the shows on the weekend. It was hard to juggle two personalities, because I had the mature / adult side with all the cast members and crew, and then back in school I was just Kieran. I struggled quite a lot because it made me mature faster. Iâ€™d end up going back to my friends and when theyâ€™d crack jokes and I wouldnâ€™t find it funny anymore. Theyâ€™d be like, â€œWhatâ€™s wrong with you? â€œ, and I was just like, â€œIt wasnâ€™t funny â€œ â€“ that was hard for me.
When we hooked up with Max Gousse, he was in town as Beyonce was on her tour in the UK. He first noticed me when I was in Thriller. That kind of started a development stage, like he was watching but he didnâ€™t sign me; there was no deal or nothing. He was just watching what I was doing, making sure I was growing, and when I did a cover of Donâ€™t Judge Me by Chris Brown and I put it on my YouTube, then he was then like â€œcool, youâ€™re ready, letâ€™s do this.â€
Eventually you were signed to a major â€“ again, you were only young! â€“ how did this happen and how did you feel?
Max knows everybody and heâ€™s got good relationships with other labels. And because heâ€™s done very, very well in regards to the artists that heâ€™s found and the acts heâ€™s worked on, it definitely helped because people knew to listen to him. When we actually met with Virgin they saw it as a no brainer. For them to be like, â€œletâ€™s do it, letâ€™s make it workâ€, was unreal. It was just incredible, it brought things into reality, itâ€™s now time to work.
You chose to drop out of education â€“ was this a hard decision? Was it hard to convince your parents?
Not really, I was giving up going to school for what I love doing, my passion. School wasnâ€™t really for me, but it is massively important to get an education with the jobs getting harder to get and you need qualifications these days. So it is important, but for me it wasnâ€™t what I really needed to do.
Your debut single â€˜Running Lowâ€™ literally threw you into the industry and suddenly everyone knew your name â€“ tell me about making â€˜Running Lowâ€™. Did you know exactly what sound you wanted your music to be?
With â€˜Running Lowâ€™, it just happened. We were in the studio and the producer, Will Sims, was just playing with beats and baselines and we just threw a few together and threw the synth on it and that was the beat, and we were like, â€œOhh this is crazy â€œ. When I sat down with the writer Shay Jacobs, we knew the song didnâ€™t have to say too much. You could already tell from the beat what the song is going to be about.
The whole R&B vibe isnâ€™t the most popular sound over in the UK (yet!) â€“ why do you think this is?
I think we just need to bring through some fresh faces, because obviously thereâ€™s a lot of pop going on at the minute and a lot of house and stuff, as well. But, I just think people need to keep pushing and bring through the younger generation as well, and let them know that it is ok to do R&B, because a lot of people are like, â€œWell, R&B isnâ€™t really selling so why am I going to do R&B?â€ We just need to bring through a fresh wave, and if I could kind of front that. I would do my best to front that new wave of R&B and just bring into the mainstream again and make people re- fall in love with it.
Onto your latest track, â€˜Be Aroundâ€™ â€“ what is this track about?
â€˜Be Aroundâ€™ is simply about trying to tell your girl, that if sheâ€™s ever in need, youâ€™re there for her. The lyrics literally speak for its self, you know. Itâ€™s just straight how it is, youâ€™re always there for her.
It was produced by DJ Mustard â€“ talk us through this incredible collab â€“ how did it happen?!
When I got signed to Max, (whoâ€™s very good friends with DJ Mustard), he actually flew me out to LA and I actually met both Mustard and a writer called Makeba Riddick (who wrote Be Around). We were chilling in the Staples Centre watching a basketball game with Mustard, and it was crazy for me to meet him, in such a normal environment, it was like â€œOh here you are, you just made like 10 number 1s and youâ€™re just chilling and eating chicken with me, watching a basketball gameâ€.
Whatâ€™s it like being in studio with DJ Mustard?
With the â€˜Be Aroundâ€™ track we didnâ€™t actually get into the studio with him, it was more like his people spoke to my people and after we all met and they gave the track. Then I came back to the UK, recorded it and sent it back over for approval. It wasnâ€™t like, I was like in the studio with him because obviously heâ€™s like smashing it and heâ€™s very, very busy working with people all the time with bigger names, so for me I didnâ€™t actually get to go in the studio with him but hopefully when it comes to my album, weâ€™re going to get to go in the studio together.
Whatâ€™s the most important thing youâ€™ve learnt from working with him?
The most important thing I learnt was that there is a hell of a lot of big bass beats out there that talk to you, and that bass really does hit you straight away. But itâ€™s the simple songs that catch you, you donâ€™t really have to go too crazy, or use too many sounds.
Tell us who else youâ€™ve been working with in the USâ€¦
In the US Iâ€™ve done a few sessions with Eric Bellinger, Rico Love, Jim Johnson as well, and a few people but thatâ€™s for the album so Iâ€™m not going to give away too much on that! But, theyâ€™ve all been really good sessions, really good songs as well. And Iâ€™ve learnt a lot being around such incredible people that are doing incredible music.
From your â€˜Breaking Goodâ€™ EP, whatâ€™s your personal favourite track?
Youâ€™ve teamed up with Yungen, Paigey Cakey and Bonkaz in the past â€“ who else would you love to collaborate with (Name 1 US and 1 UK)â€¦
UK, I would really like to work with Angel, I think that would go down pretty sick because obviously heâ€™s vocally dope as well, his melodies are insane. From the US, Tori Kelly, because her voice is on a next level and I think we would merge well together.
Do you ever go back and look at your videos from years ago?
I try not to really. One day I want to be able to go back and be like, â€œOk this is how my whole journey startedâ€. To look and be like, â€œOh ok this where this where the step timing helped my steps, this is where the vocal training helped my voice hereâ€ and just see the steps more.
Everyone is dubbing you as a triple threat â€“ can we expect to see you doing any more acting in the near future?
Yeah, I want to be in as much as I can. If thereâ€™s any US films out there, Iâ€™m in 100%. I want to be in the next Entourage movie because the first one looked amazing. I just want to keep my options open to everything and not pigeon hole myself and say â€œNo Iâ€™m just going to singâ€.
What is THE dream? The end goal?
The dream, for people to know me and come to a concert and to sell it out! And for people to be like â€œOh I love this song, this is my boy Kieran, yesss!â€
5 things you canâ€™t live withoutâ€¦
If you didnâ€™t work in music, what job would you have?
Either dancing or acting probably – because theyâ€™re the other two of the triple threat.
Tell us one interesting fact about you that not many people knowâ€¦
Iâ€™m actually really good at badminton, like the third time I picked up a racket to play, I was asked to play for Leicester, so yeah Iâ€™m alright.
At a party you will find meâ€¦
In the corner, drinking, socialising and jamming.
This song never fails to get me dancing/singingâ€¦
Brand New by Pharrell featuring Justin Timberlake.
My party trick isâ€¦
What would be an essential item on your riderâ€¦
Water is always good, but for after I would say chocolate, a Snickers!
What is your favourite song right now? (minus your own)
Donald Trump by Rae Sremmurd
Check out the official video for ‘Be Around’ –
Purchase ‘Be Around’ right here, out on July 19th.