Stand Out Stories: In Conversation With 220 Kid

Stand Out Stories: In Conversation With 220 Kid

Growing up, 220 Kid always knew he wanted to do music. Join us in conversation with him for our Stand Out Stories edit in partnership with MA.STRUM. 

On musical influences

I got given a vinyl player and loads of vinyl records as a kid. I went through them and it was a load of classic Motown and soul artists. A great selection of songwriters and artists that implemented an element of storytelling into their word. I loved that. The family on my dad’s side is of Irish Gypsy descent, so I was exposed to a lot of folklore tapes and books. That also helped me craft a way of storytelling in my head. My dad’s friends all worked at random metal labels too, so he’d get sent loads of punk rock and heavy metal stuff; Slipknot; Papa Roach; The Offspring. They always came with big, theatrical stories, too.

I’ve always been drawn to production. I love the spin it can put on things. Take the Bee Gees; obviously their song writing and lyricism were phenomenal but it was their production that really set things apart. Or anything that Timberland has worked on, for that matter. The song only tells half of the story, after that it’s up to the production. When I was learning to produce, I realised it wasn’t always about making things technically brilliant, it was about making you feel something. I’d always go for something that really hits you rather than aspiring to any technical flexing.

On school memories

Quite a pivotal moment for me, one that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, was having one of my school teachers identify that I was dyslexic. He saw how it affected my confidence in just about everything I did, so he had me come into school early to take confidence classes and to help improve my writing.

I quickly realised that being dyslexic wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it often feels like a superpower to me. Your brain works differently; you’re wired to come up with different solutions to things; you’re more apt to take different routes. Which is just as well, because there are so many different options out there, school is just one. It’s not for everybody.

On getting into music

I got into music pretty late, around the age of 24. I just worked every day at it. I was obsessed with it. I left London for the countryside and continued to work at it every day. I’d walk around the ring roads of an evening, thinking about what I wanted and formulating plans and pitches.

I messed up so many opportunities that came my way in the early days. After a while, I realised that our time here is precious and limited. Two of my friends passed away and that really drove the idea home. I had to seize every opportunity. It’s like pre-season training; you keep yourself ready and primed for the moment you have to perform.

I made sure I knew the industry from the ground up: I had written so many songs; I’d learned how to direct my own videos; I had an idea of how things worked behind the scenes. I even worked security at shows. I knew that if an opportunity were to present itself it could vanish in an instant, so I wanted to be ready to seize it. I networked at any given opportunity, too. You have to. It’s important to build yourself as strong a platform as possible.

On the process

With dance music there’s a hook. What we tried to do was bring the story elements that you’d find in R&B and hip hop and put that to dance music whilst also keeping the story. You’d be surprised what an instrumental can carry in terms of emotions that people can relate to. With ‘Don’t Need Love’, released during lockdown, people wanted to feel better about their situations. The instrumental would make them feel something, even if it was just the urge to dance. And the story told by the lyrics were relatable for those going through tougher times and breakups.

On the team

There are a lot of people involved in one person’s success. I always say ‘we’ because I couldn’t have done any of it alone. We’re a team. I’m pretty much surrounded by a team of badass women. There’s Sophia, who balances me out nicely because I’m pretty scatty. She knows how to create order out of my chaos whilst still letting me do my thing. Others would try to keep me on track, but Sophie lets me run with my instinct and always finds a way to make it work.

On his personal philosophy

If you’re always chasing trends then you’ll never be happy. Be true to yourself. There are enough people out there; you’ll find your audience. Stick to your guns and your work will find its people. I always had this thing I used to say to my flatmate all the time; ‘you’ve got to feel yourself’. You do; you have to believe in yourself. No one else will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. Keep that up, and eventually things will fall into place. Just be sure to take things as far as you can take them.

On mental health

A few years back, I didn’t understand why I felt a certain way. And I certainly didn’t know that there were people I could talk to about it to help really break things down. I had a particularly bad mental health episode during my time in the countryside. Luckily, I was with my dad. Talking with him really helped. If I’d known that the first step was as simple as talking to someone, I would never have had to go through months of being in such a terrible position. After just a few months of therapy, I was able to identify certain triggers within myself and nip them in the bud before they became a big problem.

The decision to start therapy was down to a mixture of people at the time suggesting I needed it and knowing myself that my career was taking off. I knew things were only going to get more stressful in the months to come, so I wanted to implement something early to avoid anything destructive down the line.

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