It is still a little known fact that British singer AnGel started out as a child star in a band with his brothers and sisters; not many realise that the 24-year-old has been in the game since he rocked a school uniform. This was long before the west Londoner got the trademark tattoos that make him stand out from the r&b crowd, and ahead of scoring a top five single with 'Wonderful'. Now over a decade deep in music with a highly-anticipated debut album on the way, he talks to The Wrap Up's Akilah Russell about his secret love for country music, career highlights and his love life…
"I came from a musical family and that's how I developed a love and passion for music. I was in a group with my brothers and sisters and we used to play with all the reggae artists that came over from the Caribbean. We played instruments and sang; I'm talking proper live music, even though I was like 8 years old. I remember we did a tour around 142 schools, but in the end we got dropped from Warner Brothers.
"We looked into loads of different management and labels deals but most of it was just a load of rubbish [laughs] and they didn't really get the whole brothers and sisters in a group thing, so I ended up going solo.
"Eventually I ran into my manager Sam and I ended up going to places like Denmark to write music; I started building up a catalogue. When I came back I met a publisher from Universal Records, played him some stuff and my foot was in the door. Weeks after that meeting I helped to write a song for Roll Deep called 'Green Light' and it went to number one, then a month later I got a deal with Island Records.
"In the two years since I got signed I built up a buzz, brought out four mixtapes and the reception has just been crazy. Now my album 'About Time' is coming out, everything is just going a mile a minute. The album has some heavy features on there but I really wanted to showcase up-and-coming talent - because of what I have been through, I know that they need to be recognised.
"That's why I wanted to work with George The Poet and Shakka - to show people that I'm about the growing process, rather than reaching out to high-profile names trying to sell albums.
"I try and take everything in my stride, but last year getting to perform at the MOBO's was a highlight for me. It was more than getting nominated; I was just happy that I was there. You have to understand, I used to watch the MOBO's on TV as a kid and to be on stage performing was just mad to me. People get fixated on the wins and losses but people talk, and that's just a part of the game.
"I think it's mad when I hear things like I was 'dating' Rita Ora or whatever they tried to say… no, that's completely not true. I am very much single and ready to mingle [laughs]. My love life is the same as it's ever been - drama free. I just like to keep it simple, you know? Plus, finding love would be difficult because I travel a lot, doing shows everywhere…you should see my Oyster Card, it's out of this world [laughs]. Honestly though, music is my love right now.
"I love country music and after 'About Time' comes out I want to release a country album called 'Out Of The Box'. I love the music because it's just different… either you get it or you don't. Like when I listen to artists like Tammy Wynette, she sings and I feel like she is talking about things that I have gone through. I'd love to work with someone like her, or even Ed Sheeran, because he is another artist that shares that vibe but still has his own sound.
"I think once this album comes out and people get to know me a bit better, through the music they'll understand more about where I am coming from. I'll show everyone that I've got loads more to let out of the bag… loads more, trust me."
'About Time' is out on April 15 via Island Records.
Words: Akilah Russell (@akilahrussell)