Simon Smith Jr, aka Youngman, has been tearing up the airwaves this year with his latest track, ‘Who Knows’ produced by his friend Skream. Not a new player in the game, Youngman has been dabbling with music since he was able to talk.
Raised with Jungle music and a lover of Soul, his inspirations are clear in his music and with the evolution of UK music now steering in his direction, 2012 is set to be the year Youngman gets his shine. I find out everything you need to know about the Derby bred artist.
What’s with the name, Youngman?
I started DJing when I was about 6… I got into music when I was so young; my family just started calling me Youngman from then.
What inspired you at such a young age?
Initially I got into jungle, which was basically like early drum and bass; that was a massive part of my upbringing. At the same time, my parents encouraged me to listen to R&B, pop, soul and jazz; I loved Stevie Wonder, Al Green and Michael Jackson.
You’re signed to Digital Soundboy. How did that come about?
I’ve been with Digital Soundboy for 18 months. I had 3 record deals before the situation I’m in now. Since joining Soundboy I’ve definitely evolved as an artist; I’ve got such a great team around me now, since hooking up with Benga and Skream. I had a record called ‘One and Only’ and at the time, I used to bump into Shy FX and would always tell him I wanted to work with him. Ironically enough, all the while he loved ‘One and Only’ – he just didn’t know it was me. I sent him a demo and when he heard that tune on it he called me up and was like ‘I didn’t know that was you!’ And he signed me on the phone there and then.
Why didn’t you take the other record deals?
Music is a funny thing; it’s all about chemistry and dynamics. From the managers to the producers to the label – it’s really important that everyone has the same vision. The other offers I had were great for my development but they weren’t going in the direction I was. Digital Soundboy really understand where I’m coming from. Not only do they let me do the music that I love, but they offer so much. It’s a great camp.
Your latest single ‘Who Knows’ has a very fresh vibe. What inspired the sound?
Benga and I just went to get a Nando’s which we were scoffing at the Rinse FM studios, when Skream played the instrumental of ‘Who Knows’. I loved it straight away, so I said live on radio that I wanted the beat and I would vocal it up and return with it next week for the listeners to hear. I literally wrote it the next day in about 15 minutes.
You are currently working on your debut album; tell us about it.
It is called ‘Me and My Music’ and it’s going really well. It’s being executively produced by Shy FX and Benga, which is amazing. It’s also got cuts from Breakage. I just did a tune with MJ Cole and Sam Frank which I’m really excited about. The sound of the album is very versatile; I’m singing and rapping on it. It very cutting edge UK bass music fused with soulful vocals and influences. At the same time there are hard club records on there as well.
You’ve been touring all over the world. How is it going?
Touring wise, I’m having a few weeks off; I just came back from New Zealand and Australia. I love touring, but on that last tour, we worked out that we were up in the air for 4 entire days. That’s a lot. But we can’t complain! We played at New Zealand’s Rhythm festival on New Year’s Eve; we came out after Example to an audience of 35,000. It was such a wicked way to see in the New Year.
What was your favourite destination?
I love Ibiza. It was so magical this summer. Benga and I did about 8 shows there. Ibiza has a magic about it as far as dance music is concerned. New Zealand was so beautiful; I’d never been there before. We did a North American tour as well… It’s hard to choose one destination!
How was the US?
It was great; we had A LOT of ribs and wings! Oh, the wings… the best wings I had were when we literally landed, at this wing house… [We discuss fried chicken for some time]
But back to the music, Dubstep is really massive in America right now, the crowds go mental.
I hear you’re really into fashion as well.
Yeah, I got my fingers in a few pies! I love fashion, I always have. I’ve dabbled with clothes designing in the past and now I’m working on a new line to coincide with my album. So you can expect to see some Youngman clothing towards the end of the year. I will start off with menswear first. I love varsity jackets, chinos, and I love a good shirt as well. I really do have a long-term goal of doing some in fashion. I mean real fashion, not just merchandise.
Tell us about the ‘Music and Life’ workshops you are doing?
I know so many kids want to get into music and it can be really hard to see how to get from A to Z. People can’t understand how you can make music for a living; just because you aren’t all over the TV or radio you can still make music. So I decided to set up a scheme to give people guidance and mentoring, not only relating to music, but relating to real life. I have a Business Management degree, so it’s all about encouraging kids to stay in school and realise that they don’t have to choose, they can have both.
I hear you. So how did YOU get from A to Z?
My journey has been really ironic in the sense that I initially started off doing R&B and soul. Even though Jungle was always around me, my dad encouraged me to do my own thing, so I started DJing old school garage. That was when the two worlds collided, for me. The best advice I would give is to get yourself out there; do as many recording sessions, talent shows as you can and get networking; get your music heard. In time, you’ll find the right team.
You’re originally from Derby. Are you a mini celebrity there now?
[Laughs manically] There’s a lot of love in Derby. I spend a lot of time on the roads, and I have a place in London. I try and spend time in Derby with my family as much as possible. But I love London. It can be a lonely place, but so can everywhere. I love London because I’m a big believer of positive laws of attraction. The things that you see and the things that you’re surrounded by will motivate you to get to the next level, spiritually and psychologically. Living in a small town, you can’t really visualise being mega successful. I initially wanted to move to London so I could see people driving Ferrari’s and see music artists doing their thing… you need a successful culture around you to emulate that, I think.
What can expect from you in 2012?
I’ve just launched my website (www.iamyoungman.com) so jump on there to see where I’m going to be touring next. ‘Who Knows’ will be released on January 29, which I’m really excited about. I’m also about to embark on a club tour which will be kicking off in Fabric in London on January 20. I’ll be touring with Benga on the ‘Benga featuring Youngman Tour’ which will be crazy; it will be a massive UK tour. In April I will be supporting Example on his arena tour. You can also expect the debut album from me later this year, definitely before Christmas!