“I want to take over the world” – We chat to Croydon singer Joshua KYEOT about his new EP, love, and mathematical music
Wearing a sleeveless plaid shirt over a white tee, Joshua KYEOT told me to pick a card. Any card.
I picked a card. Four of clubs.
The 28-year-old shuffled the deck and flashed a nondescript smile, “Is this your card?” It was.
He practises magic in his spare time and has seen Coming to America in “double digits” but just like his card trick, there’s more to Joshua than meets the eye.
Joshua is a musician and song-writer who has spent his days living between Accra, Ghana and Croydon, London, between theatre acting and music-making.
Now, as he chats to me over a flat white in Café Mimosa in Norwood Junction, he’s feeling frenetic over the release of his second two-track EP, ‘She Loves Me Not’.
“I’ve always liked songs that tell a story. Those, ‘He’s just a boy from Alabama’, songs. That’s always interested me as a path to get into a song. To speak to people,” Joshua said.
Signed to Primary Talent International, Joshua’s surname demands attention. Literally. Standing for ‘Keep Your Eyes / Ears On This’, and listening to ‘She Loves Me Not’, it’s difficult not to follow those strict instructions.
Spliced with rock, the soft alt-soul sound of the EP, which was released late last year, consists of ‘She Loves Me’ and ‘She Loves Me Not’.
The two-track project is a sonic representation of heartbreak and remorse. It could open-shop in a playlist next to John Legend or James Brown and stand strong.
Moving his hands as if he were picking the petals off a flower, Joshua said: “The game, the EP’s namesake, was a big thing for me growing up, and I wrote the songs without a structure until I realised that, in the past, I’ve found myself being a guy at different ends of the spectrum in regards to love.
“Although I was one person, it was interesting that I could find myself being cheated on, or being the cheater, or being the person who is in love, or being the person loving but not being loved back.
“As one human being, we can go through all those different roles in our lives. I wanted to tell a story about one person being seen as two different people.”
Joshua cited the likes of Stevie Wonder, Sisqo, and Michael Jackson among his musical influences and, considering he was ‘raised on a plethora of music’, you begin to hear even his syntax has a distinctive whimsical beat as if they were the lyrics to a song.
He used to cut music from his university halls, a step-up from leading the tenors at high-school, so local sound is big to Joshua: “I’m influenced by south London artists right now like Stormzy and the Section Boyz.
“They’re not in my genre, but it’s music that makes me want to write more music and challenge myself as an artist.”
Joshua said he was thankful his manager chooses the genre options of his Soundcloud account, as defining and boxing-up his music is something he struggles with.
“My sound is based around performance and feeling and live instrumentation as opposed to a ‘Daft Punk’ way of doing stuff. It’s more from the performance itself.
“Randy Rhoads [Quiet Riot’s guitarist] once described his guitar solos as ‘mathematical’, which isn’t really how you’d typically describe music, but I’d say my music has that edge.
“Measured ideas but with a raw, primal spontaneity.”
In an era of plastic pop songs co-written by a squad of song-writers – often not the singer themselves – Joshua told me that how he felt at the time of writing his songs often impacts, both melodically and lyrically, the song’s formation the most.
“Take ’Music Lady’,” he scrolled through his iPhone trying to find the audio file, “it’s the most recent track I wrote.
“I felt very good when writing it as I felt I wrote something intelligent. And when I feel I’ve composed something intelligent, it makes me want to sing louder.”
And when he sings loudly, he sings as if has never been allowed to sing before in all his life.
The coffee machine hissed, but Joshua paid no attention as he said: “I was lucky enough to play a headline show at the Seven Jazz Quarters in May last year, and I was invited to play at BBC Introducing shortly after.
“Later, I played another BBC Introducing session at the Ned with DJ Abbie McCarthy.
“They do great red wine,” he added.
Story-telling is instrumental to Joshua, but are there any stories he hasn’t told yet?
“The short answer is yes, but I’m very much interested in not just telling love, but the story of not being noticed or feeling good enough, or working hard to be good enough.
“They’re different perspectives and people can feel different signs about inadequacy.
“All those stories need to be told and if I can find a way to tell them, I’m ready.”