After a challenging hiatus, singer and producer Greg Wanders returns with a brand new single and a brand new perspective. We caught up to hear ‘Hourglass’ for the first time, which became an in-depth discussion about leaving social media, music as therapy and alter-egos. ‘Hourglass’ is available everywhere now, so hear what he has to sing and learn what he has to say.
“I wouldn’t usually talk about these things openly.”
It’s been two years since we spoke for the release of ‘Wildfire‘, what’s changed for Greg Wanders since then?
“It’s been a lot of development really. Creatively, I’ve honed in on my production skills by listening to a wider range of music and exposing myself to a lot more. I feel like I’ve self-consciously taken different elements from stuff I like and I’ve been able to apply that in a way that feels a lot more refreshing. When I released ‘Wildfire’ it was at the point where I was making stuff up as I go without a plan other than just getting music out. Then ‘Sines’ came along, and I took a big break out. By experiencing life in general, loads of situations and all of the thoughts and feelings, it’s all gone into a melting pot of needing to write something. So for the last six months I’ve been writing lots of new material based on the experiences I’ve had in the past year. It feels a lot more fully formed, a lot more honest and a lot more true to myself.”
You were studying Sound and Music Production at university, how has leaving uni affected your involvement in music?
“Its having the time now. I released the first two singles half way through my second year, and then things started to take off when I was beginning my final year. In 2018 I was having a lot of meetings and playing live shows, but all the planning for that was at the same time as when I was trying to get my dissertation done. There was a the problem of balancing time, but now I’m out of education I’ve had that huge weight off. I can be a lot more structural and smart about the ways I do things, in regards to releasing music, and creatively I have a lot more time for that! So creatively and business-wise its helped massively to have a bit more time to delve into stuff and read a lot more too. I feel way more informed about the decisions I’m making now.”
Your EP Encounter dropped last year, what is the biggest thing you learnt from that release?
“Encounter was a very interesting project actually, because I wrote that when I was at uni and the writing, production and ideas all came in a really short time. It wasn’t something that had been building up, it happened in a few weeks to a month. It came from having all the creativity sucked out of me by the uni course and there was a lot of discontentment about that, like not being able to put as much of my creativity into making music. It compelled me to get the project out but I didn’t know what it was at the beginning. It came from a series of all-nighters where I stayed up from midnight to eight in the morning, fleshing out a song then sleeping the rest of the day. Then Encounter gradually presented itself to me and I thought to release it as a project.”
Your music is very vulnerable and honest, how have you built the confidence to expose yourself like that?
“I think it’s definitely a maturity thing. With the past stuff, that was also really honest, but it was as honest as I could be then in the circumstances I had. With this stuff, it comes from a maturing in how I’m looking at these scenarios and the perspective I can see them from. It’s become more of a detached perspective and its given me the ability to speak about it in a more detailed way, going more into depth about what I was going through – good and bad.”
“Music is complete honesty.”
Would you say music helped you then?
“Oh yeah 100%. Its helped me in numerous ways, whether its just listening to stuff on the basic level of putting on artists I like, or more. When you’re going through something, you need some sort of release or just to chill and listen to something, so its helped in that sense. But also when it comes to the creation of music, it provides a nice space to actually let all these things out that I wouldn’t otherwise talk about. In quite a few senses I’m an introvert, and partially I wouldn’t usually talk about a lot of these things openly, but music is complete honesty. So through that I gain the confidence to put that stuff out and people can see that side, especially if they’re going through a similar thing then it can help them too. Therapeutically, music has been a huge thing to me in the past year. I’ve learnt how to utilise song writing, not just to understand situations, but to also nudge myself to go through certain things that I know I need to figure out.”
Then who are your go-to artists to help you?
“Off the top of my head there’s RY X, I used to listen to bits of him in the past but never really delved into his catalogue. But around September last year, one of the first tracks off his new album popped up on Spotify. I think the song was ‘Found’ or ‘Untold’, and after that I listened through all his older stuff properly. That album spoke volumes to me, creatively and mentally too. Also, I’ve been a huge of an Australian artist called Golden Vessel for the last two years. Production-wise and aesthetically his sound is amazingly organic even though its electronic. In some ways his sound is what I’ve been trying to gear towards. I wasn’t sure how to get there until I heard his sound, so he inspired me a lot in terms of arranging my songs and getting the emotive depth I’ve been searching for. There’s a wealth of other artists – I could go on all day!”
Why is ‘Hourglass’ your first release after a slight hiatus?
“Good question, I’ll go into the hiatus because it links in. It was late last year after I played one of my first shows in London. The first one was a huge success and it sold out so I was meeting people from the industry with my manager and things were going great. But that also came with a huge pressure of ‘What next now?’, and it was that question that kept swirling around my mind. I hadn’t really thought about things further down the line, as I’d just left uni and had to focus on getting a job to help my mum with rent, so there was a huge panic where I didn’t know what to do. Instagram and social media didn’t help that at all, so I decided to detach myself from things, like I stopped playing live shows, we had a few offers but said ‘No for now’. With social media I had to detach myself from that for a while, which had a huge impact on me going deeper internally and having a look at why I was feeling like I had to live up to this thing that people were paying attention towards, in terms of the traction, so I had to give myself a bit of space.
“I was going through stuff, but in a productive way.”
“But in that time even though I was technically on a hiatus I was still writing music. I wrote a bunch of demos, at least twenty half-finished songs, and ‘Hourglass’ was one of the ones that came towards the end of that period. It came out of a time that I see of now as the period when I was going through stuff, but in a productive way. So there was a lot that came up around that point, like this feeling of being overwhelmed, and all the things that I hadn’t done that were still left to do. It was simple things like not replying to messages or missed phone calls, finances, overdue bills that were popping up, and I had a hard time dealing with that, so that’s where ‘Hourglass’ came from. Its about my journey with psychological time, in terms of feeling like something is never gunna end. It was about me trying to get a grip on that and understand how I can overcome that feeling. So, I thought this might be the best track to put forward first after taking a break for so long.”
What do you mean by saying “Leave it by the hourglass”?
“It’s interesting you ask about that specific lyric because that was actually the first lyric that stuck with me. In terms of arrangement, I usually put the basis of tracks together first. In terms of production, I’d laid down the keys and stuff, and was layering lots of lyrical ideas to see what would work and what wouldn’t work. But after a few days of things not working, I came back to it and sung that line. I sung it a few times and felt like I was on to something. Some people have premeditated lyrics or they write for the song based off something else, but with ‘Hourglass’ I didn’t really know what the song would be about, I only knew the feeling. I wanted to create something that was bright and uplifting, something that could carry a message of liberation, but I didn’t know what that would be. When those lyrics came up I felt compelled to find what that meant. “Leave it by the hourglass” is like a symbolism for leaving all your problems in the place where they are. They are temporary by nature, things come and go all the time. The whole hourglass thing relates to the phrase ‘the sands of time’? just relating to a finite period. I’m just saying that all of these things happening will end and its coming to that realisation fully. Allowing yourself to be in a place where you don’t necessarily suppress them, but you allow all these things to be. That’s the point I got to when I was going through that big thing. By all means I haven’t overcome it completely, I still get overwhelmed from time to time, but I just feel that I’m much more equipped to deal with it in a better way. So that’s what that line and the song in general are gearing towards.”
If you could give the song a colour, what would it be?
“This is tough because obviously I’ve done the artworks for it, but the artwork did come from the feeling of the track, so I would say a light blue. I don’t really know much about colours and their meaning but for me I got the sense of light blue from the brightness of it and I felt like that was the colour I could associate with it the most.”
Southampton based house-head Pandar recently remixed ‘Sines’, how did that come about?
“That one’s been a long time coming. He actually did that remix last year some time around autumn. I was sending out a load of tracks to friends because I thought it would be cool to release a few remixes from mates. It was actually supposed to be for post-Encounter, tying that with some remixes, but with time and having stepped away, I didn’t release it around Encounter. I decided to release a few remixes of ‘Sines’, but again, different people were busy at different times it was hard to coordinate. But Dan had sent me though his remix a few weeks after I even asked him, and as soon as he sent it to me I knew it was insane and that we had to release it at some point! It was a case of working out where it would fit, because I thought I’d be releasing something earlier in the year, but obviously the hiatus, so when we came out of it I was like ‘Let’s put this song out’. Then my little sister made a cool visual for it that we put up of the IGTV thing on Instagram, but it’s a really cool remix he’s a great producer and really cool. Hopefully we’ll be in the studio together sometime this year and create something that’s original, so hopefully that’ll be something to look out for…”
“I’ve had a few different alter-egos I’ve been messing around with.”
Would you put out a remix yourself, of your own track or someone else’s?
“Well, on that front, I can’t speak too soon, but I’ve been messing about with that idea. I’ve been trying to explore more creative avenues and all types of music, different genres. Just to improve my production skills, exposing myself to different kinds of rhythms and harmonies. But also, just because it’s really fun. So from that, I’ve had a few different alter-egos I’ve been messing around with. One might pop up at some point remixing one of my songs. You’ll have to just look out for that.”
Who would you like to work with artistically then?
“There’s many people. I already spoke about RY X, but it’s mainly people who have inspired me to get to the point I am in terms of expression. So people like Sampha, it would be really cool to work with him and see his process. Listening to a lot of his music gave me the inspiration to loosen up in terms of expressing myself. With singing, I haven’t felt like I’m naturally a singer and I never really had a background in singing. My introduction to music was through classical piano, later on I got into production – I was singing here and there but it was my own secret thing. I feel like artists like Sampha gave me the inspiration to break through that barrier. Like not putting so many boundaries on what I can do, and try to find my own voice within what I create. Visually, there are quite a few people I’d like to work with too.”
What’s next for Greg Wanders?
“Over the summer I’m gunna still be in the studio, developing these demos that I’ve started and hopefully get some more music out. Hopefully some little visual bits too, I’ve been working closely with my sister and a few of my other friends to create some DIY inspired visuals. I’ve seen a DIY approach to visuals a lot recently and I think its really cool. Its messing around with stuff, aspect ratios, different looks and feels. So yeah, I’ve dived into that over the past few months so we could see more visual content coming out. It’s gunna be a busy year really.”
Listen to ‘Hourglass‘ now
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe