It was nearly impossible to not have heard Kygo’s track “Firestone” if you ever left your house this past year or so. The soulful voice behind the hit is Australian singer/songwriter Conrad Sewell who is quickly becoming a household name. His latest EP available in Australia is set to be released world wide the first week of 2016, just in time for some U.S. tour dates including shows at Webster Hall and Barclays Center (January 21st, 2016). We caught up with Conrad to find out the details behind the hit song and his songwriting process as well as what we can expect from him in the new year.
SONIC HIGHLARK: So the track you did with Kygo (“Firestone“) was a huge hit, how did that come together?
CONRAD SEWELL: Well, I was writing stuff for my album and that was one of the ideas I had. Then Kygo was sort of blowing up on the internet and my manager knew his manager so I sent over the idea and he had a crack at the production and it turned into what it was. We didn’t really expect too much of it but it got big over the last year so it was just crazy.
SONIC: I saw Kygo few months back and everyone was singing along to that song, it’s a really great track so congrats on that!
CONRAD: Yeah, it’s been really cool thank you!
SONIC: You have a show coming up at Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY) with MØ and Kygo but you’ve travelled all over, what are some of your favorite places to perform?
CONRAD: I always like going to London. Stockholm is cool, Australia is my home so it’s always great to play there. We’re in Miami right now and it’s been great so far except for the humidity. My dream venue though is Wembley, so hopefully one day but with the Jingle Ball Tour we played Madison Square Garden, Staples Center and a bunch of cool iconic venues so it’s been really sweet.
SONIC: There is a lot happening with you right now and rather quickly, is it surreal sometimes when you think about it?
CONRAD: It’s um, tiring (laughs). When things start becoming more real you have to start taking care of yourself a bit more. You’re used to singing once a week then you start singing everyday, even 3 times a day and interviews on top of that so you really have to start looking out for your health. But overall it’s an incredible gig and I wouldn’t swap it for anything. Like most things it’s not always what you think it is, so it’s not just sex, drugs and rock’n roll… although I do a little bit of that.
SONIC: (laughing) And a lot of hard work involved.
CONRAD: Yeah, exactly.
SONIC: What’s the music scene like out in Australia where you’re from?
CONRAD: It’s cool man, there’s a lot of indie bands like rock’n roll sort of thing and some cool pop acts coming out like Troye Sivan he’s done some really cool stuff. Obviously the boys from Tame Impala are killing it so there is great music coming out of the country. I think because we’re sort of far away from everything, as much as we get our music from all around the world we really are free to create anything we want.
SONIC: What’s on your playlist? New stuff? Old stuff?
CONRAD: My playlist is pretty random to be honest. I have everything from Justin Bieber to Arctic Monkeys to Train. It really just comes down to songs for me. I get off on the more soulful stuff, you know like D’Angelo, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson or some old Motown stuff and I also listen to a lot of Hip-Hop.
SONIC: Do you have a certain approach to writing lyrics? Do you get inspired by things or do some of it just come to you naturally?
CONRAD: Yeah, some things come to me and sometimes it’s a personal experience. They’re usually the better songs because they’re harder to write and have this realness to it I guess? But I always look at it from a songwriter’s perspective and say it’s just a story so it doesn’t necessarily have to be real. After you’ve written hundreds of songs you tend to need something to write about so it’s not always personal stuff you know what I mean? Like “Firestone” came from a tire sign. I just thought it was a great title so I made the story around it. As much as I don’t want to kill anyone’s fantasies but that’s what it was.
SONIC: That’s really cool though actually. Does the track come first or do you have ideas for the lyrics beforehand?
CONRAD: Usually melody first. Just piano and guitar or something and I’ll sing the melody. But then occasionally I’ll have a lyric my head and say “That’ll be a cool title for a song” and I’ll remember that. I always try to fit it into some melody but most of the time it doesn’t work and I’m like “Fuck! I really want to call this song Shadow” or “I really want to call this song Fuck You” or whatever the fuck it is but eventually I’ll find the right melody for that lyric and I can finally write the song about what I wanted to write it about.
SONIC: Before I let you go, what’s next for you? What’s coming up?
CONRAD: I have an EP coming out in January, then putting out a full-length album. I’m going to be touring all next year, I’ll be touring with Jess Glynne in January, doing some stuff with Kygo, and I’ve been working with a bunch of different artists doing collaborations and stuff so just continuing to work and push music out there.
SONIC: That’s awesome man, thank you so much and I’m looking forward to hearing more of your music!
CONRAD: Thank you, I appreciate that!