Late last month, St. Lucian-born, London-raised producer Poté released his long-awaited debut album, Spiral, My Love. Clocking in at a lean seven tracks, it was as efficient as it was effective. Despite that, the whole album took him the better part of a year to plan, write and produce; including a considerable amount of time throwing around ideas with the other artists that feature on the album.
As he explains below, his creative process (and the results of that process) have evolved dramatically for the album format. Where in the past, singles and even EPs had to be quick and punchy—because he's only got 3-4 minutes to play with—Spiral, My Love feels a lot more considered. Even though it is just seven tracks long, the pace is a little slower as he gives himself more room to play with. "Spiral" opens the album with a crawling wall of noise behind sombre lyrics. Even "Untune" with Kojey takes its time and makes sure not to rush things. It's not until the fourth track, "Morph", that we start to hear some more urgent, faster-paced rhythms. That continues for the next couple of tracks before he draws us towards the album's conclusion with yet more focus on thoughtful songwriting and gradually built soundscapes. It really is a journey.
We caught up with Poté in the wake of the project's release to discuss what got him to this point, how his creative process has evolved over the years and how he feels about the album now that it's made the journey from his imagination to a finished product.
You just released your debut album, Spiral, My Love—how does it feel to have it out in the world?
It feels a relief for a few different reasons. I started this project around mid last year and finished it in around December, so feels good to have it out there for people to take in and not just on my hard drive anymore. It also feels great seeing how well it's being received, better than I expected if I'm honest. I didn't expect people to connect to it as emotionally as they did, I've never had that one before but it feels great. I always wanted to create something which isn't strictly for the clubs, something that people can live with and really make their own. Spiral, My Love is my entrance piece to those sorts of projects.
How did making that compare to producing tracks for a single or an EP?
For one, it took a lot longer to write than an EP or single. Seven months of patience and working with great artists like Remi, Damon Albarn, Chelou, Alxndr London (and more) who got the vision really helped too. I've never spent so long on a project before but at no stage did it get tiring or boring because it was a live documentation of what I was going through. All my other projects were mostly looking back but this is the first one where I wrote, sang and produced songs about things/feelings which sometimes hadn't resolved itself.
It's relatively brief at seven tracks, but it's still a full length project. Were there a lot of tracks that didn't make the final cut?
Usually, I'd know by the first 16 bars of writing a track whether it would make the cut from the feeling it gives me, that way I don't end up spending much time writing something I don't think will work or fit the narrative. There are maybe about three or four unfinished tracks which didn't end up making it, but I felt I said and covered all what I wanted to talk about with those seven tracks. I didn't want this project to have tracks which were just there to be a filler or single, I prefer albums which are a concise while taking you through, it's more affective and keeps you hooked in.
Why did you choose now to release the album?
It felt right. Everything felt right; it felt good, and the project felt strong enough to call it my debut album. I feel like it really represents where I've come from musically and where I'm going to, while also being it's own thing. I've never felt the pressure around creating an album, it just wrote itself. Sometimes you just have to go with you gut and what feels right, and this album is that.
How's the reception been so far? Any surprising people praised the album?
It's been really great! People seem to really get it, even though it's a bit different which I didn't expect and I love that people are really taking it in. I try not to really read much about what people are saying online if I'm honest, the most important thing to me is impressing my peers while working on what was the ideas for those tracks at the time and seeing the joy come out of them. Like seeing Damon's screw facing when the baseline on Spiral comes in and Kojey's bop while recording his vocals on Untune. That's what I really love!
You've got some big collabs on there—Kojey Radical, Alxndr London—how did they come about?
Most of the artists featured on projects I've worked with or just had sessions with before. I worked on a track on Kojey's album as well as Alxndr London's. For me, it was just about picking artists who I felt could really bring out the emotion I wanted the tracks to convey and really understand what we were trying to create. Everyone who worked on this project were just people I met and really clicked with, I feel like those relationships really give artists space to create something special, that natural understanding.
Do you have a set criteria for how you decide who to work with?
I'd really work with anyone if we had a mutual understanding of what we want to achieve and an openness to mess about. Not everything needs to be made right away, every second when you're in the studio. Get a chance to understand each other. When Kojey came round to record vocals we sat around for ages chatting, ate some food then recorded for probably around 40 minutes or so. I really believe in the importance of not rushing the process, nothing ruins the creative spirit more.
What does the rest of the year hold for Poté?
I'm just in the middle of preparing for my album launch party this week before going back to Paris to finish up these ideas for album two. I've also got a few more bits of music coming out on other artists albums, but for the rest of the year I'll mostly be writing the follow up album and doing a few shows here and there.
Have you started thinking about album two yet—or are we jumping the gun??
It's currently in the works, should be finished by February but you really never know with these things, it feels really good to me though. I'm really excited to get it finished, it's also longer and has more tracks. You will probably hear something from it around this time next year, or maybe earlier... who knows, I'm trying not to rush it.
What about long-term goals? Where do you want to take your career in the future? Film soundtracks? Different aliases?
I really want to work on a film, I've wanted to for a while now but not just writing the score, also partly directing. It's one of those things I really want to get ticked off my list so I'm putting it out there into the universe aha. It probably won't happen for a while as I'd want it to be right. I want to get a few more albums under my belt, a real body of work to show a depth to what me as an artist but something with a thread, always leading to the clubs. I've also got loads of plans for elevating my live show, both visually and musically which I can't wait to be able to develop, one day.