An interview with the next big star, Dylan Cartlidge

An interview with the next big star, Dylan Cartlidge

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Sometimes you just get a feeling about an artist and their fame seems inevitable. I remember feeling this way about Beabadoobee’s first song. Like, thinking, “This thing is going to blow up and they are going to be huge.”

That is very much how I feel about Dylan Cartlidge. He is a recent signing to Glassnote and when it got sent my way, I was about 30 seconds in and I thought, “I have to talk to this guy before he blows up.” “Yellow Brick Road” is a song that is so fully formed. Its hook is massive and its energy is so full of fun. It might sound like an odd comparison, but it kind of sounds like Gym Class Heros meets Anderson .Paak. Either way, Dylan Cartlidge seems bound to be a huge success, and after talking to him here I can only wish him the absolute best.

Why is your handle on this Chaos Jigsaw?

I was praying that you wouldn’t ask. I was afraid. So this is, still is, this was my rap name. Like this was literally what I used rapping up until the point I released my first solo project. I was Chaos Jigsaw, and it was my moody, angsty, teenage name, which coincidentally was also my Xbox Live name and so that’s where that comes from.

Dude, it does have a good ring to it. What’s the Jigsaw? What’s the Chaos? It was just like two words that sounded cool? 

Yeah, I think I was in a phase where lots of rappers I knew at the time, the names are all like oxymorons and I find that really, really clever and really cool. It was just like really cool. And so it’s like, well, what am I going to do? The meaning behind it was I literally, this is how cringe it was. It was actually my angsty, teenage self. And I was like, right. My life before now was all chaos, so now I’m going to try to put it together. So I’m going to call myself Chaos Jigsaw. That was the merger. 

Oh my God. That is so good. Chef’s kiss on that. That is perfect because listening to “Yellow Brick Road” and “Cheerleader,” these songs are so well formed and so perfect that I was like, there must be a project that I don’t know about these aren’t the first. These aren’t the kind of songs that someone just writes as their first five songs, there’s no way. So what was your life before it was Dylan Cartlidge? What was your music like before that, before this?

Like I said, I started kind of rapping around 13 and a lot of people are asking, how did he get into music. For me, it was very much like, need more so as a necessity thing, like I had a bit of a turbulent childhood, you know, being raised in where I was raised. And that kind of led me to, I guess, really come to a bit of a crossroads where I had to make a decision, whether I want to kind of go down a road that a lot of people in some of the similar circumstances have gone down and not necessarily a good road or choose to do something positive. And so I began to try and make raps to make sense of my situation. And I began really being touched and really moved by music from artists like Kid Cudi and Common. You know, like left field sort of backpack rappers that is the first time that, you know, it was okay for rappers to have mental health issues. It was like, you don’t just have to be in the club, popping bottles. If you’re at home not feeling so great, that’s also cool. So that really reached out to me. And from that point onwards, I was really like, right, this has now become part of who I am. A part of my natural emotional regulation and figuring things out. And so I began, like I said, I was a rapper first and foremost, I listened to everything exclusively pop or rap, anything that remotely had a real instrument or anything in it. I was like, no, no, no, no. That’s for the metal heads, get that away from me.

I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like it. Anything that had a live instrument or sounded like it had live instruments, I couldn’t cope with it. And then when around 16, I kind of moved to a different area in a different school, a different way of life. And I joined the college course, like a high school kind of course. And we got put into bands, formed into bands and yeah, I got put into this band with these two brothers from Cyprus with leather jackets and Chelsea boots. And that was it. And they had me there. They showed me The Black Keys and The White Stripes. And I mean, I’ve kind of never looked back since, I’ve just followed a whole array of music now. 

What was your band name with them? 

It was called Bilingual, actually. Another absolute harebrained scheme that was the Da Vinci Code of band names, of course. It just happened that well, I’m from England and these guys are from Cyprus and rap and rock don’t usually go together. So why don’t we say that we speak both equally as fluently and we’ll call it Bilingual. 

I love thinking so hard to do something so simple. You know, your initial move in all of music. And music always works or so often art works when its saying something really simple in a simple way. And the first instinct is always just to like put a stupid amount of thought into it. 

See if my life could be summed up in a t-shirt. That’s what it would say. Nobody’s ever said that to me before, but it makes total sense like that. You’ve hit the nail on the head. I mean, that is literally me. 

The production of these songs is just so absolutely bonkers and just pops off so hard. Who did you work with or did you do this yourself? What went into the bombast of these? Because it’s just like, it really, it really works. 

Thank you, it’s a mix. Some songs I write back at home and like “Yellow Brick Road” and “Cheerleader” in particular, those are the first two songs I ever wrote. As soon as I quit my job at the bar, I went to a big fancy studio in London. I went to work with a producer called James Drink, he’s a really good producer from London. He was involved heavily in the production on “Demon Days.” I think he did four out of the five Jamie T albums, which is a British artist, an alternative guy, he’s really cool. And he’s just this fantastic, cool guy, who has a big beaty sound, obviously Gorillaz as a point of reference and we hit it off straight away, man. We just, we got in, cause I’m a rapper first and foremost, improvisation and spontaneity is my backbone and my bread and butter. And so I really put that into my approach to instrumentation and really composition. And so I get in the room on the day with nothing prepared and just, we freestyle a song and that’s what happened on both of those tracks. 

Wow. What was the first thing that came together with “Yellow Brick Road”? What was the spine for that song? 

It was a baseline that really kicked it off. I hadn’t met James before. It was the first encounter and I had never heard a breakbeat before. And he was like, “Oh, I’ve got these break beats.” So he was messing around with those and making the beat and then I start playing this baseline and we just started grooving that out. But the thing with “Yellow Brick Road,” right? So the song is really like an encapsulation of literally not knowing whether that studio session was going to be the last studio session and every single person, even though it was a very small amount of people from the music industry in London at that time, had their eyes on me and had their eyes on that session. They had their hands rubbing together with the potential of what might have happened or whatever, you know. There’s always that chance that it was going to be like, “Oh, you know, whatever happened or we got demo artists” or that whatever story people want to write in there. I remember just trying to encapsulate that whole feeling of being like, “Wow, am I going to go back to the bar now and say like, let’s try something else, so it didn’t work out or is this a start of something? I don’t know, but I just want to try and encapsulate that.”

So the song was trying to just replicate that feeling, you know, and just give it everything in the studio and really come out with something that represented that whole experience. And I remember, because the way that I work is we have two days and on the first day we flesh out the song. It’s usually just comprised of me making ridiculous noises and making a fool out myself, right? And then I go back to wherever I’m staying. And I usually stay up ‘til usually all-God hours of the night and do the lyrics. And then we go in the next morning and we finish the song and with “Yellow Brick Road.” It was literally like, something just didn’t sit right. The demo sounded amazing. I went and did the lyrics. I came back, we gave it everything and we were about half an hour from finishing and it just didn’t sound right. And we were both like something’s gone, the magic of the demo that was there, just something. We’ve got the lyrics on, we’ve got the track fleshed out what are we missing and everything was there, but the chorus just wasn’t right. And you know, we’re at that point where it was like, “Oh, you know, maybe this is, we call it a day.” You know, this is what happens. It’s one of those moments where people just, I don’t know whether you’ve been trying something for ages or you’re on the local school soccer team or whatever and people are like, “Oh, you know, it’s a bad game, just call it a bad game. You know?” And I was like, no, I can’t let this happen. I was like, ”turn on the mic.” We’re literally just about to turn everything off and go. And I just came out with a chorus. It was a totally different melody, totally different lyric, totally off-the-beaten-track. And he was like, that’s the best chorus I’ve ever heard. How the hell did you do this? And we just said, save it and send it off. And we did. 

Wow the pressure, like that pressure cooker, that’s why it’s like so hard to make a self deadline or something like that, where the inspiration just comes when you need it, you know? 

What’s the saying? Like invention is the cousin of necessity or whatever it is. That was really the case in that situation. It was like a self fulfilling necessity, you know? 

Wow. That is amazing.

I want to end on something that you’re listening to. So I want to know what is the last song that you couldn’t stop listening to? 

There’s been a few man, there are lots of artists I really like at the moment. I’m a massive fan of Oliver Tree. He’s obviously just dropped his album and he’s had a massive, a lot of stuff going on in the U.S. at the moment. Obviously everybody’s been obsessed with “Supalonely” BENEE and Gus Dapperton. I’m a massive Gus Dapperton fan. I wasn’t aware of BENEE before, but I’m now of course. I love all this, but to be honest, I think there’s a couple of songs off the new Strokes record that I haven’t heard yet. I just listened to it today and I’ve been really obsessed with it, but also there’s this band from Australia called the Babe Rainbow and they’re on 30th Century Records, they’re Danger Mouse’s record label, and they’re just super killer and they’ve got a song called “Something New” and I’ve just, I’ve been really vibing that at the moment. I think that would be the one that I would say, it’s just a bit of an ear worm and you can’t turn it off, that’s the one at the minute. 

Wow. Danger Mouse, just like everything the man touches. Is it the production of it? Does he produce it? 

I didn’t know if he produced it. I think it’s really, it’s just a credit to him and how great he is because he has this record label where he just signs, acts that he likes the music. Acts that are self sufficient and put music out. And it’s really, his whole record label is like a Danger Mouse Spotify playlist, and that’s about it. 

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