The biz's brightest new talents tell their stories. This week it's the turn of Atlanta Cobb, artist manager, Crown Talent Group/AM Music.
What made you choose music?
“Growing up, it was always something I knew I’d end up doing in some ...
British DJ and producer Duke Dumont achieved consecutive UK No.1 singles earlier in the decade. Here, he recalls the making of his first, 2013’s Need U (100%), co-written with MNEK, which altered the trajectory of his career...
The recession hit a lot of budding DJs hard. Venues were closing in and around London and I was struggling to make a living. I took a hit to the point that I was ready to sign on or get a ‘proper job’ because I was making so little money. I even had to go back and live with my mum at the age of about 30, which was quite emasculating.
It got to 2010 and I said to myself, ‘One more year: just work your arse off, don’t leave the studio and be fully committed’. And with that kind of mentality and ethos, things clicked into place.
I had a song called The Giver (Reprise), which did pretty well on the club scene, so there was a little bit of buzz and it got a bit of specialist play on late night radio. My name was known on the London scene and A&Rs had heard of me because I’d done a gazillion remixes. I think that made my life easier when a slightly pop-friendly dance record came around. It wasn’t out of the blue, I’d been around for a while.
Need U (100%) was very UK-friendly, it wasn’t a million miles away from the house records that had been getting into the Top 10 20 years before. It actually started out as a six to eight-minute house record, just effectively a dub.
I remember speaking to my manager at the time and he was like, ‘Let’s try and get MNEK on the record’. MNEK had done a song called Spoons with Rudimental and I thought his voice would lend itself to the underground and also potentially make it more successful. My manager said, ‘You can work with MNEK, but you have to work with AME as well’. So I replied, ‘That’s cool, just send them a backing track and let them do their thing’.
To be honest, I don’t think the song would have been as successful if I’d been in the recording session. I think I’d have tried to steer it away from the pop sensibilities that they brought. It was a mix of someone who had been making dance records for a long time and the vocals from AME and MNEK, who co-wrote the song. That’s what made it a happy marriage, musically.
When they sent me the vocal I took the initial, more clubby version and arranged it into three minutes. I never thought it would get to No.1, but it ended up going through Ministry Of Sound and David Dollimore and Dipesh Parmar did a fantastic job at marketing it up and down the country. It was one of the most playlisted songs on Radio 1 and brought me into the pop charts, which was a terrain I wasn’t used to or really wanted to be in. However, Need U (100%) helped change my life. It helped give me a business in the UK and got the ball rolling worldwide.
Trying to have chart success can be a double-edged sword. I’m lucky enough to be able to navigate through that, but I’ve seen a lot of acts get swallowed up by it. The most glaring evidence for me was when I did a song called Won’t Look Back, which got to No.2.
When you get a No.1, everybody comes out of the woodwork. You get people from high school you never spoke to sending you messages on Facebook and it’s nice, don’t get me wrong. But I remember when Won’t Look Back got to No.2, nobody said a fucking word!
I don’t think any act can ever allow chart success to define them because, when you stop being successful, that is also going to define you. Appreciate what it brings by all means, but do not let it define you.
Publishers EMI, Kobalt, San Remo Live, BMG Chrysalis Writers Adam Dyment, Aminata Kabba, Uzoechi Emenike Release Date 14.01.13 Record label Ministry Of Sound Total UK sales (OCC) 634,070
Jack Savoretti has enjoyed a sensational 12 months, netting his first No.1 album and headlining The SSE Arena, Wembley. But there is still one weapon missing from his armoury – a hit single.
However, rather than bemoan his luck, the English-born, Swiss-raised singer/songwriter of Italian ancestry believes his lack of a signature tune could actually be a blessing in disguise.
“I would love a hit single for many reasons, especially just to stick the finger up at those who said I could never do it,” he tells Music Week. “Other than that it’s protected me and, if you come to our shows, you’ll see what I mean. Nobody comes to hear one song – you see different pockets of the crowd loving different songs and that’s priceless from an artist’s point of view.
“I’ve been to many shows where people talk for an hour and a half, cheer that one song and then go home – and that’s tough for a musician. I mean, it’s great financially, but it’s tough to keep up with as well. And it’s protected me because it’s meant no expectations. Sometimes when you have that one single, people want that sound from you forever.”
Gemma Reilly, VP of marketing for BMG, Savoretti’s label, notes that, while not troubling the upper echelons of the chart, Singing To Strangers lead single Candlelight (62,213 sales) was a surprise inclusion on Now That’s What I Call Music! 102.
“You always know you’re teetering on something when it gets added on the Now compilation, so we’ll take that as being a hit,” she laughs. “It would be fantastic to achieve [a Top 40 single]. Jack’s a true artist in that it is a body of work, but it’s always good to think, ‘What’s next?’ And I’d hope that would be next.”
“I’ve always put the album first,” reflects Savoretti. “I love making albums. I love writing songs, of course, but I always write songs with an album in mind. There’s a true science behind hit singles that I’ve never really wanted to get involved in. But the longer I’m in the business the more I realise there are huge strategies behind a lot of them. You’re like, ‘OK, that’s how it became a hit – because there was six months preparation for that song’.”
The 36-year-old’s rise has been an exercise in persistence, resilience and determination. His first three records, Between The Minds (2007), Harder Than Easy (2009) and Before The Storm (2012) were released independently (the first two on De Angelis Records and the latter via Fulfill) to modest impact, and Savoretti grew disillusioned with his working environment.
“I had seen a side to the music industry that didn’t fit me,” he says. “It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, put it that way. I didn’t really think of music as a business. I didn’t grow up in England, I grew up abroad where there isn’t the same culture.
“When I decided to walk away, what I found annoying was that I still wanted to make music and write songs, but I felt like I wasn’t being allowed to do that unless I conformed to how the industry did it. Either play the game or you’re sitting at home at the end of your bed, playing guitar alone. I was like, ‘There must be a middle ground here. I don’t want to become the next superstar, but I want to share my music and I want people to hear it’.”
Savoretti took operations in-house, assembling his own team from outside the industry, bringing in the future Push Music Management duo of Niko Michault and Danielle Livesey as managers. He explains: “Niko was a good friend of mine and Danielle was an interior designer, but had worked on this amazing project with Palestine and Israel. I saw her at work and thought, ‘You’re the kind of person with the right ideals and values’.”
The decision was a wise one and proved a turning point, setting Savoretti on the path to success and stardom.
“These two people changed my life,” he beams. “Everything we did was for the right reasons. We made a lot of bad decisions, don’t get me wrong, because we’re still making it up as we go along. But it was a real insight into the fact that, actually, not many people in this business know what they’re doing. A lot of people are blagging it – even the guys at the top – and in certain situations we found ourselves neck-and-neck with them. The guy at the top might not care about 90% of the stuff they’re selling whereas this was our only baby, so we could just focus on our project. I think that gets lost in the big machinery of the music business.
“Having had some success, people inside with strong know-how are now starting to reach out and that’s nice. I don’t need them and they don’t need me, but together we can do some cool things. If we cooperate, maybe we can have a little bit more fun or build something even bigger.”
Savoretti was signed to BMG by the label’s then director of A&R Thomas Haimovici on the back of the singer’s self-released 2014 EP Sweet Hurt (21,148 sales, OCC). He subsequently cracked the Top 10 with 2015 LP Written In Scars (193,935 sales), which peaked at No.7 and was the first of three consecutive gold-selling LPs. Sleep No More (130,174 sales), released the following year, fared even better chart-wise, reaching No.6.
Savoretti cannot speak highly enough of Haimovici, who departed for Virgin EMI in October.
“Thomas got it,” he stresses. “He understood the music and he understood my story. We’re two quite stubborn characters so the introduction was, ‘You guys are either going to love each other or hate each other’. Fortunately for me, we hit it off like a house on fire and the three records I made with that guy were the three records I’ve enjoyed making the most.
“It was an opportunity I didn’t want to take for granted because I have seen how hard it is to make records truly independently. The three before were done like that and I was tired and frustrated with banging my head against a brick wall with very little results, so I really wanted to give it a shot. I trusted [Haimovici] fully and he delivered in allowing me to make the music I wanted to make.”
In another defining moment, Savoretti’s performance of Written In Scars track Catapult on The Graham Norton Show on BBC One in early 2016 led to a huge sales increase for its parent album, which had previously stalled at No.13, introducing the star to a national audience.
“A year after the album, there was a repack and I put two new songs on it: Back Where I Belong and Catapult,” recalls Savoretti. “When Graham and the producer came to see us at Hammersmith Apollo and asked us to come on the show, we couldn’t believe it.
“The week afterwards, we came in at No.7 in the charts and had our first Top 10 record – a year after the album had come out – so that was amazing. We were like, ‘Three minutes of TV did what 10 years of touring couldn’t do?’ But it was amazing to see the power of TV.”
“It just blew everything open,” marvels Reilly. “We went from selling 500 copies a week on that album to 15,000 the week after Norton and that was the moment everything changed. The team at Graham Norton have been hugely supportive of Jack and have had him on the show for all three of the albums we’ve worked on.”
The groundswell of support helped Savoretti’s push to the albums summit with Singing To Strangers, which topped the charts in March. Though Savoretti was always quietly confident, the scale of his success caught some insiders by surprise.
“What was surprising to me was how surprised everybody else was,” admits Savoretti, speaking to Music Week at SW19 Studios in London. “We’ve been building this for 15 years, we’ve been touring relentlessly for 15 years and we’ve seen it happen gradually, so we knew the people and the numbers were out there. We just didn’t know if I would make an album that would get them all so excited in the first week – that wasn’t something I had really thought about. But the label nailed it strategically.”
“Each time, we’ve made steps forward and helped build and develop his career, so it was a key release,” explains Reilly. “It started very authentically in that it was an album he’d always wanted to make. He went back to his roots in Italy and sonically it was what he loves. He was working with Cam Blackwood, who’s an amazing producer, and when we first heard it the ambition was immediately there.”
Recorded at Ennio Morricone’s studio at Rome in the summer of 2018, the campaign received a timely boost when Savoretti was invited to work with BMG stablemate Kylie Minogue on what became the final single from her 2018 Golden album, Music’s Too Sad Without You. Savoretti included a live version of the song on the deluxe edition of Singing To Strangers.
“We were off to a wonderful start when Jack collaborated with Kylie,” smiles Reilly. “That campaigned around November , which warmed everything up beautifully into announcing Singing To Strangers and it just got better and better from there.”
Reilly vividly recalls Savoretti’s reaction to being told his album had gone in at No.1.
“I was travelling to work on the tube and Jack was on a plane because he was flying back from Italy,” she remembers. “He was on the tarmac, but kept his phone on because it was a bit tight in terms of when the chart would be published. We FaceTimed and he was in floods of tears. He’d travelled alone and was sitting next to this woman who didn’t know what on earth was going on!
“It was a very emotional day. When he landed, he came straight into the office and we had champagne. Then we went out and celebrated with the full team, it was such a wonderful moment.”
Singing To Strangers moved 32,264 copies in its week of release but has kept up the momentum throughout the year, racking up to-date sales of 123,556.
“It just keeps going,” observes Reilly. “People are still slightly in discovery mode. The more they see him, the more it builds and this time we’ve spread out into pockets of the UK it hadn’t quite got to before and heightened his profile. He had a core fanbase that we’ve been adding to, but I feel that it’s more mainstream now because of consistent discovery, great support on radio and a great TV profile.”
A new 2CD special edition of the LP, released last Friday, features two brand new studio tracks, along with a Christmas song, his Kylie Minogue duet and collaborations with Mika, Ward Thomas and Sigma, as well as a series of live versions of album tracks.
“It’s a reflection of Jack live and collaborations, so it’s of real added value for me,” suggests Reilly.
“I’m always a bit cynical with special editions,” concedes Savoretti. “It is essentially a record label trying to say, ‘This album’s going well, let’s keep it going’. But it’s a great opportunity to do things you wouldn’t necessarily want to do on an album. It was like, ‘OK, let’s have fun with this’. It’s like a bridge between this album and the next one.”
It has also been a momentous year on the live scene where Savoretti played his biggest headline show to date at The SSE Arena, Wembley in May.
“When I told my friends I was playing Wembley they asked me, ‘Which part?’” chortles Savoretti, whose agent is Paradigm’s Olly Hodgson. “For the whole tour leading up to that I was worried because this album is very intimate, romantic and theatrical. Wembley isn’t exactly romantic, intimate and theatrical, so I was very sceptical but also just scared if I’m honest. But my crew, on the day of the show, just fucking delivered like nobody’s business. They realised how worried I was about it and they all upped their game for the night and put on a hell of a show.
“When I walked out, there was this energy coming from the crowd where they were almost thinking, ‘How did we get here?’ Walking on was the most comforting moment because I recognised half of the front row, they’d been following us for years. Fifty per cent of the audience were old friends so, when I saw those faces, it was like, ‘Oh, this is just another gig’.”
He continues: “Singing Greatest Mistake, a song I wrote with my daughter, and seeing her in the crowd jumping up and down is a moment I’ll never forget. She’s eight now and as I was walking off stage she ran up to me, sat on my lap and said, ‘Papa, that was amazing. Now I get why you always want to sleep when you come home!’ She loves it. But my boy, who was four, fell asleep the minute I came on. He saw papa and just passed out!”
With a smattering of live dates just announced for 2020, Savoretti is already preparing for the next chapter.
“To have a No.1 record and [play] Wembley in the same year is amazing and also quite scary,” he says. “How are we going to top this? Have we peaked? I don’t think we have.
“For my band to see the results; for them to get their gold discs; for them to get a No.1 album and get to Wembley; it’s made everybody come to work with a real fucking kick up their ass and I hope that’s going to show on the next record.”
Summing up, Savoretti declares 2019 the most satisfying year of his career.
“There are people I’ve been dragging along on this path – some of them for 10 to 15 years – convincing them that this is worth sticking with,” he finishes. “It’s nice for them to know that they weren’t crazy and we haven’t just wasted 10 years of our life.”