It goes without saying, but the best music icons have an unrivalled star presence. The kind of swagger and aura that forces everyone in the room be utterly drawn to that person. Skepta, London’s grime king has that effect and the utterly bewitching Lana Del Rey does too. Caleb Kunle, the winner of The Emerging Artists Project, is fast following in their footsteps.
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We’re at The Ace Hotel in East London for Caleb’s first ever photoshoot, but before NME’s photographer begins snapping – all of the energy at the shoot revolves around him. He’s laughing, hugging everyone in sight and asking for the music to be turned up louder. It’s like he’s been doing it for years.
But we knew that he had this kind of potential already. ‘Another Life’, the 25-year-old’s winning song, was a cosmic blend of electro-pop and R&B that showcased a newcomer ready to explode. “To be honest I forgot about it all,” he admits. “I just threw that song into the universe and hoped I could win.”
That throw turned out to be a pitch perfect, and landed the Irish musician here in London to record his debut EP, ‘Eden’ with producer Murkage Dave (Tonga, Mike Skinner). It’s a far cry from his mum’s shed, where he recorded his winning song.
It’s in the studio, that his presence is felt strongest. He confidently holds court with NME, and poses for a few pictures, already at ease at his new environment. “To be here with the calibre of talent and to be in a comfortable place like this as an emerging artist – you have to sap it for all its worth.”
Sap it he does. He’s only been in the studio for a couple of days, but a clear picture is emerging where he wants his EP to go – “for three years I’ve been saying that I’m going to make it, and now the story works.”
Soon after, Caleb sneakily picks up a guitar and gently begins strumming one of the EP’s newest cuts. Phones are promptly put down, natterings come to an end, and his stunning, soulful voice captivates everybody in the room with ease. Yeah, he’s a star alright.