Fred again..’s viral Boiler Room set featured a right clanger. Wasn’t his fault, mind. During a high-energy hour, an over-excited audience member accidentally cut the music when their flailing arm hit the decks. Far from being annoyed, Fred Gibson smiled, laughed, reassured his new pal with a hug and re-cued the track. As the BRIT Award-winning producer and songwriter with the stars has shown in his reflective ‘Actual Life’ album trilogy – with its most recent entry out last week (October 28) – life, sometimes, gets in the way of other pursuits.
As an in-demand producer and songwriter in the shadows ever since 2015, Fred’s been providing beats and lyrics for this decade’s biggest artists. His collaborators range from Charli XCX, Little Mix, George Ezra, BTS, Stormzy, AJ Tracey and more. Fred’s been so prolific that he features on the credits of a third of 2019’s UK No 1 singles, namely Ed Sheeran’s ‘Bad Habits’. Also that year, encouraged by family friend Brian Eno, he decided to step into the light as a solo artist, launching the dance-focused artist project Fred again…
In the three years since debut single ‘Kyle (I found you’), his emotive song-crafting style of sampling voice notes and real life recordings from friends and strangers has resulted in a raw documentation of living through the COVID pandemic. Putting personal stories first, Fred stitched these collaborative sonic diaries together to form the ‘Actual Life’ series of albums, eschewing popular pop songwriting for something mellower, more personal, but just as thrilling. This is the story of Fred again..’s rise in 10 banging tracks…
‘kyle (i found you)’ – November 2019
Having dropped tracks on his YouTube channel for several months beforehand, Fred’s debut streaming release landed after years of behind-the-scenes work. This first offering to the world showcased an artist with an intricate ear for sampling (Fred approached poet and MC Guante after coming across one of his poems) and was an indicative taste of what would follow: total euphoria.
‘Marnie (wish i had u)’ – February 2020
Starting off with drums that resembled the gentle thump of a baby’s heartbeat, this downtempo cut from Fred’s debut album ‘Actual Life (April 14 – December 17 2020)’ demonstrated the intrinsically personal nature of his singular song-crafting style. Reviewing the album, NME called it “contemplative electro-pop that longed for connection in a lost year”.
‘Smoke’ featuring Jamie xx & Headie One – April 2020
Pairing with London drill rapper Headie One for collaborative mixtape ‘GANG’, Fred “muted all the music so you could really hear every lyric and give them space”. Working on the ethos of less is more, his stripped back approach enabled Headie to peel back the layers and reveal a more melancholic side to his lyricism. It was keenly felt on standout track ‘Smoke’, on which Fred’s spacey production compliments Headie’s fearless and honest bars: “How many risky cards got dealt? You know how lonely nights I felt?”
‘Marea (we’ve lost dancing)’ featuring The Blessed Madonna – February 2021
From the closure of nightclubs to the heartbreak of losing loved ones, few other artists capture the feelings of pandemic-forced isolation and grief so vividly as Fred and DJ/producer The Blessed Madonna. Injecting determination and hope into this positivity-spreading banger, listening to ‘Marea’ during lockdown made millions of people around the world feel like a light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t too far away. Some months later, when festivals returned, it naturally became a highlight of Fred’s long-awaited Coachella debut.
‘Baxter (these are my friends)’ featuring Baxter Dury – August 2021
Living for the moment again was the message of Fred’s hedonistic collaboration with poet and vocalist Baxter Dury, which really got the good times rolling after over a year of missed sticky dancefloors. With Dury’s playful, tongue-in-cheek lines (“let’s dance again, shall we?”) riding a house beat, you’re transported to the club post-pandemic, eavesdropping on strangers’ stories in the smoking area.
‘Billie (loving arms)’ – August 2021
The first song to be revealed from the “cheerful” second chapter of Fred’s ‘Actual Life’ album trilogy – a record that turned despair into hope – the London-based artist built upon a sample of Billie Ray Martin’s cult 1994 dancefloor hit ‘Your Loving Arms’. Considering ‘Billie’ was written and pieced together during lockdowns, Fred’s intended message of “allowing people to help you, when you need it most” carried a lot of weight. “The physical touch of someone throwing themselves around you can really cure us of a whole lot I think”.
‘Lights Out’ (featuring Romy & HAAi) – March 2022
Perfectly timed to soundtrack the world’s long-awaited return to raving, ‘Lights Out’s lasers, wiggly acid production from Fred and HAAi and space-y synths combine with The xx’s Romy’s beckoning voice to create one massive rush of energy. With the breakbeat production fading in and out, the way the track gradually builds back up again for a full minute until a final cathartic release reflects the patience we all had to find within ourselves during lockdown.
‘Turn On The Lights Again’ (featuring Swedish House Mafia & Future) – July 2022
After he enlisted the snarl of punk rapper Rico Nasty a month earlier on the thunderous ‘Jungle’, Fred upped his game to team up with the biggest EDM act in the world, Swedish House Mafia, for what would become his highest charting single to date (Number 27 in the UK). Having emerged from an impromptu studio session in Sweden, their stadium-sized trance-leaning rave anthem – which samples US rapper Future’s 2012 track ‘Turn On The Lights’ – quickly went viral on TikTok when a teaser clip clocked up three million views.
‘Danielle (smile on my face)’ – September 2022
Every track that Fred has released this year has dominated daytime radio playlists, and the 070 Shake-sampling ‘Danielle’ is the most ubiquitous of them all. Taken from celebratory new album ‘Actual Life 3’, this bumping co-production with electronic auteur Four Tet is sure to be a highlight when Fred returns to London to play three shows at the O2 Academy Brixton in December: all tickets sold out in under a minute.
‘Delilah (pull me out of this)’ – October 2022
Featuring a sample of Fred’s friend Delilah singing her own song ‘Lost Keys’ on Instagram, he took the soothing lyric “you know how to calm me down” and debuted the track live during his aforementioned Boiler Room set earlier this summer. The clip blew up online and became yet another viral moment, and confirmed his place as one of the scene’s most popular names. Seriously impressive stuff.
Fred again..’s new album ‘Actual Life 3’ is out now