Off the top of my head, Diana Dors, Melinder Messenger and an unfathomable roundabout system are the only things of note to come out of Swindon. And of course XTC, a group that confused so many with their Prog-pop sort of Indie sort of, well, who knows. Well we can add another name to the roster of notable Swindonians (Swinswegens??) and that name is Josh Kumra.
Like XTC who took a myriad of styles and moulded them into their own sound, so Josh Kumra mixes his contemporary sounds – at home in Indie, RnB and (most notably) collaborating with Wretch 32 for his 2011 number one hit ‘Don’t Go’ (Yeah, thats where you’ve heard his voice before) to form something that’s recognisable, but recognisable as him, for all his nods towards Paulo Nutini and Ben Howard.
Since that Wretch 32 moment, Kumra’s stock has risen considerably, aided by the ever enthusiastic Jools Holland to touring with press darlings such as Gabrielle Aplin, Lianne La Havas and Labrinth. With this in mind he has announced the fruits of his recording sessions in the shape of a single ‘The Answer’ out on April 8th, followed a week later by an album, titled ‘ Good things come to those who don’t wait’.
Both showcase Kumra as the smokey voiced troubadour, bringing his influences together to present emotional and beautiful melodies and stories, that find a place somewhere between beats and singer-songwriter territory. It’s this modern sound that just keeps Kumra out of the middle age 4×4 brigade market (i.e. easy slop) although his penchant is for the more downbeat. He himself says “I’ve always related to emotional songs,” he says, citing as examples ‘Fool To Cry’ by The Rolling Stones, Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ and This Love Is Over by the aforementioned Ray Lamontagne,Kumras odol“Those songs connect with me. Not that I’m unhappy or a sadist, but I do gravitate towards hearing people suffering in songs. I like it when I hear pain because it feels more true.”
Certainly the album has exciting credentials, with Josh sharing songwriting and production credits with some steller names, including Fink, Emeli Sande and Mr Hudson. He was given free rein to explore his influence to find his sound ‘We had total freedom to mix up soul, blues and gospel songwriting, sometimes with big hip hop beats ‘ he explains, ‘But there’s no production for the sake of it. And ultimately it comes down to me, the bedroom singer-songwriter with a guitar in my hand. That’s what I wanted to come across.’
Josh Kumra has already negotiated those roundabouts, and in the spirit of XTC is making exciting music in a variety of genres all mixed together. Messenger and Dors are very much in his sights. Swindon could soon have a new hero.