On Thursdays Del Owusu interviews someone on the Fresh On The Net Radar. This week: Garlen Lo…
Hello, Garlen Lo. How are you?
Hot, hot, hot! Weather’s finally decent but now, of course, I’m complaining that it’s too hot rather than too cold / grey / miserable. Love a weather moan, me.
Congratulations on your third single, London, Tell Me Why. How does it feel?
It’s nice to release a song that is more my own ‘natural’ sound. My first two singles (Captain Elon and Lover’s Lover) were upbeat, quirky, and experimental. This third single is a traditional singer-songwriter song. It’s my favourite of the three partly because of the lead guitar, which I don’t normally play.
It’s a song about love and loneliness in London. Is this a personal song?
The characters Terry and Julie are the protagonists of my song, but yes, the emotions are mine. In a city of nine million people, I wonder how many of us are lonely? It’s the feeling of being lost in a crowd. Maybe feeling insignificant. And yet all it takes is one other person to love you, to pay attention to you, to give you affection, to hold your hand… and it changes everything.
The names Terry and Julie sound familiar…
Haha, yes, well spotted. London, Tell Me Why is the sequel to Waterloo Sunset. It’s a sadder song based on a different premise: What if Terry and Julie split up? But importantly for me, as with all my songs, it’s still hopeful.
You are a singer-songwriter-producer from London. How did it all begin for you?
It began with writing poems as a kid. This evolved into songs. Then a band. Then I had a break to focus on other creative endeavours, namely fiction writing and travel vlogging. But the Covid period allowed me time to pick up the guitar again. These singles I’m releasing in 2023 are the result.
What did you listen to growing up?
I was brought up by my auntie, uncle and their adult children, so our household had an eclectic mix of music: country, soul, dance, hip-hop. I think I must have rebelled by deliberately favouring the one type of music that nobody in the house liked: Britpop.
Your music is based on stories. How does a writing session usually begin for you?
Storytelling is important to me. Stories allow us to understand our own lives better by viewing other people’s dreams and struggles. We can relate. In terms of how a writing session begins… usually sitting on the sofa, guitar in hand, maybe watching the TV. I’ll sing gibberish, trying different melodies, and if something catchy pops out, then I’ll either finish the song there and then or I’ll record it on my phone and return to it later.
You’ve got a travel vlog. What was your favourite place to visit?
Tokyo. It’s wacky: sumo, sushi, samurai, sex, Shibuya crossing, kawaii, and computer games. Here’s the episode:
Tell us a funny story from the vlog.
A gang of seagulls stole my burger. I was goading one seagull, when a second seagull swooped down and attacked me, forcing me to drop the burger. Then a third seagull swooped and grabbed the burger from the floor before I could retrieve it. It was a planned operation.
Covid impacted the creative industry in a big way. What kept you motivated?
The sense of unfinished business. I have written 179 songs, but only this year has any of them been released.
The last three years have been a time to reflect. What did you learn about yourself?
It reconfirmed my values: love friends and family, do what you enjoy, and appreciate life, especially nature.
Did you pick up any new skills?
DIY. I can hang large mirrors singlehandedly, though I wouldn’t recommend.
You were brought up listening to country, soul, dance, and hip-hop. A far cry from what you make right now. Is there anything from that period of your life you still jam out to?
Growing up in a large household, I remember listening to Patsy Cline, Motown, Prodigy, De La Soul. But the first band I discovered for myself was Oasis, and it was through them that I really got into music. Liam and Noel would always bang on about this band called The Beatles. So I found a copy of Revolver in my cousin’s record collection and once I listened to that, a whole new world opened up; not only the Beatles back catalogue but other music of that era like the Stones, Kinks, and Beach Boys.
What are you listening to at the moment?
One of the nice things about making music is coming across other new or lesser known artists. I like these:
The last two acts I saw live in a small setting as they were starting out around 10 years ago. I always hoped they’d become big. Hollerado achieved cult success with several albums, but Laura Hocking’s musical career lasted just an EP, though she also has demos and live performances that can be found online.
Being a Londoner, what are your three favourite things about our city?
1) Regent’s Park. It’s where I play football on Saturday mornings. 2) The accent. Whenever I’m abroad and I hear a London accent, I feel very much at home. 3) The Thames. It’s a visual oasis that has been the backdrop for many moments of reflection and, as such, inspired many a song including my own, London, Tell Me Why.