To mark the release of his latest EP and the video for "Boyfriend", the rising pop star opens up about life and love.
With his latest EP, Public Display of Affection, musician Master Peace turns inwards — with the catharsis of live shows off the cards since the first lockdown, the collection of songs is testament to hours spent channelling his thoughts and feelings into studio sessions. Describing the release as a “rollercoaster of emotions”, the South Londoner demonstrates his artistic range across stadium-ready tracks like “Hold You Back” and energetic “Boyfriend” featuring singer-songwriter Mae Muller.
Coinciding with the end of a long-term relationship, Public Display of Affection is a space for Master Peace to reintroduce himself as an artist with a new level of emotional candour. As he puts it; “It’s always been hard for me to articulate my personal life in a song before, so this EP really shows a side of me that people are not used to.”
The EP is released today (2 July) alongside the playful video for “Boyfriend”, a catchy earworm all about the thrill of the chase. Speaking of the video and collaboration, Muller has only good things to say; “Master Peace has such amazing and powerful energy and it was such a privilege to be able to create something so special with him.”
Below, we catch up with Master Peace to talk musical beginnings, sobriety and the breakup that inspired the new EP.
To begin, I’d love to hear about your beginnings in music.
I started off as a grime MC in a group. We were doing our thing on the underground circuit and pirate radio but I knew I didn’t want to be a grime MC, I wanted to be a rock or pop star. I met my manager and he asked me, “What do you want to be?” So I was just like, “Look, I want to be a pop star. Take me there, let’s go.” From there, we knew what we needed to do to get to that place. I’m there now, just doing my thing.
More broadly, what have you learned about yourself throughout the pandemic?
I’ve learned that I’m a bit boring and I need to go out more. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I never have. I’m very straight edge. When lockdown happened, I was like, “I haven’t really experienced anything.” I need to have fun and do what people my age are doing, to help me write good music. I should be going to a club to hear what’s going on there, who’s playing what music, or going and watching a band play. I’ve been buying tickets to gigs that I’m feeling at the moment, so I can learn.
You mention that you don’t drink, what do you think being sober adds to your creative practice?
It’s just discipline, innit? I know I don’t need to drink [to make music] I just need myself and my mind and God to get into it. I just don’t believe in drinking or doing drugs, it’s not really my vibe or my style.
I respect that a lot, it’s so important to be true to yourself. On a different note, there seems like there’s a real community around your music. How would you describe your relationship with your fans?
They realise that I don’t want to get put on a pedestal. They know that because I’m very open. The other day a fan DM-ed me saying she loved my music and I said, “Thank you so much, I appreciate it,” and she was so confused that I replied. I was like, “But I’m human, it’s cool.” Three, four years ago, when I started making music, I was a no one. I haven’t got to the place where I want to be yet but you don’t have to put me on a pedestal. We’re all in this together and I’m doing this for us. I’m not doing this to shit on anyone and my fans respect that. I bring them on my video shoots and stuff, to make them feel welcome.
You mention that you consider yourself a pop star, though you’re often classed as having quite an indie sound. What does being a pop star mean to you?
Pop music is popular music, right? I’m an indie guy at heart, I love indie music, but I don’t call myself an indie artist. It’s more pop slash rock slash indie. My music is alternative but it’s my own interpretation of that, so it just comes out the way it comes out.
There’s quite a big rock and indie revival at the moment, do you think that’s helped you reach a wider audience?
I think that now there’s just a bit more flavour and personality in [rock]. I’m not saying that there wasn’t back in the day, but it was very straight down the middle. When I listen to my song, I’m like, “Yeah, this is an indie rock song, but there are elements of hip hop in it.” I definitely think that rock coming back is sick but it’s just about who makes it more authentic and good. Who makes it really tasty.
As you’ve said, you mix together different genres and references. But how do you stay inspired and what has fed your music creatively and emotionally up to this point?
With my first EP, I was in a seven year relationship with the first girl I ever fell in love with — at least I thought I loved her, but love isn’t permanent. After I dropped the EP I was like, “Oh, I didn’t actually love you as much as I thought I did.” The whole time I was writing stuff and trying to make up this relationship and how great it was. What inspired my music at the time was her but now I’m not with her and I’m in my own element and my own world. There’s more to life than that relationship, but at the time that’s all I knew.
You say that “love isn’t permanent”, which is a really interesting perspective. As you get older, how are you adjusting to impermanence and change?
It’s just the way the world moves. There’s a song that I love a lot called “Everybody’s Changing’ by Keane. Everybody’s changing, so that means that nothing is permanent.
Yeah, you just have to just realise it’s life, right?
I definitely realised that for myself. The first EP was closure, the second EP is like, “Yeah, I’m here now.” I’m in this new place, new pastures. I’m happy where I am, I’m happy that I’m single and I’m doing my thing, you know?
That’s a good place to create from and you can hear it on this EP’s energy, for sure. As a final question, I’d love to hear a bit about what performing live means to you, given that your on-stage persona and the exuberance you bring to gigs are some of the things you’re most known for.
The best thing about performing is seeing the fans’ reactions. I’ve seen a fan cry when I performed a song, that’s priceless. No amount of fame and no amount of money can top that or top a conversation with a fan being like, “Yo, you changed my life because of this song. You’re the reason I feel happy.” My live shows are an emotional roller coaster, it’s more than just making music for me.
Watch the video for “Boyfriend” here.
2 July 2021