In collaboration with VERO, the London RnB artist talks us through how his identity feeds into his music, the albums that define him and the best piece of advice he's ever received.
HUNGER has always been drawn to bold and brave new talent and singer-songwriter Qhairo is no exception. Pairing smooth vocals with glitchy, experimental sonics and laying bare his innermost thoughts about love, relationships and identity on songs like “God” and “Blue Petals”, he’s already established himself as a powerfully introspective voice in London’s music scene. But for Qhairo, this kind of emotional candour is essential to his artistic DNA; as his Black, queer identity which, by his own admission, “inspires how I make music today.”
Over the past few weeks, we’ve given Qhairo the keys to our VERO account, which he’s used as a blank canvas to share all that inspires him and to premiere his latest music video for “God” — a sumptuous meditation on Black masculinity and queer love, directed by Rankin’s Jordan Rossi. Qhairo’s takeover comes to an end on 5 August but, before he wraps things up, we’ve dialled him up for a far-reaching interview about his creative origins, gender identity and hopes for the future, as well as the books, films and songs that have shaped him as an artist.
Describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard it before.
Explorative, dynamic and emotive.
What music did you hear in your household growing up?
It was a real range actually! Mostly my dad would play old school reggae like Buju Banton and Bunny Wailer, as well as the Fugees and Mary J Blige. My brother would always put on 90s RnB like 112 and Jagged Edge and if my mum was listening to music it would be gospel.
What artists have influenced your sound?
Undoubtedly, I would have to say Frank Ocean — I wouldn’t be as comfortable as I am in myself if it hadn’t have been for Channel Orange. Also Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream and SerpentWithFeet’s Soil.
What’s your favourite thing about playing live?
There’s something spiritual about connecting with an audience. I feel like I’m in a trance. It’s like being high in a nightclub and in the therapist’s chair at the same time. The connection you get there…there’s nothing better than that energy really.
Is there a music venue out there that has a particularly special place in your heart?
I love Stratford Circus as a venue and a hub for creativity. When I was younger I spent at least two days a week there, in different programmes put on for young people in music. It’s definitely where I honed my skills and made my first steps into the music industry. It was already in danger of closing down before Covid so I dread to think what the pandemic could mean for the venue — I hope the funding given to the arts and cultural sector from the government will stretch to places like Stratford Circus, it has always been a Newham cultural hotspot.
Do you ever get stage fright? What are your tips for overcoming it?
I get terrible stage fright! But I find that if take just five minutes to really breathe on my own with nobody around, that usually eases it.
In what ways does your identity feed into your music?
In every way. My identity is the reason I make the music I make, it’s why I’m so comfortable with who I am nowadays. Before I accepted myself as fluid I had a hard time figuring out where I fitted within Black masculinity. I didn’t feel like there was a place for a Black man like myself in masculinity. I didn’t know that the traits of mine that I saw as weak and not manly enough are the very traits that allow me to be so loud about my growth today. All of that inspires how I make music.
What songs do you have on repeat at the moment?
“Darkness” by Darling (feat. Ayeisha Raquel), “Tell Her” by Zilo, “Gagarin” by Moses Sumney and “Vein” by Tora. All great songs by great artists!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Ludo King…The game’s a fix but I can’t stop playing.
What are your favourite books and films to relax with and why?
I really love Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. They’re both such captivating reads. Films-wise it would probably be all the Harry Potter films, I can watch them at any time and know I’ll be entertained.
Tell us the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Just try, you cannot die!” — I heard this from a friend’s mum. It’s simple and to the point.
What’s one thing you want the world to know about you?
That I make a banging Jollof even though I’m Caribbean. And that’s on period.
What are your passions outside of music?
Everything and anything creative. I’m really into art and painting.
What are your hopes for the future?
For my art to continue reflecting my truth and culture and for that to become more action-based.
Before you sign off, who on VERO is your essential follow?
I would say David Hay (@iamdavidhay), he’s great at visual content and art direction and we work together on most of my projects. He has a lot of stuff in the pipeline so he’s definitely one to watch.
VERO is an authentic social network — no ads, no algorithms, just great content. Go to vero.coto sign up and follow @hungermagazine for more exclusive content and to catch Qhairo’s music takeover, which runs until 5 August.
3 August 2020