Mr Hudson: Collaboration Nation

Originally published on Visionary Artistry Mag with photos here: 

If his name doesn’t sound too familiar, it will soon. He’s already signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label and you probably heard a little from him on Jay-Z’s album “Blueprint 3” in the song “Young Forever.” Mr Hudson brings the best of Great Britain to the States in a collaboration rarely seen: Brit-pop and hip-hop.

From Birmingham, UK and based out of London, Benjamin Hudson McIldowie originally started out in the music group Mr Hudson & The Library. He and his band put out their first album in 2007, “A Tale of Two Cities.” This immediately caught the ears of Kanye West, who wanted to help the musician become a star.

“In America, with Kanye, it was like I was on a five star sabbatical, and I wanted to make a record that would satisfy that other me, so there are some plastic elements, shiny and smooth. But if you listen on good headphones you’ll hear a depth of textures,” Mr Hudson told the Telegraph.

The difference between “A Tale of Two Cities” and “Straight No Chaser” is substantial. In the former, the band is more raw, less produced, so the skill and ability of each member is apparent and takes center stage. “Straight No Chaser” was released in the U.K. in 2009, and in listening to the two albums, it seems like the years are worlds apart. “Straight No Chaser” has a clean and polished sound. It sounds produced and like they got a little happy with the auto-tune dial, though Mr Hudson doesn’t need the help. However, the difference in sound is all part of evolution – something that is crucial to the artist.

“I think it’s healthy to change. I wouldn’t want to just make the same record again. I’m not one of those artists that’s just going to repeat the same formula,” Mr Hudson said with Powerful Peanuts, an entertainment news outlet. However, The Library disbanded. Some of the members went on to do other projects, while others still tour with Mr Hudson.

“No one’s burning any bridges, but we’re doing different projects…. We’re still really good pals, and we still work together – it’s more like a collective now instead of a strict, solid band,” Mr Hudson said with Powerful Peanuts. With less of a band and more of a “collective,” Mr Hudson has a chance to have his own voice in “Straight No Chaser,” as auto-tuned as it may be.

“But this record, I realized, particularly when I saw Kanye working on “808s [& Heartbreak],” that it’s okay to make an album dealing with my stuff. My issues. My emotions. It ended up being a breakup album. I never thought I was going to make a breakup album, but it is a Mr. Hudson record. It’s a not a Mr. Hudson and The Library record,” the musician said with Complex, a lifestyle and entertainment magazine.

The relationship between Kanye West and Mr Hudson isn’t just Kanye mentoring the British singer/songwriter. There is a real collaboration between the two. “If Kanye sends me a mix and asks what I think, my temptation as a courtier might be to say, ‘Why, your majesty, this is the finest mix that has ever been sent on G-mail.’ But he respects my opinion, and I can respect that by giving it to him straight,” Mr Hudson told the Telegraph.

The collaboration with Kanye West has turned Mr Hudson into a star – a role to which he is taking with some reservation.

“It puts a smile on my face. It’s sort of a mission accomplished really. I’ll always just try to approach things as if I haven’t got a record deal, it always just feels like the beginning. Whatever stage you’re at, you’ve got to approach it like you haven’t really done anything yet. Otherwise, you might as well just sit in the old people’s home and say ‘I did a track with Jay-Z once.’ I hope there’s more to come. I’m just going to keep working, come up with new ideas and we’ll see what happens,” Hudson said with online music publication

Mr Hudson also has some advice to those who want to follow a similar path: learn and take baby steps. The musician knows the basics of singing, playing guitar, piano, saxophone and drums, and he also knows a little about studio production. He has spent time learning a little bit about everything it takes to create music on the performance and production ends.

“Unfortunately, what that means is working hard basically. Work hard and don’t expect things to come overnight. It’s not about someone else saying you’re going to be a pop-star. It’s about you deciding where you want to go and what you want to do,” Mr Hudson told Clash.

After six (yes, SIX) years, Mr Hudson has finally released another track, “Dancing Thru It.” (Ok, he helped write and produce Duran Duran’s 2015 album “Paper Gods,” so don’t boo and hiss at the length of time just yet.) After hearing the way Hudson talks about his art, it’s what you’d expect: digital, produced and clean, but continually evolving.

-Geneva Toddy


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