- Words Louis Rabinowitz
Producer-turned-artist Congee talks about his debut EP, overcoming self-doubt and his favourite collaborations.
In his work as a producer, Congee has worked with some truly impressive names, from Ed Sheeran to Sigrid to Griff, helping to bring their creative visions to life. That work has given him all the experience he needs to unleash his own unique vision onto the world.
Experimenting with sound as his lyrics search across thorny questions of love and family and loss, Congee has established himself right away, and he’s ready to prove that the hype is worth it with the forthcoming release of his debut EP ‘Kwong’.
The six tunes on the EP muse on the idea of self-worth and how to break out of the constraints doubt can place on us such as in the lead single “Forever”, whilst celebrating his own heritage in songs like “Bao”. Leveraging his producing skills, Congee’s fingerprints are all over every aspect of this EP, bringing his vision to life without a filter.
It’s clear that he’s an artist in true command of his creativity, so we sat down with him to learn all about the EP, his creative process and how he brings his personal anxieties to life in art.
What made you select Forever as the lead track for your upcoming EP?
I love the energy of “Forever”. Every time I listen to it, I can’t help but scrunch up my face a little and move to it. My close friend Calum Heath made the music video for it as well.
You talk very honestly about your relationships with your family and your upbringing in your music, particularly in Be Alright – has songwriting always been an emotional outlet for you?
Most of the time I’ve been making music, I’ve helped people with their own songs. This was the first time I really felt how songwriting could be a way to process my emotions and thoughts.
Which track on the EP did you enjoy writing the most and why?
I loved writing “Bao”. Most of the songs on the EP I’ve spent hours and hours tweaking the lyrics, trying different melodies, making different versions. With “Bao” it was pretty much finished in a couple hours. It all happened so naturally. I started that day playing guitar and the first thing I played ended up being the chords of the song. Once I had some chords down, I would usually improvise some vocals over it. The first take I recorded over the chords were pretty much 90% of what stayed on the song. Everything just worked and felt right.
How does your creative process when working with other artists differ from when you work on your own music?
I usually overthink way more when I work on my own music haha. Working with artists, I find it easier to see their vision and create from that but when it comes to myself the vision isn’t always as clear mainly because I go into perfectionist mode. I’m learning to make more and think less.
What inspired you to come out of the shadows and start releasing music under your own name?
I’ve always had the itch but never felt confident enough to start. When the pandemic started I wasn’t doing any sessions mainly because I hated making music over zoom so I decided that it was the perfect time to start my own project.
You created Kwong during lockdown so made the EP almost all by yourself – what was that process like and what impact did creating it alone have on your music?
At the start I would wake up, walk a couple metres, sit at my desk and start making music straight away. This worn me down very quick. I needed a better routine so after some trial and error the routine that worked best for me was waking up early, going for a long walk then doing something creative that wasn’t music related like draw or sew then after I would start making music. I would usually find that ideas would pop into my head during those times when I was walking or drawing. I think the best think about making music by yourself is that you have time to experiment and explore.
How do your other creative endeavours, like sewing, inspire your music, and vice versa?
Like I said in the last question I usually find that ideas will come to me when I’m doing other creative activities. I worked the other way round also. When I’m making music I’ll get random ideas pop into my head for other things like new outfit design etc.
Your sound is already very distinctive and established – which other artists have inspired you?
I’m always drawn to artists that have developed their own distinctive sound/world. Artists like Kanye, Frank ocean, Bon Iver.
What has been your favourite collaborative project to work on so far and do you still plan to continue working with other artists?
Sorry I know this is the question you’re looking for but I’ve loved working with my close friend Calum Heath who did pretty much all of the visuals for the EP. It was so fun to work with him. Seeing thoughts and ideas come to life visually is so exciting for me. In terms of music I would love to carry on collaborating with artists. It’s important that I have that balance.
Kwong was written as a series of messages to your family – do you think this is a theme that will always run throughout your music, or are there other topics you hope to explore in future?
Yes they’re lots of topics I’d like to explore but I think family will always be a theme that will be present in my music.