Fred Again, the ingenious producer who turns his vocal notes into hits

In the movie C’mon C’mon by Mike Mills, released in 2021, a scene seems to perfectly describe the leitmotif of Fred Again. The character played by Joaquin Phoenix, a radio journalist who travels the United States to interview teenagers about their vision of the future, speaks to his young nephew who has been entrusted to him by his sister for a few days and tells him about his job. “You know what I like when I record people? It’s cool to keep those sounds, says the protagonist. You keep them forever and these mundane things become immortal. It’s all cool, it’s funny.” When we show him the excerpt, quietly installed in his dressing room before his concert at the Elysée Montmartre at the beginning of December, Fred smiles and nods.

If the 29-year-old British musician has had many successes through his productions for Ed Sheeran Where Stormzy – he is notably behind their 2019 hit “Own It” – and has worked with AJ Tracey, Burna Boy, Rita Ora and even Shawn Mendesreal name Fred Gibson, has gained popularity for his personal work over the past few months thanks to Actual Life, a three-part project started in 2020 and punctuated last summer. On each album, the young man declined the same format, that of a dated diary, and a similar construction for each piece, by sampling various audio recordings, collected “in real life” (hence the title Actual Life), simply using the Dictaphone application on their iPhone.

Rather than designing albums where heaps up featurings with big names, Fred thought Actual Life like an intimate space where to invite unknown voices, vectors of nostalgic messages and reflections in the era of time. Marea (we’ve lost dancing), her most streamed track produced during the first waves of Covid in 2020, gives the floor to musician The Blessed Madonna, whose real name is Marea Stamper, who talks about the closure of clubs, concert halls and other festive places, the loss of social ties and the possibility of dancing in public, but also the hope of soon living normally again. We find these recurring motifs from the album Actual Life (April 14 – December 17 2020), marked by confinements, for example in “Yasmina (see your face again)” or “Carlos (make it through)”.

This last piece bears the first name of a worker on a construction site that Fred Again met by chance in the United States, in Atlanta, and which inspired the format of the diary. “I was filming and he just came to say hello, tells us Fred. He had an incredibly infectious energy. The next morning I started sampler his voice, to play the piano on it and this [procédé] began to haunt me. Taking those little moments at hand in our phones and building something around them. I loved the idea that a musical diary was somehow written from those moments.” One of the phrases uttered by Carlos – “We gon’ make it through” – has thus been transformed into an incantation disseminated throughout the first Actual Life.