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Must-Hear Indie Artist of the Month: Wesley Joseph

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The Project

GLOW, out Friday (Feb. 17) via Secretly Canadian/EEVILTWINN

The Origin

Wesley Joseph’s introduction to music occurred through his father, who was in a soul band when his son was born. Growing up just outside of Birmingham, England in Walsall, Joseph (real name Joseph Wesley Ripollés-Williams) remembers hearing music 24/7 around his house. It wasn’t until he saw an early video of Mac Miller rapping into a USB microphone that he realized he could make music from his bedroom, too.

When he was a teenager, Joseph bought his own microphone and used GarageBand to make what he describes now as “really bad rap songs.” After setting higher expectations for himself, Joseph improved on his DIY approach and sharpened his production skills so that he could ultimately make music his way and create a sonic world where he wouldn’t be boxed in.

In 2020, Joseph released his first song, titled “Imaginary Friends.” A year later, he dropped his first EP, Ultramarine, a project that he says shows everything he’s capable of in one, brief moment.

The Sound

Joseph, now 26, is adamant about not being defined as just a rapper. “Ultimately, [rapping] is third, or fourth even, on the list of things I do when I make music,” he says. “I’m creative-directing everything, I’m producing, I’m singing, there’s so much going on.”

Ultramarine and GLOW are both testaments to his holistic approach to his art. The latter’s first single, “Cold Summer,” starts with an eerie string and piano intro before erupting into a hip-hop-infused beat with Joseph rapping and singing. The project also includes songs like “Sugar Dive,” a dance-influenced record with Joseph flexing his falsetto, and the alt-R&B closer “Light Light.”

While Joseph can’t quite pinpoint his sonic inspirations, he knows that his fondness and use of harmonies, melodies, bridges and chord progressions stem from the American soul music he grew up on. “The weird algorithmic makeup of my musical DNA that makes a bridge happen is probably because I grew up on soul music from America,” he says.

Joseph also has a visual background — he moved to London in 2016 to study filmmaking in university — which explains his cinematic approach to his music videos. In 2020, he released Pandomony, a seven-minute short film which he wrote, directed and scored himself.

The Record

The eight-song GLOW is an evolution of Joseph: he continues his growth by leading with his emotions. “Ultramarine gave me confidence. If that’s me as a baby, then GLOW is me going into school,” he says. For Joseph, GLOW represents the contrast between his euphoric highs and harsh realities. The project is therapeutic for Joseph, as he’s used it to embrace his fears and work through growing pains. “The feeling the record gives is almost like a warm glow in the darkness,” he explains.

The first half of the record — “Glow,” “Monsoon,” “Sugar Dive,” and “I Just Know Highs” — represents light, and the project then shifts to darkness with songs “Cold Summer,” “25,” “Hiatus,” and “Light Light.” Following Ultramarine, Joseph was still in a somber place, which led him to making the dark half first — yet he ultimately decided that having the project transition from light to dark made the most sense. “When you listen to it on loop, it’s a journey,” he says. “When you start it from the top again, it’s like being reborn, and just going through all of the contrasts of life.”

The Breakthrough

Early last year, Joseph signed with indie record label Secretly Canadian. “They understood exactly what I wanted and who I wanted to be, and are completely [facilitating] all of the things that I want to do, in the way that I want to do them,” he says. “I’ve always kind of seen myself as someone who did his own thing, and I felt like they saw the value in my potential.”

The Future

At the end of April, Joseph will embark on his first North American tour, performing in L.A., Brooklyn and Toronto. He is also working on his debut album, which he says is in only in the beginning stages and “definitely not” arriving this year.

Wesley Joseph
Wesley Joseph

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