Marlon Roudette: “Signing with Simon Cowell was a surprise”

We talk to the London singer about his UK breakthrough, famous family and more.

This week, Marlon Roudette releases his new single When The Beat Drops out; a steel drum-flecked midtempo banger that’s gearing us up nicely for the impending summer months.

While the British singer and musician has already found success in Germany and across Europe with hits including New Age and Anti Hero; his latest track looks set to be his long-awaited UK breakthrough. As such, Official Charts thought it was about time we got ourselves better acquainted...

Hello Marlon! Given you’re very successful in Germany, you must spend a lot of time out there. Give us your best German lingo.

“It’s weird. I’m pretty much a foreign artist coming to the UK, except I’m actually from here! I can pretty much scrape through a live show out there now. I can introduce myself and I’m good with numbers. If I’m at a record label meeting out there, I think I can now tell if people are talking about me behind my back! I’ve had three Number 1 records there so I’m trying to make the effort. I have a real appreciation for the country now and German culture and the artistic/design side of it.”

A lot of people are enjoying your new single When The Beat Drops Out. Are you gunning for a UK Number 1?

“A Number 1 here would be brilliant. Thankfully the record has already been a hit elsewhere, but I'm nervously excited to see what happens here. I'm cautiously optimistic.”

We particularly like the steel drums on the song…

“That’s the Caribbean influence there (Marlon grew up in the Caribbean)! I was so happy to get them in there on an uptempo single – I wanted to do it for so long. Hopefully now I’ve opened the door I can keep it going.”

You were previously part of hip-hop/reggae duo Mattafix and then in 2011 you released your solo debut Matta Fixed. Were you disappointed it didn’t get picked up in the UK?

“I was disappointed it didn’t do anything in the UK – I was busted up for a while after that. I’ll be honest, it took me a long, long time to recover. Partly because the reasons weren’t just bad luck and taste. People wanted to hear the record here and because of music business politics, they were denied that. That really got to me because fans were crying out for it. It definitely affected our approach this time around. We have a completely different team now and it feels very different – there’s less smoke and mirrors.”

You’re now signed to Simon Cowell’s Syco, which isn’t most obvious label  for musicians to sign with…

“It surprised quite a lot of people, but Simon and the team just had the best understanding of the record and their plans for it were the most exciting. Labrinth is also on the label and he’s someone who is hands-on and on top of every aspect of the creative process. I realised I could still flourish and take control of the creative direction and still hopefully be successful. Once you get him and his team behind you, it’s a big help for sure.”

What was the first single you ever bought?

“I grew up in the Caribbean until I was 17 and we didn’t really have singles you could buy there. I think it might have been an early Sean Paul track… Deport Them. I remember playing the Mary J Blige and Massive Man track (You’re All I Need) a lot as well.”  

What was an important album to you in your teenage years?

“The first album I owned was Doggystyle. I remember I had to send someone older than me to go and get it because I was too young to buy an album with explicit lyrics. Listening back to that record, there’s so much soul and funk on it because Dr Dre sampled everything. It’s almost like a live album in many ways. It was a bit of a trailblazing record.”

What was the first song you ever recorded?

“I think it was the song that ended up getting Mattafix our publishing deal. I think it was a song called Cradle. The singer who was supposed come and do it didn’t show up, so the studio engineer asked me to have a go. Many, many hours later we had a vocal that was half-acceptable. I think we ended up getting a deal because of that tune!”

Your stepmum is Neneh Cherry and your dad is Cameron McVey, who has produced songs for Sugababes and All Saints. How much impact did they have on you growing up?

“My dad was in the music business for a long time and my mum is an artist, so I was definitely encouraged to be expressive. I wasn’t close with my dad growing up, but I guess I was inspired from a distance. I was definitely encouraged to speak my mind from a young age.”

Your new album Electric Soul is coming out in the UK later this year; is When The Beat Drops Out a good indicator of what we can expect from it?

“It’s part of the journey, but the album is a lot more mellow in places. I think there’s a nod back to the past and the downtempo stuff I started my career.”  

When The Beat Drops Out is out now.