Exclusives Interviews 12 February 2021

GRM Exclusive: Teks Sinatra Talks Crafting His Debut EP ‘Home For Winter’, His Take On Lyricism & More

12 February 2021

With a tricky year behind us, music has been the saviour for many people to keep a sense of normality present in their lives, and rising star Teks Sinatra is one of the creatives who has certainly left a mark on people with his first-ever project, Home For Winter.

After dropping his tape in late January, 2021, it wasn’t long before people became familiar with the artist’s story, which he so eloquently told throughout his eight-track EP, and we caught up with the man behind the intricate lyrics to understand a bit more about his creative process and the chapter in his life that led to his new project. 

Like in most cases, the best songs come from real-life events and the making of Teks’ tape fell nothing short of this as he explained that Home For Winter was birthed from sharing his experiences in musical form.

“I kinda like to give little updates about where I am in life through music. So at that moment in time, I basically had just come back off holiday and I had a few things that kinda hit their pinnacle in terms of like problems rising from loads of aspects, like from a financial standpoint to a relationship standpoint, so I literally just documented my thought process throughout those entire experiences at that point in life.”

Whilst abroad, the south London star had reconnected with his father after a lifetime away, which he credited as part of the reason he was able to be so open in his storytelling, adding:

Prior to that, I’d only met him I think on two real occasions, like very briefly, so that entire trip to America was like the first time where I really got to have a conversation with him as a man kinda thing and just understand certain things. I learnt the art of letting go through that; but don’t get me wrong, like man don’t think he’s a been a great dad to me or anything like that, but I just kinda learnt to let go of resentment. This just let me be more open, because I felt as if those kind of conversations that I had whilst I was there, they helped a lot. So it just allowed me to be more open in general.”

Teks boasts eight tracks full of authenticity and honesty in his new project, and from a consumer standpoint it might be easier to attach your favourite tune to your playlists, but as an artist, we asked if he felt a deeper sense of pride for any particular track on the EP, and sure enough the creative explained he could “pick out every single song and say why I’m proud of making that song.”

Going on to single out the first track on the EP, “Scared Of Getting Old”, Teks revealed that it was made in just 48 hours, giving him a stand-alone reason to sing his praises for it, adding:

“I think for me, the creative process is probably my most memorable part, for “Scared Of Getting Old”. So, I’ve got this weird continuing pattern where I get my ideas on trains or at train stations or just basically anywhere I can pace around, and how that song came about, I was leaving a train station and I thought ‘I just need one more song’ because at that point, I thought I was gonna have to remove a song on the tape, so I just started thinking of ideas straight away. So, yeah, I’m real proud of how quickly I managed to get it turned around because I was literally in the group chat with the rest of my team saying ‘give me two days, I’m gonna write a replacement’ and for a replacement, I’m really proud of that song.”

Born in Uganda and raised in Croydon, core fans of the rapper will know he made his debut on the music scene a while back after documenting his early tunes on SoundCloud in his teens. Teks shared a story with us about the first time he showcased his skills as an artist during his GCSE days.

“I’ve been writing since I was a little kid but my first time putting out music was year 10. I knew I rapped, but I’d never spoken about it because I didn’t know anyone else rapped, but I remember coming out of the school gates at the end of the day and just seeing a circle of the mandem, like my actual close friends, but we’d never spoken about this before. They were just rapping and rapping – back then it was grime bars, but I didn’t have no grime bars so I listened and I listened and I think I tried to rap some bars that I had at that time, but it wasn’t getting the same reaction like everyone else.

I walked home that day thinking, ‘but I know I’m good, like this is my thing’, so I went home, I literally typed in ’50 Cent instrumental’ and the first beat that came up was 50 Cent’s “I Get Money”, and I said ‘yeah, watch tomorrow with these lot’. Literally after school I made sure I called everyone by the school gate at 2:40 and I just started rapping, and from there I just fell in love with peoples’ reactions, you get me, like that was my main thing. I just always kinda wanted to impress the mandem or just see peoples’ reactions, so I started doing clashes and stuff like that just ‘cause I loved people hearing like a specific bar and just going crazy.”

Coming correct with his rhymes from a young age, Teks has stayed true to his authenticity and delivering one-liners, which we still hear to this day across Home For Winter. Quick to give young Teks credit for his “relentless” bars, the creative shared what led him to develop his personal growth as a songwriter, adding:

“I gotta credit my younger self though, ‘cause my younger self was probably a lot more relentless when it came to writing, like during my SoundCloud days. I think that’s why I’ve got so many songs on SoundCloud; I was literally like a machine gun when it came to writing, I was writing every day. But the older I’ve got, the less I write because it’s become more about giving updates when I feel I need to give an update. But yeah, 100% in terms of like polishing up my craft, my pen game, my delivery, the production side, I’m a real nerd when it comes to music. I really try to be knowledgable in literally every aspect of music. I might not be the most knowledgable, but like I’ve tried to evolve myself where there’s no conversation I can’t be a part of.”

Teks tells us that learning English as a second language really encouraged him to tap into his talents within lyricism, admitting it allowed his creativity to flourish – we asked if this is something he’s always been in touch with.

“Yeah 1000%. I’ll tell you exactly why – basically, I wasn’t born here, I was born in Uganda. So, I remember when I came here, I didn’t know English at all and I remember picking up my auntie’s phone one time and I answered, but to this day I could swear on my life that a Russian man was calling because English sounded foreign to me, I couldn’t believe it, so I just passed her the phone. But I remember thinking ‘I’m never gonna learn this language, what was that’.

“But then literally just going from learning English – as a kid I was a real reader as well innit, I used to read bare ‘Horrid Henry’ books, ‘Horrid Henry’ was my crack, so I kinda overcompensated by learning the language a lot. Once I learnt the language, I remember in English classes when poems became a thing and the English teachers always used to use my poems as examples and stuff like that, then I felt like ‘this has gotta kinda be my thing now’. So, literally I’ve always just kinda credited my songwriting through the fact that I had to learn English, so I tried to overcompensate.

“I feel like when it’s your first language, you might not be as enthusiastic to learn the ins and the outs and different techniques, whereas with a foreign language, you don’t know what you need and what you don’t need so you just think ‘alright let me just take the whole thing’. I’m not gonna lie to you though, on a day-to-day, I’m probably the worst person speaking. I blame it on the same reason, I just think maybe because I wasn’t born here, but I’m not good with communication normally, unless I’m talking about music, but I’m not really good with finishing sentences. I’ve got a bad habit of starting sentences and then just kinda giving up cause I don’t know where I’m going with it.”

Like most creatives, Teks describes himself as being somewhat of a perfectionist, explaining his EP’s release was due to drop last year, but revisiting different tracks on the project caused him to put further work into it. He credited his team for being the reason behind finally sharing his tape with the world last month, saying:

“I’m not gonna lie to you, it was more so the people around me, they forced my hand. I’m so obsessive with every detail, so I was still so hellbent on fixing the little things on the tape that needed fixing. I’d been working on it since early last year and I was meant to put it out like mid last year and I’d literally been taking off songs, putting on new ones. I was still gonna continue that same process but my team literally had to put their foot down, told me to shut up and just put out what we had. But yeah, I felt like it was now or never anyway, especially for the EP’s title as well, I can’t really put Home For Winter out in April.”

With the future in mind, we were curious to find out about Teks’ thoughts on forthcoming workings. As many creatives’ second projects face comparison with their debut tape, Teks is not allowing the strength of his first project to undermine the potential for his next, explaining how he plans on finding his feet for the next release.

“I’ve literally been thinking about the same thing. I feel for me, I couldn’t really tell you because before I made this project, I couldn’t tell you I was gonna make this project with this specific sound. I’ve still been finding my sound so I’m gonna look to develop it and evolve it but the only thing where I find reassurance in myself is I find I know how obsessive I am with everything, so my number one rule in the studio is I’m never there to make a hit or even just to make a mediocre song just to add to my song collection, so if I can’t leave feeling like ‘this might be special’, it’s pointless even being there kinda thing.

I remember the feelings I got when I made certain songs on the tape and I’ll just look for those feelings again. I’m sure I’ll get them, I’m sure the next tape is gonna be better, not gonna lie to you, because this was kinda like a test run with a lot of things. I was learning a lot, cause I’m still new to the industry so I was learning a lot when it came to production and engineering and stuff like that, but this time around I know exactly what we’re gonna do – well not exactly, but I know better.”

Those who have listened to Home For Winter will recognise Gabzy’s vocals on “Just Like Me”, which is the only feature on the EP. A fellow rising star, Gabzy and Teks’ sounds complement each other flawlessly, and it seems the creative process behind their collaboration was just as fitting, with Teks describing it as a tale of fate.

“With Gabzy, I feel like the whole thing was kinda meant to be, in a sense. I like to credit myself for finding people early, so I think it was literally January last year I came across his Spotify, I think “4 Nothin’’’ only had about a few thousand plays and I hit him up, but I also knew he was about to be big and I didn’t know how many people had hit him up. At that point I didn’t even have a song out, so I didn’t even expect him to reply to me. I was like ‘yo, I’ve got an EP coming up’ and he was literally the only person within that time frame that I had hit up, ’cause as soon as I heard him I was like ‘this is my other half for this’ and literally he replied quite quickly and was up for it, but we didn’t really arrange a date.”

Teks continued: “I was at the studio in the Warner building and I’ve literally gone downstairs to go and let my friend in and I just see Gabzy sitting down – he had a meeting in the Warner building as well, so that was our introduction. Even that song process was sick because I was listening to a group called DVSN and their new EP at the time – I think it was the first song – I just really liked something about it, I loved the production side of it but it was a weird song to be listening to because I was on a jog at the time and they’re very mellow. But I kept on replaying the song and thought ‘do you know whose sound this would compliment? Gabzy’s’, then I looked for DVSN type beats while on the jog and I found one, I put those lyrics on the beat, sent it to Gabzy and then he just returned with two options as hooks. I heard “Just Like Me” and was like ‘this is the one’, it was such a sick process.”

Undeniably a huge track on the album, the collaboration showed off Teks’ versatility in terms of working alongside budding talents, which he made clear he’s keen for in future. Having already been acquainted with his music-head side, Teks admits he’s listening to a range of artists at the moment, but when given the option of three artists he’d want to work with, he said:

“Ed Sheeran – he got me through a lot of rough times you know, times where you would not expect me to be playing Ed Sheeran of all people, literally he saved me from a lot of bad situations. There’s so many that I feel a bit bad just naming three, I’m a big Drake fan – Drake would be a bonkers collab, Meek Mill as well.”

However, it’s safe to say Teks’ stand-alone sound has been more than enough to secure a loyal fanbase, with his raw storytelling attributing to what makes him a breath of fresh air in the UK music scene. We asked what his reaction has been like to the love people have shown his EP, and he was quick to share his gratitude.

“Obviously I know with my core fanbase, they’ve just always hit me up for the past however many years but I didn’t expect it to kind of impact as many people as it has so far. I’ve had a lot of real heartfelt messages come through. Obviously especially through lockdown and stuff, you can’t gauge how many people you impact. Sometimes I leave my house looking like a tramp thinking ‘no one knows me anyway, why does it matter’, and then halfway down the road or by the train station or something, someone beeps at me like ‘hey Teks’, and it’s a mad feeling. But yeah, the reception so far has been sick man.”

For an artist that has no difficulty creating unbreakable bonds with his supporters, we asked Teks what he would dub his top three qualities in terms of being a successful rapper or artist, in his opinion.

“I can’t really think of an adjective to describe it, but I feel as if the moment you start having to worry about a next hit then you are no longer successful, if that makes sense. I feel like once you know you’ve got a core fanbase, there’s a lot of artists that might not be getting like crazy streams, however, all of their songs get listened to and they serve a specific group of people and fanbase, so for them, I’d say they’re successful because they wake up and they make whatever music they wanna make cause there’s no pressure. But I feel like the minute you have the kinda panic for your next hit then you haven’t been successful because you’re still worrying.”

As previously mentioned, the star has been on the music scene for a minute already, and even showcased his skills at fellow lyricist Dave’s first-ever headline show, as well as Hardy Caprio’s first-ever headline show, which proves a lot can be said for the mark Teks leaves on others, including fellow creatives. No stranger to performing, we wanted to know his hopes for a post-Covid world. He said:

“I’d love to do a show with supporters and stuff, now that I’ve finally got a tape out with songs that I actually like ‘cause I didn’t really enjoy performing some of my older songs, so that would be so sick. Post-Covid, I haven’t really thought that far ahead because for all I know we’ll all be here til I’m like 30, but I literally can’t wait to start doing headline shows and stuff like that.”

As we look forward to a world where live shows can return to the adrenaline-fuelled venues that we all know and love, Teks stays to give special mention to his team, adding: “Big up to my team once again ‘cause they really put up a mad shift for me, big up to the Parlophone family and management and GRM, and my girl as well.”

Home For Winter is available to stream on all platforms, check it out below, and have a watch of the gripping visuals for “Scared Of Getting Old” here.