Fred Gibson aka Fred again… began releasing music under his own name at the end of 2019 – a year that saw him involved as a songwriter or producer in 30% of the number one songs in the UK He achieved that level of success having worked with the likes of Stormzy, Ed Sheeran, FKA Twigs, Romy and recently a joint mixtape with Headie One GANG in 2020. He was also the youngest producer ever to receive the BRITs’ Producer of the Year award in 2020. Today marks a full step to independence with his album Actual Life (April 14 – December 17 2020) that blends club sensibilities and his own slick pop songwriting.
His move to go and make an album as Fred again… was actually inspired three years ago by Brian Eno, someone who has offered Gibson advice over the past decade and they even worked together on a project in 2014. Fast-forward seven years, several number ones and shifting through the maze of hit records and the major label music business, Gibson has a debut solo record, Actual Life.
This album is unique in that it samples people’s voices to create themes for songs. Many of them are people he knows, like friends or fellow artists (Julia Michaels, Aminé, etc), while some could be people he has met on the street or found on social media. Actual Life is a celebration of life, connection and the human spirit in all of its qualities. It is an album built through pain and sorrow of the past year, not turning away from what has happened, but looking for ways to embrace the challenge and emerge somehow stronger. It is largely an uplifting and joyous album, looking to show the resilience of humanity.
That is sprinkled throughout the album, but it is very present on “Carlos (Make It Thru),” sampling a construction worker in Atlanta who explains in no uncertain terms that “We Can Make It Through.” This interaction was a catalyst for this specific type of project.
However, not everything is roses and sunshine. “Sabrina (I Am A Party)” is an internal monologue about depression, trying to manage one's internal struggle and the pressure socializing with others “it’s just not that much fun having fun when you don’t want to have fun” as a thumping beat echoes in the background. “Lydia (Please Make It Better)” acknowledges the coping mechanisms some may use to deal with depression, singing “use every drug you need, please make it better.”
It ends on the hopefully note with “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)” as The Blessed Madonna sings about the loss of community on the dancefloor and how if we can get through this “what comes next will be marvelous.” Actual Life is a message that even in our darkest moments, there will be light again. It is darkest before the dawn.
Listen to the kaleidoscopic album now and pick up a copy here.