Ed Staal is discovering his voice. On past successes like “Summer Girl” and “3AM,” that was Justin Timberlake-style crooning over guitar melodies.
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Yet, versatility prevents pigeonholing, and collaborations with Dom Porter indicate Staal could be headed for a Sam Smith-like career – one part understated balladeer and other in the realm of electronic music.
Growing up in Hertfordshire, Staal learned to play the guitar, in addition to other instruments, and eventually picked up songwriting.
Releasing a string of singles, he made his mark earlier this year with his debut EP Into Me and is following that up with Pages, For You, his collaborative effort with Dom Porter that drops on September 30.
Originating in October of 2020, Pages culminates Staal’s ongoing work with Porter, including recent single “God’s Lounge,” featuring [ K S R ] and receiving support from BBC 1Xtra.
Not strictly a dance music release, the six tracks of Pages fuse together elements of pop, funk, soul, and R&B, showing Staal and Porter achieving a truly genre-less yet more personal sound.
As he supports this release, Staal had a chance to answer a few questions about Pages, For You and “God’s Lounge.”
What inspired you to write “God’s Lounge”?
When me and Dom finally got together for our first session, we’d made a few songs already, including our other track “With You,” which was more of a slow and emotional type of song, and therefore we wanted to make something upbeat and super flirtatious with a kind of old-school Justin Timberlake kind of vibe – someone we both were inspired by at the time.
How did you end up working with Dom Porter and [ K S R ]?
Myself, Dom and [ K S R ] had all been on the same label at one time or another and therefore knew of each other from that, but only decided to link up after we’d all left that label for our own individual reasons and decided to do a session as soon as we could after the first lockdown ended.
The music we made that month was insane – a culmination of frustration with the label and being cooped up in lockdown made us explode with creativity. It was crazy.
Between the songwriting and production, how did “God’s Lounge” come together?
From the start of the process of making “God’s Lounge,” I had this specific loop in mind that I found and loved a while before and could hear its potential for something pop/R&B like.
As soon as I put it in Dom’s hands for him to start building the track and its core components, the song formed itself pretty quickly. From the get-go, we were on the flirtatious/sexy vibe, and I managed to start making an interesting vocal melody very early on.
You’re preparing to release EP Pages, for You. What kinds of sounds or tracks should listeners expect?
Anyone that listens to our project should be able to find a track that they will enjoy, as each track is truly completely different. With “God’s Lounge” being our take on modern R&B to Goodbye with its Neo-soul feel to then “B.I.B” and its bedroom pop likeness, the project really has something for everyone.
In terms of the sounds, we tried not to use too many samples or MIDI and instead to be quite natural in our approach, so you’ll hear a lot of organic elements and the occasional soundscape-type feel from Dom’s production in particular.
How is Pages a progression from Into Me, released earlier in 2021?
Pages, For You for me is an incredible jump from my first project Into Me, because of the fact that it’s a collaborative project between not only Dom and I, but so many people in and around Syndicate, too.
I also think my production and songwriting ability have come on leaps and bounds since the making of the songs in my first project – some of which I’d written over two years ago.
How did you get started with singing and songwriting?
My parents have always played instruments and even played in their own band, so I was quite literally constantly surrounded by music and musical instruments when I was growing up, more specifically guitars. Naturally, I picked up the guitar around 8 years old and have been playing, singing, and writing ever since.
You also play multiple instruments: Aside from guitar, what else do you play?
Guitar is certainly my main instrument, but I am getting pretty decent at the keys and bass guitar through practicing and producing more organically with real instruments.
Between writing lyrics and instrumentation, how do you typically begin writing a song?
For me, I start with the melody first, usually in the form of a nice chord progression or riff, and then build layers from there in the form of drums, bass, and then any extra additional layers. Once I’ve got a sense for how the track makes me feel, then I’ll start writing lyrics.
Do you plan to release a full-length album at some point? What do you envision?
For now, my plan post-EP is to do singles for a while, collaborate, and build up some momentum and more of an audience for myself, although an album down the line is very possible…I’ve got so many ideas already in the works that I think I’ll be saving for something like that.