In Conversation with Prmse: Music Marketing Maverick Turned Retro Pop Star

Electro pop ballad, Uncontrollable, is the latest release from Zim-born, London-bred musician Prmse. After years of working behind the scenes in the industry, Prmse is making his musical debut with a bang. Here’s what he has to say about his journey, influences and building a creative career with intention:  

Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became Prmse?

I was born Promise, I just had to live up to it. I was born in Zimbabwe and I came to the UK when I was seven years old. I’ve always been told when I was younger that I was very chatty, out of the box and really loud, always dancing, singing and all sorts. Growing up I just continued to showcase myself in school, doing theatre shows and choirs, I’ve always been involved in the arts. 

Then I was in a few boy bands that didn’t really get to where they needed to, but it taught me a lot about creative processes and team work. For a long time I was scared to be by myself because I didn’t feel like I was good enough or like my voice or ideas were good enough. I’ve worked in the industry for a while, being in the background watching other people succeed and helping them with their social media strategies and stuff. Eventually I thought  it’s time for me to do what I love. This is what I love to do. Let me just do it to the best standard that I can. 

During lockdown, I started really taking it seriously in terms of writing and everything like that. I met a good friend of mine, a producer called PENGWIN who’s producing most of my stuff. I haven’t looked back ever since and from that point, I  started embracing myself more, loving myself more, understanding myself and learning about myself and just putting that into the music.

How would you best describe your current sound and creative process?

When I entered 2021 I went through a conveyor belt of  just shaking all over the place and trying so many different sounds and experimenting. I came out the other side knowing that I love  house [music]. I love Kaytranada, I also love the weekend and I love Dua Lipa and I wanted to make music that I loved. So I went into the studio and I came up with this concept in my head called retro pop. And it kind of went from retro pop and evolved into like a retro pop with a touch of house. That’s the best way I can describe it. It’s just nostalgic vibes.

Is it particularly nostalgic to you as somebody who was born in Zimbabwe? I don’t think enough people in the West realise that house music started in Africa, specifically in parts of southern Africa. 

100%. For example, there’s a song called Area that I wrote and created with my partner. He showed me the beat and it reminded me of a song that I used to sing when I was little in Zimbabwe. I literally embodied the energy of that song into Area and paid homage to it. I’m very much into incorporating what I used to know into what I know now.

That’s great and leads nicely onto the next question, How has your Zim’ upbringing influenced your music, if at all?

I don’t think it has yet. I feel like Zim’ music is a lot more niche than people think. It has elements of familiar instruments and sounds and cadences, but the actual style of Zim music is hard to introduce to this Western world. I don’t think they’re ready yet. It’s not like Amapiano or  Afrobeats in terms of Ghanaian, Nigerian or even Congolese music. I don’t think it’s completely there for  Western ears to be like, Oh, snap, This is a vibe. I know It’s a vibe but they don’t understand it yet. So no it’s not completely transmitted in my work yet but I feel like there are elements of stuff that I can potentially add into the music that I make, but not completely.

That’s interesting, thank you. So how does your queer identity influence your music if at all?

Boy, do you know it’s kind of like this the first conversation I’ve had with a reporter about this.

Only share what you’re comfortable with.

I think everyone is different and everyone has their own experiences of understanding who they are. I went through a very long journey of trying to understand myself and fully accept myself and I have a lot of good friends around me that helped me get through that. Shout out to them. I definitely put my experiences and my understanding of myself into the music, especially in the recent song that I released. In Uncontrollable I really put in what I feel is the essence of desire. That feeling of really wanting to try something but being scared but also at the same time, the thrill of doing something that you’re scared to do.

Maybe it’s just my experience with my queer identity jumping out, but for me Uncontrollable speaks to the idea that for a while I kind of felt like I could bury this part of myself. Then I figured out that actually I can’t control this at all and it’s best just to let it flourish.

Yes, exactly. You described it better than I could ever describe it. When I was writing a song, that’s exactly what I wanted people to feel. The title Uncontrollable represents the fact that you can’t control what you like, you can’t control who you love, you can’t control desire. Eventually, everybody goes for what they want in whichever way they want to. That’s why we have a lot of people in the community that are DL because they don’t want to be out there but they also want to give life to what they’re feeling. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But you also have to accept that it’s a process and you’re going to have to come to a decision, whether you accept yourself or you continue to go down a road where you don’t just let yourself be. 

You did a great job with the song and that message was really clear to me. I’ve seen that you’ve worked with a few big names in the industry. Do you have any favourite projects, in terms of collaborations that you’ve done? 

Let me explain the process in terms of what I do in music marketing. I work with record labels to promote content and songs on social media space. So sadly, sometimes I don’t get to meet the artist. For example, I didn’t meet Kehlani but I dealt with her team. And so I basically would come up with ideas for content. It could be video memes, it could be blog style content or whatever. I then get tasked with creating it, send it back for approval and then boom, it gets posted and we hopefully get the [desired] reach that takes the artist to a top spot in the charts. 

That’s really interesting. Most of us aren’t really aware of how much behind the scenes stuff goes on with music, especially in this era of streaming.

There are so many things that happen with an artist. From the day that gets signed, the A&R takes them to the studio,  if they can’t write fully for themselves— and it’s always good to collaborate— the A&R then finds them songwriters to work with and anything else that gets the product together. That product then goes into listening mode and the whole team listens to that. From there it gets pushed to the marketing team who then create a story of what that song represents. They create that storyline to deliver to the audience so they can understand.

Marketing is just a conversation between the consumer and the creator. It’s just a way of packaging something somewhere so people can understand it. So when good marketing happens, you’re able to articulate what that artist is trying to say with their song and that’s when people use it on Tik Tok, reshare it and add their own twists to it. 

So when it’s good marketing, it feels like a conversation so you don’t feel like you’re being sold anything. I think that’s why a lot of people don’t realise that these things have actually been curated specially… On a purely musical level then, if you could collaborate with absolutely anybody in the industry, dead or alive, who would it be?

The obvious answers would be artists like the Weeknd or Kaytranada or Drake, but I would love to collaborate with someone like Lil’ NAS X… I feel like his creativity combined with mine would flippin’ run amok and we would produce something wild but I love his work because it’s expressive.

What he did with his last album release was so expressive that some people that were judgmental completely missed the message. Obviously, there were some references to the devil but I think a lot of the [outrage] was based on reactionary content. Lil’ Nas’ lyrics are nothing compared to other genres like death metal and drill where people talk about killing this and stabbing that… they completely missed his message.

And in missing the message they proved his point as well, which is what makes it so much more genius.

Exactly that’s what made it even bigger and made it a success. He’s an artist that charts because his fans are so loyal. They keep listening to his music to the point where a lot of the songs are diamond now… that’s something that I want to be able to build, a loyal fanbase that listens to my music and helps me do what I love for a living. I don’t really care too tough about charts and all those things in a sense that if I’ve got a good following of fans that will come to see me when I do my shows and we can jam and have a couple million streams per song that’s all I really need; that core fanbase that really understand what I’m trying to do.

I pray that that happens for you. I pray your music reaches the people that it’s supposed to and the people that will appreciate it the most as well.  Is Uncontrollable a taster of what’s to come with your debut album?

So I believe in albums and I don’t believe in albums. I’ve got loads and loads of songs that are waiting in a queue to be released. For example, my first release was Step, my current release is Uncontrollable and basically every song tells a story. What I’m trying to do with the single releases is tell each story as a stand-alone chapter. Once those first chapters are out then I’m going to release that body of work that’s really going to hit hard. But for now, I want people to take me in slowly rather than giving them that massive book to read.

That sounds like a really good strategy. Will we get a video for Uncontrollable?

I don’t think right now people are ready for music videos but I’m all about creating short visual content even like a mini music video. That’s something that I’m working towards but I feel like before a music video because I feel like sometimes music videos can be a hit or miss. If I can create something that has that traction and people really want to see what a visual representation of that song is, then boy I’m ready to give it to them.

You’re giving us the Beyoncé treatment and that’s fine, we can wait. If there’s anything else that you’d like to add or plug, please feel free.

Follow me on my Instagram or Tik Tok. There’s lots of good music to come honestly and I’m working  with some really good artists so yeah, watch out for that. 

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