May’s Star Performer is a Contemporary Music Performance graduate, who’s been writing songs since the tender age of 13.
Introducing Russell Akbar, a singer-songwriter with vast music influences from hip hop and pop, to heavy metal. Russell ranked up a whopping 120 gigs in 2014, and he has no plans to slow down this year.
We caught up with him to talk busking, lucky charms and why Ed Sheeran is his biggest inspiration – read the full interview below.
What artists do you look to for inspiration?
“Growing up, my parents listened to so many amazing artists, they ranged from Marvin Gaye, to Dream Theatre to Culture Club and more! I was blessed to have been exposed to so many amazing artists at such a young age. But as I grew up and started listening to my own music, I became inspired by artists such as Plan B, Jason Mraz, Ed Sheeran and Rage Against the Machine.”
What made you want to perform in public?
“I’ve always wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps, he was also a musician and performer. Sadly he passed away late 2014 and I am now more determined than ever to make him proud.”
How do you prepare before a performance?
“I don’t have a set routine but I always make sure I’ve rehearsed beforehand. I’ve got a set of vocal warm-ups I do to make sure I can definitely hit those high notes and the last thing I do before I go on stage and set up is tune my guitar.”
Do you have any good luck charms that you have on you during a performance?
“When using a capo I like to put it on my guitar upside down, I think it looks a bit more cool. I’ve also named my guitar Chris, if that counts?”
Did you begin by performing your own material or covers?
“When I first started singing in front of people, I’d sing my favourite songs but once I started my first band at the age of 13, I begin performing originals.”
Who did you look to for inspiration when starting out?
“My father was a major inspiration especially when I first started, he gave me a lot of guidance. My music teachers at school also gave me a lot of help and advice.”
Do you suffer from stage fright and where does your confidence for performing come from?
“I was always a very shy person growing up and still am today. When I first began performing I found it quite daunting and nerve wracking, however the more I performed, the more confident I got. I have no problem performing now and feel like I come out of my shell when on stage. It’s as if I become a whole different person on stage.”
What are your three favourite albums of all time?
“Plan B – The Defamation of Strickland Banks, Ed Sheeran – No. 5 Collaborations Project and Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction.”
How would you describe your sound in three words?
“That is sick!”
If you could tour with any act, who would it be?
“Definitly Ed Sheeran; I’d play all my songs to him and get as much advice as I could. He is a massive inspiration of mine, so it would be a dream come true to travel and perform with him.”
What is your dream venue to play?
“I live five minutes down the road from the venue, Troxy, in East London so a massive goal of mine is to headline a show there, as well as other famous venues like, The O2, Wembley and the Eventim Apollo.”
What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you while busking?
“I first started busking a couple years ago while in sixth form as some of my friends had jobs in retail stores. One time I was busking and a big group of people walked past, it turned out they were all teachers from my school. They stayed for a few songs and I gave them a very special performance.”
Are there any other buskers who have caught your attention?
“Through busking I’ve met some amazing performers and have made so many great friends. Other buskers and performers that I love watch include Natalie Shay, Katie Nicholas, Harry Houseago and Tom Butler. They are all so talented and such great people.”
What would be your advice to new artists starting out in busking?
“It may be very scary at the start but trust me, you just need to get out there and get playing! The more you play, the better you get. Practice does make perfect!”
For all things new talent and Busk in London, head to Ticketmaster.co.uk/rising.