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Collard: Soul singer on sex, spirituality and ‘looking up to oddballs’

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Ashley Bourne

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Collard: ‘I look up to the oddballs, the originals’

“Less is more… but more is good. You do things I never thought a woman would.”

As opening statements go, the first track on Collard’s debut album is practically guaranteed to grab your attention.

Hell Song (for that is its name) whisks you straight to the bedroom, where the 24-year-old’s falsetto drips with desire over a sticky-delicious guitar riff.

It’s a boudoir scene worthy of Prince in his prime. And just like Prince, Collard struggles to reconcile his sexual and spiritual impulses. “Hell is for the both of us,” he repeats, over and over, as the song reaches its conclusion.

“All my vices, I regard as unholy,” says the singer, somewhat less aroused as he speaks to the BBC over the phone from his flat in London.

“I was raised as a Mormon; so things are either holy or unholy, black or white. So that’s how I look at my life: Sometimes I make the unholiest of choices.”

‘Too naughty’ for baptism

His describes the Mormon lifestyle as “very intense”, explaining “you’d have to get up at 5am every day for bible studies before school, except on Fridays” and how he was expected to socialise with other Latter-day saints, attending sports days and picnics instead of playing with school friends.

There were benefits, too. He remembers being cast in a church production of The Sound of Music when he was just four years old: “I just had balls of energy and oddly misguided confidence at that age, so they put me in.”

Disillusionment set in when, aged eight, he was told he couldn’t be baptised with the other kids because he was “too naughty”. He spent the next year living under the belief he was a bad person, a sinner.

After his parents divorced, he gave up church “pretty quickly” – but that feeling of inadequacy still torments him. There’s a reason his album is called Unholy.

Redemption, of sorts, came through music. “Motown was super-present in my childhood,” he remembers, while his nan introduced him to James Brown and the Rolling Stones. But the first song he truly claimed as his own was Whitney Houston’s I Have Nothing.

“I loved that song. I used to repeat that song so much. I’d play it 24/7,” he says.

By his teens, he’d become entranced by the trippy, late-night hip-hop of Tyler The Creator, The Weeknd and Drake. After a few freestyles, he was drawn into the fashion-forward London collective Last Night In Paris.

“We were using each other’s bedrooms as makeshift little studios, recording whatever we could and it picked up some attention,” he says.

“We did Glastonbury, played a few shows, travelled a bit. When you’re 16, it’s better than a part-time job.”

But while the band was picking up buzz from trendy, forward-facing publications like Vice and Dazed, Collard was secretly harbouring a passion for something a little more old-school.

‘I would have my moment’

“Privately, away from all the R&B rap scene, I would always go home and listen to Janis Joplin or The Kooks or Jamie T. It wasn’t considered cool at the time. My friends would call it ‘white people music’.

He says Last Night In Paris became “constricting,” only allowing him to show “one side of myself, musically”, but he’s philosophical about the experience.

“When you’re in a collective, you have to move as a collective. You have to fit in with the image, or the brand,” he says. “But I knew I would have my moment where I could express this stuff.”

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Last Night In Paris

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Collard’s smooth soul vocals were a key part of Last Night In Paris’s sound

The breakthrough came on a trip to LA where, with his producer and comrade-in-arms Zach Nahome, he started writing music that felt true to those soulful, singer-songwriter inspirations.

“They were all so influenced by other music that we actually didn’t put any of them out,” he laughs, “but we knew we had the roots of something.”

Back in England, he began work on his first solo EP, Clean Break (a double reference to a relationship and his decision to leave Last Night In Paris) and a debut album, the aforementioned Unholy.

Destructive lifestyle

It’s a difficult record to pin down: Modern but timeless; vulnerable yet cocksure. There are hints of D’Angelo in its mix of buttery soul and crisp, jagged rock. But then there’s a song like Sacrament, whose impressionistic soundscape is built around a mournful peal of saxophones and the single, repeated lyric: “I’ve had my share of cruel love.”

The stand-out, however, is Ground Control – a quiet cry for help, written after a night where the singer realised his hedonism was spiralling out of control.

“Swerving through country lanes / Drugs serenade my bones / White girl from the countryside / Pray we both don’t die tonight,” he sings over an increasingly menacing guitar riff.

“That was me at my most destructive,” he says.

“That night made me start taking notice of my safety and my life a bit more. The next day was super-reflective. I was like, ‘I can’t go on like that any more.’ Going too crazy, going too wild and just not caring – when I have things to care about.”

Unholy’s maximalist approach sets it apart from the icy synths and bare-bones beats of Collard’s contemporaries, people like AJ Tracey, J Hus and Skepta. He admits that makes it a hard sell, especially on the mood-based playlists of streaming services.

“That’s always the danger, when you’re trying to push something original – working out it’s where it fits. Everything’s quite divided right now: The grime guys are the grime guys, the R&B guys are the R&B guys. So it was difficult to find out where I lie.

“But then I look up to people that are the oddballs. The originals. Like Amy Winehouse: Frank was a jazz album that came in at a really weird time, but it was perfect.”

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Ashley Bourne

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“At my level, you’ve got to reach high, but you’ve got to be humble as well,” says the singer

As if to prove a point, Collard’s new single, Stone, is a duet with fellow rising star Bakar, that combines an acoustic indie vibe with soaring soul vocals to tell a tale of tormented love.

“It’s good to have something a bit more leftfield from two black guys from London. Not really attached to a scene, just different.

Warming to the theme, he adds: “It’s representative of a wider black London, or a wider black England. We’re not all into the same thing. Colour doesn’t combine us taste-wise.

“So I think it’s cool to stand apart when there’s a prominent scene going on.”

Stone is out now.

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Coronavirus: Mission Impossible filming halted over health fears

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Tom Cruise is set to appear in the seventh film in the Mission: Impossible series

Filming on the latest Mission: Impossible movie in Italy has been paused due to concerns about the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.

Shooting on the seventh film in the series was due to take place in Venice over the coming weeks.

But Paramount has halted production after Italy recorded the worst outbreak of coronavirus in Europe.

There have been more than 200 cases in the country so far, including seven deaths.

The number of cases makes Italy the third worst-hit country in the world after China and South Korea.

Tom Cruise was not in Italy for the shoot, according to The Hollywood Reporter., but the production crew were sent home.

“Out of an abundance of caution for the safety and well-being of our cast and crew, and efforts of the local Venetian government to halt public gatherings in response to the threat of coronavirus, we are altering the production plan for our three-week shoot in Venice,” Paramount said in a statement.

“During this hiatus we want to be mindful of the concerns of the crew and are allowing them to return home until production starts. We will continue to monitor this situation, and work alongside health and government officials as it evolves.”

This isn’t the first time the Mission: Impossible franchise has been hit by difficulties.

Mission Impossible: Delays and difficulties

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  • During promotion for Mission: Impossible III, an advertising firm placed digital devices in 4,500 newspaper vending boxes in Los Angeles, which played the movie’s theme tune aloud whenever the door was opened. But some members of the public mistook the devices for bombs and reported them to police, who in turn detonated several of the news stands. An LA hospital was even evacuated for 90 minutes because of the apparent threat.
  • One scene in the first movie was shot outside the Lichtenstein Palace in Prague, but it turned out to be a far more expensive location than originally thought. Authorities initially quoted the filmmakers $2,000 (£1,540) per day, but when they turned up to shoot on the day the team was told the new price would be $23,200 (£17,860) per day.
  • Cruise has performed many of his own stunts during filming, but he’s occasionally been injured in the process. The actor cracked a couple of ribs while shooting Mission: Impossible 3, and in 2018 he broke his ankle jumping between buildings while shooting the sixth film, the footage of which was seen on The Graham Norton Show.
  • The third movie suffered a delay of a year after its director Joe Carnahan exited the project because of “creative differences”. Cruise was able to shoot an entire film (War of the Worlds) in the time it took for a new director to be appointed.
  • In 2015, Disney announced the title of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but Paramount felt this clashed too much with their fast-approaching fifth Mission Impossible film, Rogue Nation. Disney kept their title but agreed to hold off on promoting the film until the fifth M:I had been released.
  • Mission: Impossible 2, which was about the outbreak of a deadly virus, came up against horrible weather, logistical problems during city shoots and the defection of cinematographer Andrew Lesnie to the Lord of the Rings franchise. “This is one of the most difficult movies I’ve ever made,” director John Woo said at the time. “But we overcame. We kept fighting.”

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Singer Duffy ‘drugged, raped and held captive’

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Duffy’s debut album Rockferry went seven times platinum

Grammy award-winning singer Duffy has revealed she was drugged and raped after being held captive by an attacker.

The 35-year-old Welsh star posted on her verified Instagram account that her “recovery took time”.

The performer, who had a UK number one single Mercy in 2008, wrote to her 33,000 followers: “The truth is, and please trust me I am OK and safe now.”

“I was raped and drugged and held captive over some days,” she wrote.

Duffy, whose debut album Rockferry went seven times platinum as it went to number one in six countries, won three Brit Awards and a Grammy following her breakthrough.

“You can only imagine the amount of times I thought about writing this,” she wrote on Instagram.

  • A biography of Duffy
  • Listen to Duffy on the BBC

“Well, not entirely sure why now is the right time, and what it is that feels exciting and liberating for me to talk.

“I cannot explain it. Many of you wonder what happened to me, where did I disappear to and why. A journalist contacted me, he found a way to reach me and I told him everything this past summer. He was kind and it felt so amazing to finally speak.

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Duffy wrote about her ordeal to her 33,000 Instagram followers

“The truth is, and please trust me I am OK and safe now, I was raped and drugged and held captive over some days. Of course I survived. The recovery took time. There’s no light way to say it. But I can tell you in the last decade, the thousands and thousands of days I committed to wanting to feel the sunshine in my heart again, the sun does now shine.”

‘Sadness in my eyes’

Duffy – whose real name is Aimee Anne Duffy – went to number one in 12 countries with Mercy, which was the UK’s third-best-selling single of 2008 with sales of more than 500,000 copies.

The singer, from Nefyn in Gwynedd, then enjoyed success with her first album Rockferry as it became the UK’s biggest selling album of 2008.

“You wonder why I did not choose to use my voice to express my pain? I did not want to show the world the sadness in my eyes,” she added.

“I asked myself, how can I sing from the heart if it is broken?

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Duffy went to number one in 12 countries with her single Mercy

“And slowly it unbroke. In the following weeks I will be posting a spoken interview.

“If you have any questions I would like to answer them, in the spoken interview, if I can. I have a sacred love and sincere appreciation for your kindness over the years. You have been friends. I want to thank you for that. x Duffy.

“Please respect this is a gentle move for me to make, for myself, and I do not want any intrusion to my family. Please support me to make this a positive experience.”

The BBC attempted to contact Duffy to verify her account.





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‘Deontay Wilder’s costume didn’t make an ounce of difference’

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The designer of Tyson Fury’s boxing outfits has told BBC Radio 5 Live that Deontay Wilder’s ring-walk costume wouldn’t have impacted the result of the fight.

Melissa Anglesea is the creative director of Lancashire-based Suzi Wong. The company has made Tyson Fury’s shorts and robes since the start of his boxing career.

Wilder told US media that Fury didn’t actually hurt him, but he lost because his costume was too heavy meaning his legs were “shot” from the beginning of the fight.

Anglesea dismissed Wilder’s claim and said the costume worn by the American made “absolutely no ounce of difference”.

For more reaction to the fight, listen to 5 Live Boxing with Costello & Bunce on BBC Sounds.



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