Fraser T. Smith has worked with a plethora of A-list artists through the years. In fact, he was the songwriter and producer behind Adele‘s “Set Fire to the Rain,” James Morrison‘s “Broken Strings” and Taio Cruz‘s “Break Your Heart.”
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So, it’s no surprise that when it came time for his own album, 12 Questions, which was released by Apple’s Platoon label earlier this month, he enlisted some of his celeb friends to join in — including Idris Elba.
“Idris and I were due to speak about working together on his album, and I had a gap on the first track where there’s a section about fear that I needed narrating. It’s a paragraph from a book called The Secret DJ, and I found it very powerful,” Smith, 49, says exclusively in the latest issue of Us Weekly. “I thought Idris would be perfect for this. We began talking about it when he was locked down in Albuquerque with COVID-19. He managed to record the passage and sent it back to me. It’s spine chilling and brilliant.”
The Wire alum, 48, revealed that he had the novel coronavirus in March, making him one of the first celebrities to do so.
“This morning I tested positive for COVID-19. I feel ok, I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus,” he shared via Twitter at the time. “Stay home people and be pragmatic. I will keep you updated on how I’m doing. No panic.”
Elba continued, “It sucks. I’m doing OK. Sabrina hasn’t been tested and she’s doing OK. I didn’t have any symptoms. I got tested because I realized that I was exposed to someone who had also tested positive. I found out last Friday that they tested positive, I quarantined myself and got tested immediately. I got results back today. This is serious. Now’s the time to really think about social distancing, washing your hands.”
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Scroll down for more from Smith on his new album, which includes “Do We Really Care,” a creative collaboration between 1983 Creative, Ori Tandoor and Pentagram Design.
Us Weekly: What inspired this album?
Fraser T. Smith: I’d spent the past five years working on 3 U.K. rap albums by Kano, Stormzy and then Dave, which had done really well, so I was at a crossroads artistically and personally. I gave myself some time to reflect on life and the world, and the more I reflected, the more anxious I became about the lack of diversity, the wealth gap, the environment and our lack of connection with each other. I started writing the questions on an old whiteboard in my studio and the concept was born.
Us: What is the vibe behind it?
Fraser T.: It’s 12 deep, philosophical questions being asked to some of the sharpest minds in the world of music, art, activism and poetry. It’s set to a backdrop of 70’s inspired progressive rock, jazz and soul, with hip hop inspiration throughout.
Us: Why is now the right time to release it?
Fraser T.: The album was conceived and written pre COVID-19, so it’s interesting how all of the answers resonate even stronger, now we’re all being forced to lockdown and turn inwards. I think this is a critical time to be introspective on both a personal and outward level. The album is shining a light not only on the talent of the collaborators but also on the harsh injustices in the world, so now is the perfect time to release this.
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Us: Who is someone you haven’t gotten to work with yet but hope to?
Fraser T.: I’m so lucky to have worked with some of the biggest names in music but also some of the most vibrant undiscovered artists. I’m really a student of life and a student of music and have learned so much over the years from all of the collaborations — both about music and about myself. So, I don’t really have a bucket list of big names. I’d love to work with anybody who can help me learn and give me new insights into music and into myself.
Us: You’ve accomplished so much. What comes next?
Fraser T.: Some days I feel like I’ve accomplished something, and then feel as though I know nothing! It’s a weird paradox. I honestly feel like I’m just getting going. Music now is so exciting, so free from corporate conditioning and restrictions — super free and very diverse stylistically. I’m looking forward to many more Future Utopia albums, a live show, a book, podcast and working with many more incredible artists.
For more from Fraser T., pick up the latest issue of Us Weekly, on newsstands now.
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