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r&b artist, joel compass leads the way

Both a science nut and a music fanatic, 21-year-old Joel Compass – real name, no gimmicks – was faced with a tough decision last year. Should he begin his medicine degree or accept a record deal? Signing to Polydor Records ultimately won out, but it wasn’t a decision the South Londoner took lightly...

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“It was a risk,” Compass points out. “Everyone told me to do medicine and that music would fall into place later in life. It was a strange part of my life, deciding to decline the university I’d been working my whole life to get into. But I think it was the right decision.”

What is medicine’s loss is music’s gain; with Joel one of experimental R&B’s most exciting new offerings. “Emotionally, there’s a lot of Pink Floyd amongst the R&B, because I listened to them so much growing up. Also Lemonjelly and Eric Morillo, and my mum listened to a lot of Maxwell, Jamiroquai, Aphex Twin. My mum let me see a lot of art house movies and we went to a lot of galleries. It was wicked. And free. That made me love the creative side of things.”

Science, music and art has been a major influence and inspiration in Joel’s life. As an 8 year-old, he bought his first keyboard but also spent much of his time ‘fixing things’. “Light fittings, TV’s, the radio; anything that was broken, I wanted to mend it.” Now, he carries that fascination into his music. As singer, writer and producer, Joel is continually experimenting with the science of sound. “A lot of the times I’m actively trying to make mistakes, because some of the best things come from mistakes. I want everything to feel rough and experimental. I find that exciting.”

A guest slot on the J.Cole tour and a Pusha T remix of debut single Run helped to get Compass nominated for MTV’s Sound of 2014, leading to the likes of Pharrell queuing up to work with the handsome creative. “In the US there’s Miguel and Frank Ocean, but no one is doing that in England. And I want to take it further; I want to be the person who makes the experimental even more different. The music I have coming is a progression on what’s come before. I’m making music for tomorrow, today.”

Where are you from?

Musical Scientist.

Secret crush?
Scarlett Johannson.

Style icon?
Buffalo boys and Johnny Depp

Joel releases Forgive Me in March.