class of 2016: zak abel is the soul singer who could have been a ping pong pro

And he's got the world as his feet.

by Lynette Nylander
23 November 2015, 6:50pm

20-year-old North Londoner Zak Abel's voice harks back to a time when the soul kings reigned supreme. The young crooner lives and breathes music and although he's in the infancy of his career, he's already worked with big league producers like Kaytranada and collaborated with Gorgon City. Having just released his beautiful ballad Deserve To Be Loved, here are 10 things you need to know about future superstar Zak Abel.

1. He's a self taught pianist and guitarist.
"It was just practice. They were just lying around the house and I just figured stuff out. Stuff sounds good stuff, sounds bad."

2. He met one of his collaborators, Kaytranada, on social media.
"With Kaytranada, I've been following him on Twitter for a while and he followed me back out of the blue. I was so taken back by it that I decided that I'd hit him up and reach out to him. I said 'look if you wanna work with me then I'd be down to do something' and he was said 'yeah cool', so I got him to send some beats but there was this one beat called Say Sumthin' and I just remember listening to it at the same point in time when someone very close to me was on an airplane to Atlanta and they told me that they'd been on the runway for one hour because the door of the plane wouldn't shut. I'm really scared of flying so I was freaking out. It was such a simple worry but as I was listening to the beat, I just thought of this idea of saying something -- let me know you're cool."

3. He works out in the same gym as one of his other collaborators, Wookie.
"I just signed up at the nearest gym to me and I go in after we've worked together and he's just chilling in there, on a TRX machine and said 'looking good for my age aren't I?' He wrote this song called Higher and it was the first song I ever released. I was feeling the pressure, but I was really happy with it. It was a really great experience being in the studio with someone like him."

4. He's a big Michael Jackson fan.
"He was the first musician that I was got obsessed with. He was like my first idol and still is. I listen to him all the time and however much time goes on, the music is still sick; the ideas that they were coming up with back then were incredible. Off The Wall is one of the best written tunes of all time and the baseline is sick."

5. Zak never thought success would come so early on in his career.
"I do feel as if I'm dreaming. I feel like there is so much happening around me and there's a lot to think about at any given time, so I literally feel like it's not real. Have you ever felt like that? Where you're so immersed in something that you just forget sometimes where you are in all of it?"

6. He wants to people to relate to his forthcoming album.
"If I can make an album which I feel connected to and people around the world feel as though they've connected to it as well, then I've done something for them. That would be amazing."

7. Zak was a table tennis pro when he was younger.
"I was number one in my age group in the country for table tennis!"

8. His favorite lyric is...
"By Elliott Smith. It's 'people you've been before that you don't want around anymore.'  I interpret it as wanting to lose the characteristics that you've had in the past and change. Then you see other people who still have those characteristics and you don't want to be around them anymore. I think that's really cool."

9. He describes his sound as…
"I think what I'm saying in my music changes with each song, but one thing that is always a constant is that I want to try and be as true to the emotion that inspired the song as possible. The emotion is the thing that connects with people and that's what makes me make music at the end of the day. The sound is always going to be soulful because that's just the music I was brought up on and it's the filter in which I make music. Everything I make goes through this filter. I guess the soul influence came from my mom. She was playing James Brown while she was pregnant with me and I think it filtered through the skin, through the womb and into my ears."

10. He rates JME on his Twitter game.
"I use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I think they're all the same really but I really enjoy looking at JME's tweets when I wake up. He's so funny and outspoken!"


Meet the rest of i-D's Musical Class of 2016.


Text Lynette Nylander
Photography Olivia Rose
Hair Jose Quijano at D+V Management using L'Oreal professional
Make-up Thom Walker using MAC
Photography assistance Rowan Hall
Styling assistance Bojana Kozarevic, Siobhan Wood, Issy Martin
Hair assistance Nicola Harrowell-Browne
Make-up assistance Famida Ayub, Ruth Coutinho
Zak wears tank top Ports 1961

Class of 2016
zak abel