Artist Interview: “Grey Skies” by Stuart Brignell

Q: I love the jazzy lo-fi instrumental alongside the smooth yet gritty vocals in this song. What was yours and Ray HMND’s creative process in making “Grey Skies”?

STUART: I wanted to fuze elements of modern hip hop with some of my older school influences (Jazz, and Neo-Soul) to craft a palette that would properly deliver the message that the song needed to get across. The track went through a few revisions before Ray jumped on it, and I even cut down the arrangement by a minute and a half to make it as listenable as possible. I’m glad I did!

Q: Your saxophone solo really adds a unique contrast to the rest of the song. Who are your biggest influences when it comes to the saxophone?

STUART: For this song I was really trying to channel Grover Washington Jr, one of my big influences! It really complimented the soulful feel of the song. Along with him I have been heavily influenced by the music of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Joe Henderson.

Q: Walk us through your production process in making “Grey Skies”.

STUART: It started with those chords you hear in the beginning, then I came in and added some trap elements to the drums on top (hats and snare patterns) but tried to keep the bottom of the song (kick and bass) as boom bap as I could while still looking forward, musically. After the rhythm section parts were vibing I added some flutes and synth melodies and mixed them to sound like they were samples, but they weren’t. No samples were used in the making of this song, all instruments were played by me but I mixed them to sound like samples. I spent a lot of time getting the bass melody in the second verse to speak, and after all that and RAYs raps were added, then I finally dubbed the sax parts in one take at the end.

Q: What has been one of your most favorite memories along the path to making “Grey Skies”?

STUART: My favorite memory with this project was probably the day we filmed the visuals for the music video (that’s coming in 2 weeks by the way!). It was just an awesome adventure filled day and we grabbed some incredible shots of Toronto that you wouldn’t see unless you were hanging out with someone who grew up in this city, IE me haha. I think folks are really gonna love the video.

Q: You have performed alongside the legendary Dank of Frank-n-Dank as well as Will Kennedy. What was that like and what did you take away from that experience?

STUART: Dank I met when my old band ALKMY was playing a J Dilla tribute show in Toronto a few years ago. Our vocalist Sheresha knew Dank personally and invited him to the show. We played 3 sets of Dilla songs with our own flip on it, and at the end of the show Dank came up on the mic and said he loved how we played his old friends music, and that Dilla would’ve loved the show had he been alive and there that night. He then proceeded to tell us to kick a beat and he went on to rap a few verses with us! This was an absolutely incredible experience, Dilla is one of my biggest influences and I’ve never felt closer to him before that night. Those who know that Detroit scene know that Dank and Dilla were like brothers and they really came up together in the 90s.

Q: I see that you live in Toronto. What is the music scene like there?

STUART: Toronto is cool but honestly I’m trying to get out as soon as this COVID stuff is over with. It’s been a great place to come up but there just isn’t a huge scene here for the music I love, and generally Canadians aren’t all that enthusiastic about music that isn’t Country or Indie pop. I’m trying to get out to LA or London soon where I know I can really spread my wings and get some serious work done in a city with a really established industry. Toronto just doesn’t really have that yet.


Q: If you could choose any artist, who would you most like to collaborate with?

STUART: That’s a tough question! I gotta say either Nai Palm of Hiatus Kaiyote or Mick Jenkins, tbh.


Q: What is the best advice you have been given about the music industry?

STUART: That “if you take care of the music, the music will take care of you” – Roy Hargrove. Rest in Power.


Q: Do you have any current projects in the works?

STUART: Yes alot! Mostly with Toronto underground artists, and some afropop stuff with some folks out in Paris. There will be much more music from me this year so stay tuned! 


Q: Will you be touring once concerts can begin happening again?

STUART: I definitely would love to tour again when it is possible. I miss playing every night and being on the road travelling the world. It will probably be a long time before I tour my own music but I’ll likely be touring in the coming years as a sideman saxophonist for other up and coming bands or artists! 

Interviewed by Melissa Cusano





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