Illy (AKA Al Murray) has had a pretty busy year so far, spending a long and gruelling album cycle writing and preparing songs for his upcoming music release. Isolated Nation found some time to talk about his upcoming record and career as a rap artist.

Would you say you have had a busy year so far?

It’s been non-stop man, just getting everything together. Particularly the last few months have been really busy.

Compared to previous albums the record took a little bit longer to make, what was different this time around?

We started making it later because the last album cycle was a lot longer, but also a lot of travelling went into this one. The majority of the songs, the demos, were made overseas, so there was a lot of time spent working with different producers and getting a feel and a rapport with different people and then building the tracks up from there.

Where did the idea for the album come about, where did the name come from?

It’s about progressing, and I feel president Obama in an interview answered the question about his presidency basically saying that any lasting change or significant change doesn’t happen over-night. It happens in small increments over time and I know that I am just a musician and not the leader of the free world or anything, but I can apply that – I can see a parallel with my career and I am at a very different place now, that I was when I started. I think I am in a much better place and I think that is a result of making small changes over a period of time and pushing small progress over a period of time to get to this point.

How did you approach the making of the album? Did you make whatever came to mind or was it more specific?

It takes from a lot of different genres, particularly from electronic and pop. I think I didn’t want to go to make a genre specific album. I just wanted to make an Illy album that sounded like me front to back, but that didn’t really fit into a category. I am pretty happy with how it’s come out, because I think we have managed to achieve that.

Would you say it’s a reflection of your entire hip hop career?

I don’t think so necessarily, I feel it’s definitely a product of how far I have come. I’m in the best spot creatively I think I have ever been.

Have you used the same approach for your writing?

Definitely not, I am much more about writing my songs now other than writing bars. I think I have developed my style and writing ability in leaps and bounds. Particularly with this album and the last album, I think I can rap no worries. I have been able to do that for a while, but I am starting to feel I am able to write really good songs, which I think is a much more difficult skill.

It’s very hard to write songs that have the kind of success that a couple of my songs have been fortunate to have. I love rap and I come from a hip-hop background, but I always want to keep pushing myself and developing and that’s been the biggest challenge with this album. I am pretty happy with where it’s got to.

Is pushing boundaries partly why you are successful as a rapper?

Definitely, but also success aside – it’s also what keeps me interested and driven and wanting to still be involved. If I was making the same album over and over again I would probably not be involved with music anymore.

You have plenty of collaborators on this album; particularly Vera Blue and Anne Marie, as an artist do you actively seek out potential collaborators to be part of an album?

Yes I write all these hooks and I have a specific vocal in mind and once the tracks are there and demoed the hooks. I go about trying to find the right singer to get on the track. I’ve been very lucky the people we’ve approached for this album, everyone was really open to it, really vibing on the songs. Although it was quite time consuming, it made it generally a pretty enjoyable experience.

Once they heard the songs, they were immediately down. From Vera agreeing to the track and then to getting her vocal I think that was probably nine days and with Anne Marie with her being based in London, it took a little bit longer but as soon as she heard the track she was down. It was both really easy and they obviously both killed it.

What are you looking forward to after the album release?

A whole lot of shows which I can’t wait to get back on the road and play, I don’t want to get back into the studio too soon. It’s been a really gruelling last six months particularly, but couple of years of working on songs so getting to play them all for a little bit and not having to think about studio for a while will be really nice, so that’s all I am thinking of really.

It must feel good knowing you will be stage again.

Yes dude totally. I am hanging so badly for it. It should be cool.

Illy’s latest album Two Degrees releases on November 11. 

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