More time and attention has been given to new music that came from emerging artists. Joining the likes of Holly Humberstone, Baby Queen, and Mimi Webb was Dylan Fraser, another Scottish singer-songwriter who has continued to make noise over the past couple of years with a unique sound and thought-provoking lyrics.
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ithin the span of these past two years, more time and attention has been given to new music that came from emerging artists. Joining the likes of Holly Humberstone, Baby Queen, and Mimi Webb was Dylan Fraser, another Scottish singer-songwriter who has continued to make noise over the past couple of years with a unique sound and thought-provoking lyrics. Like a lot of his peers, Fraser made the most of his free time by releasing two EPs. His debut, The Storm, dropped in October 2020, while his sophomore, The World Isn’t Big When You Know How It Works, came out just under a year later. Both projects showcased a promising start and have helped Fraser be hailed as one of the UK’s most exciting new musicians.
Even though the industry is quick-paced and is forever telling us about fresh talent to keep our eye on, it seems Fraser isn’t too focused on living up to any title and sorely cares about just making good music. In a world that is obsessed with streaming figures and how many social media followers they have, it’s quite refreshing to see the material being the main reason for someone’s hype for a change. With that being said, Fraser didn’t have to try too hard to achieve success. A lot of people’s introduction to the 20-year-old would be his moody yet experimental debut single, Vipers. Released in August 2020, the song caught recognition from both fans and critics and was even featured on the FIFA 21 original soundtrack. Throughout the year, Fraser made sure to organically keep listeners fed with material that demonstrated what his artistry is all about. From the acoustic Gucci Sweater, the dramatic Nightmare to the cinematic Losing Sleep, it’s pretty clear already that Fraser enjoys playing around with production and isn’t bothered about being categorized as just one genre. One thing that remains consistent throughout, however, is the dark undertone in the lyrics.
Born in the town of Bathgate in West Lothian, Scotland, music has been a part of Fraser’s life before he can even remember. While meeting him at a hotel in London that featured a stunning rooftop view that overlooked Tower Bridge, I was intrigued to find out the pivotal moment when he really started to take a serious interest in listening to music. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot,” Fraser tells MOOD. “I just remember my mom singing when I was younger. I remember being in the back of my mom’s car and she was always playing music. My first music experience was probably the KT Tunstall [Eye to The Telescope] album that my mom used to play in the car.”
Fraser’s first-hand experience of being a performer started around the tender age of 12. “I would play all these venues and pubs, pretty much anywhere that would have me to be honest,” he reveals. Even though it takes a level of confidence to do that at a vulnerable age, Fraser admits it was a terrifying time for him. “I was an awkward little child who had no idea what he was doing. I used to be physically shaking before I went on the stage. I was kind of writing songs back then but I was too nervous to play them live. I used to do covers and maybe do one original if I was feeling brave. It feels so long ago now,” he continues.
Fraser has always written songs and insists the way he writes hasn’t changed too much over the years. “I think the first song I wrote was called Expectations. It was about not living up to the world’s expectations or something like that. I think I’ve always been on that darker theme,” he shares, adding, “I just gravitate towards that in the music that I listen to as well. I don’t like to sugarcoat anything.” Does that mean there are songs hidden in the vaults? Fraser says he can’t remember if he still has recordings of his very early material but does state he needs to go back and find out.
Fraser’s early days of performing in tiny venues as a minor might seem a little obscure but it was a sign of determination as there was never a plan b. “I always knew, genuinely since I was 3 years old, I knew I wanted to do music and do it as a career,” he explains. “I wanted to get a head start on it. I hated school, I wasn’t very good at maths and science and that stuff. I was good at art, music, and English.” Fraser decided to leave school at 15 years old to study music at college. “My mom wasn’t too happy,” he admits. However, Fraser’s family was still supportive of his music and pushed him to go for it, despite a sense of uncertainty. “I think, in the beginning, everyone was like ‘Oh yeah Dylan, you’re gonna do music and be a musician.’ When I would say it, they’d be like ‘yeah, ok, whatever.’,” Fraser expressed, adding, “I just stuck with it and when I was leaving school, my mom wasn’t necessarily holding me back and not wanting me to do music, but it was more the world placing expectations upon people. It’s almost like if you don’t go to college or uni, and get your head down and work, you’re not going to succeed and not get a good job. Maybe in some careers, that’s the case, but I think with music and creative stuff the best way to learn is on the job.”
While attending college, Fraser got serious in order to make his dreams a reality. “I started a social media marketing company when I was in college because I knew I needed a job where I could be my own boss that wasn’t 9 to 5,” he reveals. “I started using the money I made from that to come down to London and I would take any studio session I could get. I was networking and working with a bunch of people.” It was those regular trips to the capital that would get his career on the right foot. “From there, some labels and publishers kept reaching out and I started doing all these meetings. I had to then get a manager and a lawyer, which was all pretty new to me,” Fraser continued.
Fraser’s lawyer had a lot of contacts and helped push his name further. With that being said, there was a time when he would find himself inside the building for Warner Records attending meetings to discuss his future without a manager. “I was shaking like a little kid,” he says, reflecting on those days. Fraser ended up signing with Asylum/Atlantic Records and appears to be pleased with his major-label deal. When asked if he ever contemplated going down the independent route, it seems to have never been a thought in his mind. “I think when I came into the industry, I didn’t really know what an indie label was,” he admits.
Like a lot of artists, Fraser is critical of his own work and has been open about being hard on himself. His debut EP, The Storm, came out nearly two years ago and gave Fraser the recognition he hoped and deserved. While being his own worst critic, he has learned how to move on and deal with things he would do differently as a more knowledgeable musician. “ I love it but I think you’ve got to learn how to let it go once it’s out and accept that this is where I was and what I was making during that period of my life, and now I’m not and that’s fine. It doesn’t mean it’s bad but I definitely look back and notice things I would now change with the lyrics or production. I think everyone does that,” Fraser explains.
The coronavirus pandemic has played a big part in Fraser’s career so far. The Storm was completed “in early 2020 before everything went to shit,” while his sophomore, The World Isn’t Big When You Know How It Works, was made during the first lockdown in the UK. “The pandemic helped and changed the creative process,” Fraser stated. “I think it helped me because it gave me a lot of time that I hadn’t had with myself for years. I had nothing to do, I was back in my childhood bedroom. Weirdly, I got really inspired and had his signature sound. “I think I will have my little things that people will hear in the music that will allow people to know it’s me but there are so many sonics and sounds to still explore. I find that really exciting so I think I’m always going to experiment and try new things because I like it.”
He continues: “I like artists and albums that challenge me. I enjoy music when it takes me from one place to another. I like music to feel like a journey and an experience, almost like you’re walking into the cinema and you have to listen to a movie for two hours. Those are the most exciting albums for me.”
Being the digital age that we now live in, the music industry is fascinated with streaming numbers more than ever. Because of that, some artists, including Fraser himself, have found themselves obsessing over their own statistics and unintentionally comparing their success to others. “I fell into the trap at the beginning and I did look at [my numbers], which made sense because how else was I supposed to see the progress in the middle of a pandemic,” Fraser admits. “This is why I’m glad that everything is open again so I don’t have to sit and look at numbers all day in my bedroom because that’s not good for anyone and their sanity. I obviously look at them and see how my music is doing but I try not to get too much in my head about it. I’m still growing, I’m a new artist, I just wanna release music and not have to worry about what it’s doing at this point. It’s more about building and connecting with people.”
The days of Fraser performing in pubs are long gone. Last year, he opened up for BRIT Award winner Holly Humberstone on tour, which included a show at London’s iconic O2 Shepherds Bush Empire. Fraser had previously also scored himself a support slot for Baby Queen. “It’s been really nice to connect with them because they’ve been in a similar situation as me, releasing music during the pandemic. We have similar experiences where we can relate on that level,” he explains. “When you’re new to it all, you have no idea how to maneuver it. You can’t even put a gauge on if something is normal or not. It’s nice to compare experiences with other new artists.”
Fraser’s first show after the world opened up again in the UK was at one of Humerstone’s gigs. He performed a “really fun” acoustic set but previously expressed in previous interviews that it was terrifying to get back on stage again after a long time. “I still get nervous beforehand. But, it’s not like fear. When you’re playing your first show or your first show back, there is a fear of the unknown. You’re nervous but you’re also scared and fucking terrified at the same time,” Fraser says. “I think now that I’ve been on tour and I’ve been out on the road a bit, I don’t have that fear, I’m not scared of what’s out there. I’m more nervous but excited. Butterflies.”
Fraser’s main goal for 2022 is to embark on his own headline tour. “Even if it’s just one show. I would love to perform to see all these people in a room that connect with me and my music, that would be crazy,” he explains. On June 8, Dylan played his own show at The Social in London, proving his artistry is only on the rise.