“Honestly I couldn’t pick one highlight” admits Cholombian as he attempts to recall the busy year that made up his 2013. It’s understandable enough – the Southampton-based producer was met with an overwhelming surge of support last year which pushed his self-proclaimed “R&B and Hip-Hop with cinematic elements” to a wider audience than he had ever imagined. “I guess the biggest thing for me is the fact that my fan-base has grown substantially” he continues eagerly, “and that so many more people are enjoying the music”.
It’s a world away from where Cholombian’s – or Mitchell Stevens as he is known to friends – music started. “Making the music came out of me having a sheer lack of hobbies and an abundance of insomnia” he explains. “I’d been in bands before and always wanted to try making music solo. Eventually I took the plunge and gave it a try”. It would seem that Cholombian’s story is a case of hobby turning into much more; he’s already managed to build up an impressive resume. “Primarily, I make music for myself, if anyone else enjoys that, that’s incredible” he says as if still surprised by the reception with which his songs have been given. After all he can count BBC Radio 1 DJs B. Traits and Rob Da Bank among his growing legion of fans, and his track ‘Heart In The Right Place’ won The Guardian’s Breaking Bands competition in November. “That song was literally a case of me wanting to make a posse cut of all the rappers I’d formed relationships with so far” he reveals when asked about how that particular track came about. “I got the verse from Gee [the US rapper featured on the track] and just decided it sounded better as a standalone. I guess it’s one of the most ‘ambient’ tracks I have, but I’m really happy with the mainstream success that it’s enjoyed so far,” he says sounding genuinely grateful for the attention with which it has enjoyed.
Plans for further rapper collaborations? “Yeah definitely” he replies without a second’s hesitation. “I’ll Be working with Gee again on the new EP, as well as producing for a lot more rappers that I’m in talks with at the moment” Stevens promises, his love of Hip-Hop evident. He’s already provided instrumentals for such established names in the genre as Lil B, Gabriel Stark and Azane Music who have all utilised tracks from Cholombian’s appropriately titled ‘Beats Vol. 1’ and ‘Beats Vol. 2’. Stevens posted these collections of unused (for want of a better word) beats up on Bandcamp for free, encouraging the Internet to take the tracks and do what they wish with them. “I really enjoyed the sound of the tracks and didn’t want them to just fade away,” he explains matter-of-factly before excitedly running through who has what track “Lil B has ‘Coming Home’, Gabriel Stark has ‘Vessels’ and Azane Music did a great version of ‘Inner Piece’”. You get the heart-warming feeling Cholombian is very much living his dream right now.
Speaking of dreams, when asked of his wish-list of collaborators he is quick to respond: “There are definitely a few” he prepares. “Ever since I heard Charli XCX, I’ve been making beats with her in mind. I love the way her voice compliments darker, more industrial sounds yet still feels completely accessible. The same goes for Phlo Finister. As a dream I’d love to work with Kanye West, as the man has been a massive inspiration for as long as I can remember”, before falling back to reality and telling himself: “that’s definitely a pipe dream.” He subsequently namedrops Lana Del Ray, Clams Casino and The xx among others, revealing his vast array of influences and hinting that this is most likely a question he has asked himself many a time.
Looking back on his 2013, one thing definitely stands out for Stevens: “My favourite gig so far is probably Bestival. The attendance at the Ambient Lake Stage was amazing. I’ve never experienced a vibe like it,” he tells, reliving the feeling in his mind. “Taking over from Zane Lowe and Mark Ronson and playing before The Roots on the main stage was insane too. It’s the most people I’ve ever played to and it was great to see so many people enjoying it!” As far as looking to 2014? “There’s a lot I’m not allowed to say about right now,” he says playfully before offering some hints. “I will definitely be releasing a new EP in the first half of the year on a brand new label. I’ll also be doing some high profile remixes too which you should be hearing pretty soon.”
Finally, as if apologising, he vows “I know I’m being vague, but believe me when I say things will be growing in more ways than one this year.”
Words by James Barlow