Listen to the first 10-seconds of August Twelfth’s cover of Jamie Foxx’s “Till I Met Your Sister” and you’ll understand why he caught our attention. The UK singer-songwriter hooked us with a seamless blend of beatboxing and soulful vocals. He brought the track to life and made it into his own. It’s creativity like this that we love to hear.
August’s infectious cover had us clamoring for more. So we scoured the internet to get a better sense of his sound. Listening further we heard an incredibly versatile artist that can thrive on any type of track.
He just released his new EP Be My Valentine and is ready to take 2017 by storm. We recently caught up with August to talk about the evolution of his sound, how he brings originality to his covers and experiences as a self-managed artist.
Get to know August Twelfth and his incredible sound in our interview below.
Sonic Selects (SS): What made you want to cover “Till I Met Your Sister”? How did you plan to put your own unique spin on the track?
August Twelfth (AT): I’ve known that song for ages. I always wanted to do a cover of it but I couldn’t find an instrumental.
I wanted to do something different and creative. So, I created the instrumental with my voice.
I’ve got my own little home studio set-up. I set up my microphone and started to sing and beatbox. Then I put the two together and the track just came to life.
Every time I do a cover I want it to sound like it’s my song. I don’t want it to sound like the original. I had to give it its own edge.
SS: Because covers of songs give the listener a sense of familiarity, do you feel covers are a good way to build a fan base?
AT: I do covers to songs that I enjoy. I just love making music. So, if I love the song, I’ll love making the cover.
I’ve never really seen doing covers as a way to build a fan base. I see it as I like the song. I want to cover it and make it my own. I’ll remake it or approach it in a specific way that’s different than the original. Then I’ll put it out for people to hear. If it becomes a success, it becomes a success.
SS: Your cover of Drake’s “Fake Love” just eclipsed 20k plays on your SoundCloud page. How did you approach this cover?
AT: I never actually heard the original Drake’s “Fake Love”. I heard Eric Bellinger’s cover of “Fake Love” and his version had the acoustic guitar. I thought, ‘Oh Wow!’. I wanted to do a cover of his version before I even heard Drake’s original. It was Eric Bellinger who really sparked the idea.
SS: Going back to the beginning, when did you first get started with music?
AT: I first started learning piano when I was 5 years old. From there I’ve learned other instruments like guitar and drums.
I’ve been into all sorts of music as well: classical, rock, jazz, and contemporary blues. I’ve made all different types of music not just R&B.
I also went down the path of being a rapper and producer. I’ve made hip-hop music as well. I’ve been very versatile, I guess you can say.
SS: What got you into R&B after dabbling into hip-hop?
AT: I gained a love for singing and the love for R&B followed after.
SS: Do you think that R&B a good vehicle to get your original lyrics out?
AT: I feel R&B is a good way to get the story across but I feel like rap music is possibly even a better avenue. Because you can get more words in and you can tell a story a lot better in rap.
R&B is more for making you feel something rather than telling a story.
SS: What type of music influences you?
I’ve always been influenced by US hip-hop. I’ve never really been a listener of UK music, per se. I’m always aware of what’s going on in the UK but I’m not that much of a listener. US music has always been a main influence of mine.
I’m also huge a fan of 2Pac. That’s ride or die.
SS: On our latest playlist In Rotation: Open Road, we featured 2Pac’s “Do For Love”. We can hear a major influence from that track on your song “For Love”. What elements of “Do For Love” did you want to incorporate in your version?
AT: The original sample is from Bobby Caldwell. Then obviously, 2Pac took the bassline and put his own spin on it. I produced the beat for “For Love”. I took the 2Pac bassline and recreated the beat around it.
SS: When did you evolve as an artist?
Around 2015, I wanted to take a step back from the artistry and focus on songwriting. I wanted to get my writing skills up to par with my singing skills. I felt like they didn’t match up just yet.
I met someone from Atlanta, Rick. He flew me out to Los Angeles a few times. I was out there writing for a couple artists, improving my skills and learning new techniques. I had mentors out there as well. All thanks to Rick, if I didn’t have the opportunity to go out to LA, I wouldn’t be in the position I’d be in writing-wise.
SS: How have you progressed as an artist from your early mixtapes to your current release Be My Valentine?
AT: I feel there’s been a huge progression not only writing-wise but vocally as well. I’ve gone through singing lessons to train my voice to get the right sound out of it for what I want to do. I feel there’s going to be an even bigger improvement in 2017. You’re just going to have to wait and see.
SS: What was your experience being a self-managed artist?
AT: I use to be self-managed. It was a difficult experience. I didn’t really have anyone to advise me on what’s right and wrong. It’s very difficult to find success without a strong team behind you.
I had to go out, find my own shows, do open mics all before I’d get onto a lineup. Now that I have a manager, I can have him tell the [Promoter] to ‘put my artist on’ and they’ll do it out of respect for him.
SS: Does that give you more freedom to create?
AT: Definitely. You have less to worry about. Now I can focus on the music without having to worry about the business aspect of the industry.
SS: What inspired you to become a musician full-time?
AT: I’ve always been passionate about music. Creativity runs in my family. My uncle was a singer in a blues/jazz band. It really stems from there. I’ve seen him perform and that’s inspired me to I be on the same stage performing live, singing my songs, and touring all over the world. It’s something I’m really passionate about. It doesn’t make sense to do anything else.
SS: What do you listen for when you’re choosing beats?
AT: I don’t like anything that’s boring and always same. I don’t like repetition. I like every 8-bars to sound different. I love it when there’s a breakdown in the beat, somewhere in the pre-chorus, or the chorus. I listen for a little change. That really draws me to the beat.
SS: Going back to your versatility, your track “My Bad” has more of an electronic feel than some of your other tracks.
AT: With that record, I originally wrote that record in LA for a different artist. They ended up not using the record on their project and basically gave the song back. I hadn’t released anything in a while so I thought ‘why not put it out?’.
SS: Comparing your songwriting work to your own work as an artist, do you find it difficult getting recognition for writing someone?
AT: Always. Always. Always. I think it’s really because the public really doesn’t care about who’s behind the record. They really care about “the face” of the record.
There have been times where I’ve written and produced a record for someone that’s hit 3 million views on YouTube. Yet, I’m sitting here with 20 thousand views on a SoundCloud track. It doesn’t make sense. How can I write a song that hits 20 thousand for me and then I write a song for someone else and it’s hitting 3 million? It doesn’t make sense to me but I guess that’s how “the game” works. I need to keep pushing and keep striving. Eventually, I’ll get there.
SS: Finally, for someone listening to you for the first time, what should they expect to hear from August Twelfth?
Individuality. A unique sound. R&B. Something that you’re always going to enjoy. You’re going to fall in love with the music as soon as you hear it.
Stream August Twelfth’s Be My Valentine EP
Watch his brand new video “Amsterdam”