FOCUS: Myles Knight

For the first long-form article of The Mic’s new FOCUS Nottingham feature, which shines a spotlight on some of the city’s most talented artists, we sit down with troubadour Myles Knight to discuss his musical life in the city and the things that make him tick.

In a darkened November room at Nottingham’s iconic Rescue Rooms, Myles Knight cuts an illusive figure. Standing tall with hair cascading over his face, he croons debut single Black and Blue with a smouldering swagger which almost deserves to be paired with a leather jacket and Cuban cigar. Fast-forward eight months and the same man cuts a very different personality.

Sitting down on a sun-kissed Nottingham afternoon, just around the corner from the venue we were first introduced to Knight, the shaggy-hair and rugged beard of said singer is in voluptuous form despite his hangover-weakened mind. A quick glimpse to Knight’s forearm lends one to notice an impressive range of tattoos on display. Amongst the vast collection, of which Knight notes is characterised by a mix of highly personal and more obscurely entertaining offerings, lies a pirate woman, a key from Harry Potter, a moon and cherry blossom as a tribute to his late grandmother, boxing gloves as a signal of the Rocky franchise, roses and a beaming lion at the centre of his chest. Whilst they provide some insight into the man that Knight is, a more eye-raising spot is the Definitely Maybe tattoo that the singer-songwriter has inked on his arm.

A self-confessed Oasis aficionado, Knight is resolute in stating that the Gallagher brothers’ influence shaped his sound today. ‘They were my first real band and they were what inspired me to play guitar and sing. Oasis started that whole thing for me before the standard indie rock scene.’ Despite having a guitar from the age of eleven, Knight’s journey as a guitarist wasn’t an explosive one that would lead him on a prodigal path from an early age. ‘I had one lesson with my guitar teacher and then he never called me back so I thought shit I must be really bad! After that I left it for like a year and then sat down again to try and learn. I had a couple of lessons with a family friend, we just sat down and jammed, it was nothing proper. I learnt the basics and then got an Oasis songbook for Christmas. I started a band at school and the guitarist in that was brilliant so I started learning from other people really and teaching myself from there. I’ve probably been playing for ten years now, but it doesn’t really show!’

Whilst the singer-songwriter was a late developer musically, there was never a question mark as to the career he would eventually go on to pursue. Having confessed that music was the only thing he was ‘half-decent at’, the musician followed his GCSEs with a two-year music course and then a cycle of gigging across Nottingham’s ubiquitous open-mic circuit. Ending his stint as a glazer in February 2019, Knight’s present-day routine lends itself more to the classic ‘myth behind a musician.’ A midday rise leads to various attempts to shake off the lingering presence of the night before, a process Knight declares is becoming harder with time, but not one that looks likely to change anytime soon.

"Nowadays you don’t even have to be a good lyricist to be good anymore. It’s hard to distinguish between who’s good at making music and who’s just a good singer."

Despite having now crafted a sound he’s comfortable with, Knight occupies his mind with inspirations from other genres. His passion for hip-hop grew as he entered his late-teens, shaped by the likes of Tyler, The Creator and legends including N.W.A and Dr. Dre. Yet despite his obvious passion, he speaks with a slight disdain for how rap and the art of songwriting itself has deteriorated within the genre in recent years. ‘Mumble rap…yeah…I don’t really like it. It’s like that horse song, what’s that horse song [Old Town Road by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus], it’s a funny song but it goes to show that nowadays you can just rap bullshit. It’s literally a song about riding a horse. If you did that in the Britpop era, people would call you a twat. Nowadays you don’t even have to be a good lyricist to be good anymore. It’s hard to distinguish between who’s good at making music and who’s just a good singer. I don’t know, maybe I’ll make an auto-tuned track and call myself Lil Mylo!.’

Whilst hip-hop keeps the troubadour preoccupied, Knight’s sound is very much rooted within the mid-2000’s British indie rock scene. Debut single Black and Blue is a soulful, jaunty anthem with a lilting reggae-infused guitar arrangement and even a prog-rock inspired bridge. It’s impossible to pin down the plethora of influences that permeate the track, but the scenic guitar opening alongside Knight’s cascading vocals within the chorus make the single a tantalising listen for fans of a certain Gallagher-led band.

"Every song that I’ve written, none of them have any similarity in terms of genre. I hate describing the genre I am because everything is so different."

Inspired by a collection of nights out, the singer-songwriter channeled his inner-student to deliver his coquettish and swaggering opening statement. ‘It’s a compilation of all the things that happen on a night out mashed into one song,’ shrugs Knight. ‘I wrote it about three years ago so it’s an old song. I’m not a student but I’ve lived the whole student life. I’d go out pretty much every night and go out and get pissed.’

As Knight narrates his life in Nottingham, pausing for breath to recall the minutia details of certain nights out, its apparent just how much the city and its drinking culture has shaped the young artist, yet it seems almost as if he’s starting to wind down a bit. ‘It feels like I’ve aged about ten years over the last two years,’ he muses. ‘I don’t like to go on nights out anymore, I like to go to the pub and get pissed and then waddle home with a takeaway.’

"Most of my songs are fucking sad songs. I don’t think I write many happy song."

Yet there is more to Knight than the impressive longevity of his drinking. A quick-witted, highly attentive individual, the craving for a spark of energy to be ignited within his own music led to Knight hunting for a new band following two years of trawling the acoustic scene alone. ‘I wanted to go into more acoustic stuff,’ he explains. ‘I couldn’t be arsed dealing with other people, acoustic music was a lot easier to do on my own. I was going to record acoustic stuff but I don’t really want to do an acoustic EP or an acoustic single as the first material under my own name. After two and half years of doing a lot of gigs, it just got boring. It was still good but the sets become long and lack energy, it’s sort of lonely not having people playing with me. It can be quite disheartening playing alone in a pub to people who aren’t really listening, I’m used to it now, but there are times where you want that extra energy and additional sound to make it all better.’

Knight continues by stating ‘I got the band together in January, had a couple of practices, got the song recorded and did the single release show in March. The drummer, Sam, was actually the drummer in my old band and he’s a good friend of mine. Ryan and Alex, the guitarist and bassist, I found on Facebook. They were the only two to actually reply, but they are so fucking awesome, it was amazing.’ Throughout the afternoon, it becomes clear just how high Knight values the technical excellence and creativity of his band. ‘For someone who had only been playing bass for about six months, Alex was incredible when he joined the band. He was better than most bass players that have been playing for years.’

"It’s sort of lonely not having people playing with me."

Given his vast experience in the acoustic circuit, it’s no surprise that Knight has a catalogue of material waiting to be transposed to the band format and released. The follow-up single to Black and Blue, titled A Drop Of A Hat, is described as ‘a song about randomness’. Written in 2018 in his grandad’s kitchen, the single was written almost in its entirety within the space of a day. ‘All of my songs are about girls’ he laughs. ‘A Drop Of A Hat is a track telling a girl to essentially snap out of an attitude. It’s not my most thoughtful song I must admit but I wrote it with the pure intention of playing it with a band. It’s quite Spanish and Flamenco-esque, it’s quite upbeat and I don’t really do upbeat songs.’

For a man so seemingly reliant on camaraderie, whether that’s performing in a band, or just drinking with a group of friends, Knight laughs at the epiphany that ‘most of my songs are fucking sad songs. I don’t think I write many happy songs. I wrote a happy song after seeing [Australian genre-bending outfit] Sticky Fingers in London and I remember driving back from London thinking that I needed to write something like that; a reggae sounding guitar pattern and random shit like that. At the end it switches into a full-strum confusion, it’s weird, I wasn’t expecting it.’

Describing the songwriting process as a ‘spur of the moment thing’, Knight admits to being controlling with his music. A self-confessed ‘picky artist’, he values the thoughts and honesty of those around him but refuses to box himself into a certain sound or genre. ‘Every song that I’ve written, none of them have any similarity in terms of genre. I hate describing the genre I am because everything is so different. My producer keeps telling me to pick a genre and stick to it, but I can’t at the moment!’ It’s important to note that despite the number of years that Knight has accumulated in Nottingham’s music scene, he’s still a developing musician. He speaks with an openness that is refreshingly mature, explaining how he is learning from past mistakes and becoming more methodical with transitioning his acoustic material to a band format, whilst also trying to secure more gig mileage with the band.

A wiser, music-dominated head lies on the shoulders of the former glazer, and whilst the Bulwell-born, Mapperley-based artist looks to have put his previous career behind him, it doesn’t stop him from glancing at a boarded window beside the outside table in which we are seated and sighing ‘I could be fixing that window right there. It’s very annoying having this skill set, especially when you have family who are like can you do this or that!’

As our chat moves on, we start to digress from the music. Conversation turns to whether it’s acceptable to go to the cinema on your own, the perfect location for a first date, how much of an all-you-can eat buffet you have to eat before you feel you’ve had enough. Despite the disparity between the topics of conversation, Knight remained charming, relaxed and approachable. The air of bravado and confidence that fills his swaggering live performances is quashed into a state of serenity. He speaks with a wry grin and the rejuvenated purpose of an artist that feels like he’s found stable ground and a bit of momentum. In a time where artists seem increasingly willing to cover heavier topics of politics, health and technology, there’s something refreshing about a troubadour recalling his latest alcohol-fuelled binge. Songwriting doesn’t have to serious all the time, and Myles Knight is ready to prove that, one hangover at a time.