23rd March 2018 is a date that 19-year-old R&B singer-songwriter Tranell will never forget. Until that day, the North Londoner had never recorded a song. He went to a studio for the first time that day, to record a song he'd been writing for two weeks prior. The experience had him wanting more, he quickly caught a bug for making music. Just three songs into his new hobby he found himself signed to Virgin EMI.
You could say that Tranell is an overnight success, but in many ways his whole life has been leading to this point. He remembers getting a CD player when he was seven years old, and the feeling of playing R&B compilations on repeat after his father had grown tired of them. Even from that young age he would deconstruct the songs in his mind until he understood every element of what he liked about them. His father was heavily into American R&B music and he will often sing along to most of the songs.
At the age of eighteen Tranell booked in that first studio session to finally fulfil his long standing desire to do music. He spoke to an artist friend of his in London for a studio recommendation, It was in this first session that Tranell met producer Yung Reggie, who coached him through the process. "He was like, 'Are you sure you've never done music before? Because the melodies are amazing, everything is so good," Tranell remembers. "At that time I was just so new to it, and for a producer to say that to me was a big confidence boost. He played a big part in my musical journey."
Tranell's process always begins with finding the right beat. He
says he's never written a song without first having the instrumental,
and trusts his instinct as a music fan to keep his sound authentic.
"My sound was already made before I even started writing music, because there's just so much of it in my head," he says. "It was almost impossible for me to not know my sound, because I know so much music. I really made that decision subconsciously."
The song that lead Tranell to his record deal, 'Too Catty', was written at his sixth form college during a free period at the end of the day. Thanks to the comfortable environment, the beginnings of a song came to him and two weeks later he was ready to record. Once the song was complete he posted a preview on Instagram, to use his friends reactions as an indicator of whether it was working or not. A few weeks later the views on the video were still building, and it wasn't just his friends taking notice: A&R's began reaching out and he soon found himself juggling label meetings with A level exams in Economics, Sociology and Psychology - all of which he completed before moving his full attention to music. "I was going to meetings in Kensington the day before my exam, and the day after I had an important phone call [with the label]," he says. "So it was hard, but I just had to keep my head screwed on."
Now he's fully focussed on his music career and has quickly developed a strong work ethic that means he has plenty of music stashed away, even before his official label debut with 'Too Catty'. He believes that his gift particularly lies in writing catchy hooks, and credits the influence of US R&B singers like Chris Brown, Jeremih and Lloyd with his ability to find a great melody. From his breakthrough with a 38 second preview he understands the importance of making every element of a song count and this is reflected in his creative process. Rather than writing down lyrics or recording melodies in his voice notes for later he stores everything in his head. "That's how I know it's worthy or not," he explains. "If I make a chorus and it keeps ringing off in my head then there's something special there. 'Too Catty' just kept going round in my head, and I was like 'Okay, I need to finish this!' I want everyone to hear everything from the beginning to the end, not just wait for the chorus or a feature. I try to make my songs attention grabbing in every aspect."
He's currently in "EP mode" as he writes as much music as possible to maintain the momentum of 'Too Catty', he already has a number of options in the bag for follow up singles, and is holding some of his favourites back for when it's time to drop a full-length project. At the same time, Tranell remains a kid fresh out of college who's suddenly found himself swept up in a life that he never expected to have, which gives the promising talent a unique outlook in itself. "I'm looking at the timeline of [my career so far] and it doesn't really add up," he admits. "I literally didn't know I had it in me to do something like this. I always loved music - I have the biggest speakers in my car, I have the biggest speakers in my house, but I never knew I could make it to such a quality where I'd be signed to a major record label. It's been a crazy few months. I'm still trying to process it all to be honest."