Producer, guitarist and Jazz extraordinaire Tom Ford has returned with new single ‘Love Cadet’ featuring long time collaborators South African artist Phundo Art and NY based trumpeter Keyon Harrold. Taken from the forthcoming EP ‘The Return of the Tennis Champions’, ‘Love Cadet’ is the first single from the multifaceted artist since last year’s debut EP “The Tennis Champions”. Brimming with hip-hop, electro and funk the track clusters rhythmic complexities with lyrical playfulness.
Impressively, Tom Ford’s distinctive psychedelic blend of the retro and futuristic, an alluring genre-defiance and upbeat virtuosity has seen him writing and recording for many of the UK’s most promising artists. An ever-growing list of significant collaborations to his name include Poppy Ajudha, Jay Prince, Jevon, Col3trane, Daley, Swindle, Aron the Bassist and more.
Continuing his funk-loving and universal theme of exploring the dynamic of human relationships, ‘Love Cadet’ employs a heady mixture of jazz guitar and trumpet with heavy beats and synths reminiscent of The Neptunes and Outkast providing Phundo Art and Tom a perfect launchpad for exploration.
As a Berklee College alumni and regular performer on UK and US jazz scenes, his sophisticated soul-fusion and electroacoustic compositional techniques have undoubtably created a signature Tom Ford sound.
The improvised moments of “Love Cadet hint at Tom’s revered versatile and adventurous guitar approach and welcomes in curiosity for the rest of the upcoming EP in 2023.
VIPER sat down with Tom Ford and Phundo Art to talk about their collaboration on ‘Love Cadet’ and what’s to come…
Tell us, where does the story begin between Tom Ford and Phundo Art?
TF: We met through our mutual friend Robbie Moore who I was in a band with at the time called Delta Autumn. I don’t know how those two met but I remember Robbie raving to me about this guy he’d met whose music was amazing. So, I went and checked out his EP “Summer Vibes” and I was instantly certain I had to meet and work with this guy!
PA: We recorded a track called Annie so had met in that studio session. However – I remember we properly met on a car journey when we were going to play at a jazz venue in West London. From there we built a friendship, and I took a liking to his character and talent.
Can you talk to us about your individual pathways into music & how you established your artist identities?
TF: I’ve always had music around me, via my Mom’s CD collection and her musician friends. My Dad plays guitar too – I didn’t grow up living with him, but when I’d go to his, I’d always be picking up and playing his guitars – well trying to at least. When I was 9 or so I injured my knee and couldn’t play football anymore and so music took over and that was that! Then of course Birmingham was a great city to grow up in for live music back then, so I had lots of opportunities to hone my craft.
PA: I started music later in life but I have my Dad to thank for my love of music. One of my first memories was when my Dad played Micheal Jacksons ‘Dangerous’ on VHS. I saw Michael Jackson turn into a panther or some kind of jaguar and he was ripping his shirt off, on his knees in the rain and I thought that is some dedication! There was also a church I grew up by and they sung ‘Mpoho’, I remember seeing them singing and dancing outside and I was fascinated. Being the youngest, I had a lot of influence around me and spent a lot of time around my older cousins and uncles so was exposed to a range of music from South African house to Destiny’s Child. Then when I moved to the UK, I found myself hanging around with a lot of musically inclined people after high school. The people around me always complimented my voice and encouraged me to dabble in music and to take it seriously. I made clothes and hosted events so it all seamlessly fitted and made sense to continue it and make it grow and become Phundo Art.
The past year has showed us how collaborations can completely restructure genre norms. What do you think the secret is to forming a meaningful collab & what was the click moment between your link up on ‘Love Cadet’?
TF: I think genre should never be a barrier between people collaborating so I never really think about it. I think it just comes down to whether you enjoy and are moved by someone’s artistry and vice versa, if there’s this mutual respect for each other and what you do then it’s likely you’ll collaborate well. For this song specifically we’d already worked together in the past and I had written this idea and performed it live as an instrumental with my band a few times and so once I had produced the idea into a structured instrumental I just thought Phundo needs to be on this. So I sent it over and later that day I had the stems for his vocals, sometimes it just all hits the bullseye first time.
PA: I feel like when you form a good friendship with someone you can create good music no matter what – you don’t have to rely on being in the same studio space – hence how we managed to create ‘Love Cadet’ when I was back home in South Africa. I think knowing how much of a down to earth guy Tom was I just knew anything musically would be flawless. If you can apply what you stand for and your morals into music, you will make awesome music and I believe the most interesting people have the best music. I remember Tom sent me this instrumental and I sent it back that same day.
We can hear various musical influences on this single from Outkast to The Neptunes. If you could name three of your key inspirations, who would we be looking at?
TF: I think we both have a lot of influence from N.E.R.D and Pharrell. I always find it hard picking definitive influences as I love so much music. Maybe I would say that Radiohead, J Dilla and 80s fusion (Chick Corea Elektric band) are a big influence for me in terms of the creation of this track.
PA: I agree, both Outkast and The Neptunes are the goats! I had them in mind as soon as I heard the song. I would say [The] Neptunes, Andre  – shout out to Big Boi though I have definitely been inspired by him in previous tracks – and Dwele.
What was the creative process behind Love Cadet? Tell us what instruments were used and who was responsible for each element?
TF: The initial instrumental just came out of improvising around the initial chord sequence probably on guitar to start, I then played and layered up all the synths on an old Roland Juno I have. I programmed some drums too, similar-ish to the current version but nowhere near as interesting. Then I showed my good friend drummer/producer David Hodek who was over to play a few shows with the early version of my band, and he was like “yo we gotta do this live,” so I wrote out some last minute charts and we did it at each show with a rapper freestyling over it. So after that Hodek recorded real drums to replace the produced ones. I then did a bit more production work and sent it to Phundo who did his vox, I doubled the hooks he wrote as I love the sound of different voices together, and it lived in that form for a while. I then got my good friends from NYC Dan Winshall to add bass, and Keyon Harrold to add trumpet. I toured with them both in Keyon’s band and I always love including personalities that I’ve vibed with on stage.
PA: It was such a sick instrumental and I was really inspired to write at the time. I was at my grandparents house in South Africa when I first heard it and I instantly loved it and just started free-styling the hook. It was all very natural.
We heard this track includes lots of improvised sections. How important are these moments to your music?
TF: I am from a jazz background and improvising is a big part of music for me. Including improvised parts to a recorded track gives it a bit of life that you often lose in heavily produced music. I think that the human element really makes a big difference and puts the instrumental side of the music on the same plane as the vocals, it’s all personality. The bass, trumpet, drums and guitar on the track are all quite unedited just with post production on the sound so you could say everything but the synths are improvised, I’m pretty sure Phundo’s verses came straight out almost freestyled too but I’ll let him explain that one.
PA: I find improv so important in music. It reminds me that I am still having fun. I love watching stand up, and that’s improvisation the majority of the time so I resort to that kind of thing for inspiration with the creative process. With this song, as I previously mentioned, most of it was freestyled.
The theme of the new album looks to explore the dynamics of human relationships. How did this theme play into the construction of ‘Love Cadet’?
TF: It’s funny as we didnt even discuss lyrical content at all. Sometimes you’re just on the same wavelength, I write all my songs about relationships between people and Phundo just came through right on the mark without even a mention of what I was thinking in terms of concept. I always like to give collaborators free reign to do their thing when working together, I never want to be too controlling over someone’s creativity.
PA: There was a girl I was talking to over text at the time and I felt like we were only connected through the ‘satellite’ as in the internet, so that is where the lyrics came from. This whole concept of getting to know someone solely through the internet was fascinating to me at the time and [it trickled] into my writing. I was lucky that it fit perfectly with the theme.
What does the future hold for Tom Ford & Phundo Art?
TF: I have an EP release show at Ronnie Scott’s on March 15th which Phundo will be joining me on stage for, we also potentially have a recorded live session of Love Cadet coming out before then. Outside of that, we’re always touching base on all sorts, I’m sure there will be more music from us both whether that’s for mine, Phundo’s or someone else’s music as we both write and create for others too.
PA: We need to keep up the good work it would be great to give people something refreshing and maybe even something that can compete with Love Cadet. We will definitely be working collaboratively and individually in the new year. I have some exciting features working on my new music for next year – I won’t say too much but watch this space.
If you could now collaborate with anybody (dead or alive) who would it be?
TF: As a Jazz musician at heart then I would have loved to have worked and played with Miles Davis, I think he was one of the most important musical minds of the last century, but there are still people around that worked with him active, so I would love to play in Herbie Hancock’s current band!
PA: Hmm…there are so many people doing great things musically so that’s a hard question; I would hate to pick one artist and exclude the rest – I am a lover of all music. Producer-wise though – I would love to work with Pharrell, Forty and Black Coffee. I also love what Don Tolliver is doing, and Skillibeng…and Chris Martin is an all time favourite always.
Check out the visuals for ‘Love Cadet’ below: