British R&B singer Joel Culpepper releases new single “Thought About You” featuring Shawn Lee

South-East London’s Joel Culpepper has been one of the hottest acts on the British R&B scene for years with his unique voice and energetic blend of modern soul and funk. After his excellent last single “Poetic Justice”, which he recorded with nu-jazz musician and fellow Londoner Tom Misch, he has this time teamed up with legendary multi-instrumentalist and producer Shawn Lee for his new single “Thought About You”. The song is accompanied by a new video – a hyper-stylised vision of a classic retro talk-show, complete with comedian Munya Chawawa enthusiastically adopting the role of host. Culpepper’s forthcoming debut album, “Sgt Culpepper”, will be released on July 23rd via his own label, Pepper Records.

Produced and co-written by London based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer (Saint Etienne, Kelis), arranger and ‘Silver Fox’ Shawn Lee, “Thought About You” begins with a punchy drumbeat and acrobatic baseline that lay the seductive ground groove for this heavily 70s influenced track. Soon joined by Joel’s impassioned vocals, which form the emotional core of the song, he starts out smooth before sweeping up into a trembling falsetto for the chorus. His delivery harkens back to titans of the genre like D’Angelo, Prince or Marvin Gaye but with a modern inflection that places Joel’s sound firmly in the centre of London’s contemporary music landscape.

On the track, Joel explains: “Thought About You’ leads the charge for ‘The Love’ chapter on the record. This chapter represents a side of me that’s often seen on stage – impulsive, passionate and in the moment. I think this song is a reflection of all those things – I flipped the script from previous tracks in a nod to sensual psychedelic soul. We worked with producer Shawn Lee on this one – a real dude who completely understood that sound I was trying to go for authentically. Shawn actually put me on to Shuggie Otis – a song called ‘Aht Ah Mi Hed’, I had on loop forever. This track, along with Bowie’s take on soul in the 70s with ‘Young Americans’, both inspired ‘Thought About You’. I’d describe it as my take on a mid-70s head bop. We loved what Shawn did with this track so much, we asked them to drum on the record, so he’s on the entire album apart from two tracks.”

The music video was directed by Sholto Price, with cinematography from Pieter Synmans. Joel comments, “I had a vision that the opening of this chapter ‘The Love’ had to be performance based, pop and transporting us to a time reflective of the song’s aesthetic. I remember Sholto showed me Pieter Synman’s previous work with Slowthai. I love the way he brings colours and characters to the forefront, which is what he did with this. The track’s producer Shawn Lee also appears in a top of the pops style cameo, as well as Mad J, a waacking style dancer from South Korea – she taught us the dance routine back and forth via Instagram. Munya Chawawa as host was the icing on the cake. We told him the vibe was like Parkinson interviewing Muhammad Ali and off he went, complete improv. Special shout out to our stylist Fahrad Nior who brought out my inner Curtis, Shuggie and Sly Stone. He took us all there.”

With executive production from Swindle (Ezra Collective, Mahalia), mastering from Joker (Stormzy, Kojey Radical) and with co-productions that include the likes of legendary pop producer Guy Chambers, Raf Rundell (The 2 Bears) and Tom Misch, Joel Culpepper’s debut album “Sgt Culpepper” is a testament to the power of community. The album will be released on July 23rd via Culpepper’s own imprint Pepper Records.


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