Nealo: “I think it’s unfair, for a lot of people, the way society is set up”

by James Hendicott

Nealo’s debut album ‘All The Leaves Are Falling’ is a snapshot of a left-behind side of society, a kind of personalised treatise in music that highlights the difficulties of working-class creatives while exploring his own perspective.

The product of years of work, it’s a step aside from the Dubliner’s usual style as he goes for a more expansive, punchy, expressive record, drawing on his own punk-roots and embedding his protest-message in a record that’s heavily hip-hop leaning.

“It felt different making this, I wanted to make it so that people would look at it and think it’s something different. I wanted to give a feeling for what I was trying to do, and tell my story, who I am and what’s unique to me,” he explains, before going into the way the album relates to his own history.

“It’s a little about that adolescent want for leaving somewhere, and then later coming back. About the hardships, and the people who have left, and who haven’t. There’s tragedy and beauty in that. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is I’m trying to say, but there’s a message in there.” 

“So it’s about Clonsilla, essentially, which I love now, but when I was kid I felt like there was something big happening somewhere else, and I wasn’t there. I still get that today, sometimes, but I think I have a bit more perspective on it, too. When you’re young, everything seems like the biggest thing in the world.”

The record features a series of interludes that expand on the music, giving witty context. “I was a little worried the Interludes might be a bit long,” Nealo says, “but I put them in and they’ve been really popular. It gives context, a feeling of who I am I guess, and adds to the narrative.”

“I feel like people my age were told to grow up, get a job, go to college and all that stuff, and it’d work out. And that’s not really the truth anymore. I think it’s unfair, the way society is set up, for a lot of people. A lot of people are left behind. What about people who want to pursue something like music? The system isn’t set up for us. I felt left behind and out of place, and I was trying to put that across.”

The record does a fantastic job of that: in a hip-hop scene that’s gone from extremely fringe a few years ago to popular and mainstream today, Nealo’s album is a ready pretender to the throne occupied by the likes of Rusangano Family and Rejjie Snow.

“It’s on DFL, who are a label who showed a lot of belief in me early on, before I really got anywhere,” he says. “I have another project I’m already working on, so there’s a lot more stuff to come. I’m in the studio all the time, and I can see there being another album even next year.”

“I don’t think I’m going to burn out creatively for a long time. I came to this game quite late, and I have a bigger pool of stories than a lot of people who would be releasing a first record. Really, I just want it to resonate with people. I don’t have to sell thousands of copies, I just hope people enjoy it.”

‘All The Leaves Are Falling’, the debut album from Nealo, is out now on DFL Records. Visit nealo.ie for more.

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