Alfie Templeman is remembering the day back in January when it dawned upon him that these were his final few hours as a 17-year-old. “I was just standing around thinking, ‘Oh God, time’s moving… I’m an adult tomorrow’.”
It’s hardly an uncommon epiphany — anyone who’s passed that milestone will probably remember the vague feeling of their childhood disappearing in the rearview mirror — but in a lot of ways, his 18th birthday was quite unlike most others’ before him.
For one, it was spent in lockdown, and rather than heading out in celebration of his newly acquired pint-buying powers, he toasted the occasion with his parents at their Bedfordshire home. But what sets him apart from pretty much everyone else is that Templeman’s realisation of fading adolescence occurred while he was on the set of the music video he was shooting for his latest single, Everybody’s Gonna Love Somebody.
“It’s nothing, really,” he says with a laugh, thinking back to that faintly existential moment. “I’m still mega young.” Templeman was born in 2003 (Sound of the Underground by Girls Aloud was number one back then, to give it some bone-chilling context to anyone who remembers that like it was yesterday) and he released his first EP when he was just 15.
Since that debut record — a home-produced, Mac DeMarco-inspired saunter through hazy slacker-rock sounds — his style has developed alongside an ever-growing popularity. With the help of a devoted online fandom and prominent radio play, his fourth EP, Happiness In Liquid Form, was his best received yet, despite not being able to play any IRL gigs in support of it. Released in July 2020, it leant towards those in-vogue nu-disco sounds, and racked up well over 20 million streams.
His upcoming release, Forever Isn’t Long Enough, has been dubbed a “mini album”, with the long-awaited debut album due soon, some three or four years after the first EP. He jokes about that time as being “back in the old days, when I was a wee nipper”, but his easy-going, knowing humour is an indication of what seems like a wise head on young shoulders.
“I think the whole reason why I’ve done EPs so far is because I was too young to put out my first official big release, and I’m still kind of getting there,” he says. “With EPs, it wasn’t too much weight on my shoulders.” This mini album is “almost like a trial run” to help make sure the debut is “perfect”, he says. “That’s why I think it’s definitely important to make sure what you’re labelling it as is really what you want it to be, and the right kind of thing for you.”
The majority of Templeman’s career so far has been spent writing, recording and producing his own records in his childhood home, having left school at 16 to pursue his already blooming music career. And although he certainly knows his way around a stage — he’s been the support act for Sports Team, played a sold-out headline show at Colours in Hoxton early last year, and was hoping to head off on his own tour in 2020 — readjusting to life under lockdown hasn’t been quite the gear-shift that it was for many other artists.
“I can’t really speak from much experience considering that I haven’t really gone anywhere,” he says. “I don’t know what a typical musician’s experiences [are] in the modern day, as a singer-songwriter or whatever. It’s a bit of a weird one.”
All that time spent at home as a burgeoning artist, somebody that people want to see live but who is so used to spending time indoors, has presented a strange paradox. “The pros are that I’m young and I’m making stuff inside my house, and I’ve got a lot of freedom,” he says. “But the cons are, I’m stuck in a house, and I haven’t actually got a lot of freedom, and I’m actually just in my room all the time.”
For Templeman, who spent a chunk of the pandemic shielding due to a health issue, the time has been about using his creativity to write music that turns “that feeling of being trapped into somehow feeling free”. While his writing process in the past has been more immediate, during Covid he’s had more time to consider what he’s making. Part of that has been digging through the 500-odd song ideas he’s recorded over the years. “Most of them are shit”, he admits, but there has also been plenty to inspire fresh material.
He’s also been able to go back and tinker with tracks in a way he wouldn’t typically have done. It’s something that shines through on Forever Isn’t Long Enough, which still has those effortlessly melodious choruses and easily digestible structures, but is layered with newly matured studio textures.
As to where his sound goes next, the canvas is blank. Templeman has already shown he can be a musical shape-shifter, and says he takes inspiration from the famously chameleonic American musician Todd Rundgren. “What I love about him is that every single record he ever put out, he changed. If you’re that versatile, and you can play anything, then you’ve got to show that. Prove it.”
“I kind of want to make a song for everyone, basically” he adds. “A jazz song for someone, a pop song, whatever — I want every person to have at least one song of mine that they might kind of at least like a little bit.”
The way things are going, and with all the years Templeman still has ahead of him, he might just do that. In the more immediate future, he’s got a few festival dates in the calendar, including stints at Reading and Leeds later this year, a quick whizz around North America on tour towards the end of 2021, and then UK dates next year, stopping in London for a show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire — his biggest headline gig yet.
And with all that on the horizon, he isn’t spending too long dwelling on how Covid snatched away the final throes of his adolescence. “I’ll just make up for it, I guess,” he says with typical breeziness. “That’s all you can do, isn’t it?”