Ones To Watch Presents: YATES - “Mercury (Acoustic)” + Interview

After many months of scrupulous testing, we've come to the conclusion that it is virtually impossible for one to listen to YATES without becoming immediately and intensely intrigued. From "Virtue," to "Cake," to the most recent "Mercury," there's just something about his voice and distinct style that can satisfy soul, pop, and electronic lovers alike. 

The self-proclaimed "conductor to encourage people coming together and getting in touch with their emotional side and free spirit" has decided to record a stripped-down piano version of "Mercury," one that spotlights his natural talent without any of the shiny production or after-effects. 

Ones To Watch is proud to present your exclusive first-look at the acoustic recording, plus a deep dive into the budding talent's background, what "Mercury" means to him, the artists on his Ones To Watch list, and his ultimate vision as a musician. 

Keep a close eye on YATES this year–we know we definitely are.


OTW: First of all, thanks for giving us the honor of sharing the beautiful "Mercury" Acoustic! Tell us a bit about the makings and intention behind this video versus the official music video?

YATES: Thanks for the invite!

Well, I've actually never played on a Grand Piano before, therefore I was very excited by the idea considering it was going to also be shot in the very famous Hansa Studios in Berlin. I actually use a number of instruments to write, but I've become very fond of using the keys in recent years. I grew up playing the guitar and on the occasion I throw the bass over the shoulder, but it wasn't until I was 21 that I bought a cheap stage piano, and I've really fallen in love with this beautiful instrument. 

I guess this live session was important for me to project more of an emotional side of the song, whereas in the video I play with time, parallel worlds, and use more abstract ideas and imagery to make the audience think and make of it what they want.

OTW: You're relatively fresh on the scene - can you share more about your background? 

YATES: None of this was ever really planned. I come from a small country town in Australia and it was sport that first had me traveling the world. Music has of course always been something I've been attached to, and over the years it has definitely helped me get through all of the ups and downs. It goes without saying that music is a big part of most of our lives in some way or another, and that kind of helps me justify why I do this now. 

In the past, I was more of a bedroom musician. I mean, literally locking myself away in the hope that nobody could actually hear me in order to get stuck into some serious jamming. These moments were really for nobody other than myself. It's through being involved in other projects over the years that I slowly built up the courage to put some of my work out there. Seeing my music touch other people is now something that I've realized I can give.

OTW: How would you describe your music?

YATES: I’ve never been someone to stick to a particular genre or even identify myself through a particular type of music genre. I'm open to it all. My demos are really experimental, and I'm always very excited to finally jump in the studio and develop those ideas. Production is then a very important processes in making those ideas grow and each song is simply a photograph of a particular moment in my life. 

My lyrics are real, and I pay particular attention to how the music carries my words. At this stage, you could say my music is more inclined to go in the electronic, soul, pop direction but it all begins with some basic chords on the piano or guitar.

OTW: "Mercury" is your latest single & the title of your debut EP…What does that song (& its lyrics) mean to you?

YATES: At first, I feel as though it's obvious what I'm writing about. However, just as different people relate to the words of each of my songs in their own individual way, I find myself learning more and more about myself and what I've written as time goes by. All of my lyrics are either my observations, attitudes towards life, or even visions. 

We all have to make hard decisions and often feel misunderstood in this ever changing world of ours. It's not given what we are supposed to do in certain situations. We have to believe in our gut instinct, but at the same time we are influenced by so many external pressures. We have the freedom to make choices, but with our choices comes a lot of responsibility. It has me thinking day in and out.

OTW: What's your favorite remix of "Virtue" and/or "Mercury" so far?

YATES: They are all bangers in their own special way. I just love hearing other artist put a spin on my music.

OTW: Who are the top 3 artists on YOUR Ones To Watch list?

Dua Lipa is definitely a stunner and gets those positive vibes going. 

Trixie Whitley is another beautiful soul I've recently come across. 

My friend KYTES is making great music as well.

OTW: What's in the works for YATES in the coming months, years? Album? Touring?

YATES: Well I'm currently working on a number of exciting collaborations which are opportunities that I could never have dreamed of. All of these experiences help me develop as an artist, and I've noticed this transition in becoming more confident in my writing ability. I'm also busy working on new originals and feel as though I'm making some good progress. 

I also plan on heading back home to Australia pretty soon and want to play some shows there. I'll most likely return back to Europe to finish off recording my second EP and then may even look at heading to the States. The list never really ends, and I like it that way. I spend just as much time organizing my life as I do sitting down and making music. It's definitely an adventure.

OTW: What's your ultimate vision for YATES and the effect you aim to have on fans?

YATES: Traveling has really opened my eyes. I want to simply be open with my fans. In general we all have so much we can learn from each other. You can never have the best of both worlds. We unfortunately also have a shadow of fear and bad experience that hovers over us our whole lives that keeps us from working together as an orchestra. We pretend a lot more than speaking the truth. None of us are perfect and I've made plenty of mistakes in my life so far, as everyone does. 

I guess, I see myself as being a conductor to encourage people coming together and getting in touch with their emotional side and free spirit. Music is magical in that way.

OTW: Anything else you'd like to share?

YATES: I'd just like to send a massive thank you out to everyone who has supported me in my life so far, regardless of what I was doing at the time–they really do understand and let me fly. I am very appreciative to have finally found a team that is there for me no matter where they are in the world. Often we find ourselves feeling as though we have to prove something to someone. I'm pretty much over this whole idea and prefer simply believing in myself and doing my part in this world wherever and however I can. 

Many of the messages I have received from my followers have been the most meaningful to me because I see how my music has allowed them to open up and face their own problems. From both sides there is no explaining needed–we're simply bonded/connected through the music without any more being said. It's personal I guess and It’s a great feeling.