LJ HOWARD is warming up those suede-like soulful vocal chords of his, getting ready to headline at Chinnerys when he takes the special guest spot at the SoSlam Young Songwriters' gig next week.

It comes ahead of another single release and an EP for the Southend based South African raised pop-soul man, and behind a string of successful ticks off the independent musician's professional checklist, including his song being used as a soundtrack for a feature film, winning an award for it, and sharing the stage with Paul Young and Marc Almond at In the Park Festival.

KELLY BUCKLEY catches up with him, to talk about his story so far...

Q: Hello LJ. So what do the L and J stand for in your name?

A: The LJ stands for Leon Jordan, the only one that calls me this is my mum, and that's when I know I'm trouble!

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your background when you were much younger?

A: I was born and raised in Cape Town South Africa. I would say my passion for singing started from being in the church choir and continued into secondary school where I'd sneak off into the store cupboard in the music room with two of my friends, who also had the same musical passion. There we would write songs and dream about our future boyband aspirations. Nonetheless we would perform together at every school event known as the group Ambiguity.

Q: What brought you to the UK and when?

A: When I was aged 17 I had the opportunity of visiting my brother who lived in America. It turned out I wouldn't return back home until many years later. I continued my travels with my sister along the way, until we came to settle in the UK where I met my wife and became a father.

Q: You joined a band called Heist when you first moved to Southend. What made you decide to become a solo artist?

A: I had many successes with Heist one being winning the first Battle of the Bands hosted by Southend Radio and appearing on TV on the T4 music show. We continued to gig all over the UK including Ireland Jersey Scotland and then venturing further to Germany. Going solo was a natural progression after taking some time out to focus on family time and have our two boys.

Q: How would you describe your music and do you have any particular influences which come out in your sound?

A: My influences include John Legend and Stevie Wonder, mixed with more recent artists such as Lucas James, because of their lyrical content and timeless sound. I would describe my own sound as soulful pop with a mix of rock thanks to my live band who help me to create the LJ sound.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your releases so far, and what’s the favourite recorded track you have put out so far and why?

A: I've released five singles so far, with a music video for each, which are all available to view on my YouTube channel and stream on Spotify. I would say Nothing Lasts Forever is my favourite released track as it was my debut single of my solo journey so far.

Q: What is your biggest musical achievement to date?

It's hard to choose from performing at Village Green last year along with two years running at In The Park Festival at Garons. I would say singing on the Main stage with my band along side Paul Young and Marc Almond was a fantastic opportunity. I'm also very grateful that I was given the opportunity to feature on the soundtrack for a UK Feature film 'A Landscape of Lies' written and directed by Paul Knight. From this my single 'Last Man Standing 'went on to win the St Tropez film festival 'Best Song' award.

Q: What is next for LJ Howard?

A: I'm currently working on an EP and a new single which will be released very soon! Keep an eye on my socials IG @LJHoward1 and my Facebook facebook.com/ljhowardmusic

LJ Howard will be the special guest at the SoSlam Young Musicians gig on Thursday August 16 at 6:30pm - 11pm, at Chinnerys, Marine Parade, Southend.

Admission is £3 on the door or £3.30 on line from seetickets.com