Introducing Brighton-born Artist…Iyamah

Wednesday 16 January 2019

As the transition into the cold, dark winter begins, Iyamah’s new single ‘Season’s might be the only remedy to keep you warm. The Brighton-born and London-based artist’s voice on the track is one laced with opulence.

A lot of artists get into songwriting and/or production before singing, was it the same for you?

No, I was definitely a singer before anything else. I then started writing songs when I picked up piano at 13, and learnt some production at college when I was 15/16 on a Music B-Tec course.

What made you fall in love with music?

How it brings people together, creates great memories, connects people like a universal language and gives us a voice where we can express ourselves in whatever way we need to. It made me feel strong when I was weak. Sometimes nothing made sense until it was in a song, so it helped me to cope with emotions and feelings that I didn’t understand at the time. It also gave me a release when I felt I couldn’t talk to anyone about something that was on my mind.

Tell me a bit about your latest song ‘Seasons’…

I wrote it with Sam Wills, he had made the beat already and I loved it straight away, so we just developed it together. I don’t know where the idea Seasons came from, but I wrote it because I was letting go of someone at the time, and it felt like a good comparison. We’re so connected to nature and the way the world works, we’ve just forgotten!

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We filmed a stripped down acoustic version of ‘Seasons’ with @musiccrowns ! Watch the full video link in bio xx ? @markmollison on guitar

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Can you take us through the creative process of the song?

It really depends, cause sometimes I might be on a bus or just walking and I might see something that inspires an idea for a song. It could just come from no where, or a random thought which reminds me of a certain feeling or emotion. Sometimes it might be some really beautiful chords on the piano, or guitar in a session that I’m in. Or the producer I’m working with might make a hard beat which brings out another side of me.. I just have to be committed to the music, it’s usually when I’m relaxed and not under pressure, just allowing whatever to flow out. That’s the best kind of song. 

I love the theme of “Autumn teaches you the beauty of letting go” because it’s applicable to so many situations, do you have a favourite or more personal line in the song?

Thank you! My friend actually told me about that quote after I wrote Seasons which related to it so well. I also wrote the song with the quote in my mind; “He fell in love with my flowers, not my roots, so when Autumn came, he didn’t know what to do.” I feel like at the time I was writing the song about the fact I didn’t feel the relationship I was in could accept all sides of me, and I had to be beautiful or my best self all of the time. But that’s not real love, it’s just conditional. My favourite line in the song is probably “as the sweetness turns to bitter, the truth about you unfolds”.

The song was played on Elton John’s Rocket Hour show, that must’ve been insane. How did you feel about that?

Yeah, amazing! I was listening with my friends and we all jumped up and down when we heard him introducing it. I thought maybe he’d just play Seasons and that was good enough, but he also said how he was totally in love with it, and excited about me, so that was a honour, coming from a legend like Elton.

You were born in Brighton, but then moved to London. How did that move influence your sound?

When I lived in Brighton there was a lot of organic sounds, live bands and reggae. I started going out in the club scene as a teen which got me into writing drum & bass toplines, so in my first year of being in London I released my feature with My Nu Leng. I think after a while I was drawn towards the hip-hop, trap and rap that has overtaken London’s clubs and bars now, which definitely brought me back to my Neo-soul and hip-hop sounds. I’m grateful for that.

Growing up on the sounds of African drumming and reggae music must’ve had an impact on the music you’re releasing now…

Definitely, more than any other music I’d say. The sounds stayed with me since, so whenever I’m making music, I try to entwine the same energy in some way. I know that African percussion and reggae also do work well with a lot of hip-hop, so I’m lucky that I get to experiment and entwine both, just like Sampa The Great for example. Whether it’s the rhythm/style I’m singing in, or the percussion I use in the background, or even the artwork, it all relates back to my childhood and the music that I grew up around. I have no idea what my music would sound like if it was different!

Have you taken the sounds and music you grew up on and applied them to your music?

Yes, all the time. In fact if it doesn’t really relate to it at all, I lose interest because it doesn’t feel personal to me. If the music is too clean, or there’s no rhythm, or no natural raw sounds, I’ll probably not release the song, in all honesty. Producers sometimes find it funny, but I always ask them to add at least something which will bring it back to my childhood, whether it’s some wooden percussion or a completely live and untouched guitar. That will be enough!

I read you find inspiration from Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and Adele, which I definitely hear on your tracks — but is there anyone or anything else you find inspiration from?

There’s loads, I have a whole list of empowering females that inspired me to sing like I do, I also loved Bob Marley, Damian Marley too, a great amount of rappers and hip-hop artists, I’ve taken inspiration from a wide range of genres.

What was it like working with Sam Wills and Kojo?

Sam Wills is incredibly talented, like I said, Seasons was already made by him. All I have to do was sing over it, so we work great as a team. Every time we work together we come out with something strong, and it’s even better that he can sing because he’s very particular with getting the perfect vocal! Kojo was the first producer I worked with in LA, and it was probably still one of the best sessions I’ve had to date. He just got my sound quicker than any producer ever has in the UK, they just get hip-hop over there in a different way. I’m hoping to release more of the songs we wrote next year.

Since opening for Mahalia and Masego, has it made you excited to headline your own tour?

Yes definitely, I grew so much as an artist on both tours and learnt a lot. Even looking back at the Mahalia tour in March, I’ve developed so much since then, but I probably wouldn’t be where I am had I not have done it. Same for Masego, it happened at such a perfect time, and if I could relive it I 100% would! However, doing my own tour would be crazy. I’m so excited for when that time comes. My headline show was completely overwhelming as it was the first show I’d done where everyone was there for me. The support on each tour has been crazy, so everyone being there for me would be out of this world!

What is one thing you want to achieve by this time next year?

It’s not about streams I guess, but getting my first 1mil on spotify would be exciting. I’m also hoping to do a couple of exciting collabs this year, but I won’t say anymore about that, its a secret.