Meet Iyamah, the star-on-the-rise who reminds us of a young Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, or Eryka Badhu. Her rich, future-soul sound was recently showcased on latest single “Seasons”, a powerful meditation on a controlling relationship. Hailing from the beaches of Brighton, she studied Songwriting at the prestigious Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London. You might already recognise her distinctive sound as she’s already toured with the likes of Masego, Mahalia and Sam Wills.
We sat down with the promising new talent to discuss musical beginnings, her dream collab, and her indebtedness to reggae.
How did you first get into music?
Music was a big part of my childhood, during the summer in Brighton; parades, festivals…but my mum always played music at home too, a mixture of sounds, mainly reggae. Most of my mum’s friends were creative in some way, painters, dancers, stylists.. so I knew if it wasn’t music, I’d be an artist of some sort. Singing just came naturally, I don’t know what age exactly but I know it was always just something I did. I would sing along to the radio and play songs over and over until I knew them off by heart. I’ve just never given it up, cause it’s a part of who I am.
Who are your primary musical influences?
In terms of singing, I was heavily inspired by empowering soul singers growing up. I loved Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, even Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Etta James.. I was OBSESSED with Beyonce too, but when I got a little older I’d say it was mainly Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard it before?
Hmm! Haha, it’s a difficult one. Usually I’ll say, natural raw sounds, hip hop beats, jazzy chords, dubby live bass and soul vocals!! But before anything I’m heavily influenced by reggae.. People look at me like.. “Errr?”
You recently released the single “Seasons”; would you care to talk about the story behind the track?
I wrote it about a relationship I had with someone who became quite controlling, and I couldn’t see how much they were affecting me until I let them go. But I’m hoping it resonates with people for all different reasons, because it’s not just about love but about letting go of anything that isn’t serving us. We get way too attached and dependent on so many things due to fear and loneliness, and I wanted to put into perspective that adapting and growing isn’t a negative thing, and when we follow our gut, we change and evolve to become the people we are supposed to be.
How does “Seasons” compare to other tracks you released this year like “Silver Over Gold” and “Cryptic Love”?
Well “Seasons” was a different process, I wrote the song over the beat which was already made by Sam Wills, whereas usually I’ll write the song on guitar or piano first and then produce it afterwards like I did with “Silver Over Gold” and “Cryptic Love”. I think Seasons is a bit more vibey and easier to dance to with the more hiphop driven beat, so maybe more universal – I don’t know. My other two songs are a bit more laid back.
You recently came off a tour with Masego; what was this experience like?
It was amazing, honestly an experience that I’ll never forget. He’s a talented legend, and it was a pleasure to get to know him over the 4 shows we had. Every show I was blown away by his presence, and he’s definitely a genius, but as soon as he’s on the stage it’s just like; “Damn…you’re the coolest guy I’ve met.” But seriously – he taught me a lot and took the time to give advice on a few things, which I was grateful for.
Who would you like to collab with in future?
I’d love to collaborate with Loyle Carner, Sampa The Great, SZA, The Internet, and many more! I’d also love to have something with Shy FX, maybe even get Damian Marley on board one day…we’ll see! But I’m still yet to write something with Masego.
What have you got in the pipeline for the rest of the year?
I’ve been working on a bigger project for the new year that will bring my songs together, including new music I’ve been finishing off over the past few months, so I’m excited to finally get that out. Apart from that I’ll be writing and hibernating until the sun comes out again!
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Hopefully I’ll be touring my second or even third album by then! I want to be travelling the world doing what I love. But more importantly, I want to start speaking up about topics such as mental health and even world problems that need addressing at this stage in my life.
Stay tuned for Iyamah’s exclusive Noctis playlist, coming to Noctis readers soon…