Updated: Jul 6
Tell me a little bit about your background. Where are you from, and how did you get started in music? Growing up in East London, I was exposed to a mixture of different styles of music. My mum would play Motown, Gospel, Jazz, and West African afro- beats. My dad would play a lot of Reggae. Then my three older brothers would play a range of Hip-hop- typically 'conscious,' also a lot of RnB and NeoSoul! Then, as a young lady, I loved girl bands, so there were always different sounds around the house. At age 9, I began writing songs and performing them at Brighton Beach and family events. During that time, I attended a performing art school on Saturdays and later joined a community choir and sang in church groups.
Before your success, what did you see as a significant drawback of being a new artist? One drawback for me was feeling like people were trying to label or compare me to artists they knew. Although comparisons can be helpful, they can also be limiting. Making your voice heard for others to take you seriously is essential. Also, on the other side, getting a work-life balance can be difficult for artists. These days you have to be constantly on the ball to be seen. This can be to the detriment of some close relationships.
What is your vocal range? While I am a soprano, I can also sing in my lower range. Around 3 octaves wide is my musical comfortability range.
What do people say about your vocal style that sets you apart from others? Most often, I am complimented on the tone of my voice. While my singing style does not always include riffs and runs, I still employ many techniques to demonstrate my musical talent. Many people have complimented me on this. A lot of what I write is inspired by feelings. As a result, many people find my songs relatable. Further, I've been told that my music gives people a nostalgic sense of R&B from the '90s.
We enjoyed your recent set at the legendary Jazz Cafe, one of my favourite venues. If you could play anywhere else in the world, where would it be? Aw thank you so much, that was a dream for me to do the Jazz Cafe! Camden has some nice spots, I need to explore more. But a dream venue for me would have to be Carnegie Hall New York. I always remember my mum playing the soundtrack of ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ on vinyl, where Diana Ross plays Billie Holiday and most of the songs are based on Billie Holiday’s live recorded concert at the Carnegie Hall in 1956.
Who is your favourite independent Artist today? There are so many indie artists today that are dope! so it's hard to pick a favourite. But I will say in the R&B/soul London scene there are a lot of great artists coming up and doing their thing. I'm enjoying seeing how it is bringing the culture together.
As an independent artist, what are some of the challenges you face? Being heard and seen is more complex when you don't have a big machine pushing you into certain spheres! This means you may not be able to seize some opportunities, even if your music is good. I find opportunities, but it takes a lot more effort, resources, and energy to make things happen. Finances help you get in, but the right team can get you out. That's something I'm currently working on!
How would you describe your music to those who have never heard it before? My music is soulful, positive and reflective, something you can feel and ruminate on as it reflects life, but you can also vibe and sing along with it. Genre wise it's mainly RnB and Soul at the root, but it also expands to other genres like reggae, jazz and other styles. Although there is so much of my sound that I've yet to share, songs I've written that are different in style to all of the above that I also cannot wait to share with the world!
Who are your musical influences? The list is endless, but some key artists would have to be Stevie Wonder, Musiq Soulchild, Michael and Janet Jackson, Solange, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, and Robert Glasper.
How do you prepare yourself mentally for public opinion (either positive or negative) when you're preparing for a new song release? Whenever you, as an artist, put yourself out there, the public will judge you. It's great when people get what you're doing, but it's not always a pleasant feeling when they don't. In many cases, we internalize their opinions of us, but we shouldn't because it's not who we are. Since music is such a subjective art form, it is easy for artists to internalize others' opinions. On the flip side, that doesn't mean you are averse to criticism and can never do things better. You can, but with a pinch of salt. Remember, you can't please everyone. Some people just aren't going to get it, and that's fine! Do what you enjoy, and the right ones will find you! In the same way, compliments can be dangerous if they get inside your head. You can die from praise and stagnate if you live just off glory. Balance is everything. This is what I'm learning. At the end of the day, it's not just about people's enjoyment; it's also about my freedom of expression. The idea of keeping this reasoning at the core of my music keeps me grounded and reminds me it's all about honouring the gift given to me by the Creator.
What other talent do you have that your fans may not know about you?
I draw and sketch well. One day I'd like to share my style of caricature drawing. I may put it in one of the song cover artworks someday.
How many singles/albums do you have out presently, and what is your favourite album/song to date? I have one EP out. My first is called Fallen For You. "Countdown" and "Nothing Compares" are two of the six other singles I have out right now. I have a few remixes out as well. Additionally, I've done a few collaborations with other artists, all of which can be heard by visiting www.kemisulola.com/music I have a profound connection to each of the songs in different ways, but my favourite would have to be 'Fallen.' It was the song that was the catalyst for everything I do and the song that informed my first project.
Tell me about your latest album/ song, and what was your inspiration behind it? Is it out now, and where can people buy it? My latest song is called ‘IF’. The song is about unconditional love and questions how someone would show us they love us if we were in some unfortunate circumstances. The original produced by El Train is RnB/Pop based, but I have also released a couple of remixes. A Garage version (IF More Night Remix) and a Reggae (IF Andre Solid Remix) and ill be sharing another (the Adeboye Remix) in the summer. The song is out now and you can stream it on all platforms or buy it on Itunes/Amazon and even my Bandcamp- where you can donate any amount you want towards it!
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be? So many, I find it hard to pick one but definitely Raphael Saadiq , he is a legend ( btw if you see this Mr Saadiq, I would be honoured to collaborate with you one day!) From the UK, probably Nao (singer-songwriter) and Venna (producer /musician) - they are both amazing!
What has been your most enjoyable moment in music? A few come to mind. My first EP launch event- it was my first project and amazing to have people come out to support-tickets were sold out! Hearing my songs played on the radio for the first time from Japan to America! Having Janet Jackson repost me, singing backstage with Common, meeting Musiq Soulchild( after the first concert I went to) Supporting Teedra Moses in London, and many other instances.
What other pastimes, hobbies, or talents do you have? I've recently started swimming and using the sauna. I love it! In addition to being therapeutic, it gives me some time for self-care. I also enjoy playing brain games and cycling. Reading would be a great hobby for me if I was more into it!
What advice would you give me if I enter this ever-changing industry?
What advice would you like to give to upcoming artists?
Well, there is still so much I'm figuring out, but I would say, see things through to the end whenever possible. I'm talking specifically about music! If you have a song idea, write it, produce it, record it and release it. Procrastination and imposter syndrome stop us from fulfilling our purpose. Because of this, many times we miss out on growth and opportunities. If you are an artist, show your art. The more you do, the easier it is to find and hone your sound. Consistency is essential; take time to reflect so you can assess your growth. Seek to expand in ability and knowledge, keep focused and do YOUR thing - Only you can!
Just for fun - *The Indie Post pointless question of the month*
What would be worse, an Elvis-style Afrobeat remix or a Folk Trap remix of a song by Abba?
Elvis Afrobeat would likely be worse, but I can't lie; people are fast these days! You can make anything from anything, so it may not be that bad! it just might be a banger, lol
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/KemiSulola
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGzHzoSnAEg2R7LedPHqtkw
Photo Credits : Ambient Jade, Martin Temp and Emma Marsden hill