IT is tricky defining what really makes an artist stand…
out from everyone out there. Similarly, it can be a right pickle deciphering what separates a really great song from an average one. For me, personally, I look for something life-affirming and uplifting. If you are in a similar mainframe, Bisola is the musician for you. Honing her skills since the age of thirteen; the London-based singer-songwriter released her debut E.P., Holding on to the Light, in 2013 – it was met with huge applause and positive reviews. Million Miles is her new track and signals future release: a moment of musical brilliance capable of entrancing every listener. I was eager to learn more about the woman behind the music. Bisola talks about her upbringing and musical progression; where she is heading this year and a little insight behind Million Miles.
Hi Bisola. How are you? How has your week been?
It’s been non-stop actually since the single came out: lots to do around promoting the single. It’s funny. It’s been a lot of work to get the music recorded, music video and (completing) promo shoots. Once the track has been released, I’m still working just as hard, if not harder
For those new to your music can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a singer-songwriter. My thing is inspirational and positive music. I like to call my sound 'Soulful-Pop': especially once you hear the tracks on my new E.P. There’s a more mainstream Pop edge to the songs but they still maintain a soulfulness. I think what really defines my music is that I always have a message encouraging people in some way. I try to shine a light ‘in the darkness’.
You have been recording music since the age of thirteen. Were you always interested in music or was there a particular person who got you into it?
I remember my grandma taking me to church when I was (something like) four or five years old. I just remember thinking the music was so beautiful and something about it captured me.
That’s one of my earlier memories of music. I’ve always had a deep connection to it; almost like it’s part of my D.N.A. I’m always humming and listening to music - even if I’m not writing.
Your debut E.P., Holding on to the Light, was released in 2013. How do you think you have changed as an artist since then and what was it like having an E.P. out there?
I’ve definitely pushed myself to newer heights in this new E.P. Lyrically and arrangement-wise, there’s definitely a real sense of maturity and progression when you listen to it. The other big difference with this album is that it’s more personal than past works as I (really) share some of my own personal experiences - which is interesting as I’m naturally a very private person but I really felt like these songs needed to be out there.
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The Impossible followed that E.P. and reached number five on the Indie Charts. It won huge plaudits from critics. What was it like receiving such accolade and what is the inspiration behind the song?
I was really chuffed the song did so well and that people really responded so positively to it. I wrote this song while on the beach in Miami. I’d just completed a trip around the world. I travelled for about three months just chilling and exploring the world, and while on that beach in Miami, I was thinking about how fortunate I was to have been able to do something like this - that people only dream and wish they could do but never do. I didn’t think it’d be possible either but I’d got to a point in my life earlier that year where I just felt fed up of ‘the rat race’. You know; you wake up, go to work; come back home, sleep; go to work; same routine over and over.
I was thinking there’s got to be more to life than this. I didn’t have much money saved up or anything, but the moment I made up my mind to chuck it all and go travelling - things literally fell into place to make it happen.
The lesson I learnt from that experience was changing our lives and our circumstances often start with a decision.
If I didn’t make that decision to pursue my dream of travelling around the world I don’t know if the song would ever have been written - so I’m really grateful that I didn’t let fear hold me back. I hope that this inspires someone to go do that thing they’ve been putting off for so long because they think they don’t have what it takes or whatever.
Million Miles is your new song. Can you tell us the story behind it please?
The story wasn’t anything spectacular – I wish I could say otherwise. I realised one New Year’s Eve that I’d not written a single song that year and I decided there and then I wasn’t going to go into the next year without getting a song completed. I already had a melody for the chorus recorded on my phone - a long time ago and - I decided to work with it; something just kept nudging me in the direction of it being a love song. With me not being the world’s most romantic person, I decided to ‘borrow’ the words that couples often say as their wedding vows (when getting married). The song just kinda went from there. I’m particularly excited about it as it’s a lot more up-tempo than the other stuff I’ve written in the past.
What was it like working with producer David Ezra on the track?
Amazing! I love that guy! He and I crack each other up so much and we’re always teasing each other endlessly. He’s a brilliant producer but I’ve also got strong ideas about what I want my music to sound like; so we’re always going back and forth trying to convince each other on who’s right. He’s definitely someone I’d like to keep working with in the future and I highly recommend him to anyone looking for a good-quality producer. He’s very professional and reliable, which for me, is really important – it’s the little things as they say.
The music video seems like it was quite fun to shoot. Whose concept was the video and is that a side of music you enjoy being involved with?
I worked with a bunch of lovely guys up in Manchester who runs a production company called Video Inc. They were really enthusiastic, and more importantly, cost-effective for the final product. We came up with the concept collaboratively. I definitely wanted to convey the wedding vow element to the song as well as (wanted to make sure) it was ‘PG-13-friendly’ as I wanted the video to appeal to everyone. Overall, it’s great to have a music video as people love visuals and it really does bring the song to life; but the process to get one done can be hard work – it didn’t help that the day we did the shoot it was freezing cold. I couldn’t feel my toes and fingers at one point! (ha ha). But I’m really pleased with the video. Everyone says it looks great.
Lessons My Mama Taught Me is your upcoming E.P. (out in March). It has quite a sassy, home-grown title. Are there home truths and cautionary tales on the record? What kind of themes and sounds can one expect?
Yeah. It’s a tribute album to my mum who sadly passed away last year. Although the songs were written at different points before and after she left us, the collection of songs takes the listeners through a journey around the themes of maximising our time and talents; not procrastinating and not being afraid to tell someone how much they mean to you.
London is an important city to you – and one you have performed in a lot. What is it like being a musician in London and how inspiring are the people to your music?
London’s probably the best place to be for music right now. So many venues offer live music and want live music than ever before.
Funny enough, I recently moved just outside London (‘cos it’s so expensive) but I’m in London pretty much every day for work and performances - nothing else really compares to it. I heard Ed Sheeran moved to London before he hit the big time as he realised that’s where he could get the opportunities for his music to be heard – clearly it worked! I think one of the things that make London so great for music is that it’s so diverse and people are open to giving people a platform to share it.
Your music and voice is really smooth and sensual but has a real power and flair to it. Who were the artists you were brought up and inspired you early?
Whitney, baby! (Whitney Houston). I used to practice singing just like her when I was growing up and hitting all the high notes. Also, Mariah Carey was another artist I used to try and emulate. I think in their prime they were such massive singers and were so good. I thought: yeah I wanna sing like that. They really inspired me for sure. I was also fortunate to have been involved in singing in church for a good few years as that really helped me discovered my own voice and build confidence in my performances
Are there any musicians around at the moment really exciting you that we should all know more about?
I’ve been talking a lot about JP Cooper. He’s starting to get his break – he had a number one track with Jonas Blue last summer and he’s on an upward trajectory. I think what’s exciting about him is that he’s been around for years and years just plugging away and doing his music and not giving up - so it’s so encouraging to see things really starting to happen for him. It certainly gives me hope to carry on what I’m doing!
Looking back on your career to date, which memories stand out as especially memorable?
I think my favourite memory is when I had my launch gig for my first E.P.
The way the E.P. happened was such a quick and amazing experience and so many of my friends turned up to support me on the night – many of them didn’t tell me they were coming: they just showed up at the end of the gig and I was like “whaaaa!”. It was special.
This year has only just begun but you must have plans ahead. What are you most looking forward to or hope to achieve in 2017?
I’m definitely looking forward to the E.P. (coming out) in March. I actually wanted to originally release it in September last year but then the process took a little longer than I anticipated, and in the end, I decided to move it to January. Good thing I did as one of my favourite tracks on the E.P. was written in November and that would’ve missed the E.P. - had I gone with my original September release. Everything really does happen for a reason
What advice would you provide any young songwriter coming through right now?
Never stop writing! Share your music as much as you can - as that’s the way you grow - you discover your own sound and style and can carve out your own niche to set you apart from the crowd.
With platforms like YouTube you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home to share your music. Also, if you can learn to play an instrument (if you don’t already play one) that definitely helps.
I originally didn’t play any instruments when I started writing songs as a kid, but over the years I’ve picked up the guitar and it’s really helped me with writing better songs. I’ll let you into a little secret: I learned to play the guitar from YouTube! (ha ha). I’ve had a handful of lessons with a tutor to help me polish up some elements but I don’t know if I’d have ever have stuck at it if it wasn’t for YouTube. I could learn at my own pace and in my own way.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name any song (not yours as I’ll do that) and I’ll play it here.
Emeli Sandé's My Kind of Love. That’s a great track