IT has been a wonderful experience chatting…
with the Canadian songwriter, Aphrose. She discusses her current single, Move On, and the tale behind it. I ask whether there is more material coming; which artists have compelled and shaped her music; whether women have to work harder (in the industry) to get the same acclaim as men – if she is coming to the U.K. to perform.
Aphrose talks about her upbringing and if she feels she’s changed since her debut cut. I ask what it was like working with producer Scott McCannell on Move On; the albums that mean the most to her; how she creates such vivid and genre-straddling music – what she hopes to achieve, personally, in the coming months.
Hi, Aphrose. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey, M.M.S.! I’m well, thanks. My week has been going really great so far!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hello, everyone. My name is Aphrose. I am a Soul singer based out of Toronto, Canada.
Move On is your new single. Is there a story behind it at all? What inspired it?
Yes, there is certainly a story behind Move On...
It was written a little while ago and, though it was a favourite of mine; other songs and projects were prioritized over it. I rediscovered Move On in one of my old song notebooks and knew it was time to record it. The sentiments of the song aren’t directed at any one person in particular - but it’s a story that most, if not all, women can relate to. It’s a song of empowerment, of realizing one’s own self-worth and moving on.
Sonically, I was inspired by Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, Amy Winehouse’s lyrical honesty and Quentin Tarantino soundtracks.
I know the song breaks barriers and frees us from limitations! Do you think, as a woman in music, that message is especially personal? Do you think there are too many obstacles placed before female artists?!
Yes! 100%! I genuinely believe that women have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to ‘prove’ their worth and ability and to be taken seriously - not only in the entertainment industry but in all walks of life. Society has historically objectified women as lesser beings: valued for their desirability over talent and skill. Women, for their part, have mostly been socialized to accept this inequality - but the tides are changing.
The time for remaining passive amidst injustice is coming to an end...
What was it like working with producer Scott McCannell on the track? What did he bring to the production?
I started working with Scott last year and it’s been such a fun journey so far. Scott specializes in analogue production methods - which give the song a warm, vinyl-like sound you would hear on a record. Move On was the very first tune we worked on together. I played the song on keys and sang over top and told him that I was hearing a Wall of Sound-type aesthetic - and he knew exactly what I was going after. We cut the demo in like, two hours to his four-track cassette recorder! It blew my mind how fast he worked and how many instruments he could play.
When we finished the demo; we knew we had something really cool and couldn’t wait to get the band in to cut it for keeps to tape.
Do you think you have strengthened and changed since the debut single, The Middle? Did you consciously try and create a different-sounding song with Move On?
I feel like I’ve strengthened as an independent artist, definitely. I have learned a lot since the release of The Middle and will continue to learn. But, as much as I’ve grown, there are still some unifying elements that are present within both songs, such as having lots of layered background vocals and heavy bass throughout.
Move On is a tribute to the Soul sounds of the 1960s that I love; whereas The Middle is more of an ode to the Neo-Soul sounds I love from the 1990s/early-2000s. Both those musical eras deeply influence my overall sound.
I believe a video will be released on 19th February. Can you reveal what sort of themes and ideas will be explored in the video?
Yes. February 19th is the video release-day! I’m so excited to share this visual with everyone. There are themes of defiance and resistance as well as themes of unity and solidarity - all themes that are significant in today’s social climate.
Will there be more material later this year?
Definitely. I am working on releasing an E.P. later this year. Stay tuned!
I hear Soul, Gospel and Pop in your work: music that crosses genders, races and time periods. Did you grow up in a diverse neighbourhood and, as such, have exposure to an eclectic range of sounds?
Yes. I grew up in Scarborough - a borough of Toronto - which is the most diverse city in the world. I feel really blessed to have had the opportunity to connect and learn from people of all ethnicities. My background is Trinidadian; so I grew up listening to a VERY eclectic range of sounds such as Soca, Calypso; Reggae, Chutney; Parang, Motown; Pop, Gospel; Classic Bollywood and even Country music!
As a child, I listened to whatever my parents listened to and, despite how uncool I thought that music was at the time (because all my friends were listening to boy-bands and Alternative-Rock); I’ve grown to realize how much those genres have shaped me as a musician - and I’m eternally grateful to my parents for exposing me to such a wide array of sounds.
You have worked with names like Daniel Caesar and Nikki Yanofski along the way. Have you learnt quite a lot from these people?
Most certainly. Witnessing the drive, work ethic and teamwork behind an artist’s success has been a cherished lesson - showing me, not only what it takes to get to where they are, but also what it takes to stay there. From Daniel, I learned that it’s possible to find success using unconventional means, such as not signing to a major label. From Nikki, I learned that at the end of the day, after all the bells and whistles, raw talent will always shine through.
IN THIS PHOTO: Francois Klark
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
IN THIS PHOTO: YUKA
If you had to choose the three albums that mean the most you; which would they be and why?
Oooh…this is a tough question! I have so many favourites but, ok - let’s see if we can narrow it down…
Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin
She is my all-time favourite singer and that album has SO many bangers (I mean; ALL of her tunes are amazing). But, my favourite song of hers is Ain’t No Way - and it’s on this album.
The College Dropout by Kanye West
This album is amazing; every song is so dope - even those hilarious interludes! Never Let Me Down is one of my favourite tracks on this album. The spoken-word bit at the end makes me cry, without fail, EVERY TIME.
Channel Orange by Frank Ocean
I am amazed by Frank’s writing and production styles. He is so eclectic and weird (in the best way possible!) and every track is beautiful on this album. My favourite is Bad Religion. I think I listened to this album twice a day, every day for like two-months-straight when it first came out!
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
Touring is in the works, for sure. Specific dates T.B.D. I have an upcoming gig in Toronto at Lee’s Palace on February 23rd. I’m opening up for two amazing Toronto-based bands: Yuka and Gold Complex.
What do you hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
I hope to travel and bring my music to places around the world and reach new fans. I also hope to collaborate with more artists and create new experiences.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Another hard question!
I’ve been really fortunate to perform in some amazing venues across North America and play some really fun shows. One memory that stands out is being the frontwoman for The Daft Punk Tribute: an eight-piece band that recreates the works of Daft Punk live. We had the honour of playing a sold-out show at the renowned Le Poisson Rouge in N.Y.C. - and the vibe and energy that night was next level…and gave me the affirmation I needed to know that music was my calling.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Keep hustling. It’s a grind; especially when you are self-managing and wearing many hats such as manager, P.R.; social media marketer - as well as creating your own music. It can be so exhausting. Just putting yourself out there.
There is a fine line between persistence and annoyance - and you have to ignore feeling self-conscious about crossing that line. That has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn thus far. Most importantly: keep creating and believing in your art.
The right people will find it…
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Awesome! City of Angels by Miguel. I love his new record.