Aşa is emerging as a moving force, assailing on an a-typical path with an engaging style. But who is she, and what’s all the hype about?
Sometimes the artists that move us most are those on the edge: the ones who combine passion with pain, the ones who often forge an ethic in order to go beyond self–imposed limitations. ‘Dead Again,’ the brand new EP from Nigerian French singer-songwriter Aşa showcases her gift for synthesis and story-telling, weaving pop, R&B and soul into a form of colourful lyricism. The three–track project which we’re thrilled to premiere perches confidently on her emotionally charged, brooding vocals.
The result is genuine suaveness that could make anyone blush. In a word; it’ brilliant. “Singing was all I have wanted to do as long as I can remember, it was my first option. I would look at record covers and imagine being on one,” she says. Her sheer exuberance grabs your attention. She’s not yet a household name but with over 400,000 record sales to date and well over 300 international sell-out tours, she has well and truly arrived. We caught up with the lady herself as she prepares to move center stage.
When was your “I can duly call myself a musician” moment?
I haven’t totally had that moment yet, because you always have ups and downs. That keeps me grounded and makes me work harder.
So, how did you end up singing? Was it something that you wanted to do when you were young? Where does the artist in you come from?
Not sure, but singing was all I have wanted to do as long as I can remember, it was my first option. I would look at record covers and imagine being on one. Although I had suppressed my voice, and wanted to sing in high-pitched voice because that was what everyone considered the best. I started allowing myself to sing with my voice at 17.
Do you resent the title “pop star?”
No. I don’t, it depends in what context the title is used. There were and are great singers and musician who are pop stars. People have missed out on listening or enjoying so many great songs because they are labelled pop, vice versa. I think we must learn to be open-minded.
When people listen to your songs, generally, what reaction do you hope to expect?
I wrote a song on my last album in Yoruba, it was a funny song but I noticed that as I sang it live, people would cry. I want people to allow themselves to feel whatever the songs does to them.
Your records are very detailed-oriented, very personal. There is a very Tracey Chapman feeling about your sound. Is she someone you grew up listening to?
I discovered Tracy Chapman’s music quite late. She is an amazing musician and songwriter. I happen to have locks and play the guitar — perhaps that’s where we have a lot of similarities. I grew up listening to Marvin Gaye, Fela Kuti and Micheal Jackson from my dad. The radio played a lot of western and local popular music.
Tell me about your new EP, ‘Dead Again.’
It is me stripped bare, my anger, emotions, desire, fears. I am also kind of exorcising too, if I can use that word.
What inspirations did you draw on that brought out the emotions that can be heard on the EP?
I expressed a lot, which is something I wasn’t allowing myself do. I looked more inward.
The title song ‘Dead Again’ is a standout on the EP. How did it come together?
I was mad at someone, a friend I had trusted and shared a lot with for years. I was on a train to Hastings to write with Blair [MacKichan] for the first time and I had just read an email from this fellow that got me angry upon arrival. Blair picked me up at the station and I immediately started complaining to him. I was scribbling angry words on my notebook and Blair thought its best I pour my anger in a song. Two hours later we had ‘Dead Again’ written and voiced. I couldn’t re-voice it for the album recording, what you hear now was the first rough voicing.
What’s your favourite song off of your forthcoming album ‘Bed of Stone’—one you can’t wait for the world to hear?
‘The One That Never Comes.’
Have you learnt anything overseas about how your music connects with different audiences?
I have learnt a lot, my music crossed boundaries. There had been misconceptions and people have expected me to sound a certain way. Music is very universal and I have learnt not to restrict myself. I sing what I feel.
What are some of the best touring experiences that you’ve had?
I have enjoyed all my touring experiences. I have missed it and I am looking forward to going back on the road.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
I would be a nurse or a private investigator.
‘Dead Again’ is out August 25. Aşa will play London Union Chapel on October 2.
Connect with Asa here.
Words: Noel Phillips.